PORTABLE AUDIO RECORDER
My trusty 12yr old Olympus VN-5500 Audio/Voice Recorder decided that enough was enough and fell into an eternal sleep. It had been a really handy device and I've enjoyed many years of reliable service from it. So it's time to find a replacement.
Looking around, there's lots of choice but having experienced the quality and reliability of my Olympus, I decided to ignore all the obscure manufacturer's offerings and stick with big names.
The Olympus only cost me around £30 (12 years ago) and I could see from the internet that you could easily get carried away with modern recorders, so I was determined not to go overboard. I set myself a maximum budget of £60 and in all fairness, there was quite a lot to choose from. My main focus was on devices which would provide me with good built-in stereo microphones plus a LINE IN facility to permit the connection of an external mic or to record from a direct connection to another device using a 3.5mm jack to jack lead.
The very first thing I noticed in my search for a replacement was that some digital recorders had a file limit of 99 recordings. That's woefully inadequate and a definite backward step. My Olympus could hold 100 recordings in each Folder (and it had four)!
Storage capacity wasn't a massive consideration because my old recorder only had 512mb and all the new devices had far more space. Mind you, I should take into account that the modern devices were capable of recording at CD Quality and therefore produce some pretty big files.
A feature of the Olympus which I really liked was its quick startup. It was almost instant and that can sometimes be important. My iPhone has a built-in recorder of course, but by the time you've unlocked the screen with your password, found the App, loaded it and started recording, you could have missed something important.
So, after spending an hour or so mooching around the internet watching videos and reading reviews, I plumped for the SONY ICD-UX570.
Above that OLED crystal-clear screen is an LED indicator and on top of the device (either side) are the high-sensitivity, low-noise 'S' microphones. Depending on which mode you're in, the microphones capture the sound from the top in a directional way or from the sides too, for more of a surround/omni-directional capture mode. The external Mic and Headphone sockets on the top there too.
In addition to being able to 'just record', you can also let the Sony work in an 'Auto Music' mode where it will pause inbetween tracks and split the recordings into separate files as long as the songs have got a 2-second gap between them. That can save a whole lot of editing.
Recordings can be made in Linear PCM 16bit, 44.1kHz Stereo WAV files through to MP3's at 48kbps Mono to 192kbps Stereo. That's a much better range of options than I had before.
The SONY ICD-UX570 'only' has 4Gb of built-in memory, but that's 8x more than I previously had and it will provide up to 59 hours of STEREO MP3 recordings! You can also add a micro-SD card to provide you with an additional 64Gb of space 😮
I mentioned file-quantity limitations previously and how some devices only permit 99 files. The Sony will handle 5000 and you can place them in Folders which can be named and edited straight from the unit itself.
A great feature of the Sony Audio Recorder is the built-in USB Port which slides out from the bottom of the device. I really like that feature, since there's never any need to find an interface lead to connect to your PC (or MAC).
Yet another great feature of the Sony is the Noise Reduction. It can be found in the menu under the heading of Clear Voice and it has two levels. The first one attempts to reduce ambient noise while boosting the human voice frequencies. The second level of noise reduction further attempts to reduce ambient noise. In practise, it really is quite effective.
Of course it always a good idea to record in the right mode from the start, but if you feel that you chose the wrong method initially, you can always use the noise reduction to improve your recording.
Speaking of choosing the right mode, there are a few to choose from. They range from a close-up and personal mode where you're going to be speaking directly into the mic like you would with a dictaphone, to a wide mode where there might be lots of speakers sat around a large boardroom table or recording music in a hall. It's worthwhile practising with the modes so that you know which is best for each situation.
If you're recording your amateur radio QSO's with the Sony, you can use the recorder in the normal method of placing the device in the proximity of the radio and the operator, or you can plug the radio's headphone socket into the Sony's Mic socket and activate your radio's Monitor feature so that the audio from both operators can be heard.
There's also a sound-equaliser built-in, with some great settings... Excited : Relaxed : Vocal : Treble Boost : Bass Boost and Custom. The Custom setting lets you define sound levels in five different frequency bands.
The built-in speaker has a decent volume level but in a noisy environment, you'll probably want to use headphones/earplugs. The speaker should really be considered as something to use to quickly check recordings and not for critical listening.
Your files can be protected against accidental erasure by simply choosing the PROTECT option from the menus. These files can be played back but not deleted without UNprotecting them. It's worth noting that you can also mark any part of a recording with a 'Track Mark' so that it's easy to find it later. You cannot mark a protected file though.
Power is supplied by rechargeable battery which is recharged via the units USB port. A very brief charge can give you an hours worth of recording for emergencies.
So in conclusion, I'm very pleased with my purchase! It's such a great recorder. My one and only regret is that I couldn't find the "F" model here in the UK because that gives you an FM Radio tuner too.