The original Microtrack 24/96 and the current Microtrack II from M-Audio are nice little audio recorders, I like having a small recorder in my backpack ready for anything. I love the fact it has balanced TRS inputs so I can use it with my professional microphones, as well as 1/8″ mini-jack inputs with plug-in power for use with a wide range of inexpensive microphones (including the small stereo electret condenser it comes with). However, the little critter is far from perfect. The original Microtrack (the one I own) had three design flaws from my perspective: 1. it lacked a limiter, 2. it did not provide true 48V phantom power, and 3. unlike many other small recorders, it does have a user-replaceable battery. On the other hand, the fact it can be powered from USB is a really big plus and overall it’s a really nice device.
The newer Microtrack II added a limiter (hooray) and real phantom power, but it still has a non-user-replaceable rechargeable battery. I guess two out of three ain’t bad, and I bet the Microtrack designers disagree with me regarding #3 above. Well, like many iPod owners have discovered, non-user-replaceable rechargeable batteries are fine for the first year or so of frequent use, but then the battery starts to decline in capacity. The Lithium-Ion rechargeable batteries used in small devices are good for a certain number of charge-recharge cycles, and then their capacity declines dramatically. So after three years of using my Microtrack, it no longer holds a charge as long as I would like. One solution is that M-Audio offers a battery replacement service to Microtrack owners. But instead, after thinking about it and shopping around, I decide to spend less money for a more versatile and much higher capacity powering option: The Kensington Portable Power Pack for Mobile Devices (#K38021US available for around $50 from a variety of retailers).
The Kensington Portable Power Pack is a rechargeable, external battery pack. Most people purchase it to add dozens of extra hours of iPod playback time, or extra hours of mobile or smartphone talk time, however, it’s also a perfect companion for the M-Audio Microtrack, and it’s about the same size. I attached my Power Pack to the Microtrack using industrial Velcro for a secure fit, and I hacked together a short USB cable to power the Microtrack without any cable clutter. I can’t tell you how long the Microtrack will record with one of these batteries, since it lasts so long I’ve not come close to reaching the end of the battery capacity, but we’re talking several hours of recording. And a nice plus is that the Microtrack still fits in it’s original little pouch with the battery attached.
The Kensington Power Pack comes with a USB to Mini-USB cable to charge and drive devices and a AC adapter (with USB connector) for charging the Power Pack. A gorgeous blue LED battery gauge tells you much power is left in the Power Pack and if it runs out, you still have reserve capacity using the Microtrack’s internal battery, which charges while connected to the Power Pack. The Power Pack contains a Lithium-Ion Polymer battery with a 5VDC (Mini USB) input (1A Max) and 5VDC (USB) output (1.5A Max). The capacity of the battery is 1800mAh (7W/h). And unlike so many of the generic electronic devices sold today, the Kensington Power Pack comes with a respectable 2-Year warranty.