Panasonic RR-XR320

Digital voice recorderLike the Olympus unit reviewed above, this is a small, solid-state recorder with no moving parts, which is capable of exchanging audio with computers. Its advantages are small size, durability and the ability to integrate with the digital office, while its disadvantages are high price and the steep learning curve required to master all its features.

The Panasonic RR-"XR320 comes with a proprietary 16MB SD memory card, but will also accept any card conforming to the MultiMedia Card format. It weighs less than 70g including batteries, and is just 16mm thick.

With the supplied memory card, the device can record 30 minutes in high-quality mode, 60 minutes in standard mode, and 150 minutes in long-playing mode. It takes two AAA batteries, and its claimed life is approximately six hours for recording and 11 hours for playback.

It takes a little while, and some study of the manual, to become familiar with the more complex control functions for such tasks as renaming and moving files. However, basic tasks like recording and playback are simple and obvious, and we were able to start using the unit immediately.

The controls are designed for one-handed operation, and while primarily intended for the right hand, all the buttons can be reached with the left. A small jog-wheel control at the top right-hand corner provides a convenient way to navigate menus. The controls beep by default but can be silenced for heavy-duty spy work, which can be enhanced by using the XR320's voice activation facility or automatic recording timer.

The unit records a clear and "distinct sound in its native format. "Its files can be converted to the standard computer format, WAV (8 or 16-bit, sampling rate 8, 11, 16 or 22KHz), using the supplied SD Voice Editor software (voice recognition not included). However, the base unit is not supplied with any means to connect its SD memory card to the computer. Panasonic sells a USB card reader/writer separately.

Panasonic RR-XR320

Price: $829; Phone: 13 2600; URL: www.panasonic.com.au