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In the grand scheme of things I have not long been out of education and in my profession we aim to continually develop our expertise and knowledge so I still go to seminars and lectures regularly. I have had this Sony M-450 microcassette recorder/dictaphone for over two years now and it is still going strong.
Dictaphones are a very useful tool, not just for students but a large number of professions such as police, reporters, artists and just about anyone who is suspicious of certain people and feel the need for some backup evidence! They allow you to record conversations and lectures and play them back at a later date, avoiding losing or forgetting any important details.
The Dictaphone does look quite dated now compared to the newer digital models, however it is still a very functional and attractive machine with easy to use features and buttons. The overall colour is a matt black plastic material, with the silver Sony branding. The only colour on the machine is the red recording button on the side of the machine. The recorder has dimensions of 6.2 cm width x 2.5 cm depth x 11.9 cm height and fits snugly in your hand or pocket. The weight of the recorder is about 100g which is pretty light for carrying about with you.
As mentioned this is not a digital recorder, thus you need to use and buy additional tapes in order to record and play back your recordings. These generally have about an hours worth of recording time and you can pick them up for a couple of pounds online. This can be seen as both a positive and negative attribute in that it might be more reliable to have a hard copy of your recording rather than just a digital file on the player, however it is obviously more expensive and time consuming to use. For my infrequent use this machine is perfect, it used microcassettes and 2 AA batteries.
To record it works just as a dvd/video player would, make sure your tape is in the right place (so as not to record over something important) and press the red record button with the microphone as close to the source of noise as possible to enable a clear and precise recording. Once you want to stop recording you simply press the stop button and can rewind/play/fast forward as you wish. Overall the M-450 records well and is crystal clear and audible on playback.
The Dictaphone has 2-speed recording that lets you double or slow your recording time to cram more onto the tapes and a built in speaker for playing back that it pretty good quality for the size and price of machine. There is a LED battery level indicator and they last for a fair while I have found anyway. You can also insert your headphones in the standard jack adapter socket.
I bought this for about £35 new and they are available from around the £20 mark on Amazon and Play.com which is an absolute bargain. Sony is a great quality and reliable brand anyway, but the player is robust and well made in my opinion. I would not recommend this recorder for someone who needs regular, long recordings as the price of tapes will be too high, but for someone like me it is perfect.
Everyone has one of those moments every now and again where you cannot remember what your mates said or you can't remember a particularly important bit of information from your lecture. I am one of those people who tends to go to sleep after about 25 minutes of hearing someone talk at me, so 1hr long lectures were starting to become quite unproductive for me. This, i invested in one of these, and then used it to record my lectures, and made notes around certain topics. This allowed me to take notes but also when i got home i could listen back and write them up at my own pace. It was also handy when i did a couple of interviews for the student paper.
In terms of how it looks, it is like a medium sized mobile phone, or perhaps a bit chunkier, but it isn't too large or unsightly, and is black which obviously helps it to fit it anywhere. It is ridiculously easy to use, the record button is bright red, and you simply click it to operate, there is then a fast forward and a rewind button, and a play button. Literally so easy.
It runs on batteries, which obviously is a bit antiquated, but they do an alright job and they certainly last quite well. I haven't changed mine yet and did 6 months of university with them, so i cannot complain at that level of playback.
It uses microcassettes, which again are very old fashioned in the digital age. They are also quite expensive but this did not concern me too much because i just used to record over and over different lectures as they were not needed once i had written them up. It is true that they gradually lose quality after a while but it wasn't something that concerned me too much. The sound quality is very good, and you do get some background noise because of the lack of the digital nature, but these were far cheaper and that is why i decided to invest in this effort.
A good basic recorder but for more developed needs get a digital one.
I bought the M450 Dictaphone some time ago as I needed to record some lectures and interviews. I had this in the days before digital recording devices were so commonplace. It is a tried and tested piece of technology and the reason why I bought the Sony Dictaphone, is that many years ago as a young teenager, I had another Sony Dictaphone that used micro cassettes. This model looked very similar to the early 90s one that I had and performed the same functions using the same media.
It is just about pocket sized, and is around the size of a medium sized mobile phone. The device is very easy to use; it is simple with play, record stop and cue buttons. The record button cannot be missed as it is bright red there is a speaker on the front of the machine and a microphone at the very top, that you can point towards the subject that you want to record.
It uses two AA batteries, which last quite a long time for an analogue device that is running motors to move the tape. It can go through long cycles of playback and recording without draining the batteries, and even when the batteries are low, it does not cut out immediately, but slows down the recording or the speech, so at least you can get some use out of a dying battery.
The tapes, I found, were quite expensive, and if you wanted to keep your recordings, you need to buy lots of tapes. You can reuse the tapes, but after a while re-recording over them, they will suffer a loss in quality.
Not being a digital device, the unit is not silent and it does emit some noise when in use. This is due to the motors that are used, so it is not really suitable for secret recording as it has that distinct 'tape' recording sound. I have found that as the unit has suffered more and more use, the noise of the machine has got louder, sometimes with an intermittent squeaking from the tape wheels. When the recording reaches the end of the tape it also stops with quite a loud noise of the button popping back up, so it is not exactly a discreet way of recording.
The Microcassetes are able to take up to an hours recording on each side depending on the brand and recording speed. You can select the speed to record for longer, but this does reduce quality and also it could cause playback problems on other devices that do not play at the same speed that it was recorded.
When recording, I have noticed that the machine picks up a great deal of background noise and if there is anyone moving or talking in front of your subject, it will pick up the closest, loudest sound which can spoil your recording. If you are looking to record things that need a lot of definition, such as birdsong this is not really suitable as it picks up too much other noise. For lectures it's suitable as long as the lecture hall is reasonably quiet and you point the microphone directly at the speaker, or lay it on the desk in front of them.
If I were to buy a new Dictaphone, I would not go for a microcassette one again. I would spend the extra money and invest in a digital recording device as I think that the tapes have had their day.
This type of dictaphone seems really old-fashioned now, and shows its age in terms of looks, but I think it´s still an excellent dictaphone that does the job brilliantly. If you´re a professional, you probably wouldn´t use this, but for the rest of us, it´s perfect.
The product is well-designed, with the tape slotting into the front and all the buttons you need on the side - it´s really easy to control with one hand, and everything can be quickly learnt and mastered. Sound comes out from the speaker at the bottom, and while it´s a bit crackly and faint sometimes, it´s generally of a good enough quality, although you need to be quite close to your speaker - it wouldn´t be ideal in a lecture theatre, for instance.
There aren´t really any negatives to the product - obviously this isn´t a very modern machine, and doesn´t look as good as the newer versions, but it also isn´t anywhere near as expensive. It is pretty basic in terms of its features, but after a while of using the new versions, I realised that I didn´t really bother with uploading the audio files to my computer - I just preferred to listen to them over and over again. As such, this is an ideal machine for someone who just wants a basic, functional dictaphone.
It can be bought for not much online and perhaps in some shops, although the Sony shop don´t stock the older models now. I would recommend trying to find it.
I purchased the M 450 dictaphone several years ago, when I regularly attended lectures and needed to keep notes. It was very difficult to takes notes while keeping my attention fixed on what the lecturer was saying next. When I purchased the Dictaphone however, I could take a seat in the lecture room, set the device to record and enjoy the speech without worrying about being track of my notes.
This is not the most stylish device in terms of appearance. With dimensions of 6.2 cm x 2.5 cm x 11.9 cm, it is charcoal grey in colour with chunky buttons lined up on the upper side. All the buttons are comprised of dark grey plastic, with the exception of Record, which is red. The buttons are easy to use, and offer little resistance when depressed. The microphone is built into the upper right corner of the device, and so the Dictaphone must be angled towards the speaker by this region.
I wanted a model that would pick up sounds from a distance of at least twenty metres. This product is able to pick up sound adequately from just such a distance, although during playback you do notice a large amount of background interference, and a constant droning sound. When you are playing the cassette there is some echoing in the voices it picks up, but unless there is significant obstruction voices tend to remain easily detectable to the ear. When the Dictaphone is recording it does not emit an enormous amount of sound, but there is a detectable whirring sound that can be a little off putting in an especially silent room. Similarly, if the cassette reaches the end during Record mode, it has a tendency to snap off and once again, this can be off putting in a silent environment.
The M 450 runs off two AA batteries, and I have found that using the device 2 - 3 times per week the batteries can last in excess of three months. This can be a difficult device to disguise - both in terms of its bulk and the sound it emits during recording - should you wish to record information discreetly. However, for around £25 it offers you the option of registering a wealth of information that your brain might not otherwise retain. I have made ample use of this product, and as long as those around you are tolerant of your recording it will provide you with many hours of details.