During a shoot for the PBS some years ago, the producer handed me a Cowon iAudio U2 MP3 player. This was to be used to record a copy of the audio sent to camera to send to the transcription
service. These little things have two big things going for them… one, they’re pretty much dirt cheap (you can buy them used on eBay for $10-$20) and two, they’re TINY… about the size of a pack of gum.
The U2 has a provision for a line input via a 1/8″ jack, as well as an on-board mic. I bought one and added a small bit of velcro. I can stick it onto my bag or hide it on the set. The tiny little screen is a bit of a pain to use, and you have to navigate the menu maze to get it into record. But it can record WAV or MP3 file formats, and with 1gb of space, it holds a respectable amount of program.
I’ve just shipped mine back to Cowon to get the battery replaced, and they have yet to give me a quote. The battery on my unit is pretty much gone, and only operates the unit for about fifteen minutes before running out of power. Since there are so many options now for small MP3 recorders, the battery replacement cost will be the big factor for whether or not this unit will remain in service or retired. But it is a handy option to have in the bag.
UPDATE: Battery replacement for my unit is going to cost $27, which seems pretty reasonable. They’re working on it now, and it’ll be placed back in service as a basic standby recorder, giving me a similar capability as the Sound Devices mixer with the onboard recorder, but at a significantly lower cost. Until increased bookings allow the upgrade, this is a workable alternative. (My rule about expensive gear is get the business FIRST, THEN buy the hardware.)
UPDATE 2: I’ve received my iAudio back from Cowon. Their service department gets five stars… I’m not positive, but it looks like they’ve done more than just replaced the battery. The unit looks brand new. There’s not a scratch on it anywhere, and the little rubber cover for the USB connector seems new as well. I haven’t gotten around to doing battery life tests yet… i.e., how long it will record on a fully-charged battery… but I’ll post the results when I get them in.