Audio: Hardware

Hardware for recording, transferring, or playing back sound

Question from the mailbag: Can I use my iPhone charger with Zoom Handy H1?

An iPhone plug + a compatible USB cable + a Zoom Handy H1 = power source from wall outlet! An excellent question from Clint leads to this test and solution to give a Zoom Handy H1 a power supply with a standard USB cable and an iPhone charger.

Clint asked,

Question about the power supply. It looks to be a pretty standard setup, do you think an iphone wall plug-in power supply paired with the proper USB cord would work just the same?

Clint figured if he could do without the power supply, he’d be fine.

I grabbed my iPhone plug, a USB cable, and tried it out.

I’m thrilled to report that it works!

Here you see the Zoom Handy working while being powered using an iPhone plug. (Note the red light on the Zoom Handy H1, indicating that the recorder is powered up and recording!)

Of course, in this picture, I have the Zoom H1 Handy set on the tripod that also comes with the Accessory Kit (mostly so it would be easier to photograph both the Zoom Handy H1 recorder and my wall socket.)

No one paid me to write about these products. Any purchase made through my Affiliate links support my ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on October 09, 2013 in • AudioAudio: HardwareiOS
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My Rootstech Session made it into Deseret News! Plus: a few links n tidbits

Screen capture of the Deseret News story regarding my Rootstech session on using iOS and Android devices to interview family members Thrilled. Pleased. Proud: My Rootstech session was written up in a story by Alexis Jones in the Deseret News. Welcome, Deseret News readers! Here are a few additional pointers, links, and tidbits.

Think Like an Interviewer

My Rootstech 2013 landing page for Rootstech attendees, with links to all my articles on interviewing.

Rootstech Session Syllabus
The session syllabus, on the Rootstech site. LOTS of detail there. Lots. Just go download the PDF right now. And hey, it links to the Rootstech 2013 page, mentioned above.

Audio-In on the iOS

The mother of all posts with all the audio-in compabitility for each and every iOS device since Apple introduced the iPhone and iPod Touch in 2007.

Now here Still to come: A summary of my slides of the process of setting up Easy Voice Recorder on Android.

Apps! We gotcher Apps right here

Recommended Apps for iOS devices (these links will ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 01, 2013 in • AndroidAudioAudio: HardwareAudio: SoftwareGenealogyInterviewingiOS
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Getting Audio into your iOS Device (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad): Hardware Compatibility Guide

The current known universe of iOS devices -- iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, from 2007 to late 2012 [Updated] If you want to get an external microphone to go with your iOS device, which one do you get? This guide will tell you everything you need to know.

In the world of iOS devices—iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad—there are three possible ways to capture sound for audio recording: The dock, headphone+mic port, and built-in microphone. Not every device has all three (especially the earliest generations of iOS devices). Plus, microphones that “fit” into the same 30-pin dock may or may not work. It’s a compability thing. All—and I mean all—your compatibility confusion is cleared up here.

First, identify the model of your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. I present them here based on when they were manufactured (early—pre-iPad era, middle, and most recent—late 2012-2013).

After you find your model, look immediately below for a table showing what ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 19, 2013 in • AudioAudio: HardwareiOS
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Android Tips for older Android OS and File transfer to Macs

Android recording an interview Got an Android phone? Does it have an operating system lower than 4 (2.x or 3.x)? Got a Mac? Now that you’ve used your Android to record a family interview, how do you connect it to your Mac just like any ole USB drive? This tutorial shows you how.

This technique may seem a tad geeky, but the end result is that you will be able to plug in your Android phone or tablet to your Mac and it will show up as a disk drive.

Prepare your Android to mount as a USB drive

There are two settings items to configure in order to connect your older Android device to your Mac.

USB debugging

It sounds geekier than it really is. This is a setting that Android put in for you in case you were doing software development on an Android. You’re not, but you’ll take advantage of this back door entry to access your device from your Mac via USB.

  1. Begin at the home screen. Tap the Menu button on your Android.
  2. The menu appears at the bottom of your ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on in • AndroidAudioAudio: Hardware
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After two decades, the conversation that changed EVERYTHING

My grandparents on their wedding day. 21 years later, I learned about a conversation that changed everything – everything – I thought about what happened on March 8, 1986. Over two decades after that harrowing event, knowing about that conversation has made all the difference.

I’ve written about this March 8 day before, in 2007 in a post “Why International Women’s Day is Hard.”

The kernel of the story is hard: Early that morning, my grandmother woke up. Fell. Pain. Broken hip. (this, some three months after falling and breaking her hip. The first time.) What we know comes from grandpa’s phone call. She fell. Broke her hip. She’s gone and by the time you get here, I’ll be gone, too. Gunshot wounds. Police tape. News stories, and shock.

The new revelation came to me a few months after I wrote the above blog post. I re-read it again, and thought, My perspective on this has completely changed. (If you want to, go read it. I’ll wait.)

Caution Tape
...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 08, 2013 in • AudioAudio: HardwareInterviewingPersonalPersonal History
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Shocking Truth about Thin-skinned CDs (or why you should never write on a CD with a Sharpie)

I’d heard the adage that the top surface of a CD or DVD is thinner and more fragile than the bottom surface, but until I went on a cleaning bender, I didn’t get it. I reallly didn’t get it. It’s true, it’s true– the top layer of CDs and DVDs are thin. Shockingly thin. Here is a photo gallery of the CD that taught me just how fragile a writeable CD is.

After the holidays, I went on a desk and home office cleaning frenzy. Under a pile of papers, I discovered a disk that failed when I’d burned it. (also known as a “coaster!”) 

“Oh bummer,” I said. “A Bad CD. What’s it doing here? I should toss it out.” Then I remembered that I’ve wanted to destroy a disk just to see how it was put together. “Allrightie, then! I’m going to break this lil’ puppy!” I began to bend the CD. I figured that it would soon snap, but it bent and kept bending. At the crease, I noticed that a ripple appeared. It looked like a buckle or oblong bubble in the rainbow foil.

Strange! What is that? I bent the CD some more, then dug at the bubbly area ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 22, 2011 in • AudioAudio: HardwareDigitalityLongevity
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Unboxing My Zoom Handy H1 Portable Recorder

Unboxing the Zoom Handy H1 Portable Digital Recorder When my Zoom Handy H1 arrived, we took photos of the unboxing and first use. Now (finally – this unboxing took place before I left for the 10-10-10 family reunion), I’m annotating the process, so you get a sense of what the Zoom Handy H1 is like. I’m very excited about this recorder, because it meets the essential requirements – a digital recorder with built-in stereo microphones and removable memory that’s capable of recording audio CD (and broadcast)-quality uncompressed WAV files. All for $99!

So, here we go with the unboxing of the Zoom Handy H1…

The front and back of the product box. No shrink wrap, just a little plastic seal sticker on it.

The Zoom Handy H1's box, front and back

By the way, we ordered the Zoom H1 Handy Portable Digital Recorder from Amazon and it arrived a day later—sent from a Los Angeles based Amazon Marketplace partner. Shockingly fast, especially for a popular item that’s been backordered. (Now, more are in stock. The affiliate link goes straight to

Aaaand, now that the box is open, the first glimpse of the goodies inside.

The Zoom Handy H1 Recorder comes out of the box

The Zoom Handy H1 comes with the essentials, so you’re not lacking for a memory card or battery, and you can get started right away.

The Zoom Handy H1 uses a single AA battery, which is supplied. It also uses a micro-SD card -- the same kind that's used in cel phones. Here is the Zoom Handy H1 portable ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on October 24, 2010 in • AudioAudio: Hardware
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Preparing Mama to be an Interviewer

Here's Mom, standing in front of an old California stagecoach stop not far from Temecula, California. (from a recent road trip) What happens the person who’s usually the interviewee borrows your fancy digital recorder and becomes the interviewer? What happens when your Mom goes across the country and will see someone you’ve been wanting to interview for, like forever? Do you say, Okay Mom, please ask these questions. Oh, and would you record it? How do you make using the recorder as simple as possible? Will it work out?

The other week, my Mom went from West Coast to East Coast to attend her 60th high school reunion. I loaned her my easiest-to-use recorder with some very basic instruction. And hoped for the best.

Mount Pleasant High School Postcard (sent 1950, the same year Mom graduated).

Background: The stories I want to hear

Main entrance to General Electric's largest plant and its general offices. My gradmother worked for the General Electric Company twice—in the 1920s before her children were born, and again from 1941 until she retired in 1966. The person I’ve wanted to interview—a woman whose initials are NF—was mentored by my grandmother.  They both worked in an industry where women professionals were A Rare Thing.

Here’s something else that’s important: Grandma lived on the other side of the country.

I am back east at Grandma and Grandpa's house. In the snow (wow!) It's 1963; I am 3 and a half years old. (Grandma died 4 years later) I only have a few memory snapshots of her, from a visit East when I was a pre-schooler, and from a visit Grandma took west when my younger brother was born (I was 5?).

Grandma died a few months ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on September 29, 2010 in • AudioAudio: HardwareHow-ToPersonal
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Zoom’s latest recorder the Zoom H1 Handy costs $99; it’s now shipping!

Samson's Zoom H1 Handy digital audio recorderSamson said they were going to ship the Zoom Handy H1 July 30, but they’re shipping the product as of today. the Zoom H1 Handy is available at Amazon (affiliate link). Based on the product specs (I have not yet seen it), my answer to the question, “What recorder should I buy?” will change. I’ll be saying, Get the Zoom Handy H1, people. Why? CD-stereo quality (and higher) recorder, recording in WAV format, will be available for 99 bucks. And it has one-button recording. Sweet. Very, very sweet.

I got off the fone a little while ago with a spokesperson for Samson’s Zoom line of products, confirming very important items about this recorder. The news is good, people. True one touch recording (press the button and the recording begins). And a zippier start-up time to power the unit on.

Why is this good news? A little background…..

That was then, this is now

Last month, when people would ask me, “What recorder should I buy?” I’d tell them about the Samson Zoom H2 Handy—Samson’s previous lowest-cost portable digital audio recorder.

But I’d also tell them about two of the most significant downsides to the Zoom H2—it takes 30 seconds for the unit to power on, and it has ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on July 20, 2010 in • AudioAudio: Hardware
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Not your father’s iPod… well, actually it is (a Walkman)

image For Sony Walkman’s 30th anniversary, 13-year old Scott Campbell tries it for a week. Hilarious for us oldsters to see our old fave equipment through a young-person’s eyes.

My dad had told me it was the iPod of its day.
He had told me it was big, but I hadn’t realised he meant THAT big. It was the size of a small book.

Size? cumbersome. Handy belt-clip, but with that weight? (you hafta read the article to find out its effect for current 13 year olds).

When I wore it walking down the street or going into shops, I got strange looks, a mixture of surprise and curiosity, that made me a little embarrassed.

Though one teacher got nostalgic. Two tantalizing questions:

How long did it take for Campbell to figure out that there was a side B to this tape?

And how did he create his own impromptu “Shuffle” effect?

You hafta read the article to find out the ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on June 29, 2009 in • AudioAudio: HardwareDigitalityLongevityMemorabilia
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Countown to my Digital Audio Workshop

Am currently working hard to prepare for Friday’s “Birthing Digital” workshop at USC for the Southwest Oral History Association conference. What equipment am I bringing? Here’s a list.

YES, you can still sign up! (late fee waived!)

  • Two Mac Laptops to demo and test all the direct-to-computer tools
  • USB mic
  • 2 USB Audio Interfaces: Edirol’s and M-Audio’s
  • No wait, make that three. Creative Lab’s EEMU USB Audio Interface
  • iPod Nano and Belkin TuneTalk, plus Belkin GoStudio. Or, everything you wanted to know about turning your iPod into an audio studio (or quick, stealthy recorder)
  • M-Audio Microtrack II Portable Digital Recorder
  • Samson’s Zoom Handy H2 Portable Digital Recorder*
  • Marantz PMD 620 Portable Digital Recorder*
  • LiveScribe Pulse Pen
  • Possibly a Tascam portable recorder
  • My own portable recording kit, as written about here

*A couple of these will be for sale, (very) gently used, in about 3 weeks’ ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 24, 2009 in • AudioAudio: HardwareAudio: Software
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Workshop in March on Portable Audio Recorders

In L.A. Friday, March 27, I’ll be presenting a workshop called for “Birthing Digital: Portable Digital Audio Recorders” for the Southwest Oral History Association’s Conference that afternoon. Location: USC. Register: Cost: SOHA members $35, Non-Members $50, Students $20. (+online registration fees). Short description: When an audio recording is initially stored as bits, bytes, ones and zeroes, it’s called “born digital.” The birthing begins with two people having a conversation. It ends with a digital audio file. This 3-hour workshop focuses on what happens in between. It’s part theory, part show and tell, and part practice using a glorious array of portable audio recorders.

Long Description:

The Theory:

An overview of the most common routes to go from spoken word to audio file. It will provide a framework to understand the myriad portable audio recorders available on the market. There will also be an introduction to some basics of audio, digital sampling, file formats, and concepts that underlie best recording practices.

The Show and Tell:

A look at many of the common portable audio recorders. Recorder types will include portable flash memory, portable internal micro-drives, direct-to-CD, recording pens, components that connect microphone directly to computer, and add-on components that extend functionality of common audio devices such as certain ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 02, 2009 in • AudioAudio: Hardware
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Restored Reel-to-Reel Tape Decks as Art.

image A Gallery of Custom Tape Decks, wherein Jeff Jacobs restores old audio technology as art, via BoingBoing Gadgets. I love the meta-line here. Jacobs restores tape decks, which I think of as tools for restoring (and digitizing) audio. If tape decks are art, then there’s a ton of art at Richard Hess’s audio tape restoration studio! In decades to come, when those machines grow ever scarcer, the BoingBoing post points to another source to find those long-obsolete tape decks of the world: the personal collections of geeks.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 12, 2009 in • AudioAudio: HardwareLongevityMemorabiliaRestoration
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Who invented the electret (condenser) microphone?

Dr West, I presume. How do I know it? Kareem told me. That Kareem. The Basketball Kareem. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In his blog. No kidding. Quoth Kareem: “In 1962, Dr. [James] West and his partner Gerhard Sessler invented the electret microphone used in almost 90% of all microphones built today — over 1 billion a year.”

Electret (also called “condenser”) microphones are the type generally used in lavalier (or lapel) microphones. (Hello every TV anchor and guest in recent history. How do we hear you? It’s electret!) Electret mics are used in all mini-sized microphones.

I love how I came to learn of Dr. West, electret mic’s co-inventor. Though I have passing awareness (heh. pun unintended) of Pro Basketball, and have heard the name of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and I read a local (L.A.)  blog by Tony Pierce, who became the blog editor at the L.A. Times, and though I saw an announcement that he got Kareem to start blogging, I had no idea. I yawned, oh, it’s a sports blog. Whatever. Didn’t even click ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 25, 2008 in • AudioAudio: Hardware
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Marantz PMD620 Review

Oryoki’s First Impressions of the Marantz PMD620 (plus responses). It seems as though the preamps are better than expected.

The preamp specifications Marantz publishes for the PMD620 are similar to the specs of the PMD660 recorder.  This is not a good sign, because the PMD660 is (correctly) criticized as having relatively high self-noise and poor performance when recording loud material.

However, in my brief tests the PMD620 sounded better than the specs might suggest.

The built-in mics are adequate.  They have a somewhat better sound when you point the top of the mic at the subject, holding the recorder as if it were a TV remote control.  The sound is thinner and brighter when you point the front or back of the recorder at the subject (this points the top of the recorder and the mics at the ceiling).

...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on December 20, 2007 in • AudioAudio: Hardware
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