Digital voice recorders are split into two distinct types, digital dictaphones and digital notetakers, both have fairly specific uses. In this blog post I will try and explain the difference so you will know which type of voice recorder to lean towards, should you ever need to record voice. If you are still not sure please call or email and get some advice, often people buy a voice recorder without fully researching a product only to find that the recorder they buy does not have the functions they thought they wanted or needed.
So here I will try to clear up some of the confusion between the two digital voice recorder types and will attempt to explain what each is commonly used for. Generally speaking the functionality of the recorders includes:
- Typically used to record multiple speaker audio: lectures, interviews, meetings, focus groups etc.
- Audio is usually recorded in one take or with few interruptions.
- High quality mic is required to pickup all the speakers.
- Typically for single speaker audio – just one person dictating.
- Typically used for recording letters or short notes.
- For people who are interupted alot during their dictation session.
- Includes rewind/review functionality emulating the old analogue tape dictaphones.
Above are just a few generalisations about to two recorder types. Here at Dictate Australia we tend to find that the digital dictaphones usually go to people who are converting from analogue tape dictaphones and are usually in the medical or legal industry. Digital dictaphones have a rewind/review function, this allows the recorder to emualte the old analogue tape systems. The rewind/review function is typically activated using a slider switch, the image to the left is the slider on the Olympus DS-5000 digital dictaphone. The user can stop and start recording at will and the key point here is that when recording is re-started they are able to “rewind” the digital audio a little, hear what was said last and then continue recording from that point onward, much like a tape. When they have completed their dictation they press a button and one distinct audio file is created. Digital dictaphones tend to utilise the DSS (Digital Speech Standard) audio format which results in very small digital audio files (.ds2 or .dss), making them easy to transfer across the internet via email.
With a digital notetaker, these are generally used to record an audio session, typically lectures, interviews, sound bites, meetings and focus groups. Although alot of people do use these for single speaker notes also. These types of voice recorders are very simple to use, press a button to start recording, press another button to stop recording. This then produces a single digital audio file. It is possible with most notetaker models to pause/resume recording however unlike the digital dictaphones you can NOT rewind/review audio and then continue recording. Digital notetakers tend to record in more proprietry audio formats like .WMA (Windows Media Audio) as well as the more common .MP3 (MPEG-3 layer) format. Many can now also record very high quality PCM .WAV files. Because of the high quality of the audio the file sizes tend to be much larger than those produced by the dictaphones. Add this to the fact the a meeting/interiew/focus group could go on for hours the files recorded would be too large to email.
Moving large files around the internet is common practice, most good transcription companies have their own secure webservers for client audio files. You can also use free or cheap services like Dropbox to move files around.
Digital notetakers tend to have excellent all round audio pickup as they are designed for multi speaker recording. Conversly, the digital dictaphones tend to be poor when used in meetings situations. We have seen that in the past with the Olympus DS-4000 dictaphone, when used in a one on one interview the audio pickup was very poor. Olympus have rectified this in the newer DS-5000 model which as a top of the range professional recorder can easily cope with a large number of multiple speakers aswell as being probably the best digital dictaphone around for single speaker notes and letters.