[Review] USB Digital Voice Recorder

Recorders are an integral part of a journalist’s repertoire, regardless of whether or it it’s audio or video. However, students also utilize them for notes and lectures. Much like any other piece of technology, the size of the recorders has gone down drastically. Nowadays, you can get them as small as a business card or flash drive. ThinkGeek now sells an USB Digital Voice Recorder, but how does it fare?

My interest in the USB Digital Voice Recorder came about after thinking of going back to school, as well as the idea of maybe doing audio interviews. The former is the main reason I wanted this device, as audio interviews might be tricky for me, although I have some ideas on how to accomplish them.

When you get the Digital Voice Recorder, you get; the Voice Recorder itself; earbuds; an external microphone; a line-in wire; a phone-jack cord; an AC adapter; and the manual. Maybe they forgot to send it, but I didn’t get an USB male-to-female wire, which is used to connect the Voice Recorder to the AC adapter. Luckily, I had one laying around however.

The wires are all pretty straight forward. You can plug the earbuds in and listen to your recordings; use the external mic to amplify your recording; use line-in to record straight from a computer or other audio device, and; use the phone-jack cord to record phone calls (but, please, check your local laws regarding recording of phone conversations).

The Voice Recorder itself looks like an USB flash drive, although it is a little big bulkier. The function buttons — On/Off, Play/Pause, Next, Previous, Menu, Record, Volume Up, and Volume Down — are on either side of the unit, with a display screen on the front, and an internal mic on the top along with the external mic and headphone jacks.

The Voice Recorder is also multi-functional. In addition to its titular function, it can also act as an USB flash drive, MP3 player, and FM radio, although the last one is optional and not in the unit I received. There are also a bunch of other settings and features, such as a hearing aid function. You can add or remove audio files from the device by plugging it into a computer, like you would with any flash drive.

It comes with 2GB of memory built in. It also has 3 recording modes (LP, SP, and HP, which remind me of VCR recording modes). LP is for recording long things, SP is “good quality” with Voice Activated recording, and HP is “high quality” recording. You can choose which mode you record in by pressing Previous or Next and pressing the Menu button.

Each of the modes record in a specific format: LP records in ACT, SP in WAV, and HP in MP3. Depending on the recording mode you use, you can record anywhere from 34 hours (with HP) to 560 (with LP). Not that I use it, but you also get software to convert ACT files to WAV format.

The only drawback I can think of is the horrendously low bitrates, although that may be because I’m an audiophile. In LP mode, the Voice Recorder records in 8 kbps (or kilobits per second), in SP, it records at 32 kbps, and 128 kbps in HP, I’m sorry, but that’s too low for me. They could at least bump the HP bitrate up to 192 if not higher, rather than 128.

I tested the Voice Recorder at Anime North, over the Memorial Day weekend, recording panels and such, and overall, the recordings came out decent, although the volume was low because I recorded them with only the internal mic. I haven’t had a chance to test the external mic, but considering how good the recording are with the internal mic, I don’t see any problems.

I would recommend the USB Digital Voice Recorder for the unit’s size, the memory capacity, and overall quality, even though it’s lower than what I’d personally prefer. The price-point is another plus. At the writing of this review, the USB Digital Voice Recorder retails on ThinkGeek for $49.99 USD. The price isn’t bad for a Voice Recorder, flash drive and MP3 player combined into one device.

ThinkGeek specializes in geek products, such as mini USB monitors, roll-up keyboards, and humping-dog USB flash drives. In addition, they have a “Security & Spy Stuff” section that has stuff like video-watches and hidden flash drives. They even carry t-shirts and edible stuff like wasabi gumballs(?! o.o) and energy drinks. They gave me this product for review, and I would like to sincerely thank them for doing so.

Andrew Monkelban

Andrew Monkelban is an avid gamer and writer, who has been featured in Second Skin, and on Wired's GameLife and The Escapist. He is also really into the Japanese entertainment scene. Even though he has Cerebral Palsy, he does not let it stop him from doing what he loves, although he's always on the look-out for technology that would help him with difficult tasks. He came to PopTen in the Summer of 2009, where he's now able to combine his passions.

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