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on October 20, 2004
I read the reviews on Amazon and checked out the Olympus and other recorders...nothing touches this one for usability. Therein lies some of the problem. I'm a techie and still can't use it in the dark when driving. As a master's student, it has proved invaluable in lecture. On the (CONF-Hi) setting, it easily picks up even the whiniest professor's voice at a 15 foot range. The main reason I purchased the ICD-BM1 was it's 5 Dragon award from Dragon Natually Speaking(DNS). I use DNS v7.3 and have found it trained easily and has around 95% accuracy (down a few points from another reviewer) probably because I impatiently read the 1 hr training script in 40 minutes. It's very small and extremely light. The case has two velcro'd places for additional memory sticks. However, since it can use 128mb (not pro)I rarely swap sticks. I use the 128 for class related info and the others for personal life - maybe that's why I rarely swap - I have no personal life. One more thing, it's fabulous with DNS for dictating emails while driving. This allows emailing to family friends that would otherwise not hear from me as often. Great product!!!!

When first setting up the unit I found the battery door was very difficult to get open - but dismissed it figuring how often would I be replacing batteries? It turns out the door has now become unstable and sits in a slightly open position, popping open at will. When the batteries come out unnoticed, I have to reset the date/time etc.

After contacting Sony I learned that IF they determine it is a manufacturing defect versus user abuse, they will exchange the unit. The problem is... the unit received in exchange will not be new, rather it will be used (refurbished).

A warranty should repair or replace with a new unit - especially manufacturing defects. I'm disappointed in Sony.

Rather than do without the unit only to receive a used unit, I've decided to tape the door shut.
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on April 11, 2004
I've had this unit for approximately 5 months, during which time it has been almost continuously strapped to my belt.
The unit is finished very well, with a brushed aluminum case and a belt case that allows quick removal of the recorder, and also for storage of spare Memory Sticks in 2 pouches on the side.
If you own other Sony devices, this one uses the same USB trransfer cable, and also of course takes the Memory Stick cards which are proprietary to the Sony brand.
The software was simple to install and operate, though I was a little disappointed that unlike the cheaper Sony ICD-MS515, this unitl is not shipped with the Dragon Naturally Speaking software. The Sony codec is not installed to the PC for encoding, only decoding. The internal mic has adjustable sensitivity, but I use it mainly on the conference microphone setting rather than the dictation, because I rarely use it for the latter. The intermal mic provides very adequate audio quality, picking up speech from 10-15 feet away without excessive noise, though I'm sure an external would be even better. The built in speaker is barely adequate!
However, when compares to that MS515, the operation of the unit itself is much simpler. Those of you that hate software menus and prefer solid switches and buttons will love this unit. Although there is a configuration menu, most operations are accomplished with the use of high quality switches. For example, the main toggle allows the user to switch between record, stop and play effortlessly, and inserting or adding to an existing recording is easily done. In fact, I would say that it's designed to operate like the earlier generation tape devices, but without the limitations of that medium - easy.
The quality of sound from this equipment is far in excess of what will normally be required. the High quality setting operates at a sampling rate of 44kHz, similar to CD quality, and when played back on a PC with good qualityh speakers, it shows. The medium quality is more than adequate for most purposes, and will provide you up to approx 20 hours of recording on a 128MB memory stick - more than adequate for me. I don't even bother using the lowest quality setting, although it's adequate for most purposes and substantially free from artefacts, as are the other modes.
I use NiMH batteries rather than disposable alkaline, my small contribution to the planet, and I do find that the batteries will last for about 4 hours of recording, whereas high performance alkalines would last much, muich longer. the main power switch can tend to be knocked on or off in the carry case, which can be annoying, but actually, it uses very little power unless in an active mode such as recording or playback, so I don't see that as a fatal flaw. Inserting and removing the Memory Stick is a snap, there being a solid click when the card is properly positioned, and the display confirms that the card is being read, and how much space (relatively) remains. The display is easy to read, and can be configured to tell you different information about such as time remaining on card, time spent on this track, volume levels (VU meters) etc. easily be pressing the display button.
All in all, although I have had the opportunity to trade this unit for another, I declined to do so. It's worth mentioning also that this recorder is sufficiently advanced to be used even for legal recording and transcription (IMO) with the optional paddle equipment.
As with all free information, your mileage may vary....
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on July 18, 2005
I have been using Dragon Naturally Speaking with the Sony BM1, the Sony mx-20 and the olympus dm-20. (All rate well with Scansoft)

The BM1 is the most professional, easiest to use, most powerful and very accurate with DNS7/8. But why do they design a cheap plastic flap to cover the USB port which has to be opened and closed frequently? After using it for a few months the flap will not close. It doesn't affect the operation but for such an expensive machine it is sloppy and annoying. Sony wants 63 bucks to fix it, but a repair will not likely last long either. They might send me a refurbished one for slightly less, but the same problem obtains.

The docking station (from Olympus) would be the best solution.

Not worthy of Sony, but it's the best I have found.

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on April 24, 2004
I checked around several places before I made my BM-1 purchase. First of all, these puppies were hard to find anywhere much less get anyone on the phone who could tell me very much about the product. I found what I was looking for at where I was able to speak to someone who could explain in more detail to me how the Sony BM 1 would work with Dragon NaturallySpeaking Pro which I also own. The accuracy with the recorder is about 98% which I'm very pleased with. The slide switch is great because all the main functions are in one place.
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on September 9, 2005
Microcassette portable dictating machines all have a single slide switch for Record/Stop/Playback/Rewind. Long experience has shown that is the best control mechanism for actually doing dictation vs. recording something. Most of the Sony and other brand portable flash-based recorders have buttons scattered all over them, making dictation a real pain. This model is the rare exception. It's not built quite as much like a tank as traditional microcassette units but it's lots more rugged than most of Sony's and other brand's "consumer" recorders. My major complaint is that the "insert" function is not as easy to get to as it should be, considering that is one of the most important features of a flash-based dictating machine.
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on April 10, 2004
At last a voice recorder with 44.1 Hz sound that uses removable media. No one can match it at the moment. True easy to use buttons and slide switch as that of a traditional recorder. Shame sony decided not to make it compatible with memory stick pro. Consider the Olympus DS-2200 before buying as it has similar voice quality and uses the much preferred xD-Picture Card. However I don't think it supports voice recognition software such as Dragon naturally speaking which the sony does.
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on June 28, 2006
I brought this for kids to record their violin lessons. It records in CD quality. As far as I know, this is the only brand voice recorder that so small and still record in CD quality (16bit/44Khz). We have it for about two years and still working fine.
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on May 8, 2004
I returned the Sony ICB BM1 due to the loud audible "click" it inserts into the recording whenever it is paused. Sony tech support said that it was a characteristic of all BM1's, not just the unit I had. Then I find that the Sony Voice Editor software is incompatible with my Windows XP Media Center pc, and the more current Voice Editor software which came with the BM1 does a "dirty" uninstall (leaves it's own dll files in the windows\system folder rather than the Windows dll files it replaced). This caused my Sony ICD MS515 Voice Editor software (an earlier version) not to work. After a week back and forth with Sony tech support, their conclusion is that ALL Sony Voice Editor software is incompatible with Windows XP Media Center pc's, and I was just out of luck that my older Sony ICD MS515 Voice Editor (and the recorder) wouldn't work now after working fine for seven months. I'll never by Sony again, and am waiting for the new Olympus DS-2200.
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on March 25, 2004
I just bought this Sony ICD-BM1 and I am very unhappy with it. First off, there's no way to write-protect your messages. Once you record something, it's very easy to accidentally record over it. You can't save or lock or protect your recordings! This is a major problem because of the slide switch. All you have to do is accidentally push past stop and you'll start recording over your message.
I recorded something last night and one of my coworkers accidentally recorded over part of it just now!!! Infuriating! Now you just hear me screaming "no, no, no!" as I'm trying to stop the damage.
There's also no pause or hold feature to prevent you from accidentally turning the recorder on and killing your batteries. The off/on toggle can very easily be switched on in your bag.
At this price level, you'd expect better features from a brand like Sony. Shame on them. I'm furious with them and hope I can return it.
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on January 19, 2009
Pros: sound quality, small file size, small recorder size
Cons: no compact dictation headset offered by Sony, omnidirectional internal mic, battery door easily broken and if broken, recorder loses power and ongoing function in a flash

I have used this recorder for several years. It is the most recent of several Sony recorders I have tried, all with good to excellent fidelity. However, this one has been the most flexible. It tracks the date & time of each recording, the file sizes are very small (less than 1/10th the size of comparable quality *.wav files), the recorder allows multiple user named folder names (named using PC, not the recorder itself) which is great for organization flexibility and the recorder has been fairly reliable.

The BM1 is also fairly power efficient and works well with Sanyo enelope rechargeable NiMH batteries, though not as long as with alkaline batteries (of course). However, NiMH batteries, along with a quality microprocessor controlled battery charger, can certainly save a lot of battery expense, turnover and environmental waste disposal problems. Be aware however, that only the Sanyo enelope (and similar) style batteries have a long usable charged life. Regular NiCAD and NiMH batteries markedly self-discharge (even without use) in only one month and are only OK for heavy daily use, not intermittent use on demand.

Sony ICD-BM1 problems include a battery door which is typically reliable for considerable use; but be careful to never put batteries in backward and try to push the battery door closed: this can easily break the tiny/fragile door retaining mechanism, then the door won't stay closed and the recorder keeps losing power any time battery contact is not good for an instant. Repairing this problem is complex, not easy, even with the Sony Service manual and diagrams in hand. Obtaining Sony parts is also not easy or inexpensive, especially through "service dealers". Loss of battery power does not lose your recording, but it takes many seconds for the BM1 to power back up and reload the Memory Stick files while the user has to wait.

Another problem with the Sony ICD-BM1 recorder (and other brands) is that Sony does not offer any compact hands-free noise-cancelling headsets. A noise cancelling headset, which can significantly reduce background noise (like most recorders the internal microphone is omnidirectional and will pickup lots of sounds you may not want), would be a great addition. I utilize an ETYCOM Handsfree Mobile Phone Headset with the Sony ICD-BM1. While cutting background noise, this headset also greatly improves usability by allowing hands free recording; one can utilize both hands for manipulating paperwork and other needed issues. Having one hand tied up holding the recorder is inefficient, though still required for editing on the fly. However, a problem with the ETYCOM, and most other mics I have tried, is poor match of mic sensitivity with the Sony ICD-BM1's mic pre-amp circuits. I set the ICD-BM1 to conference mode, yet the recorded volume is still a bit low and VOR recording may not work as well as desirable, though the fidelity remains quite good. Recording volume can later be increased using a PC an the built-in Microsoft Sound Recorder software with the "Increase Volume" option, or other, more sophisticated sound file manipulation software.

I have attached photos, on the Sony Style website listing, review tab, for the Sony ICD-BM1 recorder[..] of the BM1 with Handsfree Headset alone, and with both units within the pocket cases supplied by their respective vendors. Notice in the first image the battery door popped open; this instantly turns off power when it pops open/will no stay closed. Notice, in the second image, the useful side pockets for an extra memory stick and an extra pair of AAA batteries, in this case Sanyo enelope rechargeable batteries.
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