back to article Ten... digital voice recorders

As mobile phones and other electronic gizmos generally pack their own voice recorders these days, the necessity of buying of a standalone dictaphone seems doubtful. Yet a dedicated model has distinct advantages with typically better recording quality, a longer battery life and voice actuation. Also, recordings are not going to …

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Can I use your dictaphone?

No, use your finger like everyone else.

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Go

audio file samples

Would be nice to have sample audio files to listen to of knocks, echoes etc.

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FAIL

Last but not last

Number 9: Last but not least

Number 10: Actually last and still not least.

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Having said that, thumbs up your recommended choice the Panasonic

Having said that, I think your editor's recommended is the best choice because of MP3 recording onto microsd card.

In radio broadcast scenarios where live outside broadcast not suitable.

The microsd card can be put into an Android phone and the recording edited on apps like TapeMachine conveniently using pinch gestures.

The resultant work can then be sent back to "base", for broadcast.

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sgb

Possibility of a flame war here, but...

I have an iphone (I'm not proud of it - it's my work phone) and it has a voice recording app on it. I'm about to start an evening course and was planning on recording the lectures on the phone. Given that phones are designed to pick out voice and discard other frequencies, how does the iphone app (or similar) compare to these as a dictation device?

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I would imagine that there is a dictaphone app out there for the iPhone. If not then anything that a dictaphone can do, can be achieved by post-processing the recordings made by the iPhone, i.e. after they have been made, perhaps doing such processing on the phone itself or on a full general purpose computer.

The dictaphone mode works by having an amplitude threshold setting used in dictaphone mode so that recording is triggered only when sound is louder than this. There is also conference mode, which is just usual recording straight including background. Dedicated dictaphones have this feature, but it isn't rocket science and could be achieved in software on a iPhone or in post-processing software.

iPhones can record at high quality i.e. CD / 16bit 44.1KHz, there are some guitar applications comprising of a software part (the app) and a hardware part (an adapter, connected between the phone and the instrument). The thing missing from current iPhones I believe is audio input gain control, so volume control may instead be addressed on said adapter hardware. So it depends on the quality of the audio input into the phone. External mics will always be better than built-in, for example.

Also, I would advise on making stereo recordings of your classes, as this is how you would hear them, and your own ears and aural centres of the brain may then be able to better filter out the wanted voice from the unwanted noise perhaps due to phase differences in the audio arriving in the left and right channels, reflections etc. The so-called cocktail party effect.

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There's probably an app for it.High quality can be achieved on iPhone

I would imagine that there is a dictaphone app out there for the iPhone. If not then anything that a dictaphone can do, can be achieved by post-processing the recordings made by the iPhone, i.e. after they have been made, perhaps doing such processing on the phone itself or on a full general purpose computer.

The dictaphone mode works by having an amplitude threshold setting used in dictaphone mode so that recording is triggered only when sound is louder than this. There is also conference mode, which is just usual recording straight including background. Dedicated dictaphones have this feature, but it isn't rocket science and could be achieved in software on a iPhone or in post-processing software.

iPhones can record at high quality i.e. CD / 16bit 44.1KHz, there are some guitar applications comprising of a software part (the app) and a hardware part (an adapter, connected between the phone and the instrument). The thing missing from current iPhones I believe is audio input gain control, so volume control may instead be addressed on said adapter hardware. So it depends on the quality of the audio input into the phone. External mics will always be better than built-in, for example.

Also, I would advise on making stereo recordings of your classes, as this is how you would hear them, and your own ears and aural centres of the brain may then be able to better filter out the wanted voice from the unwanted noise perhaps due to phase differences in the audio arriving in the left and right channels, reflections etc. The so-called cocktail party effect.

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iphone recorder

in reply to earlier poster, the voice recording software that comes with the iphone is surprisingly good!

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JB
Happy

Wow

How times ave changed! I like to think I'm up with the latest technology (especially reading the Register!) but voice recorders had somehow passed me by. I remember buying a little Sony microcassette dictaphone in about 1993, paid about £70 for it, and thought it was the bollocks at the time. But seeing these little devices makes it look like a wind-up gramophone! Very interesting round-up, shame I dont' really have a use for a voice recorder, really.

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Pint

indeed!

I was just going to say something very similar. I still have my old olympus microcassette recorder kicking around somewhere.

It always made for good stoned fun to record a lecture at slow speed (shocking quality, but doubled the length of the tape) and play it back at full speed. That's a key feature that isn't mentioned in any of these reviews :-)

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Silver badge

"Missed" the Yamaha Pocketrack

Now, in all honesty the Yamaha is more of a field recorder than a dictator. I tend to describe is as an "sound engineers swiss army knife". It has quite a bit to offer besides the standard functions like recording using a stereo microphone, supporting PCM 16/24 bit from 44.1 up to 96kHz. And even directly as mp3; from 32 right to 320kbps. An USB connects sits in the device and can be shifted out after which you simply stick it into a hub and it acts as a USB mass storage device. It comes with a build-in speaker, 2Gb storage on its own and the option to insert mini-sd cards.

And it also comes equipped with some "sound" tools like a tuner and a metronome, voice recording activation and a peak limiter. And you can use external headphones and/or microphones as well. Stuff you wouldn't use on a dictator, I know.

I figured I'd still mention it due to its very high recording quality and its price; it roughly sits inside the range you mentioned here going for approx. $130,- / 82 pounds which could make it a cheap alternative I think.

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Check out the Zoom H2

You can pick one up for less than £150 with 4GB card. You can also use it as a USB microphone.

It's almost an industry standard, 'in the field'.

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WTF?

Not Mac Compatible

Re the two Ultradisk products, when you say "not Mac compatible", are you really saying "Windows only"? Us Linux users need to know!

Also.... I'm intrigued how they managed to be incompatible with Macs. So my next questions is "Why?"

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You missed Olympus WS-510M: sub-100pound high quality stereo MP3 recorder

Available on amazon here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Olympus-WS-510M-Digital-Recorder-Player/dp/B002650XNQ

Specs here:

http://www.olympusamerica.com/cpg_section/cpg_archived_product_details.asp?fl=&id=1458

Records WMA and MP3 at stereo 256kbit/s with a free firmware upgrade.

Standalone recorder, 4G flash memory, stereo, USB for transfer to computer, USB charging!

And with this XLR to jack, cable adapter, you can plug in any passive (i.e. non-phantom powered) XLR pro balanced microphone:

http://www.audiospares.com/product.php?productid=1618&cat=775&page=2

I wouldn't bother with anything that records only to .WMA, especially since flagship audio editing program Adobe Audition CS5.5 has dropped it.

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Alert

Professional Voice Recorders

Whilst these devices are all very well made and have many features, only the Grundig can be classed as a professional Voice Recorder. The other primary manufacturers (Olympus and Philips) are not represented here accurately. Olympus have a device called the DS 5000 ID which comes with 2 SD expansion slots and a biometric finger scanner to allow multiple people to log in and their personal details are stored when docked and sent for transcription. It also serves as a security feature.

The Philips 9600 is also a market leader with PIN security and DS2 file encryption, as with the Olympus DS 5000, it also can hold multiple profiles and demographic information on each dictated job.

As for the iPhone (and Android devices and Blackberry for that matter) there are many recording software suites out there that connect to enterprise solutions such as Winscribe, the market leader, but the smartphones have limitations such as battery life and audio quality, but do have the advantage of over the air transmission into a workflow solution.

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Absolutely

Philips and Olympus are the two dictation device makes you most frequently see in office situations in my experience, where professionals use these devices for transcription all day every day. Each manufacturer has a whole digital dictation ecosystem with dedicated transcription pedals and server software (including handling DSS files and all the relevant metadata).

Personally I use a Philips DPM 9600 after the better part of two decades using a genuine Dictaphone (the brand, not the generic title) until it finally died. The thumb move for recording's identical, and I'm too lazy to change.

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comment from UltraDisk Voice Recorders

Hi Peter,

Many thanks for the question on the UltraDisk recorder. The need for Mac support is one I hear more and more.. It is great to hear that we have the demand from different users of Operating systems and file formats.

At the moment, It wouldn't work as the removable drive is formatted as FAT 32, it is partitioned by NTFS (Windows OS) so 1 drive appears as a CD containing the UltraDisk PC software (read only) and the other is mapped as a removable storage device. Macs by default will not recognise NTFS (B.Gates v S.Jobs etc) without some additional 3rd party software, this not supported natively by Apple. So Apple do not recognise the drive for this reason. The UltraDisk software is written for PC 32 bit and 64 bit only, no Mac software exists (just yet)..

If you ever need any support regarding any UltraDisk please do contact me at support@ultradisk.co.uk or visit UltraDisk support online, I will be happy to help. The products are fully compatible with Microsoft Windows supported on 32 and 64 bit. I'm also happy to hear from experts in Linux / Macs who may wish to make suggestions.

We will be releasing a Mac compatible version that will not rely on NTFS and it is in our roadmap for development. Do watch this 'UltraDisk' space!

As we are a small UK business, I was obviously flattered to be contacted by Caleb regarding UltraDisk voice recorders. Although quite surprised (but pleased) to see we have been positioned against some of the largest corporate brands..

By contrast to the others, UltraDisk is a small family business based in Manchester, our scale and attitude in business is very different, development therefore takes us a little longer, not just in time, but largely to finite resources unlike the share capital available to Sony, Olympus Grundig etc, This fails to get a mention and Caleb was aware of this, so a little misleading of where we are at.

Despite our size differences, we offer support, advice, listen to what is said and continue to offer feature rich products at a price that is more favourable with entry level customers. Whilst I am flattered about the comparison in this run down, I'm also aware that it makes a good portion of judging the product on something which it is not. The author was aware of this in advance, but I fully respect the artistic license of the reviewer to highlight Mac support in whatever way.

Mac support is in sight and I'm pleased to hear we have the product demand, we have a full support / ticket desk FAQ etc at http://www.ultradisk.co.uk/support-center

I hope this helps answer the question, many thanks to Caleb too for placing 2 of our products in the top 10.

David Grant

www.UltraDisk.co.uk

UltraDisk Digital Voice Recorders.

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@UltraDisk Voice Recorders

If I may, let me start by thanking you for coming to the Register forum and responding to the review and questions about the UltraDisk voice recorders. However, the whole file system thing sounds a bit confused...NTFS isn't a partition type, it's a file system. In any case, Mac OS X (from 10.2 on up IIRC) does support read only access for NTFS formatted storage devices with any other software being required. Read/write support for FAT32 is defintely present in Mac OS X (and I believe Mac OS 9 as well, but it's been a looong time). If the UltraDisk recorder presents itself to the computer/operating system as a USB mass storage class device, surely it would work fine with a Macintosh (less the software, of course)?

As a Reg Hardware reader who is located in the United States, I'd also like to ask if you have any plan to enter the US market with your products. I do like the small form factor and the convenience it implies.

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I've got a slightly different Olympus model...

I went from an ancient (by today's standards) VN-240PC with a whopping hour of record time to a WS-700M, which fits in right between the two olympus models reviewed here. (The UK equivalent appears to be the WS-750M, based on looks and specs) Aside from the lock turning off and it eating it's battery recording 3 some hours of being in my backpack, it's been quite decent.

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Actually Grundig isn't Germany anymore

They still have an office in Germany, but the company is turkish by now.

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Accessories

One of the topics missing in this review is the availability of accessories. Transcription pedals (mentioned above) are pretty much essential if you're going to be using a voice recorder much - they free up hands for typing while you either transcribe what's been dictated or summarise the discussion.

I think it's a key area where these devices compete with phones - shame they're not covered.

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