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Bob Rotheram :: Blog :: It’s the education, stupid!

June 01, 2008


Last weekend, my son brought me a new toy, a cheap MP3 recorder. How cheap? Forty quid. Compared with the gadgets we’re using on Sounds Good which cost £250 a throw, that’s cheap! The most frustrating thing has been waiting a week before I could begin to try it out. Life has been exceptionally busy – blame my daughter for getting married.

This morning, though, I’ve indulged myself and spent a happy couple of hours playing with the new toy. Yes, it does what it says on the tin: records direct to MP3 and allows easy uploading via a USB port. Better, it can record at lower bit rates than its ‘Rolls-Royce’ cousin, resulting in smaller, yet still-intelligible audio files. On the other hand, it needs to be held in the hand. The snag with this is that the noise of manipulation is recorded too, which is highly distracting for the listener. Fortunately, there’s a simple workaround: plug in an external mike. I already had one, costing only a few pounds, and used it to record Podcast 08 at 32kbps MP3 format. Check it out. Does the result sound good enough?

I’m not done with the evaluation yet. The nerd in me will play happily for a few more hours, when I get the chance. However, I think I’ll be buying and recommending the cheaper recorder if Sounds Good receives any further funding. (Watch this space for news on that!)

Nerds and bargain hunters will be keen to know which gadgets I’m talking about. The ‘Rolls-Royce’ recorder is the Edirol R-09, recently superseded by the even better Edirol R-09HR. The newer version is a lovely piece of kit, aimed mainly at musicians and broadcast journalists. Very easy to use, it can produce excellent quality recordings. Even on the minimum setting, 64kbps MP3 format, it’s fine for our main purposes on Sounds Good: lecturer speaking to student; podcasts for the website. In truth, it’s rather over the top for our needs. But there wasn’t a lot of choice at the time, he says defensively.

The cheapo machine I’m still playing with is the Sony ICD-UX70. Will you be able to get it for the £40 I mentioned? Probably not. My son lives in the US and is an awesomely expert shopper. He knows all the tricks for getting a good deal! Even so, here in rip-off Britain, I’ve recently seen the Sony device advertised online for £82, and the trend is downwards. That’s still a big saving on £250. Of course, you get what you pay for, and the ICD-UX70 cuts some corners. That’s economy for you.

But let’s not get carried away with technology and economy. As a little voice keeps reminding me, ‘it’s the education, stupid!’

(Posted by Bob Rotheram, Project Manager, Sounds Good)

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