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New technology can make an existing technology obsolete or breathe new life into it. Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of portable recording. Once the sole domain of analog-based tape systems, portable recording relying on cassette tapes has reached the end of its usefulness in a digital world. However, the same technology that made tape obsolete has created a rebirth for portable recording devices.
Using portable recording units for dictation is a mainstay procedure in the legal profession. At the same time, recorders that are designed for dictation are not necessarily the best units for capturing meetings, educational programs, and client and witness interviews. Digital recording units can be of immense assistance in these situations, but are often overlooked. Devices with the ability to record on multiple channels, in stereo or for great lengths of time may be the best choice and provide greater control over the recording qualities. Luckily, there are a number of products on the market that make this capability available for both large and small budgets. Here are four examples that span the pricing gamut.
■ The Philips Digital Pocket Memo 955 is designed as a professional solution for conference recording and comes equipped with everything you need to record with 360-degree coverage. The Pocket Memo 955 is part of a system that includes two conference microphones, an interview micro-phone, a USB docking station, a compact carrying case, all the necessary cables, and the Philips SpeechExec Pro Dictate software for transferring your recordings to your computer.
It records in the standard speech transcription DSS file format as well as the ubiquitous MP3 format, and it features an exchangeable SD card for extended recording capacity. The full system retails for about $999 and can be expanded with additional microphones and larger memory cards. (Disclosure: I am a Philips Professional MDC and have sold other Philips digital equipment but not the DPM 955.)
■ The Olympus LS-10 is a professional-grade recorder that com-bines ease of use with high-level audio resolution. It comes with two condenser microphones as well as a 1/8-inch jack for an external micro-phone. Equipped with 2 gigabytes of built-in flash memory, the LS-10 also accepts SD/SD II cards up to 8 GBs, allowing for expanded recording time. The device records in WAV, WMA and MP3 formats and will record for up to 12 hours on a set of AAA batteries. Accessories include a two-channel stereo microphone kit, a tie clip and compact gun microphones. Small enough to fit in your pocket, the LS-10 gives you big recorder capabilities in an extremely light-weight and portable unit. Estimated retail price is around $399.
■ The Zoom H2 Handy Recorder provides for easy stereo recording of conferences, meetings and more. This small, simple-to-use portable recorder has four built-in microphones, with two facing the front and two facing the rear, enabling four-channel 360-degree coverage. It also offers the ability to use a number of different external microphones. The H2 can record in both WAV and MP3 formats. You can record up to four hours continuously on two AA batteries—and with a 16GB SD memory card, you can record up to 280 hours in MP3 format. The device can also work as a USB microphone when connected to a computer. Plus, you can set the H2 to automatically begin recording whenever audio is detected, as well as to constantly record the most recent two seconds of audio so you don’t miss anything that’s said.
The H2 combines a number of valuable advanced recording features with the ability to adapt to a number of re-cording environments. Street prices range from $180 to under $150 at many online retailers.
■ The GoStudio from Belkin isn’t actually a recorder—it’s a com-pact unit that turns your iPod into a portable recording studio. The GoStudio includes an iPod docking cradle, two built-in microphones and two XLR audio jacks for connecting external micro-phones, as well as a 3.5mm jack for stereo input. Reviewers report that the GoStudio achieves its best sound quality with external microphones.
While lacking the software controls of the Zoom H2 and similar recorders, the GoStudio gives users a different kind of value by allowing them to leverage an existing piece of digital equipment (i.e., their iPod) and turn it into a recording device with high-level features usually only found in stand-alone recorders. On-line prices range from $149 to under $120.