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Dictation machines

Dictation machines offer another option for oral historians. These can be analogue or digital, but whether they use microtapes or digital memory sticks, the formats are often not common and users should transfer interviews to CD or computer for posterity. We are grateful for this advice from Brian Turner:

"Dictation machines these days come with a great variation, not least in storage type and transcription tools (with some offering voice activation dictation). However, one feature that doesn’t seem to have changed is the quality of the recording microphone.

While some may argue that a more expensive dictation machine should have better quality audio recording and range than a cheaper model, as a generalisation the difference in price relates more to the different add-on technologies than anything else.

For example, there are options available for recording to mini-disc, flashdrive, or XD memory. There are those that offer stereo recording and built in music player. Others offer improved storage selections such as folder selections for archiving audio files. Others focus on USB connectivity.

Ultimately, though, it can be difficult to find a dictation machine with a real focus on audio quality. Namely, this is because dictation machines are only built to work in a close proximity to the audio being recorded – ie, another person – so the focus here is to work on that assumption and built extra features and tools for processing and storing that information after.

If, however, you need a more flexible and advanced recording solution, generally you may find yourself have to look at more dedicated microphone solutions than a dictation machine one."

Brian Turner

Overall, we would advise people to think carefully before using one of these machines for oral history recording. Have a look at the solid state page for information about higher quality digital recorders.

Where to buy dictation machines

If you are thinking of buying a dictation machine you may wish to visit the following company. It should not be considered to be approved or recommended by the East Midlands Oral History Archive.



Digital dictation machine
A Sony digital dictation machine


Last updated: 05/02/2014
East Midland Oral History Archive Web maintainer
This document has been approved by the head of department or section.

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