Recommendations for digital voice recorders.
November 28, 2009 7:02 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a dictaphone/digital voice recorder. Your personal recommendations please!

I am in the market for a dictaphone as part of my universal capture routine. I would be using it mainly for notes-to-self and capturing ideas when they pop into my head; but would also like the option to record the occasional meeting or lecture.

Here are a few criteria:

- a dedicated tapeless digital voice recorder: i am not really interested in mp3 players or cellphones that also have voice recording capability.

- Reasonable sound quality in both recording and playback: Just as long as I can easily understand what is being said is cool.

- Compatible with Mac (and Ubuntu linux would be a bonus!) My understanding is that some recorders use WMA format which can be a bit fiddly on these systems, but is certainly not a deal breaker.

- Good file management. USB accessible, preferably without the need for proprietary software to get to it. Are time and date-coded audio files possible? I have also seen a couple that allow for splitting and merging of audio files. That would be great, as I think I would prefer to have a single file of a days brainstorming rather than a bunch of small 5 second clips.

- Price range: Somewhere in the ball park of £50 ($80 USD) or less.

In a nutshell: a digital voice recorder that works with a minimum of faffing about.

I have also looked at a couple of previous threads - but they seem a little more focused on high-end recorders for podcasting and creative media. This thread recommended the Olympus VN-960 PC, but in a different context to how I would be using it. But from what I can gather, Olympus seem to be the brand to beat. The other threads I have seen may be a little out of date

I have looked at a few different models but am really keen to hear personal recommendations from users.

I'd also love to hear about how people have integrated a dictaphone into their lives. How else have you found it helpful and how do you like to organise the files that you produce?

Thanks!
posted by TheOtherGuy to Technology (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm exceedingly happy with my Sony ICD UX80, though it's more like $120. Especially good on the Mac compatibility: the voice recorder is itself a USB stick, plugs straight into the Mac, and appears on the desktop as an external disk, with the files already in MP3 format.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:03 AM on November 28, 2009


The Olympus VN-XXXX series is good; I use a VN-3100 PC, myself, which cost about $60. But if you want to be able to access your files on a Mac, don't get one whose model number ends in "PC," as those are only accessible via Windows, as I learned only after buying mine, much to my consternation.
posted by limeonaire at 8:50 AM on November 28, 2009


+1 on ICD UX80. I use it for field recordings and lectures. The mp3 quality goes up to 192kbps, which I find half-decent for recording live music, and the fact that it boils down to pulling files off of a simple thumb drive never fails to impress me. Really love it.
posted by damsorrow at 9:03 AM on November 28, 2009


I have a Sony ICD-X71, which works well and without much hassle.
posted by Grinder at 1:13 PM on November 28, 2009


I have an olympus WS-311M (link is to the updated 321M, which is just a newer model of it) and has worked excellent for me and from what you wrote, could suit you well.

It is tapeless and has a built-in USB plug-in (hoorah!) .
Runs on AAA battery (1) (for quite a while)

- Reasonable sound quality in both recording and playback: Just as long as I can easily understand what is being said is cool.

The sound quality is good. In a lecture hall, it can sometimes pickup other noises (in the background of wherever you're at), but you can hear the speaker well enough. I don't think there ever was a time where I couldn't record something that I wanted to record because of background noises caused by the recorder. Here's a link for a sample recording [goes to plunder.com] [the recording quality was set to the highest quality][1.5mb for 2:02 audio]. [on that linked recording, the noise in the first 5 seconds or so is because I moved the recorder with my hand].

- Compatible with Mac (and Ubuntu linux would be a bonus!).

I've used it on macs and ubuntu (8.10 through 9.10, actually). No special software is needed to access the recorder, it will show up as a USB storage drive. The files are encoded in WMA, alas, but I was able to play the WMAs on my mac (using flip4mac, IIRC, it's free) and ubuntu (w32codecs is the package name, i believe) after installingthe software.


- The files are WMA, each one time-coded (based on the time when the recorded file ended recording) and sequentially numbered. There are 6 different folders (each named A,B,C, etc) where you could change the folder that you're recording into, say if you want all of your chemistry lectures in 'A' and physics in 'b'. However, once you record them, you cannot move the files from one folder on the recorder to another one on the recorder (unless you're on your personal computer, of course).

I have also seen a couple that allow for splitting and merging of audio files. That would be great, as I think I would prefer to have a single file of a days brainstorming rather than a bunch of small 5 second clips.
This doesn't have a split or merge feature on it. There is a pause feature (if you're recording something, you can pause it - only for a minute or so, and resume recording to the same file).
I do end up having a bunch of short messages but I don't mind that much.

As for organizing my files, I have folders each broadly describes the area with subfolders as I see it to organize and clarify.
(one for live music events [the sound quality for these aren't good if you're in the audience, it usually picks up too much of the audience around me]; a class in school (It was really helpful recording class lectures and none of my profs ever had a problem with my recording), some conversations (with relatives and friends), talks/lectures that I go to, and even some job interviews (I just conceal it well - it fits in the palm of my hand]. \
Sometimes, I'll rename the files if I want to detail what the recording in the file contains [for example, at school, one of the files would be named to reflect keywords, subjects that we discussed in class].

If you have any other questions, feel free to mefi-mail me.
posted by fizzix at 3:18 PM on November 28, 2009


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