There are dozens of small audio recorders now available with a wide range of features. Sony, however, has distinguished itself with the PCM-A10, a 2.9-ounce high resolution recorder with a feature set tailor-made for working journalists.
Sony’s PCM-A10 is the smallest of a new series of high resolution audio recorders capable of producing WAV files up to LPCM 96 kHz/24-bit. Only 1.54 x 4.31 x 0.63 inches in size, this recorder is tiny, virtually weightless and designed to be carried everywhere a journalist goes.
One of the best features of the recorder for journalists are the built-in, three-way adjustable microphones. When in the widest position, the recorder — either sitting on a table or handheld — can record interviews with a separation of the voices. This makes editing and level control easy in editing. A headphone jack doubles to also feed a video camera, creating a handheld microphone that isolates interview voices. There’s even a DSP interview mode for optimizing the sound. Of course, the mic can also be placed in zoom mode to record meetings, XY for music sessions and wide stereo for outdoor events.
Recordings can be started and stopped, levels can be adjusted and track marks added via Bluetooth from an iOS or Android smartphone. Sony’s REC Remote app is free to download and works up to 30 feet away. Bluetooth headphones and speakers can also allow users to monitor sound from the recorder. The A10 has a built-in metal tripod hole on the bottom for mounting to a tripod or mic stand. When placed up close, it can be controlled by the smartphone.
The A10 can be set for MP3s as well as WAV files. There are 18 choices for recordings of different length and sound quality. For music recordings, the recorder supports MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV and FLAC audio playback, though not always recording. A rehearsal function will automatically adjust the recording levels upfront. Just hit record to begin. A built-in USB Type A connector allows the user to plug the recorder into a Mac or PC directly for cable-free transfer of recordings to the computer. When not in use, the USB connector slides into the recorder.
The recorder comes with 16 GB of internal memory. Add to that by using a microSDHC or microSDXC card to store longer recordings. The recorder can be set to move from one memory to another without missing a sound. Also included is the Sound Organizer 2 computer application software (stored in the built-in memory) which works on Windows computers only.
The downside to the A10 is its built-in lithium battery. Though rated at the 15-hour battery life, the maximum recording time for 96kHz, 24 bit is six hours, 35 minutes, while 48 kHz at 24 bits has a maximum record time of 13 hours, 15 minutes. This should be fine for most recordings. But my old school ways wants to see a replaceable battery, which the A10 does not have.
The recorder is charged only through the USB connector. When that charge is used up, the recorder has to be charged again. Once charging has begun, the recorder cannot do extended recording. A third party mobile phone adapter and USB Type A male-to-female cord can be used for charging, but not for AC power.
Always, when the recorder is turned off, activate the hold switch. Otherwise the battery might be dead when you try to do a recording. That, to me, is a risky proposition and one that is a trade off to the A10’s other features.
Of course, this recorder is so small it cannot have XLR connectors. It does have a 3.5 plug in power stereo mini jack for outboard microphones and a headphone jack for monitoring. It has a pre-record function which records the five seconds before pressing the record button. This way you won’t miss the top of the recordings. The A10 has a noise cut and low cut filter and a complete list of standard features.
The A10 is solidly built, the screen is easy to read and the buttons have a good feel. It comes with a foam wind screen and a neoprene case. For use outside, consider in investing in a furry cat windscreen.
Outside of the battery limitation, the Sony A10 is almost perfect for journalists who always want to carry an audio recorder. Larger, more full featured recorders are available, but the portability is lost.
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