Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lack Of Software Support Almost Ruins The Hardware Adequacy Of The Sony ICD-P210

The Good: Excellent quality, range and portability, Generally good use of energy
The Bad: No "off" button, Lack of editing software, Lack of Plug-in power support
The Basics: This digital voice recorder is very sensitive, records a lot of information and uploads its information easily to a computer, even if it does have its faults.

I think the most useful direction Congress could give to help alleviate our current and impending energy problems in the U.S. is to mandate that all devices sold in the U.S. have an "off" button. I'm tired of "Stand By" and "Hold," whatever happened to "on" and "off?" Are we truly such a lazy society that we cannot wait for our televisions, printers, and digital voice recorders to boot up without the illusion that they are only "resting" as opposed to completely inert? The first time this came to my attention was when I could not find a power button for my printer (there is not one). I was stymied with my purchase of my digital voice recorder to find the same problem.

The Sony ICD-P210 is a digital voice recorder and for those who are out of step with technology, this is what is replacing the tape recorder. Digital voice recorders store audio information digitally on a chip as opposed to a magnetic tape. The immediate result is the ability to record long tracks of auditory information using very little space.

The ICD-P210 is a small device, which is the first thing that makes it difficult to shell out so much money on it; when I spend in the $90 range, I want something a bit bigger than four inches long by one inch wide (there's a sentence I hope to never repeat again in my lifetime). Digital voice recorders are more discreet than old tape recorders and the ICD-P210, smaller than even a mini-cassette recorder, records vastly more than a tape recorder ever could. The P210 has approximately sixteen hours worth of recording ability on its chip. No doubt there are - or will be - chips that allow the user to record even more.

The problem with making everything miniature comes in the function, not the style or the intent. Sure, it's nice if one wants to secretly record things they are not supposed to. This fits just about anywhere. Activating it is another matter entirely, though. The "Hold" button (the closest to an "off" switch this possesses) is a sliding button on the right side which is very easy to use. All of the front panel buttons - rec./pause, play/stop, forward, back and stop - are big enough to use simply. The problem is the side buttons. To adjust the volume, change the folder, erase tracks or divide them, takes fingernails, dexterity and attention that is difficult to give when recording/listening on the fly.

But even possessing those functions is pretty cool. Like an e-mail inbox that separates various accounts, the ICD-P210 allows the user to separate recordings into four different folders. This is especially handy if one is using the recorder for multiple purposes. It's easy to keep notes and recordings separate when you have one folder for important reminders, one for work, one for wandering musings and one for recording interviews. And it is very easy to switch between folders, outside the manual dexterity issues of the flat button that needs to be pressed into the casing.

As someone who is energy conscious, the ICD-P210 is just baiting environmentalists. The battery function of the digital recorder is excellent. I've filled the device three times - recording approximately 45 HOURS of material - before having to change the batteries. The device is, however, completely dependent upon batteries. There is no jack to plug the digital voice recorder into a socket, which would be convenient for me as I usually use the device inside for recording readings. The reason this baits environmentalists like me is that on the back of the DVR, where the loop for carrying the device can be placed, are the words "(Plug In Power)." There's no place to plug it in, but it says it can. Jerks!

The final problem with the Sony ICD-P210 is the software that comes with the device. The software adequately extracts the recordings made on the DVR into a computer via an ISB port. I've never had a problem with that. In fact, that function works very well and the converting function of that same software allows the user to translate the Sony recording codes into other formats, like .wav.

The problem, though, is that the device comes with no editing software. Sure, the base software allows the user to cut up the files created by cutting everything before or after a certain point, but to remove chunks from the middle of a recording, one needs to either get other software or carve recordings up into smaller bits. This is problematic for those editing readings or lectures, as I am.

Conversely, there is no problem with using any of the .wav format translations the software that accompanies the product with any software I have found. That is to say that once translated into a fairly universal format, files can be easily - flawlessly - opened by other editing software.

And one will find the need to edit tracks if one is using the ICD-P210. This is a very sensitive recorder when set to "high" sensitivity. I found it works very well for recording lectures in medium-sized lecture halls that do not employ speaker systems. As well, in larger venues with speaker systems, I've found it does an excellent job of recording such things as lectures.

Alas, it will also record conversations of those nearby at such venues, so one needs to be truly attentive to setting when using this. I found little use for the "low" sensitivity for this. Even when I am recording readings, I keep it set to "high" sensitivity, as that captures cadence and tone much better, where the "low" sensitivity often results in a more muffled recording result.

This is a great device for people who need to record long periods of auditory information. The results are easily reviewed and can be broken into smaller tracks right on the recorder, which is very convenient. This is analogous to being able to put information on two different tapes after the information is recorder, without taking the tapes out of the recorder. That's pretty cool.

Qualitatively, this is enough to get by on. As I mentioned, the sensitivity is very good. I've not had experience with other DVRs, but I can say that for those of us raised on tape recorders, this is a gigantic leap forward. It's enough for my needs that I'm not looking for another.

For other sound devices, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Apple iBud Earphones
iPod Shuffle (4th Generation)
TNT! Kyocera Cell Phone


For other electronics reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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