Review: Sony PCM-M10 Linear Recorder

College is about procrastination. More precisely, it’s a chance to hone the important responsibility of shirking skills and techniques you’ll later use in the real world. So why shouldn’t note taking (or lack thereof) be a part of that learning experience?

Eschewing the rigors of traditional real-time (paper and pencil) transcription means you’ll need a recorder that’s up to the task. The Sony PCM-M10 should be at the top of your list.

Make no mistake, the M10 is not your traditional dainty audio archiver. While it’s the smallest in Sony’s professional line of recorders, this palm-sized linear recorder weighs in at about 6.5 ounces (with two AA batteries) and is also about as thick as two iPhones or a deck of cards.

Still, if you don’t mind hauling this brick along with the rest of your gear, you’ll be blessed with some of the cleanest, most pristine audio recordings you’ve ever heard. That’s largely thanks to two omni-directional mics with a wonderfully flat and wide frequency response. Whether you’re in a crowded lecture hall or a small round table setting, these mics do an exemplary job filtering out ambient noise while honing in on the voice(s) you want, regardless of the recorder’s positioning.

The M10 comes loaded with 4 GBs of built-in flash memory and can be expanded to another 16 GBs thanks to a microSD slot on the left hand side. There’s even a handy crossover memory function that lets you record from the internal memory directly to any additional storage you have. No worrying about preemptive cut offs. Max the M10 out at 20 GBs, and you’ll get over 9 hours of 24-bit 96 kHz audio. Ratchet down the audio quality to 64 kHz, Mp3 mode and that’s an insane 690 hours — enough for a year’s worth of lectures.

We also loved the recorder’s 5-second pre-record buffer, which captures audio to a continuously filling buffer while the recorder is in the record/pause mode. That means if you happen to miss something (“this will be on the test, class”), you can simply release the pause button and those missing 5 seconds will have been recorded.

When playing back your audio files, you can adjust between 75 percent and 100 percent (double time) in 5 percent increments. The M10 actually lets you preserve pitch over this entire range, however, which is extremely useful when transcribing a lecture or interview.

When it comes to offloading those files, it’s as easy as connecting the recorder to your computer via the included USB cord. Drag and drop files onto you Mac or PC and you’re done.

Whether you use the M10 as a companion to normal note taking or a tool for fevered last minute transcriptions, you won’t find much to quibble with. Yes, it’s probably overkill for the needs of the average college student. But you can talk to us about practicality after you’ve dropped the philosophy major.

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