Dictaphone recommendations

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aninkling
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Dictaphone recommendations

Post by aninkling » Sat Jun 15, 2019 7:24 pm

hallo,

I was wondering if anyone had any recommended dictaphones for spontaneous found sound/ambient noise recordings? Shopping around and feel like I could go with pretty much anything but am wary of getting anything that is too centered around voice memos, as I'm looking for something that could both be useful up close but also effectively pick up ambient noise in large spaces.

anything helps, thanks!

- a

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¼ dead
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Re: Dictaphone recommendations

Post by ¼ dead » Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:39 pm

Not to be rude, but it's in the name: DICTAphone. They are, by design, meant to be bare-bones devices suited to the most basic purpose of recording dictation. A lot of cheap, hand-held digital recorders are the same, with shockingly similar (noisy, lo-fi, dynamically compressed) results.

Handheld tape dictaphones are all the same in my experience (I've been through a couple of handfuls, and they all shit the bed due to mechanical failures sooner or later, so I haven't got a functional one at all anymore, despite the currently-useless dozens and dozens of "collage" microcassettes I've recorded with them).

Dictaphones are great in terms of their immediacy, but a pure headache in every other regard.

Look into Zoom handy recorders if you want to record corn swaying in the field.

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Re: Dictaphone recommendations

Post by FireAlarmPoet » Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:57 pm

For quick & dirty mono recording in decent quality, get Easy Voice Recorder for your phone or tablet.

For semi-pro, 24/96 high quality stereo field recordings, like Jon said, Zoom or maybe Tascam is the way to go. I can't speak for Tascam from personal experience, but I love my Zoom H4N. A bit pricey but totally worth it for everything you can do with it in addition to field recording.

That said, mic placement is just as if not more critical. I'm admittedly a novice at this aspect of field recording so perhaps someone else can give more insight. A wind shield is an invaluable investment for any mics, including the aforementioned H4N.
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Re: Dictaphone recommendations

Post by ¼ dead » Sun Jun 16, 2019 8:42 am

Continuing from there, mic placement (beyond sheer proximity) is practically a non-issue with something like a dictaphone (you have to be close enough to a source to get a "reasonable" recording of it without it being surrounded in hiss and all the other dynamically compressed sounds happening around the source. They are designed to be used in close proximity to capture dictation/speech "just" effectively. Dynamics are compressed in order to capture fluctuations in volume of a speaker, but that's at the expense of clean sound, especially in a noisy environment, or with field recordings. Most birds just fly away before you can get close enough to have a conversation in my experience. :(

Zoom recorders really are stellar for general purpose recording, but their sensitivity does make finding and implementing ideal mic placement for each situation much harder. I've got a couple of these recorders, and they can be incredibly awkward to use in terms of how the X/Y mics are configured if you just wish to set the recorder down on a level surface and let it run. I'd almost prefer a goose neck attachment for better mic placement, without having to rely on hand-held recording or some kind of stand.

Sony's ICD series is somewhere between a Zoom handy-whatever and a tape/low-end digital dictaphone. It records well things like lectures, where cheaper devices would even have a hard time "just" effectively recording in the back of a small classroom, what with the ambient reflections and rustling of the student body. It's even serviceable for field recordings and capturing distant sounds (not truly "great", but it still does a far better job than what a mass-market, handheld tape recorder would be capable of). But it's also fairly noisy (it too implements nakedly obvious dynamic compression, over which you have very limited control), and only renders 192Kbps MP3's (at least my ICD-PX720 does).

At any rate, I used two of them pretty consistently for around eight years until I got the Zoom recorders. They are adequate, and ought to be dirt cheap these days (I think I paid $50 a pop for them when they were brand new). One warning: They do require proprietary software to interface with a computer, and I believe I've read that there are some issues with support/drivers on newer operating systems.

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Re: Dictaphone recommendations

Post by clemonz » Sun Jun 16, 2019 11:03 am

i had a zoom h2n, you can get one for 100 pounds new... it seemed like a good piece of midrange gear, neither esp entry level nor deluxe. very different to a dictaphone. it was recommended to me on troniks... couldn't get into field recordings (maybe cos i didn't know how to begin to process anything and still make it seem like found sound... if that makes sense?), but it is well suited to do so :shrug:
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Re: Dictaphone recommendations

Post by cleverbot » Sun Jun 16, 2019 11:06 am

clemonz wrote:
Sun Jun 16, 2019 11:03 am
i had a zoom h2n, you can get one for 100 pounds new... it seemed like a good piece of midrange gear, neither esp entry level nor deluxe. very different to a dictaphone. it was recommended to me on troniks... couldn't get into field recordings (maybe cos i didn't know how to begin to process anything and still make it seem like found sound... if that makes sense?), but it is well suited to do so :shrug:

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Re: Dictaphone recommendations

Post by cleverbot » Sun Jun 16, 2019 11:22 am

clemonz wrote:
Sun Jun 16, 2019 11:03 am
i had a zoom h2n, you can get one for 100 pounds new... it seemed like a good piece of midrange gear, neither esp entry level nor deluxe. very different to a dictaphone. it was recommended to me on troniks... couldn't get into field recordings (maybe cos i didn't know how to begin to process anything and still make it seem like found sound... if that makes sense?), but it is well suited to do so :shrug:

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Re: Dictaphone recommendations

Post by clemonz » Sun Jun 16, 2019 10:43 pm

i reckon dictaphones are really cool, do get one too!
get it surgically implanted, you'll win... i have a DOD pedal surgically attached to the skin of my right hand helps me post
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Re: Dictaphone recommendations

Post by cleverbot » Sun Jun 16, 2019 10:45 pm

clemonz wrote:
Sun Jun 16, 2019 10:43 pm
i reckon dictaphones are really cool, do get one too!
get it surgically implanted, you'll win... i have a DOD pedal surgically attached to the skin of my right hand helps me post

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Re: Dictaphone recommendations

Post by cleverbot » Sun Jun 16, 2019 10:45 pm

clemonz wrote:
Sun Jun 16, 2019 10:43 pm
i reckon dictaphones are really cool, do get one too!
get it surgically implanted, you'll win... i have a DOD pedal surgically attached to the skin of my right hand helps me post

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Re: Dictaphone recommendations

Post by timdrage » Fri Jun 21, 2019 1:19 am

I was wondering if anyone had any recommended dictaphones
Yes, I recommended you get any and all tape dictaphones you can find cheap.

but since you seem to actually want a portable digital recorder for field recordings, get the Zoom H1 too.

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Re: Dictaphone recommendations

Post by cleverbot » Fri Jun 21, 2019 1:20 am

timdrage wrote:
Fri Jun 21, 2019 1:19 am
I was wondering if anyone had any recommended dictaphones
Yes, I recommended you get any and all tape dictaphones you can find cheap.

but since you seem to actually want a portable digital recorder for field recordings, get the Zoom H1 too.

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