When you are out in the field, especially on a windy hilltop, logging the contacts you make can be a bit difficult. One hand holding the radio or microphone leaves only one hand free to hold down the log book and write in it. If you’re using a hand-held and standing up to get the maximum height gain, it’s even more awkward.
A few weeks ago I hit on the idea of using a personal digital voice recorder. Initial researches suggested that they were a bit expensive – many models sell for around £70 or more. But diligent searching on eBay revealed that it was possible to buy them for much less than this.
The one I got is an Olympus VN-100 Digital Voice Recorder and cost £15.99 including free postage. It was described as “refurbished to new condition by Olympus.” This might be an indicator of a product that tends to fail and has a high number of warranty returns. However, this particular one was indistinguishable from new, works fine and is simple to use. It isn’t the colour I’d have picked if I had a choice, but price and functionality were the principal considerations.
I don’t know what the differences are between the VN-100 and the more expensive models apart from colour, probably storage capacity. However this model has capacity for more than 13 hours of recording – more than adequate for my purposes.
I find the VN-100 easy to operate with the hand that isn’t holding the radio. You just press one button to start recording and another to stop. A bar meter shows the level of the audio input. You can either say the callsign, time and whatever else you are interested in logging, or just point the device at the radio and make an off-air recording. At home it could be a handy shack tool for recording unusual DX contacts.
The only problem I found is that the voice recorder is just as sensitive to wind noise as the microphone in the radio. More than once I have returned home to find a recording was unintelligible. However, mishaps like this can probably be avoided with practise.
I’m finding my digital voice recorder to be an indispensable companion on portable outings. It’s also handy for jotting down ideas for blog posts that occur whilst you’re out and about!