The Yamaha Pocketrak 2G is one of the smallest and lightest high-end portable audio recorders available today. There's nothing small about the Pocketrak 2G's $450 price, however, and its limited features and recording capacity will have demanding users heading toward Yamaha's bulkier competition.
The Pocketrak 2G is marketed toward recording musicians, but its lightweight, low-profile design is just dying to be used for covert spy missions and concert bootlegging. Clad in a glossy black plastic and measuring 4.75 inches by 1.25 inches by 0.25 inch (HWD), the Pocketrak 2G is easily concealed in your pocket, or tucked away in some dark corner. The Pocketrak 2G's built-in stereo microphone takes up the last half inch of the top of the device, and can be angled up on its hinge to prevent it from picking up vibrations when laid on a table.
The front of the Pocketrak 2G is surprisingly spare, and includes a small 1-inch backlit LCD, and a central record button flanked by smaller delete and stop keys. Just like the micro-cassette recorders of days past, the majority of the Pocketrak 2G's controls are located on the right edge of the player. Unfortunately, because of the Pocketrak 2G's slender design, the play and skip buttons (which double as menu controls) located on the edge of the player are tiny as Tic Tacs and awkward to use while keeping an eye on the screen.
The Pocketrak 2G includes five recording quality modes: PCM (16-bit, 44.1kHz, stereo WAV); XHQ (128kbps stereo MP3); HQ (64kbps stereo MP3), SP (32kbps stereo MP3); and LP (16kbps mono MP3). We found the PCM and XHQ settings work well for recording live music, but the lower-resolution settings are useful only for interviews and voice memos.
The onboard professional recording features of the Pocketrak 2G may be lacking, but the bundled Cubase AI recording software is undeniably high quality. You'll have to jump through a few online registration hoops to authorize the Mac and PC-compatible Cubase AI, but the results are well worth it for anyone ready to graduate from working in GarageBand or Audacity. The Cubase AI software allows for recording, mixing, and arranging both audio and MIDI tracks, and includes a suite of effects.
Other features of the Pocketrak 2G include: a 3.5mm microphone input that doubles as a stereo line input; a 3.5mm headphone jack; a built-in speaker; fast and slow playback modes; voice-activated recording; MP3 and WMA music playback; passkey protected recording folders; and an alarm mode that allows you to set a recording timer.
Any old AAA alkaline battery will power the Pocketrak 2G, however, Yamaha throws in an Eneloop brand Ni-MH rechargeable AAA battery, which recharges whenever the device is connected over USB. Because the Pocketrak 2G doesn't include an option for an external power adapter, your total recording time is limited by battery life.
Judged on its highest quality setting (uncompressed WAV, 16-bit, 44.1kHz), with its automatic gain control option switched off, the Yamaha Pocketrak 2G's sound quality is remarkably clean and lifelike. Listening back to a recording we made of a piano in a quiet room, we could hear subtle details such as the piano's sustain pedal being pressed and the creak of the wooden piano stool. Outdoors, we feared the Pocketrak 2G's lack of a windscreen or low-cut filter would riddle our recordings with low-frequency distortion caused by the microphone jostling as we walked or hitting a gust of wind. Surprisingly, the Pocketrak 2G picked up much less wind and handling noise than the Edirol R-09 and Zoom H2.
Because of the narrow spacing of its microphones, the stereo separation of the Yamaha Pocketrak 2G's recordings are a far cry from the sonic realism of the Sony PCM-D50 or Edirol R-09, however, a stereo widening option can be used for slightly better results. Compared with the high-quality WAV format recording mode, some audible compression artifacts are introduced when recording to the Pocketrak 2G's XHQ 128kBps MP3 recording mode. Recordings made in the Pocketrak 2G's HQ, SP, and LP recording modes are too poor to be musically useful.
When using the supplied rechargeable battery, Yamaha rates the Pocketrak 2G at 19 hours of MP3 recording, and 8.5 hours of WAV recording. Using an alkaline battery improves the Pocketrak 2G's performance slightly with 25 hours of MP3 recording and 9 hours of WAV.