Prompted by an upcoming conference, I bought a Sony ICD-UX80 digital voice recorder. 2GB of onboard flash memory, MP3 format recordings, runs on one AAA battery, and a generic USB 2.0 interface. It’s a well-designed gizmo. I bought it on Buy.com for $128, including shipping and tax. It’s replacing a Panasonic RN-502, which was a high-end micro-cassette recorder. It still works fine, but digital recording’s advantages are too great to continue using it.
My only concern was with the ICD-UX80’s microphones. They’re tiny, and any sub-optimal waveforms they produce will affect all of the downstream processing. I.e., GIGO. So, I bought a Sony ECM-DS30P microphone, for $40, also from Buy.com.
It arrived today. It includes with a case and a foam windscreen. After unpacking, I tested it.
The first test was, does it look cool? Answer: Yes. It makes the DVR look like something Mr. Spock would use.
The second test was more substantial. In a relatively quiet house, I stood 12′ away from the DVR and spoke at a normal level. Using earbuds, I listened to my voice recordings made in four combinations: Using the on-board microphones or the ECM-DS30P, and recording at the best or worst recording quality settings.
Note: I’m not an audio engineer, analog EE buff, or a recording enthusiast — I’m just someone who wants to squeeze the best recordings out of his DVR. I did not use the ECM-DS30P’s windscreen, nor test in a noisy environment, nor test with recorded music.
The result: Recordings made with the ECM-DS30P sounded cleaner, and slightly more realistic, than those made with the on-board microphones. The difference was more noticeable at the lowest quality setting, vs. the highest quality setting. The quality improvement didn’t blow my socks off, but it was there. My voice sounded a little more natural and a little fuller.
I recommend this little microphone if you’re frequently using your DVR, and/or recording a this-can’t-be-repeated opportunity. Yes, it’ll cost you a good fraction of your DVR’s cost. (In my case, it was 1/3 of my DVR’s cost.) OTOH, it’s only $40 in absolute terms, so it’s a cheap way to improve all of your recordings.
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