My use of the M-Audio Microtrack 24/96 actually pre-dates my use of the Zoom H2 I reviewed earlier. We purchased the Microtrack 2 years ago as part of our gearing up for some podcasting projects on campus. I immediately fell in love with the Microtrack because of its simplicity and dependability. As of this writing the Microtrack 24/96 has been superceded by the Microtrack II. However, this review will focus only on the Microtrack 24/96, as I have not had opportunity to work with the newer version.
The Microtrack 24/96 is obviously portable, and records to compact flash media. The new version can also record to microdrives as well. It records in either WAV or MP3 format, and unlike the Zoom H2 it has no built in microphones. The Microtrack 24/96 came with a tee-shaped stereo microphone that plugs directly into the 1/8” input. It also sports separate left and right inputs for ¼” connectors. To listen to your recordings you must either plug headphones in the 1/8” headphone jack, or connect the Microtrack to your PC using the supplied USB cable, and drag-and-drop the files from the Microtrack on your PC for playback.
The supplied microphone is omnidirectional, which for our purposes, has worked out very well. The unit is small enough to be unobtrusive, yet sensitive enough to pick up all conversations in a medium sized class room. Of course, you can adjust input levels if needed.
We have elected to have the Microtrack record directly to MP3 format, and are delighted with the audio quality. By using the MP3 encoder we never run into storage capacity problems with the 2GB compact flash card installed in the unit. As a matter of fact, just before setting down to write this entry I cleared all the recordings from last semester of the unit, and it wasn’t close to being full. That’s a wonderful thing when you are moving from one class to the next with no time to download previous recordings.
Using an XLR to 1/8” adapter, I’ve connected a Shure SM93 lavalier mic to the Microtrack, and received excellent results.
In comparison to the Zoom H2, the Microtrack recordings are just as good. The small things about the H2 give it a bit of a usability advantage (e.g. the small detachable stand). The Microtrack must be laid flat on a supporting surface, or kept in the speaker’s pocked (if using a lavalier). I typically use the Microtrack with the tee-shaped mic, which means I start the recording, and lay the unit on the console near the instructor for the duration of the class.
Even though the Microtrack lacks some of the sophisticated mic switching available in the H2, it is still a very solid, dependable unit. Note however, the Microtrack II street price is around $299, while the H2 street price is around the $199 mark.
Next up, the Blue Snowball microphone.