July 16, 2010

Review: Sanyo Xacti Sound Recorder (with some Jason Collett tracks)

Posted in bootleg, mp3, mumbling at 6:04 pm by rgsc

Something a little different here today. The kind marketing folks working for Sanyo have provided me with a Sanyo Xacti ICR XPS01M Digital Sound Recorder (more info here & here) to test out and tell you all what I think about it. Cutting to the chase, I must say I am very impressed with the tiny thing.

And I do mean tiny. According to them, and I have no reason to doubt it, the Xacti is the smallest and lightest digital recorder on the market. Despite being only ca.  9 by 4 by 1 cm, it seems quite substantial and rugged. When I first opened the package I worried that it would be on the flimsy side but have I have been putting it through the paces over the past couple of weeks and it seems to be holding up quite well.

It seems that the recorder is being marketed towards musicians and additionally aimed at students (to record lectures) but it also works for field recordings (ie, me). I think it would also be handy for journalists, anyone taking minutes and interviewers, although if the audio is going to be preserved (I am thinking of oral historians and tapers) an external mic should be used to ensure the best quality of sound. Which isn’t saying the internal mics aren’t good – in my less than rigorous testing of them they do admirably well – but a better mic will lead to better sound. [EDIT TO ADD: I tried our recording a set of live music without an external mic and I must say I am very pleased with the quality of the recording using the built in mics. Colour me impressed. ]

With the 2GB microSD card which is included with the unit you have 3 hrs of recording at the best quality (44.1kHz linear PCM). It is expandable to 8GB and cards are widely available for about $30. The battery life seems very good – 14-23 hrs of PCM recording (longer for other formats) depending on the backlight settings. Haven’t confirmed this but even if it is close that is very impressive. As there is no external power (ie can’t plug it in or attach an external battery as I can with my MD recorder), this long battery life is a very good thing. I am not terribly fond of having to charge through USB but that is becoming standard so it is to be expected.

The unit is optimized as a recorder and I am very pleased with how the Sanyo Xacti performed when I took it out for test in the field.

One of the things I greatly appreciate about this recording unit is that there is no proprietary formats: the recording is done in .wav or .mp3 (from 64-320kbps). There are automatic settings tied to a number of ‘scene selection’ settings which are optimized for lectures/meetings, interviews, music, or direct connection from another device.

Another thing I am like very much is the tiny but clear screen. It is bright and despite the small size of the screen the time elapsed, time remaining, and various settings are all clearly visible (particularly useful in the dark). And it remembers your last used settings so it is quick to restart recordings. The Record and Stop buttons are well placed and the other sensors took a little while to get used to (my large-ish fingers initially would stray onto the wrong section) but I think I’ve now have a handle on it. You can easily adjust the input settings on the fly to avoid peaking which is essential for me.

Finally, a feature I appreciate having is a ‘recycle bin’ so you can get back deleted files if you have second thoughts. I am sure there are additional features whose usefulness will become apparent as I become more familiar with the device.

As a music player it works well – you just drag&drop .mp3 files into the folder. While it works just fine, it is not the primary function and I don’t see myself using it as my everyday music player. What is a nice touch, though, is the FM tuner (which you can easily record from, naturally) as I love listening to the radio. When playing back recorded audio, though, there are some neat features such as being able to play back at anywhere from 1/2 to 2x the speed (without affecting the pitch).

The Sanyo Xacti Sound Recorder has a msrp of $149 (US, $50 more will get you a docking station) and I think it is well worth the price. It was released in Japan at the beginning of the year and is now coming on the market in the States. It is being sold at Guitar Center (they sell in CDN$ and appear to ship to Canada) but is not online yet. It will be available at other retailers as well. Hopefully it will get a wider distribution across the States and north of the 49. If you want an affordable yet high-quality recorder you should definitely attempt to find this one.

Now, as a music blog, I feel I should post something I’ve taped with my fancy new little recorder. Here are two great summer songs from the fantastic Jason Collett show on Wolfe Island last Sunday, recorded with the Xacti recorder (with my Sony ECM-17 mic).

Jason Collett, General Wolfe Hotel, Wolfe Island, 11 July 2010
* Lake Superior
* High Summer
(buy Collett’s cds from Arts&Crafts)

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1 Comment »

  1. LD said,

    What a great review – Sanyo should let you keep this thing for amount of time you put into evaluating it. I’m looking for something like this, so will definitely consider it. I love that you can record from the radio – I listen to a lot of radio, as well. THanks for all the details – very very helpful.


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