Dictation Machine: Review & Recommendations

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Welcome to our big dictation machine test 2020, where we present you all dictation machines we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information for you and also added a summary of customer reviews on the web.

We would like to make the purchase decision easier for you

You can also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer you interesting test videos. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should pay attention to if you want to buy a dictation machine.

The most important facts in brief

  • Dictation machines make it possible to record meetings, lectures, interviews or your own ideas without having to write a word.
  • A basic distinction is made between analogue and digital dictation devices. Especially digital dictation devices are available with very different specifications and in different price ranges.
  • Digital dictation machines can be used for practically all recordings. Analogue dictation devices look nostalgic and are very easy to use.

Dictaphone Test: The Ranking

1st place: Dr.Meter digital dictation machine

2nd place: TENSAFEE 8 GB dictation machine Sound recorder

Platz 3: Olympus LS-P4 PCM Musik- und Sprachaufzeichnungsgerät

4th place: Victure digital dictation machine

5th place: Etekcity 8GB digital dictation machine

6th place: aLLreLi Digital dictation machine CP00341

Place 7: ieleacc 16GB 2018 MP3-Player Bluetooh

Place 8: Hommie Bluetooth 4.0 Touch Control Panel Metal 8GB MP3 Player

Guide: Questions you should consider before buying a dictation machine

How does a dictation machine work and for whom is it suitable?

In principle, a recording device is suitable for anyone who wants to make sound recordings quickly and easily.
Be it your own ideas, a conference, an interview or a lecture, every sound is captured and recorded.

In most cases people speak faster than you can write down.

Dictation machines are therefore suitable for doctors or lawyers who, for example, want to draft letters and then have them typed.

Journalists and bloggers need dictation machines to record interviews.

For students it is sometimes better to record a lecture for safety and not just rely on the notes.

But also for musicians recording devices are not uninteresting, because with some devices also own music ideas or concerts can be recorded.

What is the difference between mono and stereo?

This distinction is based on the number of channels used for recording. In mono, only one channel is recorded, whereas in stereo, two channels are recorded.
This means that when a recording is played back through headphones, the sound is either heard in one ear only or in both.
However, mono is only suitable for voice recordings with one speaker.

Authors of diktiergeraet-tests.de consumer magazine
Dictation is also an interpersonal communication, but with a time lag. Therefore, there are some basic rules that must be observed so that no information is lost.
It is important to remember that the voice memo must also be typed. Therefore, instructions should be precise and unambiguous and foreign words as well as proper names should be dictated as a spelling alphabet.
(Source: diktiergeraet-tests.de)

As soon as there are several speakers and they want to be assigned spatially, a stereo recording is absolutely necessary.

Furthermore, stereo recordings are less susceptible to noise and have a much better sound quality.

What accessories and connections are available?

The following accessories are often used in conjunction with dictation machines:

External microphones
Headphones
USB cable
Foot switch

External microphones can be used to create even more targeted recordings, because the microphone can be brought directly to the speaker.

Using headphones, recordings can be monitored during recording and listened to later.

To get recordings to a computer, you need a USB cable.

Foot controls can be useful when transcribing because they allow you to start and stop recording with your hands free.

Accordingly, it can also be useful to check whether a dictation machine has the following features:

  • Headphone jack
  • USB connection
  • Input for microphones

foot control can be connected via USB to some dictation machines as well as to your PC.

How much does a dictation machine cost?

Simple dictation machines are available from 20 euros. Of course, with these machines you usually have to make sacrifices in terms of workmanship, equipment and sound quality.
The middle price range is between 80 and 250 Euros. These recorders are best suited for normal use.
Mobile recording devices, which are more specifically designed for music recording, start at about 300 Euros. The price can rise into the four-digit range.

Where can I buy a dictation machine?

Wherever you find consumer electronics, you can usually buy recording equipment.
You’ll quickly find what you’re looking for in music stores, and sometimes even supermarkets have special offers on dictation machines.
Popular stores and platforms for buying recorders are

amazon.com
thomann.com
musicstore.com
otto.com
Media Market
Saturn

Can I also rent a recording device?

Yes, it’s possible. Especially at universities and in larger companies there is often rental equipment. There are also private persons who rent their equipment.
Especially in larger cities there are some companies which are specialized in renting various electrical appliances.

Did you know that there is an application that converts voice recordings into text documents?
With modern speech recognition, the effort of a classic transcription can be reduced considerably. The dictation machine itself cannot do this, but this application can be purchased via the App Store.

Decision: What types of Dictaphones are available and which one is right for you?

Dictation machines basically differ in the type of recording technology.

Meanwhile, in the age of mobile communication, smartphones have advanced so far that they can also function as a recording device.

All devices should have in common that they can record speech and play it back.

In the following we will present three variants:

  • Analogue dictation machines
  • Digital dictation machines
  • Dictation app for the smartphone

In the following section we would like to help you find out which type of audio recorder is best for you.

For this purpose we present the above mentioned variants with their individual advantages and disadvantages.

What distinguishes an analogue dictation machine and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

With analogue dictation machines, recordings are stored on small cassettes with a memory capacity of 30 to 60 minutes. They work with a magnetic tape.

This has a limited service life and is exposed to the risk of damage from external influences.

Advantages

Simple operation
Nostalgia, if this plays a role

Disadvantages

Little storage space
Susceptible to vibrations
Recordings not directly transferable to the PC
Records only linear

Analog dictation devices are often used nowadays for nostalgic reasons. They offer no significant advantages over the digital version.

Their operation is usually very simple, but only because the devices have few functions.

A disadvantage of an analogue dictation machine is that it can only record linearly.

This means that if you rewind and want to make an addition within the recording, the device will overwrite the previous recording.

What distinguishes a digital dictation machine and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Digital recording devices store recordings in the so-called internal flash memory. This offers the advantage of a large recording capacity.

Furthermore the power consumption is lower and deleting old recordings is very fast. USB sticks and memory cards work on the same principle.

Whether it’s interviews that you want to record later on your PC, or long lectures, conferences and concerts.

Recordings can be inserted or dubbed at any position of an already existing recording.

Advantages

Easy transfer and storage on the PC
Wide range of devices for every purpose
Often with additional functions
Fast and power-saving flash memory

Disadvantages

Sometimes complex service
Large selection of products makes selection more difficult

The range of digital dictation devices is very wide in terms of price and performance.

That’s why you should think intensively about how you plan to use your dictation machine and which features it should have before you buy it.

What distinguishes a dictation app for the smartphone and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

A dictation app is an application software that uses the smartphone microphone to record audio.

To be able to use it, all you need is a corresponding installed, free or paid app and enough free disk space.

The main advantage of this variant is that a smartphone has now become an everyday object and no separate hardware is required.

Advantages

No separate purchase of hardware necessary
Free of charge or favourable price

Disadvantages

Without extra microphone usually no good sound quality
Memory and battery as limiting factors

Due to the limited memory capacity of the smartphone, the memory-consuming recordings can be a limiting factor.

If you want to use a dictation app, it may be advisable to buy an additional microphone for your smartphone.

This gives you better sound quality and more focused recordings when there is more than one speaker.

Purchase criteria: You can compare and rate dictation machines based on these factors

In this section we will show you what you can use to compare and evaluate dictation machines before you buy them.

This will make it easier for you to decide whether a particular device is suitable for you or not.

In principle we consider the following criteria to be important:

  • Storage capacity
  • Internal memory
  • External memory
  • Recording duration
  • Audioformat
  • Power supply
  • Connections
  • Gestaltung

In the following paragraphs you can read what the individual purchase criteria are and how you can classify them.

Storage capacity

The storage capacity of your dictation machine determines how many hours of audio you can record before you have to store or delete the data elsewhere.

There is a crucial difference between analogue and digital devices in terms of the underlying technology.

With analogue dictation machines, recordings are stored on cassettes with magnetic tape.

This tape consists of plastic and is coated with a magnetisable material.

Mostly you will find mini cassettes in analog recorders, which give you space for about 30 minutes of audio.

With digital dictation machines the situation is different. This type of memory is called “flash memory”.

This can also be found in USB sticks, mobile phones or SD cards. The capacity is measured in the following units as standard:

  • Bit
  • Byte
  • Megabyte
  • Gigabyte
  • Terabyte

One bit is the smallest possible unit. It can only assume one value, i.e. “on/off”, “yes/no” or “1/0”.

The following applies:

  • 8 bits = 1 byte
  • 1,000,000 Bytes = 1 Megabyte
  • 1,000 Megabytes = 1 Gigabyte
  • 1,000 Gigabytes = 1 Terabyte

How many minutes of audio this corresponds to depends on the quality and compression of the files, so we cannot make a general statement about this.

However, we have also given the estimated maximum recording time for each of the devices presented on this page.

Internal memory

Internal memory is a storage medium that is permanently installed in the dictation machine and cannot be removed.

Analog dictation machines generally do not have an internal memory, since cassettes only allow a relatively short recording time and must be removed for data storage at another location.

This principle does not apply to digital dictation devices, but there are also devices that have no internal memory.

Make sure that the size of the internal memory is tailored to your needs and that the price-performance ratio is reasonable.

For devices that support external storage media, you may be able to neglect the internal memory.

External memory

External storage media are not permanently installed in the device. This means that they must be used separately and can be replaced.

With analogue dictation machines it is quite normal that cassettes can be removed and replaced.

This is why every analogue dictation machine also has a cassette deck.

Digital dictation machines that already have internal memory do not necessarily have to be able to insert an external storage medium.

But if there is the possibility to expand the memory, mostly SD cards are used.

Some digital dictation machines work exclusively via external storage media.

However, many devices have an internal memory and can be expanded with an external memory in the form of SD cards if required.

If you feel that the internal memory of a device may be insufficient, make sure that the recorder supports external storage media.

Recording duration

The recording time depends on the amount of data that fits on a cassette or memory card. The other decisive factor is the quality of the audio files.

Basically, the larger the memory, the more minutes of recordings.

However, the quality of the recordings is also an important factor that affects the recording duration.

A higher quality of the recordings and a lower compression rate have a negative effect on the recording duration.

Audioformat

Basically, a distinction is made between three different types of audio formats:

  • Uncompressed
  • Lossless compressed
  • Lossy compressed

In data compression, the amount of data is compressed or reduced so that a file is smaller at the end than before.

With the loss-free compression

For audio recordings, uncompressed data is therefore of higher quality, but compressed data requires less storage space.

The most common audio formats for dictation machines are:

  • Audio cassette (analog dictation devices)
  • MP3
  • WAV
  • WMA
  • MP4

The audio cassette and WAV are uncompressed formats. Lossless compressed are the Windows format WMA and the Apple format MP4.

With MP3, recordings are compressed in a lossy way, but of the audio formats listed here, they require the least storage space.

Power supply

There are only two possibilities for the power supply:

  • Akku
  • Batterie

Batteries are permanently installed in the device and must be charged. Batteries are changed when they are empty and are therefore disposable products.

Depending on how you want to use your dictation machine, batteries or a rechargeable battery may make more sense.

If you have no power source for a longer period of time, batteries are very suitable.

Otherwise, rechargeable batteries are usually preferable for cost reasons and because of the aspect of sustainability and environmental protection.

Connections

Depending on the dictation machine, different connections are needed. The following connections are particularly popular:

  • Headphone jack
  • Connection for an external microphone
  • USB connection (for digital dictation machines)

A headphone jack is important to be able to check the recording while it is still being made or to listen to the recordings afterwards.

In contrast, external microphones are often used to improve the quality of the recordings.

If you plan to use an external microphone, you should make sure that your dictation machine has such a connection.

A digital dictation machine should always have a USB port so that you can easily connect it to your PC to transfer data.

Gestaltung

Large, heavy dictation machines are usually somewhat more robust and do not break so quickly.

But small, light dictation machines usually even fit into the Hosentasc

Basically orientate yourself on the following factors:

  • Dimensions
  • Weight
  • Colour

Keep the intended use of your dictation machine in mind at all times and consider which design suits you best.

Trivia: Worth knowing facts about dictation machines

When was the Dictaphone invented?

Already at the end of the 19th century Thomas Alva Edison had the idea of recording sound on aluminium foil.

In 1886 Alexander Graham Bell then invented the graphophone, which captured sounds on wax rollers.

Did you know that the Parlograph was a former Dictaphone?
Carl Lindström, a Swedish manufacturer and technician living in Berlin, developed the Parlograph from the phonograph invented by Thomas Alva Edison and manufactured it from 1910 onwards. The machine had a wax roller and a bell for mechanical recording and playback.

Dictation machines were used for office supplies from the beginning of the 20th century. However, these were much larger and used different techniques than today.

In memory of James Bond – do dictation machines really exist in pens?

Actually, dictation machines, hidden in ballpoint pens as espionage tools, are only known from spy films à la James Bond.

But in fact there are dictation machines that look like pens and can be bought.

The storage capacity and sound quality of such dictation machines are of course not competitive with standard dictation machines.

A nice gadget such dictation machines are of course still – especially if you are a fan of the James Bond series.

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