I am going to let you in on a little secret here. Being a new media producer, you may expect that I have some fun and expensive equipment around. Well, I do have both cheap end and high end stuff, hardware and software. But, all the equipment I have takes a back seat to one little piece of near obsolete equipment. My little 512mb iRiver IFP-795.
The IFP series is not sexy anymore. The IFP had the 700 and 800 ranges with only small differences in function, looks, and different flash memory capacity. They only had a small LCD screen, no full color large screen, Just a small blue basic screen.
So, what makes these so great? There are several reasons. One, they are damned near bulletproof. I have dropped mine so many times it is not even funny. The unit never complains. Also, one AA battery lasts forever.
Another great feature is the formats. Made at a time when mp3 players either played mp3 only, or a proprietary format, these little bad boys played mp3, Windows Media, and OGG. It also has an FM tuner.
The sound quality is another winner with the iRiver. Not only do they sound great, but the EQ choices and customization are tremendous as well. I still use my iRiver as a listening device to this day.
But what does that have to do with podcasting? Well, iRiver really tapped a market before there even was a market. They then discontinued the features that tapped that market before the market took off. Did you follow that? Let me explain.
The iRiver allows recording straight to mp3. It also allows for a wide range of recording options. With my little 512mb unit, I can record over 3 hours of audio at the highest setting, 320kbs, and that is with 2 cds stored as well. ( for those that do not know, 128kbs is CD quality)
Well, you might be saying that many mp3 players have recording functions, and that is true. But these little iRiver models were special. Not only do they offer a great deal of control, and features like automatic gain control, the kicker is in the ways you could record.
The iRiver has a built in mic. Not great, but not the worst ever. It also allows the user to record off of the FM tuner, a fun feature. But in addition, it also had a line in port from which you can hook up a mixer or other audio device. That is great, yes, but still not the ultimate. The ultimate is this little device has a microphone preamp built in!
The iRiver IFP-795 is by far the most useful device, comparably, I have ever owned. It is just tremendous.
So, how did iRiver drop the ball on podcasting? Well, podcasters, a lot of podcasters, started to use the iRivers as I do, to record their shows. It is small, feature packed, with great sound. You could take it anywhere and record. You could use it with a mixer and computer to get high quality recordings, or just with a mic on location for great roving recording. The problem was, by the time all the podcasters were buying these devices, they were already discontinued. We were all purchasing them used.
iRiver still makes great devices, not just straight audio players, but video as well. But after they disscontinued the IFP’s, they took away the mic preamp and a lot of the recording functions. It is a shame as these little workhorses did more for podcasting, at least from the podcaster standpoint, than the iPod. Apple still owned the listener side of things. The podcaster term should almost be changed to River-caster. But that would sound a little like a fisherman thing.
Another ode to these devices is the price they still fetch. The IFP-795, the unit I own, goes for almost what a brand new 4gig nano costs. Here is an ad that has an IFP-795 for $125.78. Here is an Ebay auction, with over 2 days left as I write this, with 6 bids and already it is over $70.00. I am watching this one as I would love a spare.
So there you have it, my take on one of the most useful, and reliable, gadgets ever. And how the company that produced them moved on before their time.
Oh well, I still have mine, and hopefully a couple of spares before it is all said and done.