The diminutive Pocketrak 2G from Yamaha is essentially a solid-state memory device with recorder functions built around it. Instead of having removable media, it is movable media with an extendable USB 2 connector that plugs into a computer for transferring WAV or MP3 files. It can also serve as a straight-up secure data drive as well as a portable audio player, and even includes Steinberg’s Cubase AI4.
The recorder’s petite control buttons are manageable and the backlit LCD screen is small, which makes it difficult to read the finer text. Walking through its menu options and changing settings is easy, if a bit limited. Options include 44.1kHz 16-bit PCM (3 hours) and XHQ (128 kbps, 35 hours); HQ, SP and LP provide 64, 32, and 16 kbps, respectively. However, higher bit-rate MP3 options such as 320 and 256 kbps are conspicuously absent, as is high-resolution PCM.
I began my tests by making voice-only recordings using Beyerdynamic MCE58 condenser and Electro-Voice RE-11 dynamic mics. The recording quality in uncompressed PCM sounded great, as did the highest-level MP3 setting—both sounded clear and warm with the flavor of the mic coming through. The built-in mic was surprisingly good without the crackly electret quality you might expect.
Next, I took the 2G into the field to record Austin-based singer-songwriter Nathan Hamilton’s solo acoustic set in an intimate performance space. I recorded in uncompressed PCM and switched between recording with the integrated mics and then a Crown Soundgrabber II PZM. I also tried inputting audio directly from the prosumer-quality amp/mixer. The internal mics did the trick for nailing a quick-and-dirty document of a recording. Plugging it into the board took it a notch-up in terms of getting the vocals right in the mix. Finally, the Crown PZM mic did a fine all-around job and allowed me to handhold the recorder and play with levels and the like without introducing handling noise. As with the previous test, the Yamaha was delightfully transparent, passing along the sonic characteristics of the front end. Battery life was not an issue. The single AAA battery goes for far longer than the PCM recording capacity, even while driving headphones.
My experience with the operation of the 2G was mixed. The automatic gain control was fast when responding to changing volume levels. However, the manual controls/metering were challenging. When in Pause mode, levels are set while watching a nice bar graph meter dance in the display. Unfortunately, in Record, the display switches to a far less informative screen showing little other than that it is recording with a time-elapsed clock that is barely readable. You can watch for clipping by switching the “recording on” LED into a peak level indicator in the submenu. If clipping occurs, you can adjust levels on the fly, but don’t expect help with the meters. To do that, you must pause the recording. Also, since you cannot switch it into mono mode, the voice mic recordings were on one channel. It’s easy to fix in a DAW, but problematic when either monitoring through headphones or in playback.
The Pocketrak 2G is a breakthrough product with a few rough edges. It’s fine for basic recording now, but a few simple improvements could make it exceptional. My Version 2 wish list includes doubling the storage capacity, dropping the consumer-ish MP3/WMA player functions, allowing metering while adjusting levels on-the-fly and providing higher-resolution audio quality options and a mono mode. Toss in a plug-in cradle for adding XLR inputs, and this could be a killer studio recorder.
To see how the Yamaha Pocketrack 2G’s feature set compares with other portable digital recorders, download this Portable Digital Recorders Comparison Chart.
For more information, visit Yamaha’s Pocketrak 2G Web page.
Carl Lindemann is an engineer and technology writer based in Austin, Texas.