New digital recorders can change the way you do business.
If you've had any contact with teenagers who like music, you've probably heard of MP3 players.
MP3 is a format that compresses music and voice into a digital recording. MP3 files are exchanged every day on sites like Napster.com. Such recordings can also be played on a computer.
MP3 is not only changing the music industry, but may change the way you do business, too. Digital recordings don't require tape and can be e-mailed, downloaded or even converted to Word documents.
Here are a few ways you can ride the digital audio wave:
Marketing. By recording a seminar, conference call or other event, you can e-mail a copy to a client who couldn't make it, set up a virtual seminar on your Web site or keep a copy for compliance rather than making a transcript.
Voice to text. Some of the better units will convert what you say to a text document. Need to send a letter to a client? No problem. Record it on a digital voice recorder and e-mail a copy of a transcribed Word document to your sales assistant for editing.
Audio filing cabinet. Too much information to write down from the squawk box? Record and file it in digital format on your computer. Or convert it to a transcript.
Several new digital recorders have come to market in the past few months. Here's what to look for:
Microphone jack. If you plan on recording anything through a sound system, this is a must. An external microphone jack also allows the digital recorder to be plugged directly into a public address system.
Recording time. The longer the better, especially if you're long-winded. Some systems offer removable flash memory cards, which you can use like an audiocassette.
Voice recognition system. This converts your voice recording into text, at least in theory. While technology in this area has gotten better, it can still be tricky. The portable voice recognition systems are a little less accurate than desktop PC software. Expect about 90% accuracy unless you spend some time "training" the software to your voice.
Size. Smaller is better, naturally. Most of these units are very small compared with audio recorders.
Computer interface. Most have a serial or USB connection to your computer. Avoid connections through a sound card. That negates the advantage of these digital recorders over old-fashioned analog ones.
Here are some products worth considering:
Olympus V90 - Small, lightweight and inexpensive, the V90's recording quality is good, considering its $99 price. It's useful to record memos, not much else.
Olympus DS-150 - This product has more capabilities than the V90. The $199 product features an external microphone jack, IBM ViaVoice VRS software and a PC interface.
Dragon NaturallySpeaking Mobile - This is a nice package that includes an external microphone jack, PC interface and expandable flash memory. It records 40 minutes of continuous speech and can be expanded up to 120 minutes. The $299 unit also includes Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition software, one of the best packages available.
Voice-It VTR - This is everything in the Dragon package and a little more. In addition to an external microphone jack, PC interface and expandable memory, Voice-It VTR includes nearly two hours of standard recording time, removable flash memory modules and choice of recording in MP3 or .wav format. Options include USB interface and software to link to Dragon NaturallySpeaking and IBM ViaVoice packages. It costs $199.