Wednesday, June 27, 2007

An Excellent DX Recorder - The Rockboxed iRiver H320

I bought my first H320 20 GB digital audio player (DAP) last autumn, and another half a year later. I now have two H320s and two H120s. For those unfamiliar with the iRiver range of DAPs, the H320 is basically an H120 with better navigation tools and a colour LCD. You may run across iRiver DAPs named H140 or H340 - they are identical players but with a 40GB HDD instead of 20.

The H320 works fine out of the box for recording DX. However, the Rockbox firmware changes it to an excellent recorder! Rockbox is an open source replacement firmware for mp3 players. It runs on a number of different models, including some iRiver DAPs. With Rockbox, I can engage a configurable pre-recording buffer, up to 29 seconds, never again missing an identification because the recorder wasn't running. I can store recordings as MP3, in various bitrates, or WAV, in different sampling rates, and the files I record are named with date and time. The syntax is yymmdd-hhmmss.

The H120 can do basically the same, except it has no date/time function so the files are named rec_0001 etc.

Another handy Rockbox feature is that you can choose to auto-split files by a predetermined time or file size. That way, long recording sessions are split up to manageable file sizes. The splits are seamless. I have not found a way to schedule a recording though.

The DAPs can be configured in many ways, including font size and appearance of the playback display. Unfortunately, the recording display can't be changed, and the font size is rather on the small side. Also, the H320 colour display turns B/W which is of no big concern for me.

Many H320s are available on Ebay, quite attractively priced. Beware that the internal battery may need replacement, and that the switching charger is likely to impose RFI on your receiving system. A stabilised 4.5 - 5.0 PSU may be needed. The iRiver user forum Misticriver has descriptions on how to replace the battery (costs less than USD 30 from Beware also that H320s and H120s with US firmware need to be flashed to European firmware before installing Rockbox.

On the picture, both recorders are set in idle recording mode. The language is set to Norwegian. Unfortunately the photo did not give credit to the H320 (left) display. You will note that the H120 is also labelled iHP-120.

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