Review: Sony ICD-UX70 voice recorder (1GB)

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I tip my hat to the excitement that is Monday morning with a hard-hitting review of a digital voice recorder. It’s the Sony ICD-UX70 with built-in USB connection and one-gigabyte of storage space. Hold on to your hat, it’s about to get crazy up in here.

Overview and Features

The Sony ICD-UX70 features 1GB of flash memory capable of recording between 12 and 290 hours of MP3 audio, depending on the quality setting. The device uses a single AAA battery and contains a built-in USB connection that makes it easy to quickly connect and offload recorded files to your computer. It’s both Mac and PC compatible, comes in three colors (silver, pink, and red), and doubles as a stereo MP3 player should you wish to use it as a simple digital audio device. The MSRP is $99. There’s also a 2GB version, the ICD-UX80, with an MSRP of $149.

Pros

Recording is easy and the audio files produced are high-quality, provided you set the device down on a table (more on that below). Transferring the files is even easier as Sony has thankfully opted to go the standard USB mass storage route instead of including its own proprietary software. You simply plug the USB end of the recorder into your computer and some folders pop up containing your recordings. Easy.

There’s also a cool auto-record function that will start recording as soon as it detects a sound in the room. It’s great for hiding in a desk drawer and catching all your enemies talking about you, plotting your demise and fighting over who’s going to get to keep your collection of tired-but-still-cool track jackets once you’re gone. A selectable microphone sensitivity switch allows the device to start recording based on a tiny peep or a slightly less tiny peep. I didn’t find much difference between the two but you may, depending on what and where you’re trying to record.

Then there’s the audio quality which, at the end of the day, is most important, right? Well, it’s excellent. Speech is loud and clear without being distorted and the microphone seems to do a great job of adjusting on the fly to volume fluctuations and background noise. Sony’s done a nice job here.

Cons

Boy oh boy does this thing pick up everything, including your fingers. If you hold this in your hand while recording, you WILL pick up every single slight movement of your digits. It sounds like record scratching almost. It’s so loud that I thought I had a defective recorder at first. You’ll want to hold this very daintily as you would a small cup of fancy tea or set it down on a table.

The battery life also leaves a bit to be desired. I managed to log in a few hours worth of recording and two hours worth of listening to MP3 files at relatively high volume before the battery needed to be replaced. Your mileage may vary but for a device like this that I seldom use, I expected to replace the battery far later than a month after I first used it.

Conclusion

The ICD-UX70 is a worthy contender with some interesting options. The ability to use the device as a first generation shuffle-sized MP3 player is a welcome addition and the automatic recording function is a nice touch. People looking to use this on the go for interviews and other activities that would necessitate the device being held in the hand might want to look for a device that won’t pick up as much finger and thumb movement but for tabletop recording, the audio quality, features, and price make this little guy hard to resist.

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