request: digital voice recorder recommendations

24 Mar 2006 - 7:17pm
8 years ago
9 replies
1397 reads
Jeff English
2004

I'm doing customer interviews and need recommendations for a digital voice
recorder. Clarity of the recorded conversation is key. Also looking for tips
on converting recorded interviews into text files.
Thanks!
Jeff English

Comments

24 Mar 2006 - 9:09pm
Ash Donaldson
2005

Jeff,

I used to do lots of audio recording and sampling. When quality was
paramount, I used DAT - that is, until I discovered Sony's MiniDisc. For
affordable, high-quality Digital Audio, I couldn't fault them (even though
I'm not to keen on most of Sony's proprietary products).

Of course the audio captured also depends on the quality and using the right
type of microphone (suitable pick-up patterns) to capture what you need. In
this case, a good cardioid would be suitable for just picking up the
participant's voice, or a bi-directional to capture both sides of the
conversation.

Cheers,

Ash Donaldson
Senior Experience Architect 
M 0414 55 9996 

www.different.com.au     T +61 2 9908 1077 F +61 2 9908 3443

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On 25/3/06 11:17 AM, "Jeff English" <jeffenglish at gmail.com> wrote:

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> I'm doing customer interviews and need recommendations for a digital voice
> recorder. Clarity of the recorded conversation is key. Also looking for tips
> on converting recorded interviews into text files.
> Thanks!
> Jeff English
> ________________________________________________________________
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24 Mar 2006 - 11:15pm
Navneet Nair
2004

I am also in the process of looking for a good DVR, and have used a Sony DVR
(non mini disc) and the Creative Muvo. Sony gave better quality, but it has
its own proprietary format for saving the files. Muvo saves to MP3 and that
was convenient. I found a couple while doing an Amazon search:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000DYTDJ/102-0419231-9459354?v=glance&n=172282

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0007XHLZM/ref=pd_sxp_grid_pt_1_0/102-0419231-9459354?%5Fencoding=UTF8

Let me know if you decide on one finally. That will help me make my decision
too... ;)

Cheers
Navneet

24 Mar 2006 - 11:20pm
Navneet Nair
2004

correction. the muvo records to .wav not .mp3...

sorry.

On 3/25/06, Navneet Nair <navneet.nair at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> I am also in the process of looking for a good DVR, and have used a Sony
> DVR (non mini disc) and the Creative Muvo. Sony gave better quality, but it
> has its own proprietary format for saving the files. Muvo saves to MP3 and
> that was convenient. I found a couple while doing an Amazon search:
>
> http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000DYTDJ/102-0419231-9459354?v=glance&n=172282
>
>
> http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0007XHLZM/ref=pd_sxp_grid_pt_1_0/102-0419231-9459354?%5Fencoding=UTF8
>
> <http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0007XHLZM/ref=pd_sxp_grid_pt_1_0/102-0419231-9459354?%5Fencoding=UTF8+>
>
> Let me know if you decide on one finally. That will help me make my
> decision too... ;)
>
> Cheers
> Navneet
>

--
----------------------------------------------------
Navneet Nair
Interaction Architect
onClipEvent: form follows function();
----------------------------------------------------
Website: http://www.onclipevent.com
Blog: http://www.onclipevent.com/enterframe/

25 Mar 2006 - 10:06am
Johndan Johnson...
2005

Possibly overkill, but I've been using a Sharp MiniDisc recorder for
voice recording. I originally purchased a relatively high-end DR-7 for
music recording (band practices), but I've also used it for field voice
recordings of interviews. This model has some additional useful
features, such as the ability to monitor and set line levels on the fly
using the in-line remote and voice-activated recording. It doesn't have
a built-in mic, but has a miniplug for hooking up whatever third-party
mic you like (ranging from running a soundboard feed into the unit, to
using a simple, stereo T-mic--these are more than adequate for good
voice recording, and range from $30 - $100 or more).

Sharp has recently updated this model to the DR-77, which importer
AudioCubes has for $267. (I don't think it's generally available in the
US.) Here's a link to their product page:

http://tinyurl.com/p4sqh

You can find extensive info on this unit by googling Sharp DR-7 review
or Sharp DR-77 review

I've recently upgraded to the M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96, a flash-based
unit that's also designed for field recording (primarily music). It will
record 24-bit directly to either .wav or .mp3. Also requires an external
mic. It's handier than the Sharp (and most other MiniDisc) because it
doesn't include any DRM, so transferring files is as easy as plugging
the unit into a USB port of a computer and dragging and dropping the
files to your hard drive (the flash storage in the MicroTrack shows up
in your computer's desktop as a storage device). The unit is slightly
larger than an iPod, and pretty light (some people criticize it for
feeling cheap because of the lightness--all plastic). More expensive
than most MiniDisc recorders (around $400, including a low-end stereo
T-mic, but you'll want to add a 1 gig or 2 gig compact flash card, since
I think it only includes 16 megs by default), but in the long run much
easier to deal with.

This review page for the MicroTrack also includes links to two other
digital field recorders I haven't used, but that are also popular (the
Edirol R-1 and the Marantz PMD660):

http://digitalmedia.oreilly.com/2005/11/30/m-audio-microtrack-review.html

Later,

- Johndan Johnson-Eilola
Department of Communication and Media
Clarkson University

25 Mar 2006 - 11:37pm
Jay Zipursky
2005

Hi Jeff,

I recently picked up a Sanyo recorder
(http://sanyo.com/business/dictation/digital/index.cfm?productID=1211).
I've used it for around 10 contextual interviews (some in noisy
environments) and I've been happy with it. It can take an external
mic, but I've just used the built-in mic so far at the highest quality
setting. It's built in 256MB can hold about 4 hours of MP3 at that
setting.

As for converting to text, I think the only way is a transcription
service. There are a ton out there and my quotes are all over $100/hr
of recorded audio. I haven't selected a service yet. If anyone has
recommendations, I'd like to hear them.

Jay
Kodak

On 3/24/06, Jeff English <jeffenglish at gmail.com> wrote:
> I'm doing customer interviews and need recommendations for a digital voice
> recorder. Clarity of the recorded conversation is key. Also looking for tips
> on converting recorded interviews into text files.
> Thanks!
> Jeff English

27 Mar 2006 - 9:53am
vutpakdi
2003

> I'm doing customer interviews and need recommendations for a
> digital voice
> recorder. Clarity of the recorded conversation is key. Also looking
> for tips
> on converting recorded interviews into text files.

I use a combination of a Sony Portable Minidisc recorder (MZ-NH900)
recording to Hi-MDD minidiscs (about 8 hrs a piece) and a Sony ECM-CR120
Electret Condenser Microphone (but without the noise reduction base
unit). The combination has yielded excellent recordings.

The downside is that the interface for both the recorder and the
accompanying software make you wish that Apple designed them. But, on
the bright side, you can eventually get to MP3 format by jumping through
a few hoops.

The minidisc recorder is apparently popular with journalists and
musicians for doing recording.

At the 2004 UPA conference, Tim Kiernan highly recommended using
minidisc recorders over other solutions because, to him, they
represented the best compromise of long recording time, portability,
reliability, size, and audio fidelity. His talk was very good if you
can find a copy of the proceedings.

Here is the publicly shareable portion of a review that I sent around
internally:

--- cut here ---
A couple of weeks ago, we acquired a Sony MZ-NH900 MiniDisc Recorder and
a Sony ECM-CR120 Electret Condenser Microphone partly to serve as a
backup to my note taking during Project 2010 interviews. The recorder
recorded individual and group interviews very well, and I'm quite
pleased with the recorder.

Ever since attending an excellent presentation by a former sound
engineer at the last UPA conference which recommended minidisc
recorders, I had been eyeing getting one to record user and domain
expert interviews. The former sound engineer (now usability specialist)
recommended minidiscs over other solutions because he felt that the
minidisc recorders represented the current best compromise of price,
sound quality, media versatility, and portability when compared to
regular audio tape, digital IC recorders (which record to flash memory
or SD cards), and laptops.

I intend to use the recorder when interviewing users and domain experts
as well as during meetings where I can't take notes as quickly as I
would like or when having an audio recording of the actual words spoken
could be important. I also intend to use the recorder as an audio
backup to any video recording during usability tests.

MiniDiscs are a (mainly) Sony format that has been around for about 10
years. The discs are about 3 " x 2 1/2" in size and are essentially
enclosed, rewritable (rewritable hundreds if not thousands of times)
compact discs. The Hi-MD format is the 3rd generation minidisc format
and holds 1 GB of information per disc. The full retail price is $7 per
Hi-MD disc. At the default recording rate, almost 8 hours of audio can
be recorded on each 1 GB disc.

The Sony MZ-NH900 recorder is about 3" x 3" x 3/4" in size for the main
unit (with internal rechargeable battery only, not including the add-on
supplemental battery case for the AA battery). This recorder is on the
upper end of the model range but isn't the top of the line. The
important feature of this model over lower end ones is the powered
microphone jack (lower end ones can record from Line In, but not
necessarily a microphone). The MZ-NH900 retails for $300 (but is
available on Amazon for $250).

The Sony ECM-CR120 Electret Condenser Microphone is one of their higher
end "business" microphones designed for recording interviews and
meetings. The rectangular base unit comes with noise reduction
functions, but I found that using the microphone by itself and then
doing noise reduction processing on the computer yielded better
recordings. The ECM-CR120 retails for $110 (but is available on Amazon
for $85).

The interface on the actual recorder leaves quite a bit to be desired,
but recording is simple enough as long as you don't want to do anything
fancy: push a button to record, pause, and stop. Apple would have done
a much better job on the interface.

To get the recordings out of the recorder, I connect the recorder to my
laptop with the supplied USB cable and then run Sony's SonicStage
program which allows me to copy the recordings to the computer.
Unfortunately, Sony is still digital rights management paranoid, so the
recordings are in a proprietary format (ATRAC) which only Sony hardware
and programs can play. I then run a different Sony program to convert
the recording to a WAV (generic audio) file which can be played
anywhere, but is huge (about 600MB for an hour).

To remove background noise (noise reduction) and convert the recording
into something more manageable, I use Audacity, an open source/freeware
audio manipulation application. Noise Reduction helps remove the
background noise (air conditioner hum, for example) that may be present.
I also use Audacity to save the processed file to an MP3 file which can
be played anywhere (which can play MP3's) and is considerably smaller
than the WAV file (about 40 MB for an hour at 96 kbs).

The main downside to using this recorder is that the processing time is
significant, at least on my P4 2.2 GHz laptop (all times for a 1 hour
recording):
Import to Computer : ~5 minutes
Save to WAV : ~5 minutes
Noise Reduction Processing : ~20-25 minutes
Save as MP3 : ~15-20 minutes

The processing time requires very little human interaction (so you can
do other things), but doing the processing does bring my laptop to its
knees.

In conclusion, I think that this recorder is a useful addition to our
tool kit, and I'd recommend looking into getting one if you find that
you are doing a significant number of interviews where you don't feel
that your note taking is fast enough to keep up. I

Ron

PS: This recorder is apparently popular with journalists: when I bought
it at the SonyStyle store in the Galleria, the salesman asked me if I
was one.

--- cut here ---

As far as the converting to text files goes, I would guess that your
only bet at this point is a transcription service. I don't believe that
any of the horizontal market speech to text programs will work since
they require training to be tuned to a particular speaker.

Ron

27 Mar 2006 - 4:28pm
cfmdesigns
2004

> I'm doing customer interviews and need recommendations for a digital voice
> recorder. Clarity of the recorded conversation is key. Also looking for tips
> on converting recorded interviews into text files.

I've had decent results from the Griffin iTalk. Here's a Macworld review:

http://www.macworld.com/2004/08/reviews/ipodvoicerecorders/

It looks like Griffin may have stopped making it, though; I don't find it on their website. It's still available through Amazon, though.

-- Jim
Seattle, WA

27 Mar 2006 - 4:44pm
Todd Sampson
2006

Griffin stopped making the iTalk because it was not compatible with the
latest generation (5G) iPods. It needed the second 1/8" input that was left
off the current iPod line.

Todd

Todd Sampson
Managing Director, cloudspace
Web: http://www.cloudspace.com
Email: tsampson at cloudspace.com
Yahoo IM: tsampson_2000
Phone: 407-823-8808
Mobile: 407-222-8406
Fax: 407-823-8112
Connect via LinkedIn.com

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Jim
Drew
Sent: Monday, March 27, 2006 4:29 PM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] request: digital voice recorder recommendations

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]

> I'm doing customer interviews and need recommendations for a digital
> voice recorder. Clarity of the recorded conversation is key. Also
> looking for tips on converting recorded interviews into text files.

I've had decent results from the Griffin iTalk. Here's a Macworld review:

http://www.macworld.com/2004/08/reviews/ipodvoicerecorders/

It looks like Griffin may have stopped making it, though; I don't find it on
their website. It's still available through Amazon, though.

-- Jim
Seattle, WA

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29 Mar 2006 - 12:07am
cfmdesigns
2004

"Todd Sampson" <tsampson at cloudspace.com> writes:

>Griffin stopped making the iTalk because it was not compatible with the
>latest generation (5G) iPods. It needed the second 1/8" input that was left
>off the current iPod line.

Well, foo. I guess they weren't selling enough to warrant
redesigning it. Ah well, I'm still dealing with 1st, 3rd, and 4th
gen ones, so I'm set.
--

----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Jim Drew Seattle, WA cfmdesigns at earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rubberize/Weblog/index.html (Update: 3/27)
(Subject: Torture: It's in the Blood, and the Body, Broken for You)

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