Every now and then I come across a new piece of technology and I usually end up wanting to buy one. Over the last few months I’ve been looking at portable sound recorders to use in school and for band rehearsals. Recently the band got one on loan when we needed to make a quick recording of some new tracks. The sound recorder in question is the Sanyo Xacti which unlike it’s counterparts by other manufacturers is actually a very small and handy size.
The Sanyo Xacti records in MP3 (up to 320kbps) and WAV through the built in stereo microphone and stores everything on a Micro SD card. You can also use the line-in input to record through an external microphone and use headphones or built in speaker to preview the recordings. The package also includes rechargeable battery, USB cable, earphones and manual.
When you first get this gadget out the box it sort of resembles an iPod Nano in terms of it’s size and it’s sleek touchscreen interface is impressive. Once I turned it on it took me about 5-10 minutes to work out most of it’s functions which is always a good sign. The ‘record’ and ‘stop’ buttons are just underneath the screen and clearly marked. To the left of this is a ‘scenes’ button which is similar to ones you get on modern compact digital cameras at the moment. In this section there are several preset settings designed to best capture different scenarios. These scenes include ‘Interview’, ‘Meeting/Lecture’, ‘Music’, ‘Headphone’, ‘Portable’ and ‘Compo’. Not entirely sure what the last three are but I’m sure the manual will provide examples of what they are useful for – it should do, it’s almost as thick as the Ploughmans I’m eating.
If you look a bit further and you’ll find additional options for your sound recording. You can adjust the mic sensitivity between ‘high’ and ‘low’, set an EQ, enable a peak limiter as well as various other options. With these various options at your disposal it’s best to experiment to find the right combination for you. I’ve made three recordings and put them below. The success of the recordings vary but I imagine I need to work out how best to use this gadget for it to reach it’s potential. The acoustic guitar recording seems to work best as it captures the tone with good clarity. The piano recording also works but could be improved upon with better microphone placement (my fault) as well as some EQ adjustment on the device itself. The final recording is a band in a rehearsal room. This works the least well because the loudness causes the recording to clip. With only two microphone sensitivity options this is probably the downside of the device. There are other options you can play with but they aren’t that easy to find without consulting the manual. In this situation you either just keep experimenting which could lose you time or switch on the peak limiter which could result in a nasty compressed sound. I have to admit I haven’t tried the peak limiter option yet but I’m pretty sure that would be the case given other sound recorders I’ve tried. What would be handy but appears to be missing is some sort of visual clue as to whether your recording will clip – something like a strip you get with recording software that allows you to ‘sound check’ without having to make endless test recordings.
All in all it honestly depends on what you want to get out of this device. For me, it’s a great tool to monitor musical progress and to be an aid to memory when writing new material. The device is easily good enough for this and depending on how well you get used to this device you could use it to share recordings with friends and fans or online.
Acoustic Guitar Recording (Sensitivity High, Peak Limiter Off)[audio:http://www.mattkeil.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/sanyoxactiguitar.mp3|titles=Sanyo Xacti Guitar Recording]
Piano Recording (Sensitivity Low, Peak Limiter Off)[audio:http://www.mattkeil.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/sanyoxactipiano.mp3|titles=Sanyo Xacti Piano Recording]
Rock Band Rehearsal Recording (Sensitivity Low, Peak Limiter Off)[audio:http://www.mattkeil.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/sanyoxactiband.mp3|titles=Sanyo Xacti Band Recording]
- Great design and easily portable
- Easy to use and start recording straight away
- The ‘Scenes’ are great for casual use
- Good selection of advanced options
- The cover flap for the memory card and USB input is a bit flimsy
- A visual monitoring strip would be helpful to see if the recording will clip or distort before you actually recording something
- More microphone sensitivity options would be welcome