Ten... digital voice recorders
Product Round-up 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 be interrupted by phone calls and if colleagues need to use it, you'll be less bothered than handing over your phone.
Unless mentioned otherwise, all of the following models have voice actuation (paused recording during silent passages), monitoring functions and external mics support. Also, with one exception, all feature built-in speakers, although low-fi is the order of the day here.
Grundig Digta 7
German company Grundig has been in the dictation industry for over 50 years and this shockproof model takes itself very seriously. The Digta 7 features a configurable slide switch, which seeks to make the recorder effortless to operate without having to focus on fiddly controls.
Albeit somewhat plasticky, this clunky transport control is designed to help users feel their way through operation. Clearly based upon old-school tape dictaphones, it certainly took some getting used to. Foibles aside, the build quality is first rate, with a lightweight yet sturdy body surrounded by touchy-feely rubber. The display is large, bright, clear and logical. It's all just a bit too walkie-talkie though.
Appealing to corporate concerns, the Digta 7 packs in 128/256-bit encryption, pin number protection. Then there's speech recognition with built-in Nuance VoCon to enable ID tagging of recordings, and an elaborate docking station, with a port to charge the spare battery. Oh and if that wasn't enough, the Digta 7 even offers Bluetooth capabilities – apparently, the first standalone dictation device to do so.
Sound is well received and and of a very high standard, recorded in either DSS/Pro, MP3 or Wav from a selectable 8 - 48kHz sample rate. Data is stored automatically to the 2GB in-built memory, although there is SD card expansion too and a rechargeable battery touted to survive 25 hours of recording. In order to justify the cost though, using the Digta 7 on regular basis is a must, as well as a need for all those security settings. It's a big product that demands you spend big as well.
Reg Rating 80%
More info Grundig
Switch the Olympus on and it starts talking to you, reading every move aloud. While thoughtful for the blind or partially sighted, I hastily switched it off. The LS-3 is reassuringly weighty and robust. The layout doesn't overwhelm, with sensibly positioned controls that make light work of navigating its large, bright display.
Audio is recorded in numerous formats, with Wav, MP3 and WMA all on the cards in various bit-rates. The highest, a whopping 96kHz/24bit Wav recording is as crisp as they come. While the two condenser mics pick up a broad soundscape, a third omni-directional central microphone helps bring out a subtle bass with great results. To help keep an eye on levels, there's two peak indicator lights too. The aluminium body result in a fair amount of handling noise, so you need to be mindful of this.
Recording time is rated at 44hours from its two AAA batteries. Rechargeable cells can also be topped up through its USB port. The LS3 packs 4GB of memory, but can be expanded with MicroSD and throws in an additional port for an optional remote control as well as a tripod mount.
The Olympus LS-3 is a wonderful device with just about every setting under the sun. It even has pre-record buffer that eliminates moments of lost starts to sentences by capturing two seconds of audio prior to hitting go. Alas, it is a bit on the pricey side, which just keeps it from clinching the Editor's Choice award, and it could benefit from lower handling noise, but overall the LS-3 is a noteworthy device, which sits firmly up there as one of the best in this roundup.
Reg Rating 90%
More info Olympus
Next page: Olympus WS-550
Can I use your dictaphone?
No, use your finger like everyone else.
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?
comment from UltraDisk Voice Recorders
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
UltraDisk Digital Voice Recorders.
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.
audio file samples
Would be nice to have sample audio files to listen to of knocks, echoes etc.