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Looking for reccomendations
skitten has, for a long time (even pre-stroke) wanted to have a recorder she could bring to sings, jams, etc, to capture songs and tunes she is interested in learning. She hasn't gotten one yet, and she is getting more and more involved in things which require her to learn things by ear (Morris dance tunes, in particular, are hoarded by our local musician who will play them from memory but won't give sheet music).

Looking online, we've found a wide disparity between "digital voice recorders" -- essentially modern-day pocket memo recorders -- which have fallen in price to around $50-75 for medium-end, and "digital music recorders"/"field recorders" which range from $150 on up -- the majority seem to be in the $250+ range, with one on Amazon "on sale" for $1850 (save $150). Buyers guides say that the voice recorders aren't good for music, but conversely the musical digital recorders are expensive.

For convenience, she is looking for: (a) ability to record using either batteries or line power and (b) the ability to download or otherwise transfer tunes from the device to her computer. One-handed operation is a must, as well.

If you've done this sort of thing, what do you recommend? Her budget is around $160.

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Would an old 4-track help? I'm sure i've got one laying around that I'd happily donate. Yeah, its old technology, but cassettes are easy to come by, and its easy to use. And the price is right.

I assume a 4-track is a standard cassette system (two stereo recordings), we've got a couple of those. Besides being bulky, they don't transfer to the computer all that well.

any device that has a headphone jack can transfer audio to the computer. you just need a cable with the appropriate connectors on both ends (usually the "sub-mini" type of plug); plug one into the headphone jack, and the other into the jack marked "LINE IN" on the back of your computer. (there will typically be three identical jacks, marked LINE IN, LINE OUT, and MIC IN - you definitely want LINE IN.) go to SourceForge and download Audacity, a totally free sound-editing program that (in my semi-professional opinion) compares well with ProTools. then just fiddle with the earphone volume control on the recorder, the tiny little thumbwheel volume control next to the input jack on the computer (if there is one), the computer's own volume-control settings (remember to un-mute the inputs!), and the level settings in your software, until you have it so it's not overly loud and distorted or so low that background hiss drowns it out. (you can also use Audacity to do all sorts of other things to the file, such as removing unwanted noises, equalization, balancing the stereo tracks, etc.) when you're done, select "Export file", and "export" it as an MP3 or OGG (or .WAV, if you've got an enormous hard drive and don't care how big the file is).

the only thing you can't do with software is create sound quality that wasn't recorded in the first place. this requires both a decent recorder, and a good (better than "decent") microphone. i'm not current enough on what equipment to buy, but i'm sure someone will know.

Edited at 2008-10-06 04:09 am (UTC)

I've had good luck with Olympus digital recorders. The one I used to record classes in school could pick up intelligible speech even in the back of the room, though I don't think it would do so well outdoors. If you have a friend with one you might ask to try it, see if even remotely meets your needs. It was also cheap, being about $50

There's a local filker who has a mini-CD recorder (Sony?) that seems to provide very nice results. I have no idea how much those cost. sambear has done a lot of research on this topic for podcasting (mostly for voice instead of music, but he might known something), so I'll see if he has any input.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000VBH2IG?ie=UTF8&redirect=true&tag=coffeeresearch109612-20 the Xoom H2 runs on batteries, stores on an SD RAM Chip in Mp3. It rocks. It's what I wish I had. It's only $177 and it picks up sound in Stereo which, I think would be a benefit to you.

It can also store files in AIFF which is very hi-fi.

Hope this helps.

Thanks. Between you, Squeakytoy42, and doing my own research, the Xoom H2 was the one we ordered.

my thought would be something like an ipod or a sansa (i have the latter). it's not uber expensive, has a voice recorder function, and can transfer to the computer.

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