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ATPM 13.01
January 2007




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Hardware Review

by Lee Bennett,

iTalk Pro


Developer: Griffin Technology

Price: $50

Requirements: 5th-generation iPod video or 2nd-generation iPod nano.

Trial: None.


Unlike its predecessor, which attached to the top of 3rd- and 4th-generation iPods, the iTalk Pro uses the dock connector and requires a 5th–generation iPod video or 2nd-generation iPod nano.

To be candid, I’m frankly surprised that I find myself unable to echo ATPM’s top rating for the iTalk Pro that I gave to the original iTalk. This updated version of Griffin Technology’s digital audio recorder for the iPod simply has a lot of shortcomings that I didn’t sense from the original.

First of all, there’s no longer a built-in speaker. The mini speaker of the first iTalk, in spite of its size, was more than adequate to quickly listen to recorded memos without having to fumble around for a pair of headphones or earbuds. The loss of the mini speaker is a significant blow.

The second shortcoming is that the iTalk Pro costs $10 more than the original. If Griffin Technology were marketing the iTalk Pro as an iTalk with additional features and the iTalk were still available, then the $10 would be justified. But the iTalk Pro isn’t, in my opinion, a feature-added version of the iTalk. “iTalk Pro” is simply the name Griffin used for the same product, only updated to be compatible with the latest iPods. Period. So what happens when they have to be updated again to be compatible? Will it be called the iTalk Pro Pro?

Here’s the scoop on the updated iTalk:

Another factor that bothers me is that, unlike the Belkin TuneTalk Stereo, Griffin did not include a docking port pass-through. As such, it is impossible to charge or set your iPod in a dock while the iTalk Pro is attached.

An issue that is of no consequence to me is that the iTalk Pro only comes in black (with a shiny silver back). My iPod video is black, but the iTalk Pro doesn’t match a white iPod nor most of the iPod nanos.

I have to question the iTalk Pro’s ability to remain securely connected to an iPod. A few times, my iTalk Pro apparently became unseated and my iPod could no longer record because it could no longer find the recording device.

Audio quality is not bad. I have not had the opportunity to personally try competing products, but have heard samples by other reviewers of Belkin’s and XtremeMac’s recorders. Both were superior in quality to the iTalk Pro.

Like its predecessor, the iTalk Pro’s recording specs are dictated by Apple. The “High” quality settings records 16-bit stereo WAV files at 44.1 kHz. The “Low” quality setting records 16-bit mono WAV files at 22 kHz. (Note: at the time of this issue’s publication, Griffin’s product page incorrectly states that the “Low” quality setting records at 8-bit instead of 16-bit.)

Unlike its predecessor, the iTalk Pro now includes a setting to adjust gain levels: automatic, high, and low. My impression is that the automatic setting favors higher gain, and both automatic and high are prone to considerable amounts of background hiss. The low gain setting is adequate for hand-held voice memos. My suggestion is to use high or automatic when recording events such as group meetings. Regrettably, the gain setting always reverts to automatic when the iTalk Pro is reattached.

Though it was less noticeable in the low gain setting, the occasional sound of the iPod's hard drive activity was present in all gain modes. This wasn't so much an issue with the original iTalk because it mounted to the top of an iPod—further away from the hard drive. Naturally, the problem doesn't exist when using an iPod nano.

Other than a brief click at the beginning, presumably the moment the iTalk Pro switches away from the built-in mic, the line input recordings are great. Griffin should, however, default line input recordings to the low gain setting. The automatic setting causes rapid fluctuations between high and low, rendering line input recordings useless. The low gain setting is appropriate for standard line-level audio input.

You may have heard what sounded like some distortion in the music clips above (even the low gain version). That’s actually a guitar effect in the music clip and is present in the original recording. My impression is that line input recordings in low gain mode are very clear. The reason I used this music clip is because it’s the only quality studio recording I could access which I knew would be OK to use here and not have copyright/license problems.

My verdict is largely the same as with the original iTalk. Since the iTalk Pro is the least expensive of the three main players for this product, it’s probably the best choice for a quick-and-easy recording accessory. But if you can afford an additional $10 or $20, you should consider either the Belkin TuneTalk Stereo or the XtremeMac MicroMemo.

Reader Comments (44)

Peter McEachern · January 4, 2007 - 23:54 EST #1
I found your article helpful. I also find it problematic that iTalk pro reverts to automatic every time it is unplugged. I also find the fluctuations in level in automatic mode a major problem for music recording. In addition I get a "clipping" sound in automatic mode that makes the recordings useless. High mode I get a lot of distortion but in low mode it seems OK. I'm using a Sony ECM-MS907 stereo mic with the iTalk pro and an 80 gig iPod video. The Sony mic worked well with my MD recorder. I am wondering where I can find specs to match a mic with the recording capability of the iPod and the iTalk pro. The mic I am using now does not seem to be a good match, or is it the iTalk pro that is the culprit? I'm considering trying the Belkin or ExtremeMac product. Do you have any ideas for matching a mic for music recording with the iTalk pro or the other devices. (Tunetalk or ExtremeMac)
Peter McEachern
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · January 5, 2007 - 00:15 EST #2
Peter - using an external mic is tricky, but not impossible. The thing to remember about the jack on the bottom of the iTalk Pro is that it's a line level input. Microphones are generally a mic level input which are much lower voltage than line level. I'm not an audio tech, and can't fully explain what this means. I'll try to have our resident audiophile make an appearance here. In the mean time, if you visit an audio shop that carries such mics, you can tell them you have a device with a 3.5mm stereo line-level input and you're wishing to check out microphones that can plug into this, and see what they offer.
Evan Trent (ATPM Staff) · January 5, 2007 - 19:03 EST #3
The basic issue here is whether the microphone outputs a high voltage level or low voltage level. Many, though certainly not all, mics with 3.5 mm jacks are high output, appropriate for use into a line level input such as the iTalk Pro's. Microphones with 1/4" phono or XLR style connectors are almost always mic-level and require a mic-preamp to boost the signal to line level. They may also require "phantom" power which provies a power source for the mic along the actual audio cable. This is why you should not just slap an adapter on the end of a mic with the wrong size connector, and then plug it into the iTalk. Nothing bad will happen, but you will not get enough gain and the resulting recording will be inaudible. My advice if you are unclear on all of this is to call up a place like Sweetwater Sound or a similar supplier and ask them for help.
Sander van der Heide · February 22, 2007 - 18:01 EST #4
I used the iTalk on the new Nano and on my Video iPod. The nano has no problems, but with the iPod Video I have skips (every 30 seconds, a short piece of audio is gone). It's not only with the iTalk, but also with the Belkin and XtremeMac mics. Does anyone have the same problem?
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · February 22, 2007 - 19:55 EST #5
Sander - this might be going out on a limb, but considering I observed no audio skips using the iTalk Pro on my 60gb iPod video, and you don't hear any skips using the same iTalk Pro mic on your nano, and because other recording devices are also producing skips on your iPod video, the most logical explanation is that your iPod video either has a problem or is configured in such a manner that is causing problems...though I can't imagine how the latter would be the case. At this point, you can't rule out a defect in your iPod video.
Lou Peck · March 12, 2007 - 22:38 EST #6
my i-talk has also started skipping (used with 30K ipod vid) - it worked fine for the first month, but now i have problems...suggestions please, i'm very new to ipods and italk...
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · March 13, 2007 - 00:00 EST #7
Lou - our best advise is to talk to Griffin. The developer of any product is always the first choice for support. We at ATPM try to lend a hand when we can—especially for items that the developer appears to no longer be reachable. But in the case of Griffin Technology, they're obviously still going strong and you should ask them about your problem.
Nic Jaeger · March 21, 2007 - 23:45 EST #8
Dear Mr. Bennett,
I contacted Griffin about my 30 gb iPod video skipping with the iTalk. It skips on all settings, more on the recording option of "high". It skipped from the moment I tried it. After contacting them, they wrote back saying it was probably having trouble writing to my iPod, so I tried it on a different iPod video to the same effect... do you have any suggestions? It skips anywhere from a fraction of a second to up to 4 seconds at a time. My friend bought the same iTalk model, and his skips as well on his iPod video 30 gb.
If you have any ideas, or if you know the problem and have news of Griffin fixing it, please let me know.
Lou Peck · March 21, 2007 - 23:49 EST #9
just to follow up, it seems that my italk only skips if i have it on the high setting. it's been fine since i kept it on the low setting.
Nic Jaeger · March 22, 2007 - 00:08 EST #10
Hmm... it shouldn't skip at all though. Any news of patches by Griffin to fix it? You seem to know a lot about all this, and I appreciate it.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · March 22, 2007 - 00:59 EST #11
Nic and Lou - I wish I could offer some assistance to both of you, but I cannot. My iTalk Pro still functions skip-free—just like the sample recordings linked above in this review. Griffin Technology has neither informed me of a firmware update nor can I find any mention of an update on their web site. In fact, I'm not certain how a firmware update would even be accomplished on the iTalk Pro.

Lou, skipping on the high setting only could possibly be a factor of the gain being so high, a loud noise peaked past the upper threshold of input. Digital recording devices will generally just drop the audio when this happens—unlike analog recording devices which will record an overdriven distortion instead. I don't, however, say this with any firm certainty. It's just a presumption.

Perhaps both of you would like to e-mail me a sample recording so I can actually hear the problem you're describing.
Sander van der Heide · March 22, 2007 - 10:21 EST #12
The problem is not because of the iTalk, but because of the iPod Video. Have a go with a second generation Nano and you will not have any problems.

In high quality, you'll have a 1411kbps stream, which is written from the internal buffer to the harddisk. If the disk is to fragmented, It just looses some audio. It's the same with all 3 available iPod Mics.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · March 22, 2007 - 10:33 EST #13
Sander - That's a very interesting thought. It certainly hadn't occurred to me that disk fragmentation could be problematic.

On my 60gb iPod, I have about 20gb available, so there's probably a plenty-large chunk of space that isn't fragmented.

However, Nic did send me a sample recording. He didn't say in his e-mail and I'm waiting for a return response to my query, but the file sounds as though it's a line input recording and the problem was not so much a skipping as it was like a thump/pop. Difficult to describe in words. My current guess is that maybe a mic level signal instead of line level is being sent, or that whatever device he's using to send the audio to the iTalk is somehow overdriving its input threshold. The pops (skips) do happen whenever the audio hits louder bits and not at random times as would be the case if buffering delays were the problem.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · March 22, 2007 - 12:26 EST #14
After further e-mail dialog with Nic, I have come to the theory that perhaps he (and maybe other people) are confusing the iTalk Pro's quality setting with the gain setting. I suppose Griffin kind of goofed here by having "high" and "low" settings in the iPod's Voice Recordings menu, because those have nothing to do with the gain. High=stereo CD quality and Low=mono voice quality.

To adjust the gain, as indicated in the iTalk Pro manual, hold the iTalk Pro button down for three seconds until the special input level/gain menu appears. From there, you can press and release the button to toggle the Low/High/Automatic gain setting.
Josh P · March 22, 2007 - 22:49 EST #15
Lee-Its good to hear that I'm not the only one experiencing the "skipping" phenomenon. I too have a 30g Ipod video and just noticed that it drops 1-3 seconds of recorded audio every 10-15 secs of playback. I'm specifically using it for recording live music but the gain is low and the input levels don't seem to correlate to the dropping of audio. Not sure where to go from here but I'll keep checking back for suggestions. Thanks.
Kyle G · April 23, 2007 - 12:15 EST #16
I too have had problems with the skipping. I think it it mostly due to volume changes and the auto gain trying to account for that. for voice its usually ok. for music. its unuseable. thanks for the gain tip lee. That should do the trick. For others with this problem, if your recording music and want it more listenable. just use a free audio editing software like audacity to cut, level and normalize your tracks. thats what im gonna do.
Nic Jaeger · April 27, 2007 - 23:09 EST #17
On my 30 gb iPod, I tried fixing the problem by changing it to high gain/low quality and it only skipped every once in a while, which is much better than it was before when it was on Auto. The high gain/high quality still skipped beyond use.
But I just used my friends 80 gb iPod with the same iTalk recorder, high gain/high quality it worked perfectly.

I thought it had to do with how much memory was left on the iPod, so I cleared everything off of it, and tried again.

30 gb iPod, 0 gb used, high gain/high quality:

Worked perfectly. No skips.

So if you're having skipping problems, that's the answer. Clear your iPod, set it to high gain by holding down on the button that says iTalk, then set it to high quality and you'll get a nice sounding recording without skips.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · April 27, 2007 - 23:13 EST #18
Nic - interesting. If that's true, it sounds like it could possibly be issues with file fragmentation. As such, it would seem to me that you could clear your iPod and resync everything which would, in effect, defragment the hard drive and the iTalk would function properly.

But, also if it's true, it's something Griffin should really address...or perhaps it's an Apple problem since the iTalk only provides the mic interface. The recording software is still Apple's.
Dave Kempton · May 5, 2007 - 02:34 EST #19
I have a 30G video Ipod and am on my second Italk pro. I have a sony ECM-MS907 condenser mic which is made for minidisk recorders so the output is the right level. I plug it in, switch it on (powered by battery, have changed several times) and the sound is still recorded from the griffins built in mic, not from my sony. I contacted griffin, they thought it may have been a defective unit and my retailer replaced it. The second has the same problem. I have thoroughly tested the mic on other equipment and it functions perfectly. Anyone know thw problem here? it's a pain and noone else seems to have it!
simon G · May 6, 2007 - 13:19 EST #20
my italk skips all the time - i use it for recording band rehearsals and it's very very annoying.

contrary to a lot of postings here it has nothing to do with the gain setting - it skips on all of them.

clearing your ipod and starting again apart from being very annoying hasn't cured my problem.

a lot of people posting that they've fixed are not testing enough - for starters you need continuous audio to test it - not voice.

i contacted griffin and they said get another one - had that option closer to when i bought it but i don't have it now and the 2nd one was exactly the same.

the griffin italk simply does not work properly.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · May 6, 2007 - 13:35 EST #21
I do wish I could provide an answer to people's comments about skipping problems. However, neither I nor have any affiliation with Griffin Technology. I only reviewed the product and reported on how it behaved with my tests. Granted, I did not do lengthy line input recordings, but did record some samples that were longer than the :17 second examples above in the article. I experienced no skipping after I set it for low gain. Keep up the dialog here and maybe someone will find a solution...or maybe Griffin will acknowledge some sort of problem and take care of everyone.
Sander van der Heide · May 7, 2007 - 03:19 EST #22
Maybe I can get this out of the way for you guys:

1. The problem is in the IPod Video, NOT in the iTalk or the Tunetalk or the MicroMemo.
2. The iPod Nano (2nd gen.) works flawlessly with all three mics
3. The iPod Video needs to get this 1441 kbps stream you are creating out of his bufer onto the harddisk. If it's a little fragmented, it already has a problem.

Maybe Apple can resolve this in a firmware update, but I think you need to wait for a 6th gen. Till that time, use only a 2nd gen. iPod Nano
simon G · May 8, 2007 - 14:33 EST #23
I have emailed Griffin many times regarding this issue to which they have replied that yes it's a problem with the iPod but, since the mic only works with an iPod..

i can imagine that recording WAV quality audio is quite a challenge for the hardware - if so then don't release the product until the technolgy is ready.

and to the last comment - yeah i will just go out and by another iPod right?

the one thing i haven't tried for the obvious reason is using the low quality setting..maybe that will have an effect.

also the automatic gain setting is useless even for voice recordings and it's the default setting when you plug the thing in - resulting in you having to change the settings every single time you want to use it..argh
young jang · June 8, 2007 - 23:24 EST #24
thanks !!!!! the sample clips are very helpful.
danielle W · June 20, 2007 - 15:14 EST #25
I also tested the italk pro last night at a group music session. I now realize after reading your comments that my recording must have been in automatic because when i was listening to the session the "fluctuations" between high and low where driving me insane. It was EXTREMELY noticeable to the point where i thought the product was defective and was ready to send it back. Tested in another setting though, it seems to work just fine with no clicking sounds. Hopefully it will stay this way and i won't have any other problems with it. I also found that it slips easily from my 30 gb ipod video and i dont like that the italk doesnt have a way to lock it in. I dont like having to pull it out this way and i hope that it's not causing damage to the ipod port. Anyways your comments have shed light on my italk issue so thank you.
J Johnson · June 25, 2007 - 21:12 EST #26
I hate iTalk!!!!!
It leaves out bits of recording when using 30GB iPod. It is not compatible with the video iPod like it says it is. Make a compatible product before you sell it!!!!
Sander van der Heide · June 26, 2007 - 04:49 EST #27
Dear J Johnson,

It would be wise to read the thread instead of writing down your frustration with the iTalk. We are also disappointed,but....the problem is not in the iTalk (nor in the Tunetalk, nor in the MicroMemo), it's in the iPod Video. Buy a 2nd gen Nano and you would see the iTalk works perfect with it.
Sophie D · June 27, 2007 - 09:38 EST #28
Hi everyone,

I am shopping around for the best audio recorder for my 30GB ipod video.

The italk seems to have a lot of skipping issues, but my only options are the Griffin or Belkin models, as I always keep my ipod in a hard case as it is a limited edition u2 one.

I want to record mostly live musicals, as I work in the theatre and it is really annoying when you have songs in your head that you can't listen to on your ipod (performed by the same artist). I would either be recording from backstage on onstage. Does anyone have any suggestions as to which would work best?

I would buy the Belkin, but it is apparently more expensive and I haven't been able to find any shops that stock it (internet shopping isn't an option for me).

Sander van der Heide · June 27, 2007 - 10:47 EST #29
Dear Sophie,

why not read this thread, so you will know it doesn't matter what you buy, but what iPod you have.
Sophie D · June 28, 2007 - 01:41 EST #30
Dear Sander,

I did read this thread, hence asking you guys for advice. I have read about 10 different threads on various review websites and am weighing up the pros and cons.

I realise that my ipod will affect its use, but since several people have bought/returned different models of voice recorders I was wondering whether there was some general consensus on the best, or most compatible product with the 30GB ipod.

No way am I going to fork out on a nano just to record stuff!!
Sander van der Heide · June 28, 2007 - 10:24 EST #31
In that case, I would buy the Belkin one. I giot the best results with that. I tested all three for a dutch magazine:
Sophie D · June 29, 2007 - 03:39 EST #32

That was the general gist I was getting. Unfortunately my Dutch isn't all that great...

Belkin it is then!

Jim Bright · July 1, 2007 - 17:17 EST #33
I have had exactly the same skipping problem with the italk pro on a 30GB 5g iPod. I had 7GB free space, and defragged the disk, but the skipping problem remained. I tested it on a recording of a monologue, and it skipped after 1 min 10secs, losing about 1 secs worth of the original. Somewhere on another thread someone suggested removing the album art, so did that, and tried recording again. It skipped at precisely the same spot 1 min 10 sec.

So I gritted my teeth and bought a 80GB 5G iPod from Apple store in San Francisco. Recorded the same monologue and no skips!

So there you go, a simple $350 fix for a $30 microphone!!

The RAM on the 80GB iPod is bigger, so perhaps this can buffer more of the stream?

The problem seems to be restricted to the 30GB iPods, especially when they are loaded up with other stuff.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · July 1, 2007 - 17:52 EST #34
Jim - that may be the explanation of why I had no big problems with recordings after I got the settings right. I have a 60gb 5G. Odd that a 60gb or 80gb would work fine, but not the 30gb.
james artache · July 19, 2007 - 20:26 EST #35
Hey Sander-
Why do you keep saying that griffin or belkin are not the problem. they are the problem. I think it's a real big issue when you release a product designed and advertised as being compatible with any 5G ipod video and that isn't so. Do you really think the people at Griffin didn't do tests and knew for certain that this issue with skipping existed,yet decided to make no claim to the fact and instead just let people throw money away on something they can't use. Thats just plain wrong
Sander van der Heide · July 19, 2007 - 21:53 EST #36
Well James, Yes and No,

Maybe they shouldn't have released the product, because it could have problems (keep in mind, Nano en 80GB iPod don't seem to have the problem). But, the only thing can do is create something conform the specs of Apple. Griffin controls teh quality of the Mic, but the way voicememos are handled and the conversion is done in the iPod.

Agreed, strange that neither Xtreme Mac, Griffin or Belkin knew of the problem in the first way.
Diane Barbarash · August 5, 2007 - 04:02 EST #37
Skipping Solved: I have a 2GB Nano, and I've been experiencing the same skipping problem during playback. I found the stream of comments on this page really helpful. At first, because those with much more space were experiencing the skipping, I thought I was doomed. Just now, I plugged my italk back in to my ipod, pressed the big italk button until the low/high/automatic settings window appeared, and then tried rerecording my guitar and voice in both low and high (it was on the automatic setting before, which I believe is the default setting)... Anyhow, to make a long story short (and happy) the skipping has ceased. My theory (for the Nanos at least) is that like what some other people have mentioned, the automatic setting is like "voice recognition" software, where it is working really hard to understand the signal, and thus stutters its way forward. Tell it to focus on a low or high signal and it can do that just fine. What a relief.
brando · November 23, 2007 - 13:22 EST #38

I also have the italk pro and a 30 gig video ipod AND I experience the skipping problem too, every 20 to 25 seconds . Just now I tried it at the LOW gain setting and I experience no skipping. I do recall other recordings I have at low gain with no skippingg also... My conclusion is that LOW Gain is the way to the way my Ipod is LOADED with music.

brando · November 23, 2007 - 16:49 EST #39
ok -- I take that last comment back after trying the low gain setting one MORE time with my 30 G video ipod -- I did have the skipping after about 2 mins or so and then again 10 sec later... So my problem is still there. I will try deleting some files...
stu · November 25, 2007 - 18:43 EST #40
I think that Sander works for Griffin.
I thought that my skipping was a result of the levels peaking, but it is not. I also tried wiping the hard drive of the iPod, set quality to low, and guess what....Same result. This thing is a piece of junk.
Diane Barbarash · November 25, 2007 - 21:34 EST #41
I returned mine in Sept. because the quality (high/low) settings had to be reset every time I used this peice of crap and then the skipping resumed. Recently I upgraded my home studio with a Blue mic and left the whole hand-held-recording phase behind me.
Chris · November 30, 2007 - 05:44 EST #42
On another thread there was a suggestion to reset the iPod before attaching and using whichever voice recorder. It worked for that individual, so all I can say is try that. I believe he also used low quality mode. I don't have one of the recorders yet, but I am anxiously researching this beforehand. I would only need low quality for my situation. Hopefully this help somebody.
Cher · February 28, 2008 - 00:46 EST #43
Hi All!

Well i am not sure if anyone will respond to this message since its been since november when someone wrote a comment about the Italk. I had an 80 gb 5g ipod (which sadly was stolen). i used the italk to record my school choir in the classroom (i'm a music teacher) and when i would play it back for them, on playback there was this annoying clicking sound interruptions during the playback. there was no type of clicking sound in the classroom going on during recording.

then i tried it at home by myself, and on playback i heard the same clicking noise.

i just bought a 8gb nano green and i used the italk just today to record a lecture, and on playback, i heard the same clicking noise.

does anyone know if this is normal or it could perhaps be the setting? i had it set for high during all the recordings i did, so i wonder if that could be it?? thanks all!
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · February 28, 2008 - 09:06 EST #44
Cher - As I have stated in prior comments, I never encountered the type problem you and others have been discussing. It should be obvious that the behavior is not normal since 1) it produces unacceptable recordings, and 2) not everyone has the problem. What I can say is that I was unhappy with the distortion and wide variances in gain level if I didn't use the Low gain setting. When my iTalk Pro was set to Low, it always seemed to produce reasonable recordings.

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