|Call Recorder Roundup II
by Claudia Bauer
Thanks to their compact size and large capacity, voice recorders have endless
professional and personal uses. For example, many people keep a small handheld
recorder in the car for "jotting down" notes and reminders; and students
use them to tape lectures. Retailers rely on phone recorders for training and
to monitor customer service. Journalists and lawyers trust desktop models to
accurately record interviews and depositions for later transcription.
You have your own reasons for wanting or needing a recording device. But with
so many styles available, how do you choose the one that's best for you? Please
note that most of the devices I'll refer to in this article are available on
the HelloDirect.com web site. Where possible, I'll provide links so you can
research them more fully.
First, ask the tough questions
Actually, they're not tough at all, and they're the first step to narrowing the field. Give these some thought before you start shopping:
1. What will you be recording? How much recording time do you want?
2. If you will record telephone calls, what volume of calls do you receive?
How many lines do you have?
3. Do you want to edit your recordings (move bits and pieces around, add or
delete dialog, etc.)?
4. Are you a gadget person, or would you prefer something with a very short
5. Would you like to download recordings to a PC, e-mail them, store them on
6. Will your recordings be transcribed?
7. Will you archive the recordings? Do you need long-term or short-term storage?
Do you want to search through past recordings?
For most recording jobs, whether it's taping personal reminders or recording
a meeting for transcription, a handheld recorder is ideal. Hello Direct's
most popular handhelds are the Olympus and Panasonic microcassette
Microcassette models are inexpensive and can record in 2 speeds up to
3 hours on a 90-minute tape (the Olympus Standard Recorder, Hello Direct
#2811, has an extended-play setting that gets 180 minutes out of a 90-minute
tape). Digital recorders start with the Olympus DS-330, Item
#6777, with a 5.5-hour capacity. The Olympus DS-2000, Item
#6087, delivers unlimited recording time with the use of removable memory
Full-sized cassette models such as the Panasonic RQ-L51, Item
#6683, are available as well. They're great on desktops and tabletops, and
some people perceive the sound quality of full-sized cassettes to be better
than that of microcassettes. The RQ-L51 will record up to 3 hours on a standard
60-minute cassette tape. Nonetheless, the smaller microcassette and digital
models are the most popular for personal use because they fit into a briefcase,
purse, or glove compartmentsome microcassette recorders can even slip
easily into a shirt pocket.
For convenience, all the recorders that Hello Direct offers are voice-activated,
a feature that saves effort and recording space by automatically pausing during
breaks in speech. They also restart fast enough to catch the first words in
each new segment of speech.
The recorders available at HelloDirect.com typically have 4 different interfaces,
or add-on feature sets:
Standard: Connects to a single analog line jack OR to any phone's hand
receiver jack. Records through the mic. Plays back through the recorder's speaker;
Record/playback: Connects to a single analog line jack OR to any phone's
hand receiver jack. Allows you to play recordings back over the phone.
USB: Connects to your PC via the USB port.
Telephone line recording: Standalone recording equipment connects to
incoming phone lines and records all calls...and call data...on each line. Also
referred to as call recorder/loggers.
Which type of recorder should you invest in: cassette/microcassette tape or
digital? Both kinds of recorders offer options like over-the-phone playback,
archival storage, and compact size. However, there are significant differences
between the two.
For taping personal notes, class lectures, or dictation for transcription, a
handheld cassette recorder like the Olympus Standard Recorder, Item
#2811, will serve the purpose. The advantages of tape recorders are that
they're relatively inexpensive, the tapes are compact and, if kept away from
extreme heat and other dangers, they can serve as permanent storage for your
Cassette recorders are easy to operate, too, and don't tend to involve the
learning curve that digital recorders often do. HelloDirect.com carries the
The disadvantages of tape: You have to turn them over between sides and start
a new tape after 60 or 90 minutes, interrupting the flow of conversation; (see
the Olympus S725, Item
#6203. It has "auto reverse," so you don't have to stop the recorder
and turn the tape over) tapes can be damaged if they're not protected. That
means no editing, downloading, sorting or other advanced file-management options.
Digital recorders offer many conveniences. You can move sound segments from
one place to another, insert dialog anywhere, and seamlessly delete sections
of any size. Digital files can be downloaded to your PC, e-mailed, copied, changed
into text with built-in transcription software and stored on disks or the hard
Variable-speed playback is another convenience offered by many digital recorders.
This way, you can speed up or slow down the playback for clarity and easier
Digital also offers indexing by time, date, file name, etc., which allows you
to search using these criteria (rewind and fast-forward are your only options
with tape). The easily searchable files also facilitate transcription.
The disadvantages to digital are, of course, higher price and steeper learning
curve than cassettes; interfacing with a PC can make troubleshooting a bit more
Making (and taping) the call
For taping personal calls, phone interviews, or other low-volume uses, many
handheld recorders (try the Olympus DS-2000, Item
#6087) can take telephone adapters, which connect to the phone line,
extension, or receiver.
For businesses with complex call-recording needs, such as call centers and
customer service departments, a more sophisticated device is required. Lawyers,
consultants, and others who charge by the minute for phone time also use these
call recorders to simplify billing or as a record of verbal agreements. These
specialized devices also offer Caller ID, sophisticated indexing, also available
at HelloDirect.com. They cost more than the basic handheld recorders.
High-end recorders and call loggers
Hello Direct offers two kinds of high-end recorders: standalone and PC-based.
PC-based means the recorder must be connected to your phone and your PC at the
same time. The call data are stored directly on your hard drive. The advantage
to this kind of model, for example, the Personal Call Logger, Item
#3755, is a lower price than standalone recorders (described below); the
disadvantage is loss of portability, because calls are stored on your PC.
Many logging systems record files in their own unique format. There are good
and bad aspects to such a setup. The disadvantage is that if you want to e-mail
files/recordings, the recipient must also have the logging software in order
to play the files. The advantage of unique formats is that files are often compressed
so that you can store much more information in a limited amount of space. Since
the Personal Call Logger records in standard .wav format, you can send files
to anyone you like. Unfortunately, these files are about 7 times larger than
Or, if you have a very high volume of calls or you'd rather not use your own
hard drive, another product from Digital Loggers, the Web-Network Call Logger,
#3757, has its own 80 GB hard drive and can record calls from up to 4 phone
An important note: clear, intelligible sound is the key to fast, accurate transcription.
If transcription is your goal, be sure to get a high-quality microcassette recorder
and use it with a good transcriber (Olympus Pearlcorder T1000 Transcriber,
#6228, and Olympus Pearlcorder T1100 Transcriber, Item
For interviews, meetings, phone calls and the like, cassettes and digital recorders
will do equally well in terms of gathering the raw data. As I mentioned previously
in this article, the advantages of cassette recorders are low cost, easy operation,
and durable storage under the proper conditions.
If you want advanced data-management features, digital might be for
you. For example, digital recording lets you:
- search forward and backward instantly, and mark the recording with your
own index points, which saves time during the transcription process.
- move, add, and delete sections of your recording, allowing memos, dictation,
and other future documents to be transcribed (using transcription software,
purchased separately) in an already revised format.
- transcribe by downloading-and-editing, reducing the cost of manual-entry
Plus, digitally recorded files may seem safer, as there's no tape to wear out
or break, which can happen when tape is rewound and fast-forwarded over and
The Olympus DS-330, Item
#6777, is great for transcription. It supports built-in voice-to-text
programs (sold separately). The ultimate in easy transcription, they automatically
translate voice recordings into text for editing, distribution, or storage,
making them efficient tools for physicians and others who need a lot of documents
Of course, the simplest and most inexpensive option for transcription is the
traditional method: Tape the conversation on a microcassette recorder, pop the
tape in one of our transcribers (the Olympus Pearlcorder T1000, Item
#6228, and the Olympus Pearlcorder T1100, Item
#6229), and type away. Both offer easy foot-pedal operation, binaural headsets,
auto-backspace, end-of-tape alarms, quick erase, and more. The T1100 adds an
LCD that apprises you of your progress, more playback speeds (the T1000 has
two), and the "E-mark" indexing feature, which makes it easy to locate
different recordings on the same tape.
Keeping your recordings
There are several ways to store your sound files, depending on the medium you
choose. If you use a cassette recorder, then cassettes or transcribed documents
(on paper or disk) are your options. Both can last for decades, but searching
for specific segments on tape or in a document, especially years down the road,
can be a daunting task. If your recordings will be a frequently accessed resource,
then consider digital.
Digital recorders let you download sound files to floppy disks, CD-ROMs, or
hard drives for permanent storage, and the files can be stored, recalled, indexed,
and searched easily for years to come. Your data can be found in an instant,
and you can re-listen to a phone call at any time.
Picking out a voice recorder may seem like a big job indeedbut a basic
understanding of the types of features involved makes it easier to determine
which way to go. The folks at Hello Direct are ready to help you find the right
recorder to meet your needs.