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  1.    #1  
    Evaluation of Five Voice Recorders for the Treo 600.
    By Terry Barker-- June 30, 2004

    My boss, a big Treo 600 fan, appointed me to “find the best voice recorder for my needs”. He guided me to Treocentral to start my search. I was not expecting to find five different programs, since not long ago I found none. Since I am a writer by nature, I will share my results.

    The five programs I evaluated are two from Audacity Audio, the Audacity DVR Personal at $ 29.99 and the Audacity DVR Professional/LAM-S package at $ 99.99. Web site is www.AudacityAudio.com. The next is SoundRec by Ryan Rife at www.Infinityball.com. It is a free program with a suggested donation. P.A.R. (Personal Audio Recorder) is offered by Toysoft, www.toysoft.ca for $ 14.95. The last is mVoice by Motion Apps, www.MotionApps.com for $ 24.99. I attempted to list these in the order that they appeared to enter the market.

    First, let me explain my boss’s needs. Mainly, he wants something to take quick notes while driving. That was requirement number one. Everything else was secondary, but still important. He wants the ability to dictate and send the files from his desktop. He also wants the ability to send files while on the road. He is a long time recorder user and wanted the full functionality of his Sony recorder. He is also value conscious, but functionality is more important; i.e., he didn’t reject the $99.99 package of Audacity Audio for price alone, if the value could support it.

    First, I will provide a summary of the highlights of my findings and actions, and then some of the details of the individual products. We ended up choosing the Audacity DVR Professional/LAM-S package even though it was the most expensive. The bottom line—it was the best value. It did what we needed. Let me explain.

    We started by eliminating all but the two Audacity products. Our key reasons; first, they were the only two products that had a complete compliment of record capabilities--record, pause/resume, stop, play, append, rewind, and fast forward. Reason two. Being a Palm user, we expected a conduit. None of the other programs had one. In order to retrieve files from the other units, you had to transfer or record the file onto an SD card and then use a card reader. This was not acceptable. The Audacity Personal includes a basic conduit similar to that expected in the Palm world. The Audacity Professional includes the LAM-S program that can best be described as a super conduit. It automatically transports the files via e-mail or FTP to anyplace. It also handles tasks like encryption, compression, etc. It is a complete file management/transport package. Reason three is voice quality and file size or perhaps voice quality per file size as the two are directly related. Two of the other vendors offered a choice of record qualities. The Audacity Audio choices seem better. At PCM 8 kHz sampling, which is pretty standard, the Audacity quality is better. At PCM 16 kHz, the quality is awesome. The real determiner was the compressed 6 kbps format that none of the other vendors had. We really wanted the ability to send files through the Cellular network. Audio files are big and the network very slow, and expensive if you don’t have an unlimited data plan. The only other product to offer any type of compression is mVoice. A one-minute mVoice compressed file was about 500K. A one minute compressed Audacity file was only 50K. On the Sprint network that equated to 3 minutes compared to 18 seconds. None of the other vendors had compression at all so they were even worse. Reason four. Even though the Audacity products had many more features than the other products, both products appeared to be very stable. Usually, as the feature list grows, the product becomes more bug-prone. That does not seem to be the case with Audacity. There were other reasons as well, but these are the big four.

    What did we see in the Audacity Professional to make it worth the extra bucks? It has features and options galore that will probably prove useful. It also has the super conduit, a very sophisticated addition. Once I narrowed my choice to the two Audacity products, I called Audacity Audio to see if they could guide me. They sent me a demo copy of a new, not yet released, Audacity Professional. It proved to be the difference. The new version is focused on sending files over the Cellular network. The Treo user can record into either of two choices of highly compressed formats, hit a send button, and the file is sent to the LAM application. The LAM decompresses the file and sends it to its destination. Any computer will play the decompressed format. The user easily chooses the destination on a file-by-file basis. Since most of the files come to me, the default on the record screen says to send to Terry. The files are placed on my desktop computer. To send a file to Bill via e-mail, he clicks on a link to his contact list. He selects Bill and it pulls Bill’s e-mail address into the record program. After completing the recording, he clicks the Send button and the file is automatically e-mailed to Bill with a blind copy sent to his desktop. Very advanced stuff and well worth the money. This gives us the capability to not only record the file in a mobile setting, but to distribute the file as well. None of the other programs came close.

    Now, some of the highs and lows of the various programs. I will organize this from least value to best value. First, the P.A.R. from Toysoft. It has the nicest look of all the programs. Nice icons, etc. I am not an icon fan, but after I figured them out, they did make sense. It has the poorest voice quality of all the programs thereby receiving the poorest rating. After all, this is a recorder.

    Next on the list is SoundRec. At first I thought it had the best voice quality of all the programs. After digging into the details, I decided that was not the case. The
    defaults were set for a very high sample rate, which definitely helps the quality, but creates very large files. I like the ability to choose the sample rate. After recording several files I proceeded to delete them. That crashed the unit several times. I finally got down to two files. It crashed again and then proceeded to crash every time I launched the program.

    Let me diverge briefly. I spoke about voice quality several times. I asked Audacity Audio why their PCM 8 kHz sampling sounded better than the others. They replied that they found the Treo needs some special filters that most hardware doesn’t require. I think that helps.

    MVoice stressed compressed audio. It was compressed and pretty good quality, but still 10 times larger than the Audacity compressed. I also liked their e-mail integration. After recording, there is a send button choice. Clicking it pops up the Treo e-mail application. A nice touch.

    Next is the Audacity Personal. It has a very nice audio alarm feature not available in any of the other programs. It was not a big factor in our decision as we use the Palm Calendar application for alarms. Audacity Audio does not use the Treo navigation button standard. All of the other programs do. A negative, at least I thought so at first. After I got used to it, I liked it better. The navigation pad functions change depending on the screen and the state—recording, playing, idle, etc. From the file list page, up and down scrolls through the list, left appends the selected file, right records a new file, and center plays the selected file. While playing a file, center is pause/resume, left is rewind, right is fast forward, and down is stop. I found this slightly harder to learn, but easier to use. Navigating the system is much easier with fewer keystrokes and without having to look at the device, particularly helpful if driving.

    The Audacity Professional has it all. I particularly liked the dual filing structure. This application is really designed for professional dictation applications. The dual filing structure aides you keep in keeping your professional dictations separate from your personal memos. It is easy to switch from one file folder to the other and the files are automatically dispersed in two directions. For instance, the personal memos will Sync to my boss’s desktop and be immediately deleted from the handheld. The professional files are automatically sent to my desktop and deleted from the handheld after 3 days. If security is an issue, the Professional has a very secure and user-friendly implementation. It includes many features and options, too numerous to mention.

    Our findings—you get what you pay for. The Audacity Professional/LAM-S package proved to be the best value.
  2. #2  
    Audacity seems complicated to use. When testing on the Treo600 the recording is the same or even worst than other recorders. I had a hard time trying to figure out how to adjust the recording volume. the playback interface you have to get use to and it not that friendly. overall i dont see any advantage in Audacity. Can't speak for everyone.
    Want mp3/wav ringtones , Audio and Video recording for your Treo600/650? visit www.toysoft.ca
  3. #3  
    Quote Originally Posted by smiley88
    Audacity seems complicated to use. When testing on the Treo600 the recording is the same or even worst than other recorders. I had a hard time trying to figure out how to adjust the recording volume. the playback interface you have to get use to and it not that friendly. overall i dont see any advantage in Audacity. Can't speak for everyone.
    LOL, imagine that....a competitor doesn't like their product.
    "Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen."
    - Albert Einstein
  4. #4  
    well they did get on the bottom of the list of options. I gave up on all the sound recorder apps till the star emerges.
    Christo

    "it's not the quantity, but the quality"

    There are NO Limits
  5. #5  
    I thought this article was very accurate. I also evaluated several of the available recorders and found the Audacity DVR PRO to be far more advanced then the others. When I bought my Treo600, I did not choose it because it was free or the cheapest. It ended up being the most expensive, but I bought it because of what it does for me. For the same reason I bought and use the Audacity DVR PRO.
  6. #6  
    Great post. Thanks for doing so much hard work for the rest of us.

    EDIT: I agree that the ability to send voice files wirelessly is a great and necessary feature. Unfortunately ... Audacity's website says that this works with Outlook or Outlook Express. That suggests Lotus Notes users like me are not going to be able to use that functionality. That's a shame, as otherwise, I'd be tempted to spend my $99 on Audacity Pro.
    Last edited by Virt; 07/12/2004 at 09:57 PM.
  7. #7  
    Try using Snappermail - it will handle 'em as file attachments - tried and worked with PAR. Ben
  8. #8  
    Virt: I'm not sure what you are referring to regarding Outlook or Outlook Express. The Audacity program has nothing to do with either. It is a completely separate application. There is a Send button on the record screen. After recording a file, press the send button and the file is sent through the Cellular Network to the LAM (referred to in the article as a super conduit). Normally you will record the files in a compressed format to make them very small. The LAM decompresses them and will then send them to a destination email address, FTP site, or LAN folder. This is all handled automatically.

    This new software is not currently released, but will be soon. It will offer two very highly compressed file formats. One offers a one minute file in under 50K and the other a one minute file in under 90K. We feel this is a requirement with todays cellular services.
    Fred
  9. #9  
    Fred, I was just quoting what Audacity's website said. I guess they are talking about what contacts Audacity integrates with from an addressing point of view. In fact, I downloaded a demo of Audacity Pro and can't see how that limits me from using my Treo address book, so I'm not sure why Audacity bother to mention it on their website.

    However, there is a different and worse functionality problem...

    Network setup requires you to fill in "the IP address of the Host PC running the AST LAMx program". However, my carrier gives my handset a dynamic IP... it changes with each session. So I can't put an IP address in that dialogue.

    I want to send the voice file wirelessly from my handset. That's the thing that would make me buy the app. But I can't work out how to do that given the network setting problem.

    (I think.)
    Last edited by Virt; 07/13/2004 at 10:29 AM.
  10. #10  
    Virt, I think the Outlook reference is as follows. Outlook can be made to Sync with the Palm Contact list. I have mine set to do so. Audacity can be programmed to pull information from the Contact list. For instance I can set it to inport an email address. There is no direct link to Outlook, only through the Palm Contact list.

    Regards the Cellular Sending feature: You would need a static IP address for it to work. Actually, the version of code you have will probably not work at all as a working version has not been released yet. Audacity Audio plans to come out with a service for people like yourself so that you could use the Audacity server to transport your files. Then you don't need to worry about the technology.
    Fred
  11. #11  
    Thanks Fred. Yes, upon looking at the dialogue it seems clear it's asking for the static IP of my desktop PC ... which also BTW has a dynamic IP, and hence, that feature wont work.

    I look forward to the new version.
  12. #12  
    Quote Originally Posted by Virt
    Thanks Fred. Yes, upon looking at the dialogue it seems clear it's asking for the static IP of my desktop PC ... which also BTW has a dynamic IP, and hence, that feature wont work.

    I look forward to the new version.
    Check out www.dyndns.org
    It will allow you to set up a static IP address that always points to your changing dynamic IP address (it's free, but takes some learning to set up)
  13. #13  
    Thanks wcarlson40. Very interesting!
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    #14  
    I think the originator of this thread also works for Audacity. It's his second post and he basically writes an extensive essay on why you should pick Audacity over any other voice recorder. (sounds fishy). And the only other person that agrees with his assesment is only posting for the second time as well. THINK ABOUT IT.
  15. #15  
    It did strike me as fishy but I have to agree that Audacity, while not perfect, is the best voice recorder.
    "Computer games don't affect kids; I mean if Pac-Man affected us as kids, we'd all be running around in darkened rooms, munching magic pills and listening to repetitive electronic music." -Kristian Wilson, Nintendo, 1989
  16. #16  
    Thanks for the info.

    I am using the SoundRec 1.051 (free) from www.infinityball.com. I had trouble at first because the sound quality playback was very poor when I set it to record directly to my 128MB card, but I finally got a setting that works on my Treo600: in recording prefs: RECORDING VOLUME 2 and SOUND QUALITY 10 kHz, with SAVE TO EXTERNAL CARD set. Works fine. I recorded a 60 second clip which saved at 1.177MB on my card. Calculating this further, if my 128MB card were empty, I could record and store 6525 seconds, or 108.75 minutes! Not bad!

    I could easily pop the card into my desktop computer because it has a built-in card reader and the playback sounded very clear. It also sounded fine on the Treo.
  17. psg2103's Avatar
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    #17  
    thanks for the informative thread. i would use my treo to record interviews and long files (half hour to 2 hours). does any one know if i can use a microphone to improve quality?
    also, if i am NOT interested in sending my files over the phone line, can i use the audactiy personal, or am i missinga lot of functionality?

    thanks guys - (whover you work for) - peter
  18. #18  
    Recording long files is not a problem as long as you have a good SD card, but an external mic will not work. With Audacity on the Treo you can get reasonably good quality at PCM 8 kHz and extremely good quality at PCM 16 kHz. The Audacity Professional has a lot more functionality than the personal. It is targeted toward mobile professionals with dictation needs. That said, if your needs are to records notes for yourself, the Audacity personal will work just fine.
  19. #19  
    I agree with the assessment that Audacity is the best product by far.

    I have the Audacity personal and I like to use it for dictations. One thing I was looking for was the ability to insert additional dictation into a previous dictation. Like for instance dictate 1,2,3 and then remember you had to add something to 2, and go back and insert it. When I was researching this, Audacity was the only program to do this.

    Even though Audacity does not have a Mac conduit, I can still transfer voice files from my SD card to my Mac via Missing sync, and then listen to them via Quicktime or itunes.

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