What Is The Difference Between A Digital Dictaphone And A Digital Notetaker?

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[audio:https://www.idictate.com.au/podcast/idictate-diff-note-dictaphone.mp3|titles=Listen To This Blog Post – What’s The Difference – Dictaphone And Notetaker?]

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.


Slider switch on the Olympus DS-5000 digital dictaphone
Slider Switch On The Olympus DS-5000 Digital Dictaphone

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:

Digital Notetaker

  • 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.

Digital Dictaphone

  • 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.

6 thoughts on “What Is The Difference Between A Digital Dictaphone And A Digital Notetaker?”

  1. i am going to be studying my diploma in nursing, and have been advised to purchase a electronically recording devise,for taking notes, so when i get home i can transcribe them to my home computer. I want to be able to here the teacher clearly, but i gather there will be class discussions as well. I do not not which one to buy. Dictaphone, or digital note taker. I want to be able to pause in between then to resume after lunch, play back and listen but also transfer on to my computer for later use.

  2. Hello Allison

    Thank you for dropping by my blog and for leaving your comment.

    You would be best suited with a digital notetaker and not a digital dictaphone. The note takers are designed for recording sessions like interviews, meetings, lectures. The bonuses they are also fairly cheap when compared to a digital dictaphone. Some detail here on the difference between a digital notetaker and a digital dictaphone.

    You would be able to pause the audio while recording but I do not recommend pausing throughout a lunch break or extended break. Every time you record on a note taker it will create an individual audio file. So you could have an audio file for the morning session and an audio file for the afternoon session.

    The record is that I would recommend are either the Olympus WS-812 or the Olympus LS-3. The Olympus WS-812 is the cheaper of the two but picks up excellent audio. The Olympus LS-3 is probably the best voice recorder you can get currently from Olympus.

    All the Olympus digital voice recorders and no takers can connect to both Mac or PC via USB, no software is required. Once connected you can simply drag and drop your audio from the recorder to your computer. If you plan to transcribe the audio yourself I would recommend that you have a look at some software called Express Scribe from a company called NCH software.

    I hope that helps.

    Dictate Australia

    This blog post comment was written using DragonDictate three for the Mac – voice recognition software from Nuance.

  3. Hello

    Great question and not an easy one to answer. From my understanding stenographers use a completely different keyboard to the standard qwerty keyboard so for a stenographer to switch from stenography to transcription in an environment where real time transcription of what is said would be difficult. One option would be to record the audio you listen to and transcribe not in real time. With a recording you would have the luxury of using standard qwerty transcription to convert from voice to text.

    I hope that helps.


  4. Hello Dave , I’m needing a device were I can record one on one interviews , seminars and also my own notes… I’m not very tech savvy .is the software for transcription expensive? Or is it just easier to do it yourself? Can a device transcribe itself directly to the computer.? what would you recommend …

  5. Hello Nes

    Thank you for your question.

    For recording of interviews/seminars you would need a digital notetaker, an inexpensive but good option is one of the new WS series recorders (WS-852, WS-853). These would also be able to record your own notes but being a notetaker no ability to stop/play/rewind just the ability to record, pause and stop.

    As for voice to text, no software will do that for multiple speakers in the audio, like an interview, you would need to transcribe yourself and there is software to help you with this very manual process. The speaker from a seminar may be able to be converted but voice-to-text works well with as little background noise as possible, so audience noise/questions would interfere so again transcription software and manual typing would likely be the best option.

    For you own notes, yes that is a good candidate for voice to text software. Have a look at Nuance’s Dragon software for both Mac and Windows.

    I hope that helps.


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