When it comes to electronic shopping, you start out with an idea, wade through millions of different options and models and end up with something you don't quite understand why you brought it in the first place. And this scenario happens with most gadgets, let them be tablet PCs and laptops or wireless headphones. What about the simple voice recorder? What started out as a box-like recording machine is now a pen or lighter-sized device, that can record audio and store it in a digital format. But in the sea of brands, prices and tech specs, how to choose a digital voice recorder that best suits your recording needs? Let's find out...
How to Select a Digital Voice Recorder?
To choose the best digital voice recorder, you need to be well-versed with what tech features the best voice recorder should possess. Below are some factors of a voice recorder that you should check out:
Recording Time and Quality
There is a hidden catch with recording quality, the longer you get to record something, the lower the audio quality. So if you record a 15 minute speech, the quality subsequently is very low. On the other hand, a 3 minute dialog can be recorded and played back at a very high quality. So the face-off is quality vs. quantity and the result is based on your needs. If you want long recordings and can do with low quality audio, then opt for longer recording duration. But if your recordings need to be used in meetings, presentations and products, and you cannot use low quality audio, then look for the longest recording duration with sound quality.
Even transcribing audio-to-text requires a good recording quality. Some recorders allow you to select the level of recording quality, so you can fluctuate between high and low-level recording ability as needed. To increase the quality of your recordings, buy a recorder with an external microphone jack, so you can connect a microphone to the recorder and pick up high quality audio. For large gatherings and meetings, where a lot of noise is present, a microphone can enhance the recording's quality.
Right in the middle of recording an important speech, your recorder screen displays "insufficient memory". Not only is your recording disrupted but you are now in a dilemma of deleting previous recordings or missing out on your current recording. Built-in memory is also taken up based on the quality of your recordings. The more high-quality your recordings, the more space they occupy. Avoid such pickles by opting for a decent amount of built-in storage. At least 2 GB space should be present at a minimum. Another way to easily expand the recorder's memory capacity is to opt for recorder models with a SD or memory card slot.
Creating a backup of your recordings is possible only by storing them on your PC or laptop. Plus, if you take a lot of recordings, at some point of time, you are going to run out of storage space. Then there's the need to distribute your recordings, like burning audio CD's or streaming them online or embedding them in presentations, etc. For all such tasks, PC connectivity is required and so a recorder should be equipped with a USB port and data cable. Some recorders have a swing-out port that just needs to be plugged into the computer to use, others need a USB cable between the PC and the device. Make sure the recorder and its software are compatible with your PC, so connecting the two devices will not be a problem.
Portability and Durability
A voice recorder is meant to be portable. But there's a difference between portable and what can actually be carried around. Recorders can be pocket and palm-sized but the size shouldn't hamper the quality of the recording and the ease of operation. Some recorders have such itty-bitty buttons and icons, that operating them needs a magnifying glass! A digital recorder should be lightweight enough for you to carry it around and record easily. Plus it should be durable, able to take knocks and bumps.
- Digital recorders can be purchased with bundled software, that is either proprietary or external vendor. Voice-to-text transcription software or audio editing software are some included software. Voice activation is a rare and high-end feature present on top recorder models. When the source of the audio has gone silent and there is a period of dead air, the recording is paused. At the sound of audio or voice, recording resumes. This helps cut out dead air from your recordings.
- Some recorders allow you to edit and delete audio in recordings, mid-process. Say you are recording someone's diction and a mistake was made, which you need to erase from the recording. Instead of starting all over, you can rewind to the error in the recorded audio and record new audio over it.
- The ability to easily manage and organize your recordings through the recording interface is a pleasant feature. You should be able to divide recordings into folders, rename and delete files easily and move files from built-in memory to SD card memory.
- Battery life is an important feature of a voice recorder. Recorders which work on batteries and can be charged through an AC power adapter, are really effective, as you always have a backup power source. Check the battery specifications of recorder models and what will drain the battery, quality or recording duration.
- What format is your recording going to be stored as? PCM, MP3 or WMV? Some recorders use such standard formats, while some have their own formats, which must then be converted into standard formats. For ease of use and compatibility with other devices, opt for recorders which store in MP3 format.
In summation, along with the above listed points, one should consider the device warranty and return policy of the store, prior to purchase. Do not expect too much from your recorder, audio is a very fickle and complicated medium, so perfect quality can never be assured.