Digital voice recorders, anyone?

So far, my marriage with the Getting Things Done religion philosophy has survived the onslaught of "stuff" that happens in first three weeks of the semester. For the most part, I’ve been able to implement the prime GTD directive: trap all your information flowing in and dump it out of your brain and into an airtight system to organize it. For me, that system is a combination of regular file folders, Kinkless GTD (with the awesome Quicksilver backing me up), iCal, and strategically-labelled Entourage folders.

The weakest link is that I don’t have a way of trapping stuff coming in — whether from an outside source or things I think of on the fly — when I am not able to write it down or send it to kGTD. This afternoon I thought of something I needed to add to my lists while I was walking somewhere and my computer was powering down, and I think of a lot of stuff while I’m in the car. So I’ve been thinking about getting a digital voice recorder so I can capture stuff like that, then either play it back later or — better yet — plug it into my Macbook and transfer the voice notes so I can transcribe them or attach them to files or emails later.

I’m looking for a digital voice recorder that (1) is reasonably small and compact, certainly no larger than, say, an iPod nano; (2) has USB connectivity; (3) stores voice notes in some file format amenable to transfer to and use on a computer; (4) plays nice with Macs; and (5) is as far under $100 as possible. $50 would be nice. And I guess more importantly, I’d like to be able to pick the thing up, hit fewer than 2 buttons, and record a decent-quality voice note in a neglible amount of time and effort. My old Toshiba PDA had voice recording capability, but it was a pretty big device; ande recording involved turning the thing on, finding a tiny button on the side of the device and holding it down for three seconds before it would record, making it difficult  to use while driving, and by the time I’d punched all the right buttons my thought was long gone anyway. 

This Sony model has a good price but doesn’t have the USB/Mac connectivity and got  horrible user reviews on Amazon. This Olympus model is nice but it’s got a lot more features than I need; I’m talking about making quick voice notes, not podcasts.

Any thoughts or experiences?

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Filed under GTD, Technology

7 responses to “Digital voice recorders, anyone?

  1. Too unwieldy and too fragile. I’m looking for something smaller than my 4G iPod and something I can treat roughly (stick it in my pockets, drop it accidentally, etc.) without it being a disaster.

  2. virusdoc

    Too bad Mr. Jobs didn’t have the forethought to put a built in mic on the ipods. Both my Creative nomad (the tiny one I lent to you) and Creative Zen Sleek have them. And FM. Not that I’m gloating.

  3. Ever since I’ve owned an iPod, not once have I wished that it had an FM tuner or a voice recorder. (See my previous comment re: voice recording with an iPod.) These were features I considered when I was shopping for a music player, and I just decided that all I wanted my music player to do was play music files. Had I wanted more, I would have gotten something else.

    However, I am definitely thinking about a small, light, inexpensive MP3 player like the Nomad and using it exclusively as a voice recorder. The problem with these is that they’re just not designed for effortless voice recording — they’re designed to play music. So recording is usually a process not unlike what I described with my Toshiba e300, i.e. cumbersome.

    The more I think about it, the more I think I’m basically just looking for a 1 Gb USB flash drive with a microphone built in to it that allows for quick, zero- or one-button voice recording — then you plug the drive into the computer and pull your voice notes off as sound files.

  4. Justin

    Many cell phones have a voice memo feature. Prehaps that would work for you.

  5. PhilW

    I was looking at the Olympus DS2 in a shop until I realised that it has the buttons on the front and the microphone on the back. It seems to be aimed at journalists recording speakers, not for you recording your own voice. You need the mic on the top, not the back.

    I suggest you also consider whether you need transcripion software. Check out and their hardware compatibility/quality tables.

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