This article first appeared in HWM June 2012.
Unlike its more full-featured, chunkier and aesthetically-lacking brethren, the Sony ICD-TX50 digital voice recorder is designed to be sleek, easy to use and pocketable. It’s very thin and light; coupled with its black rectangular shape it’s reminiscent of the second-generation iPod nano.
How slim and light, you ask? It’s only 6.4mm deep, and weighs a light 50g. During our use, we alternated between feeling the recorder was delightfully compact, yet way too small. While the TX50 takes up very little space and can be kept in a front pocket, the small size also means tiny buttons. We always had to struggle to identify and press the Play/Forward/Backward buttons on the side, while the Power/Hold slide on the other side has precious little real estate for grip.
The TX50’s LED screen is not just small - it’s tiny. Resting just above the Stop and Rec/Pause buttons, the display takes up about one-eighth of the total front panel, making indicators a little hard to make out. It begs one to ask why a bigger screen with bigger fonts wasn’t used; the rest of the TX50’s front panel is an unused blank.
When recording, the display powers off after a while, and the only indicator that the device is still recording is a tiny red dot, which is easy to miss if you’re looking at your interviewee while the TX50 is on the desk in front of you. Sony, the most important indicator on a gadget needs to be more obvious!
While we ding the TX50 on its form, recording quality is excellent. The TX50 has five recording modes, from uncompressed stereo to compressed mono. Intelligent Noise Cut helps to reduce ambient noise, and the pocket clip doubles as a little stand so the microphone can angle towards the interviewee and doesn’t sit square on the desk.
An integrated noise damper helps isolate surface noises away from the microphone when recording. An audio jack lets you monitor audio while recording (that’s one way to confirm recording and audio levels to circumvent the problem of the hard-to-see recording indicator light). The audio jack also lets you listen to recordings, which means you can double check you have your file and even start transcribing. We didn’t have the software to test this, but Sony says the TX50 is Dragon Naturally Speaking certified, which potentially means time shaved off transcribing.
Audio sounds clean and clear, even when interviewees are sitting leaned back away from the device, the TX50 is able to record their voices. It’s quite likely that you’ll run out of battery before running out of recording disk-space; in our battery test recording highest quality MP3s, the TX-50 lasted an impressively long 29 hours on a full charge, more than the 24 hours specified. If you need to record even more, the 4GB built-in memory can be expanded via a microSD card slot.
The Sony ICD-TX50 is listed on Sony’s website as S$199, which isn’t cheap. But if looks and size are priorities, the TX50 delivers both with great audio recording quality and a long battery life.