The WS-550 has a lightweight, somewhat flimsy build, with a conservative design and button placement intended to be an ergonomic fit for a right hander. However, these buttons are a little small and someone with fat fingers might struggle. The display is definitely a plus point, though, bright and clear with logical menu layout and an informative dashboard.
This minimalist recorder does pick up a lot of handling, and consequently should remain deskbound. Its mics are well placed and pick up a wide soundscape delivering a fantastic stereo image. The recordings are quite bright which are great for voice definition, but can be a bit thin, with no real weight behind the sound.
While MP3 and Wav files are supported for playback, the WS-550 instead records in WMA format, with six different quality levels to choose from. It holds a less than average 200 files over four folders, although with just 2GB of storage it's hard to see it spilling over. There's no memory expansion slot, which is a bit annoying, especially if the WS-550 wants to fulfil its secondary function as a music player. You also have to enter a menu setting to tweak playback speed, which makes scrubbing an impractical prospect. Not great for skimming lectures.
It runs on a single AAA rechargeable battery that boosts juice through the recorder's USB connection. The battery life is a decent 21 hours too. Unfortunately, the price is high for what you get, especially for just 2GB storage with no means of expansion.
Reg Rating 75%
More info Olympus
The Panasonic RR-XS410 is awash with controls that make the device seem overcomplicated. Couple that with a plastic pearl body and tacky-clack buttons, and first impressions aren't so great but using the the recorder is a different matter, and I was suitably impressed.
Recorded sound quality in either uncompressed PCM (44.1/48kHz Wav) or various bit-rates of MP3 is top notch. The stereo microphones handle a broad frequency range, yet keep ambient noise in the background. Voices are crisp and clear compared others on test that could be rather muddied. You can also select which environment you're recording in, so be it musical performance, meeting or lecture, there are microphone settings for most situations, even Karaoke.
Variable playback speed is included among the transport controls. Whack it up to 200 per cent and it doesn't sound like the Alvin and the Chipmunks, either, it's the same pitch, just faster. The device can store 199 files in four folders, with an additional 199 line-in recordings available in a fifth. Navigating through these is simple enough and the bright orange display really stands out.
The RR-XS packs a built-in memory of 4GB, with expansion available through the MicroSD slot. Powered by a single AAA battery, which has a rated battery life of up to 21 hours, the Panasonic has a lot going for it. Connecting to the computer with a built-in USB plug is handy too. Quite a nifty little character and, given its price, is highly recommended.
Reg Rating 90%
Price £100 (Out in October)
More info Panasonic
Next page: Philips Voice Tracer LFH0615/27
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 email@example.com 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.