Buying the Right Portable Dictaphone

Like if this guide is helpful
Buying the Right Portable Dictaphone

How to Buy a Portable Dictaphone on eBay

When looking to buy a portable Dictaphone from eBay, you should always take time to evaluate each model’s features to ensure the product you purchase best suits your needs.. If you want one that will play MP3 files or that features a radio, then add that keyword to your search parameters and see what pops up. When checking your intended purchase’s other features, be sure to consider all the extras that may (or may not) be included in your purchase.

If you are after an analogue Dictaphone, it’s a good idea to verify whether you can still easily obtain the tapes for it, either mini- or micro-cassette. While second-hand tapes may be available – and quite cheaply – it might be worth purchasing new ones if you can find them, because tapes do degrade in quality and wear over time with repeated recording and playback.

Finally, one feature you may want to consider is whether the Dictaphone comes with rechargeable batteries that can be charged directly from your computer via USB or a mains adaptor, a particularly convenient option that means you don’t need to purchase a recharger to power up those depleted batteries.

Conclusion

When looking to purchase the right Dictaphone, the potential purchaser should be sure to look at the chosen machine’s specifications to check they are correct. If the user wants to be able to record telephone conversations, for example, many companies now supply Dictaphones complete with all the cabling and adaptors necessary for this. Other uses, such as recording live events in stereo, may be desired, so the purchaser should check the recording quality and availability – as well as suitability – of external plug-in microphones and/or headphones.

If the user is looking at digital Dictaphones, then it’s a good idea to be aware of the maximum permissible recording time available for the particular machine selected. The potential purchaser should always look to purchase the largest memory size to which their budget can stretch – if the user is looking for a Dictaphone with MP3 playback facilities, this is particularly important.

The Dictaphone was originally invented by Alexander Graham Bell of telephone fame in 1881. It stored sound on a wax cylinder, in a way similar to early music recordings, and used right through to the end of World War II. In 1947, Dictaphone introduced their ‘Dictabelt’ system, which stored sound by cutting a groove in a plastic belt instead. In the late 1970s, Philips, a Dutch electronics company, invented the compact ‘C’ cassette, which later became the standard for music cassettes. They then introduced ‘Mini-Cassettes’, specifically for the dictation industry, while Olympus went on to design and market ‘Micro-Cassettes’, a further enhancement of convenience for the dictation market.

Before the advent of the personal computer in the late 1980s, larger companies would employ a number of typists, mainly to transcribe correspondence dictated onto mini- or micro-cassettes. These Dictaphones would have simple foot controls for controlling playback, fast-forward and reverse functions, but were not considered truly portable.

In the late 1990s, taking advantage of falling prices and increasing sizes of non-volatile digital memory, manufacturers began to market devices that stored sound digitally, and it is these that dominate the market today.

Whereas, in the past, with the old analogue tape recorders, cassettes offered less than an hour of usable time, modern digital recorders offer astonishing lengths of high-quality recording.

Memory Sizes vs. Recording Times for Digital Dictaphones

Memory sizes and accompanying recording times can vary among digital Dictaphones. Before purchase, it is recommended to establish precisely what memory size and length of recording time is available for the particular model being considered.

Memory Size in GB

Maximum Hours of Recording Time

2

580

4

650‒1160

8

650‒1160

It should be noted that the main differences between the 4 and 8 GB models, though they have the same recording lengths, are that the 8GB versions offer a much higher recording quality and many now offer stereo, which effectively doubles the amount of memory used.

Potential Uses of a Digital Dictaphone

While some larger companies – particularly law firms – continue to use Dictaphones for their lawyers and their legal and paralegal secretaries, the most common use of the Dictaphone is with field reporters, who need to be able to transcribe their subjects’ words accurately without relying on shorthand. Consultant doctors often use Dictaphones as well to record patient notes and for later transcription to letters.

There are several Dictaphones on the market that offer discreet recording. These devices are barely larger than a conventional USB RAM stick, and offer various recording times, up to 650 hours in standard quality, or 12 hours of super-high quality for a 4GB model. Many offer the feature of being able to disable the red recording light so the unit appears to be inactive while still recording.

Almost all digital Dictaphones now have the ability to connect to a PC via a USB port and, since the advent of Windows XP, they no longer need software drivers, instead relying on the built-in drivers, now standard with computers running Microsoft Windows.

Users can now buy digital Dictaphones that will record both side of a telephone conversation from a standard fixed-line phone. Some Dictaphones now come with built in MP3 players, and even FM radios. This means the user can upload their favourite music to their Dictaphone in much the same way as other MP3 players.

Digital Dictaphone Recording Formats

Most digital Dictaphones can record in standard ACT and WAV formats, so manipulating the files once they are in a computer is relatively easy, and many companies sell sound-manipulating software. While the WAV file format is native to Windows, ACT is not, but ACT to WAV converters can be downloaded free of charge from the Internet, thereby eliminating this potential obstacle. Those contemplating purchasing a Dictaphone should be aware that a simple converter program may come as part of the complete package or may be downloaded free from the manufacturer’s website. While ACT files are very compressed, and therefore take up little room on the Dictaphone, the fact that they are heavily compressed means that sound quality will suffer. WAV format, on the other hand, is a lossless format and closely akin to the file system used on all audio CDs.

If a digital Dictaphone has an MP3 playback facility, it will support playback of MP1, MP2, MP3 and Windows WMA audio files. When the Dictaphone is connected via a USB port on the user’s computer or laptop, transfer of MP3 music files is as simple as dragging and dropping the files from the computer into the appropriate folder on the Dictaphone.

Playback and Recording Quality

Recording and playback quality is largely dependant on sampling rate. The higher the sampling rate, the higher the quality of recording will be. This will affect the maximum recording time, in that the higher the sampling rate, the more memory is used, so recording times will decrease.

For a typical digital Dictaphone of 4 GB memory, the user can expect about 12 hours of the highest-quality recording.

Stereo vs. Mono

If the user needs to record a live event, such as a school concert or play, having a stereo recorder is a great advantage, and the vast majority of Dictaphones have a standard-sized external microphone socket. If, however, the user will be using the Dictaphone purely as a voice recorder for transcribing speech, there are many external microphones available, but care should be taken to ensure the exact compatibility between microphone and recorder, as some manufacturers produce microphones with different styles of socket.

Common Parts of a Portable Dictaphone

In older analogue Dictaphones, much of the circuitry was dominated by the tape drive system. This has now largely been replaced by digital memory circuitry, but there are usually play, fast-forward and rewind buttons comparable to the analogue models.

Many Dictaphones now feature sockets for adding external microphones and speakers. When plugs are fitted in these sockets, the internal features are automatically switched off. There will almost certainly be controls for not only recording level, but also playback levels.

Controls are featured that permit the user to select the recording quality and, hence, recording time. Many digital Dictaphones now come with an array of accessories included in their price. These range from additional microphones, earphones, audio cables, USB cables (for connection to a computer), and even telephone junction boxes to cabling, to allow the recording of fixed-line telephone conversations.

Digital Dictaphones also feature a backlit LCD display. While cheaper models will have a rudimentary display, possibly only showing a low-battery alert, recording time, and recording quality, the more expensive ones will show such items as folders which contain recordings or MP3 files, if an MP3 playback facility is available.

Batteries and Power Supplies

Because they have no motors, or indeed any moving parts, the batteries on digital Dictaphones tend to outlast their older, analogue counterparts by at least a factor of ten. Some manufacturers now pre-install rechargeable batteries in much the same way as tablets, laptop computers, or mobile phones. This means that, whenever the Dictaphone is connected to a computer, the battery is effectively charging.

Whereas older analogue Dictaphones used up to four AA-sized batteries, which didn’t seem to last long with everyday usage, modern digital models, if they don’t feature rechargeable batteries, only require two, significantly cheaper, AAA batteries. If the intended Dictaphone does not feature rechargeable AAA batteries, then these can be purchased separately with a charger for little more than the cost of standard, non-rechargeable batteries.

How to Buy a Portable Dictaphone on eBay

When looking to buy a portable Dictaphone from eBay, you should always take time to evaluate each model’s features to ensure the product you purchase best suits your needs.. If you want one that will play MP3 files or that features a radio, then add that keyword to your search parameters and see what pops up. When checking your intended purchase’s other features, be sure to consider all the extras that may (or may not) be included in your purchase.
If you are after an analogue Dictaphone, it’s a good idea to verify whether you can still easily obtain the tapes for it, either mini- or micro-cassette. While second-hand tapes may be available – and quite cheaply – it might be worth purchasing new ones if you can find them, because tapes do degrade in quality and wear over time with repeated recording and playback.
Finally, one feature you may want to consider is whether the Dictaphone comes with rechargeable batteries that can be charged directly from your computer via USB or a mains adaptor, a particularly convenient option that means you don’t need to purchase a recharger to power up those depleted batteries.

Conclusion

If the user is looking at digital Dictaphones, then it’s a good idea to be aware of the maximum permissible recording time available for the particular machine selected. The potential purchaser should always look to purchase the largest memory size to which their budget can stretch – if the user is looking for a Dictaphone with MP3 playback facilities, this is particularly important.

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide