What Digital Voice Recorder Should I Buy?

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    I have broken this into two topics based on needs. This page addresses the General Applications Use. If you are intending to use this recorder for EVP work, what I state here as acceptable will NOT hold true. Please see the article under EVP and Audio for what you need to know.

    This artcle deals with using a Digital Voice Recorder for wuitness interviews and general note taking and logging your investigations. What applies here does n ot apply to EVP work or direct evidence gathering. For that you will need a much better quality recorder than what you need to simply record a witness statement. Click Here to read the article related to using a recorder for EVP / AVP and Evidence gathering.

    Voice recorders are intended for one purpose, to record human voice and do so over extended periods of time. They are great for witness interviews and keeping verbal logs of investigations. They are inexpensive, and as such are built that way with cost a primary concern. But that comes at a price which this discussion will address.

    For data logging purpose your first concern is how long your investigation will last. Most digital voice recorders have multiple settings that can provide extended record time but at the expense of quality. Here it becomes a trade off, how much quality are you willing to sacrifice to gain the time you need? A valid investigation log requires the recorder to run without interruption the entire length of the investigation. Since many investigations can run an entire night and into the next day I would recommend your recorder have the ability to run at least 12 hours non-stop. Most digital voice recorders can make that claim.

    Where it becomes problematic is at what quality? I genrally avoid the lowest quality setting on any recorder because usually there is excessive aliasing and poor audio quality. In that setting natural sounds can become unatural sounding. A stomach growl can become a rumble with aa accompanying whistle or some other strange sound. It may become difficult to use such audio if you are using your log to debunk something captured on your EVP recorder. Even your voice may be hard to understand as you transcribe your audio later in the office. So generally I try to use mid to high quality settings for all recording purposes.

    The second concern is sensitivity. The reason for a logging recorder is to capture anything that might interfere with your investigation and keep a record of it. So you will want a recorder with arelatively sensitive mic. Of course it doesn't have to equal your EVP system, but something where you have to scream to be heard is also unacceptable. There is no reason to have provisions for an external mic on this recorder sinnce the single internal mic is sensitive enough for any logging purposes.

    Battery Life is another issue. Since it will run for up to 12 hours, the battery life should also be able to maintain it for the durration. A plus would be to have provisions to run it on AC power but regardless since you could be away from commercial power the recorder should be able to run on its own as well.

    Durability is another concern. The recorder should be physically able to survive moderate abuse or handling. While it doesn't have to be indestructable it should not fall apart after a few uses or being tossed into your equipment case.

    The final concern is ease of use. You don't need or want something so complex to use you need to pull out the instruction manual every time you want to use it. All you need are the basics; you need to record and play back audio. Two extra features may be useful. One is a pause control. This is good to have if you are transcribing an interview later. the second is a way to copy your recorded file to your computer. Either a removable flash card or hard connection between the recorder and computer USB port can serve this purpose.

    Any recorder that meets these basic requirements should work fine for a logging recorder. Again I emphasize these requirements DO NOT meet that of EVP work! That is why no mention was made of audio compression, conversion errors, sample rate, etc. They are unimportant for basic audio recording. However they can render an EVP useless.

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© FEB 2014 - J. Brown . . . . . . .