A Basic Guide to Digital Voice-Activated Recorders

The world of digital voice activated recorders is an interesting one, full of nifty gadgets for taking dictation, recording lectures and interviews and even playing spy. If you frequently transcribe your recordings or loathe searching for that needed bit of information, these recorders provide a key advantage over the always-on variety.

What Are Digital Voice-Activated Recorders?
Digital voice-activated recorders are a special subset of digital recorders that are designed to turn on when someone begins speaking. These recorders are great when you may be recording intermittent activity and don't want to waste a lot of space on your digital voice recorder; you'll only record the speaking, instead of all the dead space in between. However, one thing to look out for with voice-activated recorders is the lag time between the moment someone begins speaking and when the recorder activates. When you use a voice-activated recorder, it's not uncommon to lose the first word or the first several words of a sentence while the device powers up.

On the plus side, you won't have to wade through a lot of silence to get to the part of the recording you want. Voice-activated recorders are also stingier with memory and battery life, so you'll get more useful hours of recording.

Great for Dictation, Interviews and Lectures
Voice-activated recorders shine when you're taking dictation, attending lectures or conducting interviews. Voice-activated dictation is popular in a number of professions, including general corporate settings and legal proceedings such as depositions and court appearances. You can use voice-activated recorders when you're conducting a series of interviews or attending lectures because you don't have to worry about dead space between speakers; you'll only record when people are talking. You can simply set up voice activated recorders and let them run, even leaving the room if you need to because you know the recorder is running.

Who Makes the Best Voice-Activated Recorders?
The most popular voice-activated recorders are the Olympus VN-4100PC and the Sony ICDUX80. The Olympus VN-4100PC is the most popular voice-activated recorder, costing around $50 with 256MB of internal memory and solid sound quality for recordings. The Sony ICDUX80 is a popular high-end voice-activated recorder, priced at around $150 with 2GB of internal storage and MP3 playback capabilities. Both of these recorders are appropriate for dictation, recording lectures, interviews and office meetings. These digital voice-activated recorders connect to your computer via USB, allowing you to easily download, organize and store your files. The higher quality of the Sony makes it a good choice for interviews that you want to post online or for corporate settings where people are talking at a normal volume and greater sensitivity from the recorder is needed.

Don't Record Phone Calls
One popular application for voice-activated recorders is to record phone conversations. However, be aware that unless you inform the party that you are recording, you could be engaging in an illegal activity. Recording a phone conversation without the consent of both parties is illegal in 12 states, while the other 38 states require at least one party's consent to record phone calls. If you are looking at voice-activated recorders to record phone calls, check your state laws to ensure you're not breaking the law. Some voice-activated recorders come with attachments that plug directly into the phone line for easy recording. The quality of these recordings is much higher, so it's worth looking for this feature if you'll be recording phone calls. 

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