Yamaha Pocketrak C24 Mobile Recorder ($200, street)
Pro-quality sound in an ultra-compact format
By Jon Chappell
With all the mobile recording devices that have come out recently, it takes something special to make a particular model stand out. And the big news about Yamaha’s Pocketrak C24 is that it’s small. Really small. In fact, at just under 4.5" and weighing only two ounces fully loaded (that is, with the AAA battery and SD card installed), the C24 has bragging rights as the world’s smallest recorder. But it’s packed with features, sounds great, and is easy to use. Despite its diminutive size and light weight, it’s a heavy hitter in the ever-growing portable recording arena.
The C24 is the second generation of mobile recorders from Yamaha, and includes the ability to record in both mp3 and wave formats and in various resolutions. At the high end, the C24 captures 24-bit, 96-kHz audio—the state-of-the-art for pro-level recording. If your destination is an mp3 player or the Web, you can dial in various space-saving resolutions in the mp3 domain. Video and CD formats (16-bit at 44.1 kHz and 48 kHz) are also offered, among other settings.
Onboard is a quality stereo omni-directional mic, a speaker, and 2GB of internal memory that you can expand to 16GB with a micro SD card. Amazingly, the display and controls don’t feel cramped. The bright backlit display is quite readable both up close and at a distance, and all the controls are well spaced and easily operable with one hand (see Fig. 1).
Fig. 1: The Yamaha C24 is tiny and compact, but easily operable with one hand.
Let’s Get Small
How small is the C24? Roughly the length of a cell phone, but much skinnier, so it fits in one hand easily and can be almost completely hidden from view. This is important in “stealth recording” situations where you need to record the proceedings, but you don’t want to make your subjects self-conscious. (Celebrities, and their handlers, can be particularly sensitive to this.)
Even if you’re not trying to hide the C24 from view, its small size makes it tremendously handy. It takes up almost no room and can fit on the lip of a music stand or on a crowded tabletop. The included spring-loaded clip is well-designed, accommodating both curved and flat surfaces, and can attach the unit securely to almost anything: a mic or music stand, a desktop edge, your rearview mirror, clothing, belt, and even your wristwatch (see Fig. 2).
Fig. 2: The included, add-on clip allows you to attach the C24 securely to almost any surface.
The Ins and Outs
The C24 includes a mic/line input for the times when you want to use record using inputs other than the onboard mic. You can use the ALC (automatic level control) for most situations, but you can also adjust the recording level manually, viewing the meters in pause mode while doing so, which is nice for optimal recording setup. I often use an external mic when I need a directional (non-omni) mic, so I was pleased that the onboard preamp was robust enough to crank the levels of my road-weary handheld dynamic mic. The Record menu also has different settings for accommodating various external mic types, including stereo, mono, powered, and non-powered sources.
A mini headphone jack ensures silent monitoring when you don’t want to use the onboard speaker. Perhaps the most ingenious I/O feature on the C24 is the USB connector. Rather than give you a recessed jack and a separate cable, the C24 has a pop-out USB connector that locks in place once in its fully extended position. This connector comes out from inside the unit, so it doesn’t affect the footprint of the C24, nor does it create any sharp corners to snag clothing on. It also doubles as the anchor for the clip. This deft touch is really what makes the C24 a pleasure to use when you have to offload your files onto your laptop after a day in the field. No searching for a cable; the unit is self-contained with regard to computer connectivity.
Menus and Features
Despite the compact form factor, the unit is quite easy to use, with respect to physical operation and navigating the menus. The various rocker switches and pushbuttons are all in obvious places on the exterior of the unit, making tasks like controlling volume, powering up and down, deleting files, varying playback speed, etc., a one-touch affair.
The menus are all well labeled and include everything you’ll need to change to customize the C24 for your own use. Top-level menus include Tuner (including calibration), Metronome (with different time signatures), Record (where you set the resolution and file format, mic sensitivity, high-pass filter, peak limiter, peak/hold settings, etc.), Playback (search, repeat, EQ, phrase-play length, etc.), and Common (date and time, display LED control, etc.). A particularly nice touch is the onboard EQ. You can select from five different preset curves or create your own.
I had my review unit for several weeks, and during that time it became an indispensable part of my personal effects. I used the C24 as a memo recorder in the car (“Don’t forget to buy milk”), a scratch pad for fleeting melodic and lyric fragments that came into my head, and as a loop recorder and rehearsal tool. I can attest to the claims of long battery life, as I used the unit every day for two weeks and never brought down the battery meter by even one bar. The sound was crisp and clear, with good stereo separation, and the automatic level control and built-in peak limiter made operation of the unit foolproof and produced 100 percent usable recordings every time. Offloading the files to my computer via USB was transparent, and I used the included version of Cubase AI to further tweak my files.
The Pocketrak C24’s small size will appeal to anyone looking for something truly portable, yet that still captures high-resolution audio. While the excellent sonic quality make this a fully professional recorder, it’s the features that will ensure you make the C24 a permanent object of your grab ’n’ go items, right along with your cell phone, wallet, and car keys—but lighter and smaller than any one of them!
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Yamaha Pocketrak C24 2GB Pocket Recorder Features: