Handheld Recorders

There are many voice recorders available today but selecting the right one requires informed guidance.

In the beginning, there were secretaries with shorthand skills. This dying breed is only to be found today in the offices of dinosaurs.

Nowadays, most people produce their own letters on their PCs using word processing software but doing so requires knowledge about technology which some prefer to avoid.

The middle way (very new Labour!) is to use handheld recorders for transcription by typists.

Usually, they work like miniature tape recorders and are slow and cumbersome to use because you have to wait while the tape rewinds. They are rather awkward when trying to find a particular word or sentence once recorded and editing is cumbersome bordering on difficult. Also, the tape cassettes wear out quite quickly.

This is why digital handheld voice recorders, which use solid state technology, are superior - in the same way that a DVD is superior to a video cassette.

You can pass the output from a digital handheld recorder to a typist electronically, using a PC network, or physically with a flashcard, memory stick (this looks like a stick of chewing gum and comes in various capacities from 16MB to 256MB) etc.

Alternatively, if you have speech recognition software on your PC, you could link your digital handheld voice recorder by cable to the universal serial bus (USB) and your output will be transcribed automatically. You could then edit it on your PC by voice or keyboard, or forward it to your secretary for editing. This enables you to make the most of your dictation equipment in a way which suits you best.
Some digital handheld voice recorders are designed specifically for this purpose. One of the cheapest is called VoiceIt. It looks like a toy and its accuracy rate when used with speech recognition software is not as good as the more expensive models. Its only saving grace is that it is simple to use with big buttons.

The ScanSoft-certified SIMS recorder is now available with the latest version of NaturallySpeaking Preferred (Version 8). This packaged product is called the Dragon NaturallySpeaking 8 Mobile. The handheld digital recorder is the SIMS SVR-S200. It is a very compact machine which includes all of the appropriate software on a CD (VoiceManagerPro Version 1) and for optional use, an earphone and a clip-on microphone.

Sony make two digital handheld voice recorders, both of which plug into the USB socket on a PC although one has the additional advantage (complication?) of a memory stick, which is peculiar to Sony products. It can be removed from the machine and given to someone else, such as a typist, who can read it into his or her PC utilising an adapter (this can be in the mouse, floppy disk aperture or PC slot). The recorder with the memory stick is the Sony ICD MS515 (formerly ICD MS1) ...

... and the one without is the Sony ICD BP150 (formerly ICD BP100). Accuracy rate with speech recognition software is greater than 95% with Sony's voice recorders.

The latest Olympus is the DS-3000 and this is for the true professional because it is designed for office use with provision for foot pedals and stereo headsets for secretaries. It costs twice as much as the Sony machines, but has greater speech recognition accuracy (up to 99%).

It uses external media (SmartMedia cards) like the Sony with the memory stick, and also has a USB connection. It is capable of recording 2.5 hours of high-quality audio whereas the standard Sony does about one hour. Mind you, that's often enough for most people.
The Sony and the Olympus digital handheld voice recorders come with the appropriate linking software on a CD to enable you to utilise speech recognition software with your dictation equipment. The Sony recorders are sometimes sold with VTP (voice to print) which means that they include Dragon Preferred speech recognition software. Sony and Olympus recorders all run on 2 x AAA batteries which need to be replaced every few months. The buttons on the Sony recorders are smaller and more fiddly than on the Olympus recorder. Think of the Sony as a consumer rather than a professional item of equipment and what springs to mind is the old adage "you get what you pay for".
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