Field Report: Yamaha Pocketrak PR7
Digital recorders can be quite a specialized piece of equipment. Many recorders are inexpensive and do nothing but record voice and allow for playback. Some require playback through a line out and the upload to computer for further editing is done in real time. Some provide a USB port to access the internal memory while others provide a slot for a memory card.
If storage and playback are your only specifications for purchasing a digital recorder, the Yamaha Pocketrak PR7 handles that, but it can do much more. The PR7 has 2GB of built-in memory so you can start recording right out of the box. The storage doesn't stop there; there is also a micro SD/SDHC card slot for up to 32GB of storage allowing you to record approximately 50 hours of linear audio at 16-bit/44.1kHz. That should be plenty of space for the news reporter and field recorder. It's also great for recording impromptu podcasts or station events. Using only a single AA battery, the PR7 can support continuous recording for approximately 44 hours at MP3 and up to 29.5 hours using the PCM 16-bit/44.1kHz format.
The PR7 has both a USB out and a headphone out. The USB connection is perfect for quick link-up to a computer for uploading tracks and even importing tracks to the PR7. With PCM stereo WAV or MP3 file formats available, the recordings are usable by all major audio editing software. The headphone out also doubles as a line out when needed. The PR7 even has a small built-in speaker for immediate listening to recorded files.
|Performance at a glance|
| ■ Built-in stereo mic
■ Built-in overdubbing and vari-speed
■ Records in linear PCM and MP3 formats
■ Up to 24-bit 96kHz resolution
■ Operates on a AA battery
Let's move on to the input side of the action. This is where the specialization of this recorder starts to come in.
The main aspect of the input side of this digital recorder is the stereo X-Y microphone, which is mounted on the top of the recorder. One of the fun things I do when testing stereo recorders is to place the device in the center of some sort of turntable with the mics perpendicular to the surface and press record. This provides an interesting test of the stereo capability. Listening to the recording I nearly got a sense of vertigo from the effect. The directional mics work well on the PR7.
The other input of the PR 7 is a 3.5mm line/mic in connector. If you have a favorite handheld mic you can still use it and keep the appearance of the reporter on the street. I plugged in my trusty 58-like clone and the resulting recording was fabulous.
Use the menu to select between mic and line input levels. While recording, the firmware within the PR7 allows for automatic sound divide. While I didn't use this feature, I think it would be an easy way to convert some of my vinyl and cassette tapes to digital (yes, I still have those).
All the above features would alone make this a desirable unit for most radio professionals, whether for news reporting or production, but this unit starts to get a little more specialized for the musician seeking a lightweight (approx. 3oz) recording unit. The unit also has a tuner and a metronome. The metronome will play through the headphones but is not recorded onto the track for practice or laying down tracks.
What I found interesting was overdub feature. At first I didn't think I would use this feature, but the creative director in me started to come out. I found I could lay down tracks and then using the overdub and leaving enough space do an on-the-fly two-voice (or more) rough spot. I may actually use this to make a spec spot when I'm out of the studio. For grins I tested to see how many overdubs I could create. I got to 24 overdubs before the chaos was just too much. And since it's all-digital, there was no signal loss.
The Yamaha Pocketrak PR7 also comes with a free download of WaveLab LE software, which provides two-track audio editing with professional EQ and dynamics processing for mastering or enhancing your tracks. You can even upload your audio files to the web using the dedicated podcasting function. So if you don't have the full editing software available this can be used to tweak your recordings using this recorder.
Wilson is an announcer, producer, webmaster, business manager and promotions guy at WAKO-AM/FM, Lawrenceville, IL, and an independent producer/voice talent.
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