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251 of 266 people found the following review helpful
இ Fuzzy Wuzzy's Summary:
ѾѾѾѾѾ Very highly recommended with warm fuzzies!

I work in high tech and I am also a musician who plays guitars, harmonica, and world-beat/ethnic percussion. So I find portable digital recorders like this to be highly useful on a weekly basis for recording everything from personal dictation of thoughts and ideas, to in-person meetings, to telephone conferences, to jam sessions with my other musician friends, to recording impromptu music ideas and vocals.

Prior to purchasing this Sony ICD-SX712, I frequently used a Sony ICD-SX750 2 GB Flash Memory Digital Voice Recorder (Black). And before that, one of my main portable digital recorders was a Sony MZ-NF810CK Net MD MiniDisc Recorder with Car Kit with a Sony ECM-DS70P Electret Condenser Stereo Microphone for recording music ideas, jam sessions, and rehearsals. Sony's MZ-NF810CK Net MD MiniDisc recorder offered CD-quality digital recording with a full 20Hz-20,000Hz +/-3dB frequency range, along with an AM/FM/TV/Weather tuner. But for years, my one big complaint with Sony's Net MD MiniDisc recorder was that the device had no 'Line Out' or easy method to transfer my digital recordings off of its MiniDisc so that I could perform further editing on the computer.

Even though the "712" number in this ICD-SX712 model is numerically smaller than Sony's previous model of ICD-SX750, I see this model as a substantially improved direct replacement for their previous ICD-SX750 model, which was also priced very similarly. Since I have both the ICD-SX750 and ICD-SX712 recorders, some of this product review will compare the two models.

With the advent of affordable digital recorders that use onboard flash memory and/or Memory Stick Micro (M2) and microSD memory cards, I find myself using my Net MD recorder less and less now. Note that the Sony line of "ICD" recorders are NOT really professional digital audio recorders for recording full-spectrum music, but this ICD-SX712 can still produce a very good CD-quality stereo recording for most kinds of music. Using its best LPCM 44.1 kHz 16-bit recording mode, the ICD-SX712 records a frequency range of 40Hz-20kHz. Depending upon the music that you are wanting to record, this may or may not be sufficient since a dedicated digital audio recorder will go down to 20 Hz. If you really want a digital audio recorder for music applications, I would highly recommend either the Sony PCM-M10/R Portable Linear PCM Recorder, 96-kHz/24-bit, 4GB Memory & USB High-Speed Port, Glossy Red, the Zoom H4n Handy Portable Digital Recorder, both of which will record a pristine 20Hz to 20,000+ Hz frequency range at 96-kHz/24-bit recording mode, or one of the Tascam portable digital recorders. Sony's "ICD" recorder line is more optimized for recording voice (dictation, interviews, meetings), but this ICD-SX712 also does a very good job of recording music. There is not much musical content that goes below the 40Hz sub-bass low end that this ICD-SX712 can record: the low fundamentals of a bass tuba, and the fundamentals of a contrabassoon, harp, double bass, pipe organ, piano.

What is in the box package?

✵ ICD-SX712 Voice Recorder
✵ Two AAA alkaline batteries
✵ "Ear bud" stereo headphones
✵ Mini-USB-to-USB cable to connect the recorder to your computer
✵ Sound Organizer software CD (for Windows 7/Vista/XP only, no Mac support)
✵ Soft carrying pouch sleeve
✵ Stand, with tripod mount, for positioning the recorder's microphone
✵ Highly detailed 155-page all-English 'Operating Instructions' guide

The voice recorder itself has size dimensions of 1 1/4 inches wide by 5 3/8 inches long with a thickness of 5/8 inches, and it weighs 2.3 ounces without batteries and 3.1 ounces with batteries. So it is a quarter-inch longer than my ICD-SX750 and a half-ounce heavier.

More of the ICD-SX712's features are described and rated below:

ѾѾѾѾѾ Excellent 5-fuzzies feature ratings:

ѾѾѾѾѾ The recorded sound quality is excellent with crystal-clear sound clarity, both in its directional and stereo microphone positions. Stereo recordings have excellent three-dimensional spatial imaging. And when the recording level is set to "High" microphone sensitivity, the recorded speech of a distant speaker in a large auditorium is excellent. Sony claims that this recorder can pick up sounds from 25 meters (82 feet) away when using its highest-quality LPCM recording format, and I do not doubt that claim.

ѾѾѾѾѾ Compared to my older ICD-SX750, the ICD-SX712's microphones are noticeably more sensitive for recording even the slightest low-level sounds. My acoustic guitar fingerpicking gets recorded with the subtle sounds of my fingers working the strings, speech and vocals get recorded with the slight sounds of breathing, and the directional recording of a person speaking at the far end of a room or a stereo recording of both nearby and distant birds chirping in the trees all get recorded with great clarity. This new recorder introduces Sony's newly-developed 'S-Microphone System', and it combines advanced audio processing technology with a highly sensitive new microphone that captures even faint or distant subjects with extra clarity while reducing background hiss. A 'S-Master Digital Amplifier' produces great accuracy, clear separation of signals, and balanced sound reproduction using digital-to-digital processing, and the recorded signal is taken through the full-digital DSP stage without additional digital-to-analog conversion.

ѾѾѾѾѾ This voice recorder has lots of features with a great deal of usefulness! Do not feel apprehensive about feeling like you need to read all of this recorder's 155-page 'Operating Instructions' guide. You do not need to read all the pages to begin using this recorder effectively. For quick ease of use initially, you just need to read/skim the first 39 pages. This covers the basics of setup, recording, listening, and erasing. If you will mainly use the recorder for one, two, or three main purposes (e.g. dictation, group meetings, and music recording), you just need to familiarize yourself with a handful of the recorder's options for adjusting its recording parameters to suit each situation. For example, I mainly use my recorder for the following purposes: personal dictation with speech-to-text conversion using Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium 11, recording work-related phone calls, recording a group meeting, and recording musical performances either by me with friends or by others in a music rehearsal setting.

Like the previous ICD-SX750 model, this voice recorder comes with a thorough 'Operating Instructions' guide. On Sony's Web site, I did notice that there is also a simple 'Quick Start Guide' PDF that you can download. I do not know why this 'Quick Start Guide' was not included in the package, but perhaps since this product was only released a month ago, they did not have a printed 'Quick Start Guide' available for packaging at the time?

ѾѾѾѾѾ Setup is pretty simple. The recorder comes with two AAA alkaline batteries. I can also use my own rechargeable AAA batteries. When used with rechargeable batteries, the batteries will recharge whenever I connect the recorder to my computer using the supplied Mini-USB-to-USB cable. Alternately, I can use the USB cord to connect the recorder to a separately-purchased AC adapter, e.g. Belkin Mini Surge Protector Dual USB Charger or Sony's own Sony AC U50AD - Power adapter. Rechargeable batteries take about 4 hours to fully recharge from an empty state. However, with the recorder connected via USB to a turned-on computer or to an AC adapter, I can charge the batteries while still using the recorder, which is very handy for very long recording sessions.

The ICD-SX712 can record in the following formats, listed with their approximate hours of recording time listed for using both fully-charged alkaline and rechargeable batteries, the maximum recording time that can be stored by the internal 2-GB flash memory, and the frequency range that is recorded:

LPCM 44.1kHz/16bit: 25 hrs alkaline, 19 hrs rechargeable; 3 hours 0 minutes; 40-20,000 Hz
MP3 320kbps: 22 hrs alkaline, 17 hrs rechargeable; 13 hours 20 minutes; 40-16,000 Hz
MP3 192kbps: 22 hrs alkaline, 17 hrs rechargeable; 22 hours 20 minutes; 40-16,000 Hz
MP3 128kbps: 22 hrs alkaline, 17 hrs rechargeable; 33 hours 30 minutes; 40-16,000 Hz
MP3 48kbps(MONO): 25 hrs alkaline, 19 hrs rechargeable; 89 hours 25 minutes; 40-14,000 Hz
MP3 8kbps(MONO): 25 hrs alkaline, 19 hrs rechargeable; 536 hours 0 minutes; 50-2,000 Hz

Note that this also means a fresh set of alkaline batteries will often provide significantly longer recording time than rechargeable batteries. This is especially true for rechargeable batteries that have been repeatedly recharged over a long period of time. Overall, this recorder has very good battery life.

Additionally, the recorder has a memory card slot that accepts either a Memory Stick Micro (M2) card of up to 16 GB, a microSD (FAT16) card up to 2 GB, or a microSDHC (FAT32) card from 4 GB to 32 GB. Along with its internal 2-GB of flash memory, I have also equipped my recorder with the Sony Memory Stick Micro M2 16 GB Flash Memory Card with USB Reader. When used with the two largest-capacity memory cards supported by the recorder, I can boost the recording time for each of the recording formats as follows:

LPCM 44.1kHz/16bit: 24 hours 15 minutes (16 GB), 48 hours 40 minutes (32 GB)
MP3 320kbps: 107 hours 0 minutes (16 GB), 214 hours 0 minutes (32 GB)
MP3 192kbps: 178 hours 0 minutes (16 GB), 357 hours 0 minutes (32 GB)
MP3 128kbps: 268 hours 0 minutes (16 GB), 536 hours 0 minutes (32 GB)
MP3 48kbps(MONO): 715 hours 0 minutes (16 GB), 1431 hours 0 minutes (32 GB)
MP3 8kbps(MONO): 4294 hours 0 minutes (16 GB), 8589 hours 0 minutes (32 GB)

And if this is still not enough recording time, I simply switch out the filled-up memory card and insert another empty memory card.

One big difference between the supported recording formats of the previous ICD-SX750 recorder and this ICD-SX712 is that Sony has discarded support for the five LPEC recording formats (STHQ, ST, STLP, SP, LP). LPEC is a compressed-sound codec that is proprietary to Sony. On the ICD-SX750, using a LPEC recording format allowed me to add a bookmark during playback of an LPEC recording, and I could also assign a 1-star, 2-star, or 3-star "priority" ranking to LPEC recordings. These were two nifty little features that I could not use with WAV or MP3 recording formats. But recording with LPEC format also meant that I needed extra Sony software in order to convert the LPEC format to a standard, and more portable, MP3 or WAV format (a function that was performed by the Sony 'Digital Voice Editor' software that was bundled with the ICD-SX750). So now, like Sony's professional line of digital audio recorders, the ICD-SX712 only supports industry-standard LPCM (WAV) and MP3 codec formats.

After inserting the batteries, I set the date and time, select the English/Spanish/French language option, and then I am ready to go!

ѾѾѾѾѾ I can either record the recorder's 2-GB built-in memory, or I can record directly to my installed memory card. Five folders are initially created in the memory card, along with the five initial folders in the built-in memory, and the folder structure is slightly different between the two. I can switch between recording to the built-in memory or to the memory card by pressing either the folder button or the [MENU] button. A nifty 'Cross-Memory Recording' option allows me to automatically continue recording onto the memory card after I have filled up the 2-GB built-in memory. The maximum number of folders that I can have is 400, and the maximum number of files is 4074.

ѾѾѾѾѾ The recorder has flexible file functions, including protecting files from being erased or edited, and moving or copying files. I can rename any of the folders using one of the 16 pre-defined folder name options.

ѾѾѾѾѾ Unlike the ICD-SX750, which had two stereo microphones and a mono/directional microphone located in between the two stereo microphones, this ICD-SX712 only has the two unidirectional stereo microphones. Both microphones have a directional response pattern when they are both pointed forward in a 0-degree angle, and they mimic a cardioid-like microphone response when I use my finger to flip them to face outward at a 120-degree angle for stereo recording. The 0-degree microphone position, with both microphones pointed forward, is great for uses like personal dictation, interviewing someone, or recording a speaker who is either in a conference room or auditorium, where you want to focus the recording in one direction. The 120-degree microphone position is great for recording all surrounding sounds in stereo, such as recording a group meeting or recording a live music rehearsal or concert. The stereo recording does a great job of picking up all left-right and near-far spatial information.

ѾѾѾѾѾ Recording parameters have been simplified with five 'Scene' presets. There are basically three recording parameters that you need to think about in order to use this recorder effectively: the recording format mode, the recording level microphone sensitivity, and whether to record in directional or stereo mode. All of the recorder's other features can be investigated later.

A new 'Scene' function now takes the uncertainty out of adjusting recorder settings to suit your recording situation, and it makes it tremendously easy to quickly switch between five different sets of recording parameters. The five 'Scene' modes are referred to as "Meeting", "Voice Notes", "Interview", "Music", and your own custom "My Scene" preset. For each of the five 'Scene' presets, you can define its own combination of settings for record mode, record level, low cut filter and limiter settings, voice-operated recording, and synchronized recording options. The default settings for each 'Scene' allow for the foolproof recording of clear, natural-sounding results for each situation. You can also edit the defaults for each scene to suit your needs. The 'Scene' terminology reminds me of the 'scene' modes that are widely used in digital cameras, especially the user-friendly point-and-shoot digital cameras, for using pre-programmed camera exposure setups for people who do not want to (or know how to) adjust the settings by themselves. Essentially, you get five easily accessible presets of recording parameters that you can edit, modify, save, and access. On my older Sony ICD-SX750 model, if I wanted to shift gears between personal dictation and recording a live music rehearsal, I had to go into the recorder's menu functions and manually switch my recording parameters each time.

The following describes the five 'Scene Select' menu options, the default recording parameters that are used, and some of my own recommended changes that I made using the 'Scene Edit' function.

✵ "Meeting" :: To record in a variety of situations, such as recording a meeting in a spacious conference room or a lecture in an auditorium.
Default setup: (REC Mode: MP3 192kbps), (REC Level: Medium), (Low Cut Filter: On), (Limiter: Off), (Voice-Operated Recording: Off), (Synchronized Recording: Off)
Notes: Point both microphones forward at a 0-degree angle to focus on one speaker, or at a 120-degree angle to record stereo sounds such as a group meeting where there are multiple speakers from different directions. Set 'REC Level' to "High", instead of "Medium", if the speaker is far away or not speaking loud enough.

✵ "Voice Notes" :: To record dictation with the microphone in front of your mouth. This is also the 'Scene' to use when recording dictation that is to be transcribed into text using Dragon NaturallySpeaking.
Default setup: (REC Mode: MP3 128kbps), (REC Level: Low), (Low Cut Filter: On), (Limiter: Off), (Voice-Operated Recording: Off), (Synchronized Recording: Off)
Notes: Point both microphones forward at a 0-degree angle. Because Dragon NaturallySpeaking needs high-quality recordings for accurate speech recognition transcriptions, I change the default 'REC Mode' to the better "MP3 320kbps".

✵ "Interview" :: To record another human being interviewed.
Default setup: (REC Mode: MP3 192kbps), (REC Level: Medium), (Low Cut Filter: On), (Limiter: Off), (Voice-Operated Recording: Off), (Synchronized Recording: Off)
Notes: Point both microphones forward at a 0-degree angle. I also use this 'Scene' when recording a phone call where I point the recorder at the phone's speakerphone.

✵ "Music" :: To record live music.
Default setup: (REC Mode: LPCM 44.1kHz/16bit), (REC Level: Low(Music)), (Low Cut Filter: Off), (Limiter: Off), (Voice-Operated Recording: Off), (Synchronized Recording: Off)
Notes: Position the microphones at the 120-degree angle to record stereo sounds from all directions. The 'REC Level' microphone sensitivity setting of "Low(Music)" is better for loud music such as band practice or rock music, or when your audio input is a CD player. A 'REC Level' setting of "High(Music)" is better for acoustic instruments, or when your audio input is a tape recorder or portable CD player.

✵ "My Scene" :: Use to store your favorite settings.
Default setup: (REC Mode: LPCM 44.1kHz/16bit), (REC Level: Manual, with the recording level set to "10"), (Low Cut Filter: Off), (Limiter: On), (Voice-Operated Recording: Off), (Synchronized Recording: Off)
Notes: This can be used to store your favorite combination of settings, especially if you use a manually-adjusted recording level that you have configured and want to re-use later. When manually adjusting the recording level, the 'Limiter' function is activated to prevent distortion due to sound bursts being too loud.

All of the 'Scene' recording parameters are displayed on the backlit LCD screen using words or graphical icons.

ѾѾѾѾѾ Compared with the previous ICD-SX750, the ergonomics of the new ICD-SX712's layout have been significantly improved, making it far easier to access all of the recorder's many functions, even if I have not used some of the functions for many months. The ICD-SX750 had a nice LCD display, but I had to access everything through its [MENU] button and all of its record/playback buttons were located on the recorder's right side. On the ICD-SX712, I can now directly access the folder structure from its own dedicated button, the 'Scene Select' option has its own [SCENE] button, and except for the 'VOLUME', 'ERASE', and repeat buttons on the right side, all record and playback buttons are located on the front below the LCD display. The recorder has a 4-way rocker switch that is very intuitive to use, and the menu system makes use of a layout that groups all functions under 5 main tabs, 'Recording', 'Playback', 'Edit', 'LCD Display Settings', 'Recorder Settings', and some tabs use sub-tabs.

ѾѾѾѾѾ A small LED indicator light turns green during playback and turns red during recording operations.

ѾѾѾѾѾ For recording a meeting room that has the background hum of an air conditioner, recording a speaker at a convention or auditorium where there is extraneous noise, or recording someone speaking during gusty winds, setting the 'LCF (Low Cut Filter)' to "ON" will cut out frequencies below 200 Hz (e.g. room ventilation, machinery humming, wind).

ѾѾѾѾѾ There is also an 'NOISE CUT' slider switch that can be used during playback of the recording to cut out both high and low frequencies, thereby focusing more on the midrange frequencies of human voices. This frequency filter can be set to either a "Maximum" or "Medium" mode to enhance human speech and reduce distracting background noise. Compared to the previous ICD-SX750 model's 'NOISE CUT' function, Sony calls their newly-developed filter an 'Intelligent Noise Cut' because, unlike other digital voice recorders that simply cut high and low frequencies, 'Intelligent Noise Cut' analyzes the fingerprint of background noise, removing unwanted frequencies to leave recorded speech sounding crisp and natural. This is highly useful, for example, if you are interviewing someone on a noisy sidewalk.

Sony advertises that this new ICD-SX712 model has a newly-designed acoustic isolation that cuts the transmission of mechanical and handling noise to both microphones from the main recorder. So its microphones are supposedly better decoupled from the main recorder body. But you really should have all of your recording parameters already thought out and set up before you begin recording as various movements of the recorder's switches, pressing of buttons to access and change various recording menu functions (via the backlit LCD screen), flipping the microphones between their 0-degree and 120-degree positions, or sliding of your fingers across the unit will still get included into the recording, even if the microphone sensitivity is set to "Low". Ideally, have the recorder fully set up before the recording, and use the included stand to prop up the microphone. Unless the situation warrants it (e.g. interviewing someone while standing up), try to avoid holding or adjusting the recorder once the recording has started.

ѾѾѾѾѾ Instead of a slider switch that is labeled "On/Off", the on/off switch on this recorder is labeled "POWER/HOLD". To turn the device on or off, I slide the switch to the left. Or I can slide the switch to the right to place the recorder in "HOLD" mode. The "HOLD" mode holds the recorder in whatever operation mode I am using (play, stop, pause, record). When the recorder is on "HOLD" during a certain operation, I cannot accidentally interrupt that function when I carry the recorder around or hold it in my hand. So using this "HOLD" slider switch protects me from inadvertently pressing the "pause" or "stop" button during an extended recording session since the recorder will not respond to the pressing of any buttons while it is in "HOLD" mode.

ѾѾѾѾѾ Whereas the previous ICD-SX750 had a 'DIVIDE' button to dynamically divide an ongoing recording into separate messages, the ICD-SX712 now has a more-flexible 'T-MARK' button to add track marks during recording, playback, or pausing operations. Track marks are used in both Sony's Net MD MiniDisc recorders and their professional audio recorders, and they function like bookmarks in a recording. I can add up to 98 track marks per recording file. I can use these track marks to jump to different positions in the recording during playback (especially useful for lengthy recordings), or I can use these track marks to later divide the recording into separate messages. I can also combine/add or overwrite sections of messages and recordings.

ѾѾѾѾѾ I can monitor an ongoing recording by listening to it through headphones connected to the recorder.

ѾѾѾѾѾ I can connect an external stereo microphone or external equipment such as a CD player to record from those sources. The recorder provides "plug in power" for use with an external microphone.

ѾѾѾѾѾ The recorder has a voice-operated recording function, which starts recording when sound is detected, and pauses when no sound is heard, so recording halts during silent periods.

ѾѾѾѾѾ The recorder has a 'SYNC REC' synchronized recording function that is similar to the voice-operated recording function, but is intended for connecting the audio output of other equipment (e.g. CD player) to the recorder's microphone jack. The recorder then pauses when no sound is input, and starts recording when you start playback on the external equipment's sound source.

ѾѾѾѾѾ The recordings can be played back either through the recorder's built-in speaker or through the headphone jack (headphones will obviously provide much better playback sound quality).

ѾѾѾѾѾ One playback function that I use a lot is the 'Digital Pitch Control'. On the older ICD-SX750, this allowed me to change the playback speed between 200% and -75% of a recording's normal speed. This is really useful for me when I am learning a really complex guitar riff that I recorded from a live rehearsal; I can slow down the recording to learn from it and practice along with it at a slower pace, and even at the maximum "-75%" slowdown in tempo, the pitch is not changed, which is awesome for music applications. And for a lecture where the speaker is talkiinnngggg reaaallllyy slow, I can speed it up without having the speaker sound like a Chipmunk. On this new ICD-SX712, this feature has been made uber-cool for musicians and singers, because in addition to being able to adjust the playback speed/tempo between 25% (or -75%) and 300%, I can also independently adjust the sound by up to six halftones (semitones) higher or lower. Using the 4-way rocker switch, I press the left/right buttons to decrease/increase playback speed, and I press the up/down buttons to change the key higher/lower. The LCD display shows an X/Y-axis graph of how you are adjusting the sounds, and the sharp/flat icon (#/b) is displayed if you are changing to higher/lower halftones.

ѾѾѾѾѾ The recorder has six very useful playback style settings: "Pop" (emphasizes middle ranges, ideal for vocals); "Rock" (emphasizes high and low ranges for a powerful sound); "Jazz" (emphasizes high ranges for lively sound); "Bass1" (emphasizes bass); "Bass2" (emphasizes bass even more); "Custom" (you can design your own custom sound using its 5-band equalizer).

ѾѾѾѾѾ Another cool playback feature, useful for lecture, seminar, and crowd environments is the 'Digital Voice Up' (V-UP). This function boosts and amplifies the low-level sounds in the recording, great for hearing low voices that were recorded from a distance out of range or away from the direction of the microphone. If you are recording in a spacious auditorium where you are seated towards the rear, you can set the 'REC Level' to "High" to record a sound located far away from the recorder or a low sound. And then if you still need additional volume from the low-level sound, during playback of this recording, you can use the 'Digital Voice Up' function at either its "Maximum" or "Medium" strength.

ѾѾѾѾѾ The recorder has an alarm clock function to play back a recording at a specific date and time.

ѾѾѾѾѾ A new and very useful feature that Sony added is that I can now search for a recording based on what date it was recorded. From the menu, the 'Calendar' option will display a monthly calendar, and the days when a recording was stored will be underlined on the monthly calendar display. So if I want to retrieve recordings of music rehearsals on a particular weekend or a Monday morning work meeting, this feature makes them easy to find!

ѾѾѾѾѾ When I plug the recorder into my computer using the supplied USB cord, the device looks like a 2-GB flash drive, with various folders containing the .WAV (for LPCM recordings), or .MP3 files. If the recorder's memory card slot has a Memory Stick Micro (M2) or microSD/microSDHC card installed, I can also access these folders just like any other external storage device; in this case, the built-in memory and memory card will display as two separate drive letters. I can use the recorder's flash memory simply as a USB flash drive to store text files onto it if I wanted to. And I can just drag-and-drop the files from the recorder's folders onto my computer's hard drive.

ѾѾѾѾѾ Using the Windows-only (not Mac-compatible) 'Sound Organizer' software, I can transfer files that I have recorded to my computer to manage and edit them. I can also transfer music files and podcast files stored on my computer to the recorder. I can also access the same editing and playback functions that are on the recorder itself, such as adding track marks and dividing a recording into pieces or using the 'Digital Pitch Control'. With Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition software installed, I can also start the transcribing of a recorded speech file from within the 'Sound Organizer' software. I select the recorded speech file that I want to transcribe, select the 'Dragon' menu option, Dragon converts the recording into text, and I make corrections in the pop-up 'DragonPad' Notepad-like text editor to both correct the transcription mistakes that Dragon made and to further (hopefully) train Dragon to learn and adapt from the corrected mistakes. 'Sound Organizer' also has rudimentary CD-burning functions that let me create an audio CD, MP3 CD, or data CD from the recorder's files. Even though this 'Sound Organizer' software is not Mac-compatible, Mac users do not need this to transfer the files from the recorder onto their computer.

One of the 'Sound Organizer' software options lets me start up Sony's great 'Sound Forge Audio Studio' software. HOWEVER, Sony no longer offers this bundled with their latest and greatest ICD recorder. Arggh.

My previous ICD-SX750 was bundled with a Windows-only 'Sound Forge Audio Studio 9 LE' that is geared towards music editing and production. This "LE" version is the "lite edition" of Sony's industry-standard two-channel audio-editing program for Windows, with some useful extras thrown in, and a nice $60+ package if you were to buy this software separately. With Sound Forge Audio Studio, I can perform a variety of digital audio editing functions: save and convert in many formats; change sample rate and bit depth; edit, cut, paste, fade-in/out; set markers and regions within a recording; apply frequency equalization adjustments, swap channels, and even play the audio in reverse. The "version 9 LE" comes with 11 sound processing effects that I can apply to the audio such as chorus, delay, reverb, wah-wah, and distortion. There is also a 'Vocal Eraser' plug-in which tries to remove the vocals from the mix to make a karaoke version of a song; this works with varying degrees of effectiveness. I can archive vinyl recordings and use its 'Vinyl Restoration' noise reduction and 'Audio Restoration' features to adjust the amount of clean-up of clicks and pops and unwanted hiss. Although this software does not offer true multi-track mixing, it does allow me to mix external audio tracks into a recording. And although this is not a video editing tool, I can edit audio files and then attach them to video files. I import the video file, and then edit the soundtrack by scrubbing, as if I had a jog/shuttle control, using the [J], [K], [L] keys on my keyboard to reverse, pause, or forward the playback. When I am finished with my audio editing, I can then burn a CD from the application, or I can also extract audio tracks from a CD for use within the application.

But it appears that Sony is now only bundling the "LE" version of their great 'Audio Studio' software with their more-expensive line of 96-kHz/24-bit Digital Field Recorders. I was hoping that they would bundle a "LE" lite version of their 'Sound Forge Audio Studio 10', but I have to purchase that separately... or just continue to use my existing 'Sound Forge Audio Studio 9 LE'.

NOTE: My review does not end here, but continues onto the 'Comment' section of this review. Amazon does not let me post my entire review in one piece, so I split it into two pieces :-( (continue to the 'Comment' section to keep reading :-)
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66 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2011
I bought this recorder primarily to record large group meetings in big rooms. I'm taking over as secretary for an organization that may have as many as 80-90 people present. My predecessor used a Sony IC-MX20 for this purpose and highly recommended it. In checking Sony's web site I found that was no longer in production. This looked like a good choice instead, and so far it's working very well.
I've used it so far to record several smaller meetings, but still in fairly large rooms. I was amazed at how well this picks up voices and the quality of the sound. Battery life so far is good, I'm still on the first set of AAA batteries after recording about 5 hours of material.
The included software was a snap to install, and very easy to work with. It's a huge benefit to be able to have the recording on your computer while typing meeting minutes. The software lets you move quickly to any part of the recording you need to hear in order, to make sure the typed information is accurate.
The instruction manual is the typical Sony mangeled syntax, but I did not find it difficult to find the information i needed to set up and and start recording.
So far I'm extremely pleased with my purchase. It has exceeded my expectations in terms of sound pick-up and quality.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2012
I am a journalist who has been using audio recorders since the 1980s and moved from tape to digital in the mid-1990s. For most purposes using a very pocketable recorded like the Olympus WS-320M, which I've used for years and love for its portability and ease of use, is good enough.

In recent years I've had the opportunity to interview historically significant subjects on a one-on-one basis, which led me increasingly to be concerned about the audio quality of the interviews for possible future broadcast use. I've tried a variety of high-quality, low-cost recorders in recent years, most recently the Zoom H1 and now this new Sony ICD-SX712.

I've used both in the field long enough now to say that the Sony is the hands down winner.

I record both manually using the current sampling rate standard of 44.1/16. The sound quality on both are nearly identical, which is to say very good and easily broadcast quality.

The Sony has these advantages over the Zoom H1:

- Considerably less handling noise.

- Better wind noise resistance, although a quality windscreen is a must for both, especially for outside use.

- Pausing the recording is possible with the Sony and not the Zoom. This is perhaps the biggest advantage of the Sony. If a phone call comes in and the person I'm interviewing has to stop our interview for a few seconds, I can simply pause the Sony. With the Zoom I had to stop the recording and then start a whole new file - a very big hassle.

- The Sony is slightly more pocketable, although heavier.

- Much better battery life with the Sony.

- Tougher build quality.

Finally with the Sony, if you are trying to get the ultimate sound quality for archival purposes use the LPCM mode instead of MP3. You can always easily convert the files to MP3 later. Also record manually and set your level where it peaks at about -12db. Using the auto level and other modes presents unwanted transient noise into the recordings.

Here's a link to a recording I made with the Sony at a local coffee shop.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2011
Purchased this for training session recordings for business conference in large room, with 25+ attendees. Out of the box, was very straight forward but with plenty of customization options. The "meeting" setting worked much better than expected, capturing the instructor's voice with unbelievable quality while positioned an average of 20 feet away (instructor movement in front of class ranged from about 10 feet to over 25 feet away from recorder). The adjustable angle on the stereo mics helps with capturing both the instructor and attendee discussions, but can also be focused for single direction recording. After recording almost 3 hours of content, simply connected the USB cable to my notebook and transferred the digital voice to my computer where it can be further analyzed, reviewed, and critiqued. This is an outstanding device... will be using it much more for future training session evaluations.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2012
The recorder itself works great. Unfortunately, it is not as accurate as I had wished when used with Dragon Naturally Speaking 11. I find that it fails to recognize too many words that are accurately transcribed when using Dragon with a USB microphone on my computer. When I download dictated folders into Dragon by dragging them into the toolbar, I find that I spend way too much time correcting the missed words and spelling errors. Sometimes, I feel I would have been better off just typing it directly.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2012
Small - Fast - Versatile
Exactly what I needed.
Buy Dragon Premium separately - don't buy the kit - you'll be thankful you spent the few extra bucks.
My copy of Dragon (from Amazon) was the latest 11.5, even though it said 11.0 on the page.
It's a free upgrade (download) anyway, just in case.
Batteries last a long time (rechargeable batteries are not included unless you buy the Dragon kit - so what?)
Comes with a very handy printed manual - but download the PDF from Sony for use at the computer.
The printed manual is excellent for carrying around until you get used to using the SX712.
I was dictating into notepad within 15 minutes with about 98% accuracy - I was very surprised.

* Buy a Class4 micro SD card (16g will give you about 100 hours of hi-res sound [320/mp3]
__ Sandisk 16GB 16G Micro SDHC Class 4 TF Memory Card with Micro SD Card Reader - Bulk Packed

* Buy Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable AAA batteries - they work great - last years - and hold a good charge.
__ Sanyo NEW 1500 eneloop 4 Pack AAA Ni-MH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries

* Buy a Case Logic semi-hard case (6" or bigger inside) It will hold both recorder and all the extra stuff.
__ Case Logic PHDC-1 Small EVA External Hard Drive Case (Blue)

* Buy some headphones
__ Koss CS95 Speech Recogniton Computer Headset
__ Koss CS100 Speech Recognition Computer Headset

* And to complete everything, get a switch so you don't have to unhook your speakers when using the headphones
__ Plantronics PC Headset Speaker Switch (I have both: Plantronics is my favorite)
__ Audio Speaker / Headset Switching Hub, Manhattan 172851

Comes with Sound Organizer from Sony - very very handy. Go to Sony and download latest while you're waiting for delivery. Get the manual too, and read up on the recorder before you get it.
Great product - it all works better than I hoped.
(now, when I have a thought or idea in the middle of the night, I can make a note without turning on a light and looking for pen & paper -- ok, despite what people say: I do have occasional thoughts)
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2011
I purchased this digital recorder after doing much research and seeing a lot of bogus recorders out there. I have used this recorder for recording many things from job interviews to conversations. It has incredible range and is very easy to use. I also love the function where you can set it to record only when there is sound. I did this test with a song where I would set the recorder on and start a song, about every 20 seconds, I would pause the song for about 15 seconds, and then start it up again. When I listened to the recording, it sounded like the original song with NO breaks. It was seemless. This device is definately worth the money and know that anyone who purchases one will be very pleased with it.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2011
I have to say that I was quite surprised upon receiving the voice recorder because the product material was not what I was expecting. It felt rather light and plastic. I was expecting for the recorder to be made out of steel or metal of some sort, especially since it's a Sony product but that was not the case.~Wished it was made in Japan instead of China. The older versions of this product seems more durable as well. Other than that, the recorder worked fine since my purpose was to use it for interviewing.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2011
I love this recorder so much. It's vastly clearer than one should expect for the price point. I've recorded a few episodes of my podcast [...] with it and I'm amazingly pleased with the resulting audio(content aside). The battery seems to last forever. The interface is really easy to walk into, but has enough features behind the initial functions to work in exactly the way you need it to. Buy this thing, it's great.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2012
First I'd like to say that the recorder has a very nice style to it. I purchased this recorder to use in adjunct to my Dragon NaturallySpeaking premium 11 purchase. The instruction manual is very detailed and I do recommend that the buyer read it carefully.

The recorder offers a number of different settings, sensitivities, and storage modes. It can also handle a Micro SD Flash card, (mini), and of course, it has its own onboard memory capable of 2 GB.

All the technical details regarding the buttons and functions are found in Sony's ad about the recorder so I'm not going to go into that. But I will say that though I am going to keep the recorder, I was kind of surprised at how big it was.

The overall length of the recorder is 5 1/2 inches and compared to my old analog Olympus, is about 2 inches longer. Of course the Sony ICD - SX 712 can do a lot more than the old Olympus but I'm not so sure it needed to be that much longer to accommodate today's new micro technology.

So the pros are:
Great sensitivity response, very clear recordings particularly when using the noise cut function, and accepts an external headset/microphone/audio equipment Jack for a number of other capabilities in its use. It also has the capability of recording only when it hears your voice, (or an external sound loud enough to be heard by the recorder), referred to as the "VOR" function.

I'll only touch on the point about its use with Dragon naturally speaking premium 11 in that it will definitely work as a digital recorder to be used to transcribe to text in the DNS premium 11 version. The Sony Sound Organizer software that comes with the recorder also has "transcribed" option as well as several Dragon naturally speaking control features. However, I found it much better to just work directly with the DNS software and leads Sony out of the picture.

The results you will have if you use this recorder with Dragon NaturallySpeaking can be very different than mine. But in all fairness, any trouble you do have will likely not be because of the recorder but in fact, because of Dragon's ability to profile using that option. I had quite a bit of trouble there and can say with absolute certainty that I isolated the problem to Dragon and not the recorder.

The cons are: the display is quite small. When it comes to details like recording levels you can barely see them on the LCD screen. All the folders that are in the default memory can be renamed with the Sony Sound Organizer software that comes with the recorder but not through the recorder itself. Basically, the recorder gives you no abilities in the way of naming your files but it does give you the capability of organizing your files after you make a recording. Each file is dated followed by a #1, #2, and so on.

(You can also change the names of the folders while connected to the PC from what I understand but I'm not sure on that point).

I guess my biggest problem about the Sony ICD - SX 712 is that when you plug it into the PC the LCD screen of the recorder goes into "connecting" mode. While this icon is indicating that it's connected to the PC, the batteries are also being charged, (if you have rechargeable batteries). But that's all that you get when you plug it into the PC. You cannot record anything through the built-in microphones while you are connected.

I don't know if you can record anything using the headset while it's connected to the recorder and connected to the PC, nor do I know if you would really want to or need to do that. But my point is that once you plug it into the PC the recorder can no longer do anything except recharge batteries. The Sony software that comes with the recorder, (Sony Sound Organizer), can "see" the recorder after you plug it in.

I guess I had expected to be able to use the recorder as an external microphone when connected directly to the PC. But then, I really don't need that anyway. So I did the recorder five stars and I do indeed recommend this recorder to anyone who is on a budget and needs to keep it below $130.

The Olympus DS 2400 and DS 5000 have the "DS - 2" technology which I understand is very helpful in transcriptions and transcription programs but they also cost considerably more than the ICD - SX712. The Sony recorder also comes with a small slip on slip off stand, and storage sleeve. The headsets/headphones/earphones as well as the Micro SD Flash card, must be supplied by you.
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