iRiver IFP series mp3 Players, Once the Holy grail for Podcasters

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.

iRiver IFP-795 mp3 player

This little gem is behind every episode of RfL 2.0, Animated Adventures, Turns Classic, and Quickjabs. In other words, I record all of my shows on this small, and old, piece of electronic perfection.

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.



6 thoughts on “iRiver IFP series mp3 Players, Once the Holy grail for Podcasters”

  1. I have to pretty much agree with you on the iRiver IFP line. I have had a brand new -899 and a refurbished -895. Sadly they have both proven to not, in fact, be bulletproof.

    The first thing to go on my 1GB 899 was the headphone jack. I got the headphone cord caught on this thing so many times and ripped the cord out that it proved too much for the poor thing. After that, the screen started to go one column at a time – I’m guessing from the associated drops to the floor. I did try taking it apart to see if I could repair or replace the headphone jack, but the innards consist of two PCBs pressed together and the jack is between them. Trying to get them apart, I actually damaged the LCD more. Darn. It still records wonderfully and I still use it for that purpose. Sadly I can no longer do live monitoring with it.

    After that one died, I bought the 512MB 895 refurb. I was much better about securing that one with the lanyard so I dropped it far less. Its demise came at the hand of my 1 year old daughter who, before I could get it from her, gave it three solid whacks on the kitchen tile. The damage done is quite odd. If it player is held JUST RIGHT (face down, pretty much level), it functions perfectly. If it is tilted just a bit out of position, it slows and stops like a turntable with a bad drive motor. Get it back into position, and it picks up right where it left off. Quite odd. I have NOT attempted disassembling this one yet.

    I now have a 160GB iPod and frankly I never liked the way the iRiver handled music playback, but it was great for listening to podcasts. They have a feature where you can listen to anything sped up to about 20%. I can’t tell you how many podcasters’ voices I had to relearn once I got my iPod.

    As I said, I still use the iRiver for remote recording. It really can’t be beat.

    Just be careful about dropping yours.

  2. Great article, Eban. This made me think fondly of the early days of podcasting, and my wonderful iRiver H140. I still have and still use the recorder/player. iRiver seems to be doing okay with consumer devices, but I really wish they still made utility devices like the H series and the IFP series. I’d still be a customer if they did.

  3. Oblivion, Man, that sucks, but kids can kill anything. Hope you get it working again. I have seen what you have done to some of your keyboards, so you know what you are doing, lol.

    Dan, thanks for bringing up the H series, I had forgotten about that. And yes, it does bring up the early days, eh? Hopefully the devices we have last a while.

    Random, I am with you on that. The replacement options for these devices are steep in price comparison. That of course shows how ahead of their time they were. I guess I could try out the Zoom or something if mine goes down. I will not go to the ultra high end stuff, on principle. I like the underdog status that comes with recording on things that true professionals would balk at, he he.

  4. I have the very same iRiver, and it was my very first decent mobile recorder. I’ve used it on numerous Podcasts, with both the onboard mic and an external Sony stereo mic. I’ve also purchased refurbished 795s for friends who were just getting in to Podcasting, and some of them still use theirs to record their programs.

    Though I tend to use a Zoom H4 these days for most recording in the field, you still can’t beat the iRiver for decent quality in a tiny device. It’s particularly good for stealth recording.

    Glad to know that I’m not the only one who still loves this device…

  5. I’ve used the IFP 795 with a Sony DS70P mic for several years, mainly for choir rehearsal recordings. More recently I have used a Zoom H2 which I have to say is excellent and has plenty of options, although a little hungry on batteries. I still use the 795 as a backup. I wanted another but all I could get was a T30. It’s still ok and has stood me in good stead for emergencies, such as when I ran out of AA batteries for the H2 during a lecture. It’s real pity that Iriver stopped such a good series as the IFP though. Glad to read your comments.

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