- How to choose a voice recorder: basic criteria
- Types of voice recorders
- The main criteria for choosing a voice recorder
- Choosing a voice recorder for lectures
- Choosing a voice recorder for hidden recording
- The best voice recorder manufacturers
How to choose a voice recorder: basic criteria
The main criteria for choosing a voice recorder are:
- Type of voice recorder;
- Battery life;
- Recording format;
- The capacity of the built-in storage and the presence of a slot for memory cards;
- Acoustic characteristics;
- Device operating modes;
- Additional features.
- The manufacturer of the device is also important.
Types of voice recorders
There are no major design differences between different types of voice recorders. However, they can still be classified according to acoustic parameters, the number of microphones, etc. into three groups – “musical”, “semi-professional” and “universal”.
Musical voice recorders
Music voice recorders are distinguished by a large number of microphones (there are at least two for stereo recording), the presence of balanced line inputs, a parallel recording mode and other features for the highest quality capture of vocals and instrumental parts.
Of course, music voice recorders are also of high quality sound. Therefore, they are equipped with a large internal storage and a slot for memory cards.
Semi-professional voice recorders
Semi-professional voice recorders are similar to musical ones, but their acoustic characteristics may be worse or lower. They are equipped with two omnidirectional microphones for stereo recording, a user-friendly interface, large internal storage capacity or support for high-capacity memory cards, as well as track markers and other additional features.
Such voice recorders are well suited for voice recording: lectures, business negotiations, interviews, etc. But due to the relatively high price, they are unlikely to be suitable for novice students or journalists.
Universal voice recorders
Universal voice recorders are a good solution for recording speech. They can be equipped with both directional and omnidirectional microphones; convenient control system; built-in storage or support for memory cards, etc. The list of features and functions of the universal voice recorder is very wide and varied.
The main advantage of universal voice recorders is their relatively low price. They cost 2-3 times cheaper than semi-professional or musical ones, which makes them the best choice for students, aspiring journalists, performers, etc.
The main criteria for choosing a voice recorder
The battery life of the voice recorder depends on the type of batteries, the type of voice recorder and its acoustic parameters. Since almost all such devices are not equipped with a built-in rechargeable battery, electricity is “supplied” to them from inserted batteries – AA or AAA. It is extremely difficult to calculate the exact battery life from such batteries (it depends on the capacity, model, battery type, and other parameters), the approximate “survivability” of the recorder is indicated by the manufacturer.
On average, voice recorders equipped with external batteries can work 6-12 hours in recording mode. The exact value of the parameter also depends on the bitrate of the file being created. For example, a 320 kbps MP3 will require more electricity than a 48 kbps MP3.
It is worth distinguishing between battery life and maximum recording time. The second parameter depends on the capacity of the internal drive or the installed memory card, as well as the selected bitrate (quality). But the battery life is directly determined by the capacity of the battery and the current consumption of microphones and other structural elements of the recorder.
Recording format and capacity of built-in storage or memory cards
The “weight” of the created file and the quality of “capturing” sounds depend on the recording format. There are compressed and uncompressed (lossless) formats.
- The most common compressed format used in voice recorders is MP3. It is distinguished by small file sizes and a direct dependence of the recording quality on the set bitrate. At the same time, if you need to capture only speech (lectures, business negotiations, etc.), high quality is simply not needed – the speaker can be heard even at 8 kbps.
- To record high-quality audio, such as musical performances or speeches, you need a voice recorder that supports uncompressed (lossless) formats. The most common is WMA. Files encoded in this format have a large “weight”. However, for post-production, it is desirable to use it: MP3 does not tolerate any processing.
- Of course, when choosing a voice recorder that supports uncompressed formats, it is recommended to make sure that it can work with high-capacity memory cards (from 16 GB) or is equipped with a similar internal drive. But for devices that record only in MP3, the amount of space for recording is not so important. Small internal drives or memory cards of 1-2 GB are enough.
- The “size” of a file with a recording made in a compressed format directly depends on the bitrate of this recording. The lower it is, the less space the file itself takes up. For example, 1 hour of audio in MP3 320 kbps “weighs” about 150-200 MB, and in 8 kbps – only 3-5 MB.
- But 8 kbps is catastrophically small. Such a bitrate is suitable only for recording speech, and then from a directional microphone (and also without post-production). For high-quality “capture” of the voice of one speaker, you need at least 24 kbps, and better – from 48 kbps or more.
- If you plan to record conferences and other crowded events, you should choose a voice recorder that supports CD-quality recording – that is, MP3 with a bit rate of at least 256 kbps.
Among the acoustic characteristics, the most important for a voice recorder, which is planned to be used for speech recording, is sensitivity. It can be specified in decibels or meters.
- Sensitivity in decibels is a “purely technical” parameter. It indicates how loud speech the voice recorder’s microphone can pick up. The lower this parameter, the more sensitive the device is: it captures a whisper, quiet speech or the words of a distant interlocutor. But there will also be quite a lot of “garbage sounds” on the recording: from breathing to the sound of a truck passing outside the window.
- Sensitivity in meters is a more user-friendly parameter. It shows the maximum distance to a person whose speech can be picked up by the device. The higher the sensitivity, the better the recorder is suitable for recording lectures, business negotiations and similar events where the distance to the speaker can be quite large.
- For voice recorders that are planned to be used to record music or similar “dense” audio, the signal-to-noise ratio also matters. Noise is the internal sound distortion of the recorder, caused, for example, by a design flaw or by the characteristics of the materials used. The higher the signal-to-noise ratio, the more “clean” the recording is.
- The signal-to-noise ratio may be referred to by the SNR parameter. In this case, it is measured in decibels and denotes the excess of the loudness of the useful signal over the loudness of parasitic noises. For high-quality recording, SNR up to 60 dB is enough, and for very high-quality recording (for example, music or voice for further processing) – already 60-100 dB.
Voice recorder modes
By default, the recorder picks up almost all ambient sounds. Because of this, the recording density increases, and unnecessary noise may appear on it. To improve the sound quality, manufacturers can add additional modes of operation that provide the clearest acoustic picture.
The most common modes of operation are:
- Voice activation. In this mode, the recorder automatically turns on and off the recording, depending on whether the interlocutor is talking or not. This is very convenient, since there are no moments of silence in the final track, however, on budget devices, the voice activation mode may work with a delay, and some of the speaker’s words are simply “lost”;
- Interview mode. In it, the recorder “cuts off” parasitic noises in the recording and increases the clarity of the voice. Intonations, however, are preserved;
- Street mode. In it, the recorder “cuts off” everything that does not look like a voice. At the same time, intonations are lost, but the interlocutor is heard much better.
It is desirable that these modes are configured. Those. it was possible to independently set the threshold for turning on or off with voice activation or the level of parasitic noise in the “Street” and “Interview”. Then the recording quality will be maximum.
Among the additional features that will be useful in various cases, we can distinguish:
- Connecting an optional external microphone. Suitable for the most clear recording of speech, multi-channel recording (for example, musical performances), recording interviews or business conferences;
- Automatic amplification. In this mode, the recorder automatically lowers or raises the volume of speech in the recording. Suitable for “capturing” speech, but not music;
- Has a built-in speaker. You can listen to recordings directly from the recorder;
- stereo recording. Useful when using two microphones and recording interviews or music to create “surround sound”;
- Powered by USB. Useful for long recordings. Allows you to power the recorder from a power bank or network adapter;
- Connecting to a computer via USB. You can do without card readers;
- Recording direction setting. A very useful feature if you plan to record interviews, business negotiations, conferences and similar events in which several people participate;
- Phone adapter. Records calls.
It is worth choosing a voice recorder equipped with additional functions if they are needed.
Choosing a voice recorder for lectures
When choosing a voice recorder for recording lectures, you should pay attention to the following parameters:
- Directionality of the microphone. Useful for recording in noisy classrooms – then the lecturer’s voice will be heard as clearly as possible on the finished audio file;
- Sensitivity. If the recorder will be placed far from the lecturer, it should be high (both in dB and in meters);
- Battery life. For students, it is recommended to choose voice recorders with a built-in rechargeable battery, since a set of batteries will last for 1-3 days of continuous recording;
- The capacity of the internal storage or memory card. To record in high quality, it should be above 4-8 GB to fit the collected audio files for at least a week of everyday use;
- Type – “semi-professional” or “universal”. Due to the peculiar acoustic scene and the directivity of the microphones, musical voice recorders are not very suitable.
- Of course, the budget is also important.
Choosing a voice recorder for hidden recording
Before choosing a voice recorder for covert recording, it is worth considering that audio files are only evidence in court if the interlocutor is informed that his speech can be recorded. In addition, the recorder itself must support the application of authentication marks, which show that the audio file has not been changed or modified.
When choosing a voice recorder for hidden recording, you should pay attention to the following parameters:
- The presence of a jack for connecting an external microphone. This will allow you to place the buttonhole somewhere under the clothes, and hide the recorder in the inside pockets;
- Microphone sensitivity. It must be high;
- Recording quality. It is desirable that this be a lossless recording, but if this is not possible, MP3 with a high bitrate.
- And, of course, you should pay attention to the size of the device itself. The smaller they are, the easier it is to hide.
The best voice recorder manufacturers
Among the manufacturers of voice recorders are:
- zoom. One of the best manufacturers of musical, professional and business voice recorders;
- Tascam. Produces mainly musical dictaphones;
- Edic mini. Russian brand, produces universal voice recorders. The main plus is the presence of authenticity marks on the record;
- Sony. Known for their quality music devices. Dictaphones belong to the middle price segment, but they are of high quality;
- Olympus. High-quality dictaphones of an average price category.
- Ritmix is the leader in the budget segment. However, it has both high-quality and relatively “average” models even for its price.
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