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ATPM 12.12
December 2006


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Hardware Review

by Lee Bennett,



Developer: iRecord

Price: $200

Requirements: USB device for recording, e.g. iPod (including Nano and Shuffle), USB flash drive, USB hard drive.

Trial: None


If you can tolerate a little bit of cheesy acting, a YouTube video demonstrates the simplicity of using the iRecord.

Simple to Use

The iRecord’s packaging states quite clearly, “In one touch…iRecord.” This is one case where the hype that is printed on a product’s package is not a bunch of fluff. The iRecord simply works.

You can attach an iPod to the iRecord and clips are recorded directly to your iPod. Alternatively, you can stick in a a USB flash drive or hard drive to use as the destination of the recorded clips. Only the device’s available capacity limits how long you can record.

Can Videos Move From an iPod to iTunes?

There’s a really good reason for using flash or hard drives for recording. Clips recorded to an iPod cannot sync back into iTunes. I initially thought this was a major problem and defeated the purpose of the iRecord, and I queried the developers about it. They replied:

As far as syncing back to iTunes is concerned, iPod has built-in audio-recording capabilities. Audio recording accessories, like iTalk, just provides an interface to these capabilities. Actual recording is done by iPod itself. Hence, iTunes acknowledges presence of audio files on iPod, that were not transfered by iTunes. So it syncs-back those files.

However, the case of video recording is different. iTunes does not acknowledge that a video file can be present on iPod without iTunes knowing about it. If a video file is present on iPod but not present in iTunes library, iTunes thinks, that user has deleted this file from his library, and this file is no longer needed. So iTunes will delete that particular file while performing sync.

So there you have it. Sounds to me like the iRecord developers would have allowed for syncing back into iTunes if they could have. Instead, they implemented a procedure that might not be desirable, yet is the only way to make sure your clips stay on your iPod after you sync:

To avoid this [the deletion of recorded clips], iRecord disables automatic-sync of iPod. You can re-enable it from your PC/Mac, but re-enabling it will cause iRecord files to be deleted by iTunes, as stated earlier.

From iTunes 7 onward, Apple has added a feature that allows you sync-back the purchased contents. But this sync-back is currently limited to purchased contents only. Maybe in the future Apple will enable sync-back of other contents as well.

While I’m happy that the iRecord takes this manual-sync safeguard so as to not delete recorded clips, I don’t want to use manual syncing. This is why I said earlier that using a USB drive is a very good idea. If you record to such a drive instead of the iPod, you can then copy the files into your iTunes library and they’ll sync to your iPod normally. As such, since the iPod itself is not “influenced” by the iRecord, the sync mode is not changed to manual.

I was also told that a configuration utility is in the works that will allow the clips to be accessible if the iPod disk-use mode is enabled, which would allow you to copy the clips into the iTunes library, but I’m sensing that iTunes will still be switched to manual sync mode to keep newly recorded clips from being deleted. The word I received on November 13 was that this utility would be available in a few days, but as of November 25, it’s still not on the iRecord Web site.

Update Your iTunes

Officially, iRecord supports iTunes 5 or later. Since recordings can’t be synced back into iTunes, the version requirement may seem pointless. However, you cannot record to an iPod fresh out of the box. It must first be synced with iTunes to set up the standard navigation structure on the iPod. It follows that the iRecord requires the structure created by iTunes 5 or later.

But, if you’re using iTunes 7, be sure to update to version 7.0.2 or later. It seems there were issues with the first releases of iTunes 7 that affected many situations—not just using an iRecord. Indeed, my computer was still running iTunes 7.0.1. After recording one clip to my iPod with the iRecord, then syncing, iTunes completely froze up. I was subsequently completely incapable of resyncing my iPod.

So, I bit the bullet and decided to sync it on my other computer (which also had iTunes 7.0.1). Before the message could appear that the iPod wasn’t recognized and the contents would be erased before I synced it, iTunes froze on the second machine.

Ultimately I had to dig out my previous copy of the iPod update software (before it was rolled into the iTunes application), reset the iPod, and completely resync it back on my computer that holds my library. Makes me glad I kept those standalone iPod update applications. Upon the developers’ advice, I then updated to version 7.0.2 and all was well. Unfortunately, I have no way to say whether updating iTunes sooner would have saved me from having to completely resync my iPod.

Here’s my completely unscientific guess as to what happened: the iRecord must be placing some sort of instruction on an iPod when it is used as the recording device. I don’t know if it’s a separate file, or a portion of an existing file, or something I’m not even thinking of, but once an iPod is used with the iRecord, it then has to “tell” iTunes to switch to manual sync mode. My conclusion is that this little step was the “malfunction” that invoked whatever problem iTunes 7.0 and 7.0.1 had.

Not-so-subliminal Advertising

Another minor caveat is that the iRecord places a logo splash screen on the first five seconds of every video. I have no words for why this bugs me. It just does. You don’t get overlaid logos at the beginning of records made on a VHS or even a DVD recorder. Why should there be one on the iRecord?

Sample Recording

On the positive side, the quality of the recordings is very nice. H.264 compression is used at 320×240 resolution, resulting in more than three hours of record time per GB of capacity. This one-minute clip from a local production in which I am involved (about 5 MB) contains a mix of computer graphics and standard video. I found no noticeable compression artifacts and the video plays smoothly. The sample clip includes the aforementioned splash screen at the beginning.

The last caveat to point out is that if you are connecting the iRecord to a device that only has a single audio/video output, you won’t be able to see what you’re recording. The iPod only shows the typical “Do Not Disconnect” screen as if it were connected to a computer and the iRecord box only has inputs, not outputs. You’ll want to either pick up some RCA plug splitters or use a source device that offers multiple outputs so you can send the audio/video signal to both a monitor and the iRecord at the same time.

Alternative Products

I briefly searched online for alternative products and mostly found software-based recorders that required a computer. The only two hardware devices I found in my admittedly quick and non-exhaustive search were the iLuvTM and the iSee. Both, like the iRecord, cost around $200 which seems a bit high, although we are talking about a hardware encoder that works in real time. I suppose that technology still has a bit of a price tag to it.

In regard to the recording resolution, the advantage goes to the iSee for recording at 640×480. But since there is currently no software support for the Mac, the iSee suddenly drops out of the running.

The iLuvTM, on the other hand, is like the iRecord in that I saw no mention of any special software requirement. So it, too, seems to work on both Macs and PCs. Unfortunately, I could find no mention of the iLuvTM’s recording resolution. What I did find, however, is that the iLuvTM only records to an iPod—not to any USB device like the iRecord.

The iLuvTM also uses the MPEG 4 codec. At the same bitrate, videos from the iRecord’s H.264 encoding would look much better. The iRecord always uses 768Kbps. The iLuvTM can be set between 512Kbps and 1.5 Mbps, which means you can get even more video per gigabyte at the expense of low quality, or you can get video that looks as good as what the iRecord produces, but at the expense of more space required.

The part about the iLuvTM that confused me was that, in addition to this bitrate quality setting, there’s also a 30, 60, 120, or 180 minute time setting. Surely this doesn’t mean that even on an 80 GB iPod, you can only record up to 180 minutes, does it? Maybe that’s a timer recording setting.

The iRecord will also save audio-only recordings, but does so in 192Kbps MP3 format. Since the audio portion of a video recording is done at 128Kbps AAC, I would’ve preferred audio-only files to be encoded that way, too. I suppose keeping them as MP3 format makes them more compatible for people who aren’t using iTunes and iPods. Perhaps a small switch on the back to choose one or the other would be prudent.

The Bottom Line

The iRecord is probably the simplest of all the devices in this category. There’s no futzing with recording quality settings, there are no menus or other adjustments, and you don’t even need an iPod to make recordings. Given the iRecord’s $200 price tag, it’s not likely the kind of device a casual/curious shopper might pick up on a whim, and there are certainly better-suited (and better-priced) solutions for people who are more interested in recording high quality video to their computer.

Yet, for the iRecord’s simplicity and ability to record to most any USB storage device, $200 might not be so bad a price.

Reader Comments (29)

Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · November 30, 2006 - 15:56 EST #1
After I turned in this review, the question was put forth as to compatibility with Nanos and Shuffles. I didn't think about those models for two reasons. 1) I only have an iPod video, and 2) it seemed pointless to want to record video to a non-video iPod. Yet, the iRecord can record to virtually any USB storage device, plus there's the audio-only recordings to consider.

So, Shuffles and Nanos can indeed be used with the iRecord. The following is the exact response I got from the iRecord developers when I asked about these models:
iRecord supports both 1st and 2nd generation(8GB) nanos in that MP3 recording appear right away in its play list and can be played back. For shuffle iRecord can still record but the song will not appear in its play list immediately. The songs can, however be taken to Mac and transfered to shuffle via iTunes.

You are absolutely right that even video recording can still be done on nano and shuffle, where these are treated as USB mass storage devices. The recordings again can be taken to Mac/PC and played via iTunes etc.
mc · December 3, 2006 - 10:11 EST #2
Perhaps the makers should have checked out names already on the market. I use iRecord regularly to record online audio... Bitcartel makes the product.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · December 3, 2006 - 10:37 EST #3
MC - While the actual name of the product you use is iRecordMusic instead of just iRecord, you're quite correct. I suppose it remains to be seen whether iRecordMusic will take issue with the iRecord's name.
mik · December 4, 2006 - 01:33 EST #4
while iSee can record upto VGA resolutions, the contents recorded by iSee are not compatible with iPod. You can not directly play them on your iPod. iSee itself is a player for those contents.

Secondly iSee does not works with Mac formatted iPods. It works with just windows formatted 30GB iPod (not even 60G or 80GB iPods) . See for iSee compatibility chart.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · December 4, 2006 - 09:53 EST #5
Mik - thanks for that insight on the iSee. Since I'm a Mac-only user, I had no way to test, but I was already pretty sure it didn't work on Macs.
Vikas · December 12, 2006 - 13:54 EST #6
There is one more option available. The Neuros OSD. Have a look..

The possibilities with it are endless given the open source base. Currently there is only one problem. It's still in beta stage and has a lot of bugs stillnot completely fixed. Once those are taken care of, the OSD might really shake the DVR world.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · December 12, 2006 - 14:21 EST #7
Vikas - nice device, but this Neuros OSD is an entirely different class of product. This review was about simple, one-step recorders—not complete media center solutions. Yes, there are lots of choices if DVR media centers are the goal, such as the Miglia and EyeTV products we've reviewed in past issues.
vikas soni · December 14, 2006 - 12:21 EST #8
I dont know if I m misinterpreting something. But to me Neuros OSD looks like it can transfer video from a TV(using coax ins) and record it in mpeg4 directly to any usb HDD/mp3 player/iPod or memory card. So it does everything iRecord does and lots more. Here too a mac/pc is not required for this transfer. So how is it not comparable to iRecord? With 229$ price tag it doesnt cost a lot more than iRecord given the extra features.

But I might also be wrong. Please feel free to correct me in that case.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · December 14, 2006 - 15:46 EST #9
Vikas - You could be quite right. It may simply be its increased number of capabilities that, in my mind, puts it in another class—especially with that big remote control it comes with. Perhaps we can look into the possibility of getting a Neuros for review.
Joey · January 12, 2007 - 20:44 EST #10
OSD gives you over three hours per gig? I was at CES this week and visited the iRecord booth. It seems as though the utility to drag unprotected material onto iTunes in available now upon request (for those who want to keep it simple they dont have to get it) along with 2 other utilities ( one for schedule recording and one to set the bit rate). Though in my profession ( a DJ) I would much rather use an iRecord because I chated with the iRecord product manager and he showed me a recording from LP onto an iPod setting the bit rate on the iRecord at 312 KBPS and it was just awesome ( all three utilities are available only on request). This is really going to get even the old school DJ's hooked
Joey · January 12, 2007 - 20:46 EST #11
BTW iRecord can also support your cell phones ( Motorolla RAZR and SLVR so far) ... now that the new iPhone is out I wonder how long will it take for the iRecord developers to support that as well... any way to find out?
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · May 12, 2007 - 20:39 EST #12
I have just discovered something which, had I known at the time I wrote this review, I might not have rated the iRecord as Very Nice. I will be contacting the developer about it and will report if I learn anything.

The issue I'm talking about pertains to recordings that are pretty long. During my tests for this review, I mostly only made recordings that were several minutes. The longest recording I made was about a half hour.

But, just tonight, I went to record an hour and a half show. The recording is useless to me because the audio gets more and more out of sync the longer it records.

This is really bad news if it's a problem in all units and not just something I'm doing wrong (which I doubt). In fact, I'd have never quite noticed it prior to the hour and a half test, but I can now see that the audio is already a couple frames out of sync by the end of the half hour mark.

If you want to use a device like this for recordings longer than a half hour, I cannot the iRecord a high recommendation.

I'll post a new comment if the iRecord developers reveal any worth-while information.
Babu · May 13, 2007 - 04:50 EST #13
Dear Lee Bennett,

I had the same problem as you when I first bought iRecord ( BTW they have a different much sleeker model out now compared to the ones you have in the pics ). Turns out its a issue the player ( Quicktime or iPod ) and has been fixed with their latested firmware release... ask them for a firmware update yit should solve the prolem... cheers!
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · May 13, 2007 - 13:24 EST #14
Babu - no, actually, it's not an issue with Quicktime or the iPod. That would be quite impossible when you consider the fact that I was recording to an external USB 2.0 hard drive. Same problem exists when I tried recording to a flash drive. iRecord claims both devices are compatible, therefore, if the audio sync problem exists when recording to these devices, then the conclusion is that the problem is with the iRecord itself.

And I'm not certain we're talking about the same product. I wasn't aware that iRecord was previously made in any other form factor—at least not by the current developer. I can't say there's never been a prior product called iRecord that perhaps someone stopped developing, but it likely didn't record h.264 files like this iRecord does.

In any case, iRecord obviously hasn't responded yet, which is understandable since I e-mailed them late Friday night and it's currently just Sunday. We'll see what tomorrow brings.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · May 14, 2007 - 12:24 EST #15
Here's the update - there was a sync problem and iRecord has a firmware update available. I'm not certain why the iRecord web site still has "coming soon" next to an inactive link in their support section, but contacting by e-mail should set you up to receive the update. Of course, I am not sure if, quite yet, the update is ready for main stream.

I'll report again if there are still problems, but if I post nothing further on this issue, you can interpret it to mean the update solved the sync issue for me.
mark slavinski · November 19, 2007 - 11:39 EST #16
Can you tell me if you hook up a hard disk storge to the usb... will it allow you to copy movies from tape, tv etc
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · November 19, 2007 - 12:42 EST #17
Mark - absolutely! As long as the iRecord recognizes your hard drive (a standard Mac format should be fine), it will record whatever you throw at it. It makes no difference if the source is live television or playback from a tape or DVD. Just remember that VHS tapes and DVDs from commercial sources frequently use Macrovision technology which will significantly degrade the quality of the copy, but it will work fine for unprotected tapes or DVDs.
mukarram · June 10, 2008 - 10:25 EST #18
Is 320x240 the only possible resolution? If i wanted to use iRecord only to save all the old media i have, would it serve the purpose?
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · June 10, 2008 - 18:58 EST #19
Mukarram - 320x240 is the iRecord's only available resolution. If you need larger, you'll have to shop for alternate products.
John wenter · July 26, 2008 - 10:34 EST #20
Is there a copy protection problem with the irecord? Such as purchased DVD's. Great review site.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · July 26, 2008 - 17:03 EST #21
John - only to the extend that copy protection would affect any other analog recording. It's called Macrovision and it's a special encoding that really was mostly done on VHS tapes. If a television was the device connected to VCR output, then the picture would look fine, but if the signal went through another device (a recorder, for example) before going to the TV, the device that was recording would see the picture's gamma levels repeatedly drop and raise, over and over.

I'm not aware that DVDs use this same type of protection, though I can't say none do. The encryption on commercial DVDs primarily prevents digital copies. But once the DVD player outputs the signal through the analog RCA or S-Video jacks, it no longer matters whether it's a DVD, VHS, 8mm, or anything—it's analog video. As such, only the very old and outdated Macrovision technology would possibly be an issue. Try it. If the picture looks solid for about 30 seconds, then you're fine.
Tammy · September 17, 2008 - 01:41 EST #22
I was looking to buy iRecord but when I went to the iRecord website there were 2 different iRecords - an iRecordPro and iRecord. I was wondering if you knew what the difference between the two were and if the iRecordPro is worth the extra $50?
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · September 17, 2008 - 09:13 EST #23
Tammy - My intention is to review the iRecord Pro, but it will be at least the November issue before it's published.

Did you look at the product comparison page on the iRecord Web site? That's the only/best information I can point you to until after I can perhaps review the updated model.
Rachel Johnson · November 20, 2008 - 08:56 EST #24
I have some shows recorded on a DVR that is going bad and will need to be replaced. Can iRecord transfer them to a memory stick so I don't lose them when they take my old DVR away?
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · November 20, 2008 - 11:35 EST #25
Rachel - absolutely! Just play the show from the DVR while the iRecord is attached and record them either to an iPod or to a USB thumb drive.

Now, putting them *back* on a new DVR may not be possible, but you'd have the shows on a computer file that you can play elsewhere.

Also, watch for the December issue of ATPM where I'll have a review of the new iRecord Pro.
Lisa Owens · December 10, 2008 - 20:03 EST #26
I'm really interested in the sound quality this product delivers. I want to buy it for a friend to have digital versions of vinyl records. He is a musician and "bad" recordings drive him nuts. How close is the audio quality to the original formats audio quality?
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · December 10, 2008 - 20:25 EST #27
LIsa - Both the original iRecord and the new iRecord Pro (reviewed in the December 2008 issue) save audio-only files at 192kbps MP3 files. While the videos are better quality in the iRecord Pro, the audio saved into the video recordings in both units is 128kbps AAC compressed. Both of these scenarios is exactly on par with typical settings when encoding music in iTunes. In other words, the quality is very good. Just make sure the RCA cables you use to patch the audio are good quality—but no, they don't have to be expensive, gold-plated Monster cables.

There are sample videos both in the above review as well as in the December 2008 iRecord Pro review where you can listen for yourself how it sounds.
Colin Pye · March 2, 2009 - 13:52 EST #28
One thing I haven't been able to find elsewhere is if the iRecord properly handles the RIAA equalization when connected directly to a turntable. The iRecord website shows it being done, but makes no mention of equalization.

I'd hate to have to go out and get a turntable only to discover that I need to get a preamp and amplifier to transfer a couple of those old vinyl pizzas to my iPod!
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · March 2, 2009 - 18:44 EST #29
Colin - the RIAA what? I'm not sure what you mean there, but the only thing you should have to ensure is that your turntable outputs a true line level audio output. That's what the iRecord expects as an input. Line level would be the same as is typically output from most all audio devices, including cassette, CDs, DVD players, VCRs, etc. If the turntable outputs something else, such as mic level (which is not common), then yes, you'd have to go through some sort of audio device first that can readjust the audio into line level.

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