Earbuds and Voice Memo

Have you ever been in the situation where you made a mental note but when you went to retrieve it, it wasn't there? Maybe it was a funny billboard you saw while driving, the name and price of a product you saw while shopping, or a funny joke you heard? If you didn't have a pen and paper to write down your observation, you could text the reminder into your cell phone. That's certainly an option. But what if your hands aren't free? If you're an online writer or anyone who is constantly writing things down, you might like the idea of multi-tasking - recording your thoughts while you work out, take a walk, or even soak in a bubble bath. Here's a way to do that.

If you own an iPod Touch you can record anything from personal notes to full blown articles with Voice Memos, one of the useful tools that comes with the iPod. You'll need a microphone connected to the device before you're ready to record. But which microphone is right for you?

If you immediately envisioned a large attachment and lots of wires being plugged into your iPod when you read the word microphone, you haven't seen the variety of mics available for the iPod. An online search will result in everything from the Thumbtack, a mic that's little bigger than a vitamin capsule, to the larger Blue Mikey's, designed for recording interviews, lectures, etc. A microphone to suit everyone's needs is just a click away. Many are compatible with the BlackBerry and several versions of iPods and iPhones. Just as microphone sizes and features vary, so do the prices. You can expect to pay as little as $2 and as much as $79.

I like music but I'm not an audiophile. So I was looking for a microphone at a good price to simply record personal notes and articles but I also wanted decent playback for music. As a writer who walks each morning, I enjoy the combination earbuds and microphone made by Eforcity. Available at Amazon and other sites online, the only way these white earbuds differ from Apple's is the cushy ear pads and the tiny white bubble attached to the cord, which houses the microphone. When the buds are in your ears, the bubble sits about level with your mouth, a good position for recording your voice. The soft earbud cushions are comfortable and keep the buds in place, a big selling point for people who have problems with regular ear buds falling out while walking or jogging. A silver switch on the bubble allows you to turn off the recorder without using the ipod screen. This is really convenient if your iPod is in your pocket while you're working out. To use the Eforcity headset, just plug it into iPod's jack. No downloads or batteries are required.

When I'm not recording an article, I'm listening to music. But sometimes while listening to my favorite songs a thought will come for an article. A tap on the Voice Memos icon on the iPod screen takes me to the recorder where I tap "record". When I'm done, I can turn off the recorder by clicking the silver control button on the white bubble. If I have another idea, clicking the conveiniently located button will turn the recorder on again. This easy on and off is very handy because inspiration for articles doesn't generally come completely formed in one neat paragraph, but instead comes in spurts.

Besides using the silver button, you can also tap the pause button on the Voice Memos screen to stop recording when you're stumped momentarily for the right words, or outside noise interferes. Just click the pause button to stop recording. When you want to continue, click again and the recording will pick up where you left off.

You can also listen to only a portion of what you've recorded to jog your memory about details or wording. A progress button, much like you would find in iTunes, allows you to drag across and listen only to the specific sections of the recording you choose.

When you're ready to transfer the information from your iPod to your computer, sync your device in iTunes. Your recording will appear in your Playlists under "Voice Memos" with the time of the recording and the file size. You'll find a complete list of all your recordings in order by date. On this screen you can manage your recordings by renaming them, deleting, or listening to them in the same way you would a song in any playlist.

If your recorded document needs to be transcribed, as you would do with an article you've written, open two screens - a blank text document, and the iTunes play list containing your recording. Play back the recording and begin typing. You can toggle back and forth between each window as necessary. Click the pause button in iTunes if you can't type fast enough to capture your recording. Click pause again or double click the recording title to resume playback. Ensure privacy by plugging Eforcity into your computer so no one else can hear the playback.

Another great feature of the earbud/microphone combination is "sharing". On the iPod Voice Memos screen, click on any recording you've created in your list then click the "share" button. Another screen pops up. Here you can create an email and send your recording to someone else or yourself, yet another way to transfer the recording to your computer. You can also deliver a special wish to someone in your own voice to accompany an email from your computer by dragging and dropping the recording into an email after your iPod has been synced with your computer.

Thumbtack mics are a good recording option and well suited for recording meetings. While you can use both devices to record close up sound, Eforcity is not ideal for getting good sound from more than about two feet away.

I have recorded memos on my iPod that took no more than 15 seconds and have dictated information for articles that took as long as 45 minutes, without interruption. If there is a limit on the length of time you can record on the iPod, I obviously haven't reached it.

I know someone who plugs her mic into her iPod then walks around the kitchen recording the groceries she needs. At the super market, she plays it back. I'm sure there are many different uses for this product that I've never thought of. When it comes to music, sound quality can vary greatly from one microphone to another. Eforcity is not top of the line, but it's very good. If you can be happy with that level of music playback and the convenient recording features it offers, this is an excellent tool, a great buy, and an ideal product, especially for writers.