This week we took delivery of the new Philips 880 Digital Voice Tracer. Philips have really made an effort with this new range of digital voice tracers which also include the 860 and 880 models, we finally see Mac compatibility which is a smart move by Philips. Gone is the need to install software in order to retrieve audio from the recorder as was the case in the old voice tracer range, these new models are all simple plug and play. Olympus have for sometime been the only descent Mac compatible digital voice recorders around and with the boom in Mac sales it makes good business sense at Philips to recognise this fast growing, tech savvy user base.
In the box I am impressed by the number of goodies. Along with the recorder and the mandatory instruction manual in 752 languages comes a neck strap (handy), batteries so you are ready to go (essential), USB connecting cable (long so no messing around the back of your PC or notebook), stereo headset (nice touch) and a very nice stereo lapel mic, usually an optional extra for most voice recorder manufacturers.
The recorder itself is lightweight with the batteries in and about the size of a Nokia chocolate bar mobile phone. There is a sticker right over the built in speaker on the front of the unit which is stuck with that special glue, you know the kind that leaves half the sticker attached as you peel it off. Tad annoying.
Powering up the recorder the display is backlight blue so looks good but the display is big and clear. Flicking through the menus isn’t as intuitive as it could be and some initial manual referencing is required to work out things like changing the recording mode and mic sensitivity.
USB plug and play is a breeze on Winows, Mac and also Linux, the device is simply a USB drive so audio is easily accessed via the voice folders where they are stored.
This is recorder has a PCM mode for better than CD quality recording. In our office testing we did find the audio pickup at close range to be excellent like all recorders however it did seem to struggle a little with voices at the end of a large boardroom table. We did the same distance test with an Olympus WS-210S and the picked up clearer audio from a distance that the 880.
Some will like the ability to play music (mp3 and wma) on the recorder and to listen to the radio. I still find this a bit of a gimic in a voice recorder so we didn’t test these functions although I am sure it playes back music as well as any other USB music player. The ability to record FM radio will also appeal to some.
Summing up, the 880 is a good, cheap voice recorder for close range meetings (max 4 or 5 people) and for single speakers. It is very easy to get the audio off of the recorder no matter what platform you use.
- Well priced entry level PCM recorder.
- Easy to use.
- Fast easy transfer of files on all platforms – Windows, Mac and Linux.
- Can be USB powered conserving battery life.
- Firmware is user upgradeable giving the end user access to bug fixes and improvements as they are released from Philips.
- Poor audio pickup around larger number of speakers, i.e. large boardroom table.
- Navigating the menus could be simpler.