Looking for the eensiest, beansiest audio note-taker ever...
November 29, 2005 7:13 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a *tiny* audio recorder to take notes throughout the day, then upload to a computer (Linux) to prioritize, annotate, and transcribe as appropriate. What's the best, cheapest, smallest option? Anyone have any experience with using the MobiBlue cube as a voice recorder?

The specific requirements:
  • Small, light, cheap. Doesn't have to have lots of memory or super long run time (as long as it can be on standby for 24+ hours w/out problem).
  • Decent quality voice recording with built-in mic. Doesn't have to be stellar, but has to be good enough not to interfere with clear transcription.
  • Easy UI for recording: press a button to start recording a new file, press a button to pause/unpause, press a button stop. Pause is an optional feature I can live without if the rest is good. BUT, what's important here is that it can be ready to record at a single button press all day without burning up the batteries, and when you're done recording one note, you're still in recording mode -- i.e., it's no good if you have to navigate to the recording menu from scratch each time.
  • Standard USB drive interface with standard file formats (wav, mp3, or ogg); specifically: will work with Linux.
  • Ideally, it would include rechargeable batteries and a charger. USB charging is fine. (If it requires one to buy rechargeables and a charger, should still be competitive on cost after all that.)
  • mp3/ogg playback is a nice bonus but of secondary concern. The MobiBlu cube looks close to perfect, except I have heard the microphone quality is really bad, and I am unsure of the UI (i.e., because it is primarily a player with a voice record feature on the side, I don't know if it can *practically* be used as a throughout-the-day voice recorder). The various products designed specifically to be voice recorders are large, heavy, and expensive, and often use proprietary audio file formats and PC-specific interface software. So, Metafiltarians, what's my best bet?
posted by fuzzbean to Technology (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The voice recording on my MuVo Micro N200 has been used a few times quite effectively. The speech is certainly clear enough for easy transcription. It's not quite a one-button record but it does remember that you were in voice recording mode, so it's one button press to turn it on and another button press to start recording. It works as a standard USB drive with no drivers needed but I have not tried it with Linux. Does not include rechargeable batteries or charger. It is *really* tiny and is also able to record from line-in. I have found battery life to be very good.
posted by teleskiving at 7:51 AM on November 29, 2005

The Olympus DS-2 has been recommended to me but I haven't had the chance to try one out yet.

This was in the context of recording acoustic music.
posted by beowulf573 at 8:03 AM on November 29, 2005

I second the recommendation for Creative MuVo devices. Any small built-in microphone is going to be crap though; if you add a real mic it will make a big difference.
posted by Nelson at 9:18 AM on November 29, 2005

I have the Mobiblu DAH-1500i (the tiny cube-shape device), but I have not used it for recording voice yet. In fact, I will try it right now ;-D

Alright, I just tried it. It was pretty easy to figure out without the manual because it has menus (easy to read, for me anyway) that you can scroll thru to select recording. Somehow it picked up my voice without any microphone that I could tell, but when I plugged in a microphone it worked pretty much the same if not a little better. It records them as mp3's, which I can drag-drop from the directory tree when I plug it into the USB port where it acts like a regular data drive. I wouldn't count on it recording something very far away unless it is loud (although might work as a fair bugging device, since it holds 1GB worth). You can set the record gain in increments of 1.5 db starting at 0 and up thru 22.5db, though, and vary the bitrate between 64, 96, 112, 128 and 160 Kbps. You can also set the output equalizer, including basics like classical, jazz, rock (and a fair number of others) or special user-defined settings. Playback of my voice was very crisp, but my fingers rubbing on the cube surface picked up very sensitively. I've very pleased with it :-)
posted by vanoakenfold at 9:35 AM on November 29, 2005

Response by poster: Vanoakenfold: Thanks for the experimentation! What's the user interface like on the MobiBlu--can it stay on standby to record, or do you need to work through the menu every time you want to start recording a new message?

I think we're going to go out to Walmart (heavens forfend ;) ) to look at them and maybe try to play with one.
posted by fuzzbean at 12:02 PM on November 29, 2005

Tacking on to the question: do these models allow recording from an external mic that you could plug in with an 1/8" plug?
posted by rossination at 12:03 PM on November 29, 2005

I have a "TopTangent" iPod Shuffle clone from Luxpro that seems to match all of your requirements pretty well. As for recording quality, Phillip Torrone recorded a MAKE Podcast using essentially the same model, and it sounded alright. He reviewed it on the MAKE blog. Check it out.

I got mine (a 1GB model) off eBay for about $120.
posted by xiojason at 4:23 PM on November 29, 2005

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