Philips Digital Pocket Memo 9600

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Philips Digital Pocket Memo 9600
  • Philips Digital Pocket Memo 9600
  • Philips Digital Pocket Memo 9600
  • Philips Digital Pocket Memo 9600

Pros

  • Great sound recording, Host of features, Voice activation quite cool

Cons

  • Interface and controls need some work, Quite costly

Bottom Line

A niche product within an already niche market, the Philips Digital Pocket Memo is a robust recorder that won't suit everyone, but will please aficionados and those after a powerful recording device.

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We don't get many voice recorders through the office, but we were lucky enough to receive the Philips Digital Pocket Memo 9600, and were impressed. It offers every feature the recording aficionado could want, including keyword tags, voice activation and file encryption. The controls and interface are far from intuitive, so we wouldn't recommend this for novice users, but for those who frequently find themselves in need of a voice recorder, the Pocket Memo will be right up your alley.

We tested the Pocket Memo extensively and were thoroughly pleased with the quality of the audio. It uses the .dss (Digital Speech Standard) file format, which is the standard for digital voice recorders. The microphone can be set to one of three sensitivity levels, with the middle option being our setting of choice. At this level, it adequately picked up conversation from halfway across a medium sized room. On the highest sensitivity, this jumped up further, able to pinpoint audio from across the other side of the office. The noise reduction technology worked well to block out external sound and overall, we were thoroughly satisfied with the Pocket Memo's recording capabilities.

However where this unit really shines is its features list, which is more robust than those of most home entertainment devices. To start with, you are given the ability to mark a recording with a keyword, which can be either the type of file (Memo, Letter, List etc), the device used to record, or something you enter yourself. You can also place index marks at important intervals in the recording and then easily skip back to them throughout the recording. There is even an option to insert notes or extra pieces of audio into a file without overwriting the current audio.

Furthermore, you are also given the option of voice activation, which will activate the device upon saying certain keywords. It runs you through a quick check to attune the device to your voice, then you're all set.

Our main issue with the Pocket Memo is its interface as it is an extremely confusing device to use. The menu text seems to change size at random and the not everything is clearly marked. Similarly, the controls are difficult to use and comprised of two selection keys, a menu button, volume keys and a slider and record button on the side. The slider corresponds to options that appear on the side of the screen, but it isn't as responsive as we'd like and the way it changes depending on your mode is quite confusing. For example, you can hit the record button, but this won't automatically start recording. Instead this puts the device into record mode, and you then need to use the slider to actually start recording. Once you have everything figured out, you can operate the unit with relative ease, however that doesn't change the fact that it is much more complicated than it needs to be. Novice users should stay away from this device, because it requires perseverance to make the most of it.

The Philips Digital Pocket Memo 9600 comes bundled with SpeechExec Pro Dictate, which is the central nervous system of the device. While some settings can be changed from the Pocket Memo itself the more advanced configuration options are only available when it is hooked up to a PC. Connection is achieved via a handy dock that runs to the PC via a USB 2.0 cable. Plugging it in for the first time brings up the configuration utility, which allows you to change all kinds of things, ranging from recording mode through to microphone sensitivity and voice activation. You can choose to keep the file in .dss format, convert it to WAV, or even encrypt it with a PIN code to secure your recordings.

Files are written to an SD card, rather than internal memory which is both a boon and a curse. On one hand, there is an extra cost associated with the purchase, adding to an already expensive price tag, but on the other hand you can control the amount of storage you want. The files tend to come out fairly small, with a 20 second test WAV taking up just 50kb of space.

The unit's design is quite sturdy, with a stiff, aluminium casing that can take a few knocks. The controls are all well mounted and while it is difficult to envisage a voice recorder ever being considered attractive, the Pocket Memo looks just fine. It has a smooth, silver colour scheme that won't catch eyes but certainly looks decent.

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