Review: Zarboo Software SpeakEasy Voice Recorder
On August 4, 2008, we reviewed a collection of 13 different voice recorder applications for the iPhone in a roundup entitled iPhone Gems: Every Voice Recorder, Reviewed. This review contains a review of one application from that roundup; additional comparative details can be found in the original full story.
The iPhone comes with a built-in microphone, but didn’t have any voice recording software to take advantage of that feature. Today, less than a month after the opening of the App Store, there are 13 different pieces of voice recorder software. Note that unlike many of the App Store programs, these particular applications are designed specifically for the iPhone, not the iPod touch. Additionally, the base recording quality of all of the apps that we reviewed was roughly equivalent. A few of the apps we reviewed offered higher-quality recording settings, which resulted in slightly improved fidelity when recording from music sources or from distant sources, such as in a lecture hall. However, for voice recording quality purposes, all of the applications that we reviewed provided acceptable quality with virtually no distinguishable differences.
In terms of space taken up by voice recordings, based on the apps that did provide storage information or transfer of voice memos, you can expect your recordings to take approximately 1MB per minute of recorded audio on average, versus 2.5MB per minute on the iPod 5G’s, classic’s and nano’s low-quality mode. Notably, the numbers are not directly comparable because iPhone recordings are currently made in Apple’s Core Audio Format (CAF) rather than WAV, the format used by iPods. The space consumed will also vary somewhat with applications that provide different quality settings, however with the monaural microphone on the iPhone, there’s no current need to record in stereo fidelity. A near-term iPhone software update is expected to add MP3 encoding as an alternative to CAF for greater compatibility of the recorded files.
SpeakEasy Voice Recorder is definitely the most polished and professional-looking option among all of the voice recorders that we reviewed, offering more advanced voice recording capabilities within a very attractive user interface. Starting SpeakEasy takes the user to a “Studio” screen with a nice big microphone button to immediately start recording:
Tapping on the microphone takes the user directly to recording mode:
A level meter is displayed to track your audio levels and you can also pause and resume recording by tapping the pause button which appears to the immediate left of the level meter. When finished recording, tap the too-large-to-miss STOP button and you are asked what you want to do with this recording:
Tapping the Save It option provides you with a screen where you can name your recording, add some comments, and assign it to a category. You can also add a photo tag to your recording by tapping the blue image icon at the top-left:
Note the “Mark as Played” button which also appears in the very top-left corner. SpeakEasy marks all recordings as “New” until you have either listened to them, or marked them as played manually.
SpeakEasy also offers a few additional options which are hidden under the iPhone’s main “Settings” application.
From here, you can specify whether you want SpeakEasy to play output via the iPhone’s main speaker or the earpiece, as well as choose from one of five recording quality levels:
In comparison to other voice recording applications, SpeakEasy’s ability to adjust audio recording quality allows for recording performance options for recording musical content or recording in a large room such as a lecture hall. Under these circumstances, the Better quality option yielded noticeably improved results, although little difference could be heard at the Best quality setting in our testing environments. Unfortunately, with no way to actually get the recorded audio files off of the iPhone and into another application, it is difficult to properly analyze and compare the different recording quality settings.
Ultimately, SpeakEasy is a very polished voice recording application with the only serious limitation being the ability to actually transfer your recordings off of the iPhone onto your computer. If this is not a feature that you need, SpeakEasy will definitely address most of your other voice recording needs in a very reasonably-priced package.