Whats is the best digital recorder for a conference? Olympus WS-450S - LiveScribe Pulse SmartPen - iProRecorder iPhone App

This week I was lucky enough to attend FlyingSoloLIVE, an expo run by the FlyingSolo team held at the Australian Technology Park in Sydney. The day consisted of a number of keynote speeches by well known successful Australian business people and social media experts all aimed to educate and inspire Australian solo and small business people. The event was held as part of the New South Wales Governments Small Business Month.

For the event I decided to take along three very good but very different digital audio recorders. The Olympus WS-450s digital voice recorder, the LiveScribe Pulse SmartPen and loaded on my iPhone an app called iProRecorder. I wanted to see how each performed, which gave the best audio quality and how they lasted during a full day of recording. All my recordings were made in the Theatre Atrium at the Australian Technology Park. I took sample recordings from the back of the theatre (around 90 feet from the stage), the middle (approx. 40 feet back) and from the front row. The event had professional audio visual and the speakers had microphones.

Olympus WS-450S – This is a very new digital voice recorder launched in Australia just last month.  This is the type of digital voice recorder we sell day in/day out on our online store dictate.com.au and is a fantastic all-round performer in the digital voice world. Both Mac and Windows compatible this recorder I recommend typically for single speaker note taking, interviews and small to medium sized meetings. This is not the kind of recorder I would usually recommend for a conference type situation. For this I would generally advise the next models up (WS-550M, WS-560M or DS-55, DS-65) but I was confident that the results would be good. The device was set to SHQ recording mode and records audio in stereo .WMA audio format. The Olympus WS-450S has an RRP of AU$295 incl. GST.

The Olympus WS-450S performed very well and I was impressed, as I always am by Olympus, by the pickup quality of the audio. Staying power was no issue for the recorder and hardly made a dent in its power source which is one AAA battery. There was also no need to stress about how much audio I could squeeze onto the recorder as it has 1Gb of flash memory, even recording on the highest quality audio setting allows for 17 hours plus of recording so five or six one hour sessions were nothing.

  • Ease of use: Awarded 3 out of 4
  • Staying power: 4_stars
  • Audio Quality: Awarded 3 out of 4
  • Value for Money: Awarded 3 out of 4

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    LiveScribe Pulse SmartPen – This is my current favourite gadget. Not only will the LiveScribe Pulse SmartPen record the audio but also allows you to hand write notes in a special note pad as you are recording audio. Your hand written notes can be viewed on your computer (Windows or Mac) and the audio can be played back from any point  just by the click of a mouse or the touch of the pen on any of your hand written words or doodles. These digital hand written notes and audio can be easily shared online. This expo, as well as lectures, conferences, meetings and interviews is exactly what the LiveScribe Pulse SmartPen is designed for so I had high expectations of this gadget. The device was set to High audio quality and the microphone sensitivity set to Automatic –  audio can be exported on a Mac in .aac format. The 2Gb LiveScribe Pulse SmartPen has an RRP of AU$329 incl. GST.

    Well well … hands down the best audio recorder of the three the LiveScribe Pulse SmartPen performed brilliantly. Regardless of where I was sat in the conference hall the audio pickup was very very good. Considering that most of the time the pen was laid on the chair next to me or I was writing notes in the LiveScribe Dot Paper pad. Not only do you get amazing audio pickup but the bonus of your handwritten notes as well, so really an amazing package. Like the Olympus, no issues with staying power with hardly a dent in the battery life and with a massive 2Gb of storage I could have recorded all day without a worry. I plan to write a blog post very soon dedicated to the LiveScribe Pulse SmartPen and will include video so you can see the hand written notes in the software on a PC or Mac.

    • Ease of use: Awarded 3 out of 4
    • Staying power: 4_stars
    • Audio Quality: Awarded 4 out of 4
    • Value for Money: Awarded 4 out of 4

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      iProRecorder iPhone App – This is the very first digital voice recorder app I loaded onto my iPhone and it has been used many times to record my notes and the occasional interview. Although iProRecorder can be used for conference/lecture recording as mentioned in the notes in the app store I was skeptical to see how the recorder would cope. The app was set to record in HQ recording mode and records in mono .WAV audio format. iProRecorder is currently AU$3.99 available from iTunes.

      Although the audio quality was good the volume of the audio was very low. Using some software like Audacity or WavePad you can easily boost the volume but that adds time and complexity. Just listening to the audio through my computer was a struggle with the audio turned up. I could hear better with headphones connected listening to the audio on the iPhone. Staying power was also an issue, after a morning of recording, checking and sending email and tweeting by around 2pm (my phone was on from 6am) the battery was just about gone. I bought with me a Mophie Juice Pack Air rechargeable battery case to boost the iPhone power and that took my through to the end of the day but without my recording would have been cut short. A little disappointing, I think this app is best used in close proximity interviews and meetings and for lectures in your average sized classroom instead of an auditorium. Via its in built web server the audio can be easily accessed across Wi-Fi from any Windows or Mac computer.

      • Ease of use: Awarded 3 out of 4
      • Staying power: Awarded 1 out of 4
      • Audio Quality: Awarded 2 out of 4
      • Value for Money: Awarded 4 out of 4

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        One Response to Listening to Keynotes, What Digital Recorder? – LiveScribe Pulse SmartPen or Olympus WS-450S or iProRecorder

        1. Kalpit Shah says:

          I have used the iPhone app as well as the Livescribe Pulse Smartpen. I absolutely love the pen, and believe it’s far better than any recording app or device. The most beneficial feature is that you can simply “tap” on the notes and hear the audio pertaining to a specific topic — you don’t have to rewind, fast forward, or find that right spot in your recording.

          I also particularly love the “search” feature on the desktop application for Livescribe. I simply type in the word that I wanna look up, for example, endocytosis, and everytime I wrote the word in my notes, would be highlighted in my notes. It’s such a time saver when looking up specific topics.

          Hope that helps!
          Kal

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