Retro Recorder turns your iPhone or second generation iPod touch into a tape recorder in that it records, saves, and allows you to send your recording to yourself or others. iPhone OS 3 includes a recording app, called Voice Memos, so as part of this review I compared the two applications.
Retro Recorder Home Screen
Comparing Retro Recorder and Voice Memos
I asked Aaron Hipple with McDSP why I should spend money on Retro Recorder when Voice Memos is free. He replied that the app features a process called ALX (Audio Level eXtension) which works like a volume boost. "The enhancement takes the quiet sounds that are especially hard to hear on the tiny iPhone speaker and makes them louder, without distortion, so you can hear them better," he said.
He further stated that "It works in an intelligent manner so it won't turn up sounds that are already loud; it only zooms in on the quiet sounds. It is applied on playback so you can always hear the original recording or the enhanced version."
For testing purposes, I made several recordings using both Retro Recorder and Voice Memos. The first test was at a dinner table in a noisy restaurant where I recorded a conversation between three people by placing the phone in the center of the table. The two men at the table had deep voices. The third participant was me. My voice is fairly soft.
The second test was a telephone conversation. I placed the phone on a desk about three feet from my face, held the phone slightly away from my ear and recorded both the dialing process and the conversation. The person with whom I was speaking was my twin and her voice is also fairly soft.
The third test, a rather far out test I admit, was an attempt to record my cat purring. Cat purrs, at least my cat's purrs, are very, very quiet.
The final test was to record a meeting of 32 individuals. The meeting had a speaker, audience participation, and the participants were eating during the meeting. The phone was placed approximately in the middle of the room.
It was no contest. Voice Memos simply does not meet the standards offered by Retro Recorder in any area, but particularly in the area of recording quality.
In the first test, using Voice Memos, it was fairly easy to understand the men's voices, but mine was indistinguishable, while with Retro Recorder each voice was of even tone and quality. In the second, I was only able to record my voice using Voice Memos and none of the dialing clicks were picked up. Using Retro Recorder I was able to record everything that my sister said on her end of the phone along with all of the dialing clicks and the sound of the ringing phone. My sister's voice was not as loud as mine, but I could understand every word she spoke without moving the phone close to my ear.
In the third, Voice Memos did not pick up any sounds from my cat. Retro Recorder picked up the faint sounds of her purring. I could tell what it was, but that was about all. In the last test, Voice Memos picked up the two voices at the table where the phone lay. Retro Recorder recorded all the words spoken during the meeting, along with dialog from the computer used in the presentation.
Using Retro Recorder
Retro Recorder allows you to name your recorded session or "tape." It allows you to set the record quality to medium (MQ / 22,050 Hz sample rate) or high (HQ / 44,100 Hz sample rate). You use the red and white buttons to record, stop and play. The only time limit on your recording is your battery life.
Once a tape is recorded, it is saved until you delete it. At that point you can send to anyone using any piece of equipment capable of opening a URL using a four-step process.
- When you finish recording click on Tapes in the top right corner.
- Click on the tape you want to work with and click on Manage in the top right corner.
- A red button appears on the tape you choose and options for delete, export and rename appear at the bottom of the window.
Retro Recorder Export Screen
- Choose Export and indicate if you want ALX applied.
Retro Recorder ALX Choice Screen
An important note about exporting: If your phone goes to sleep because of auto-lock during the transfer, the transfer will stop because the Wi-Fi shuts down. Therefore, if you are exporting a big file such as a class session or meeting, you should take precautions to make sure the complete file is exported.
The easiest way to do this is to plug your phone into a power source while downloading a large file. Another option is to disable the auto-lock. A third, and the most laborious, is to keep tapping your phone's display every couple of minutes to keep it from going to sleep.
Once the export is complete you will get a message window that gives you a URL.
Retro Recorder Information Screen
Once you have access to the URL you can download the file and email it or share it using a cloud based service. Anyone on your same local network at the same time you are, can have direct access to the file from the URL.
Exporting a file does not erase it from your phone and you can retain as many files as you wish.
Note: Voice Memos allows you to retain saved files as well, and it also allows you to email those recorded files.
The Bottom Line
Voice Memos works well for one person to dictate notes, letters, reminders, and so on to oneself for follow up or later use. It does not work well in any crowd situation or if the phone is more than a foot from the users face. You can save and/or email your recording, and recordings sync with iTunes, too.
Retro Recorder allows you to record any number of people in a quiet or noisy setting. With this reviewer, at least 32 at one time. It easily picks up voices from all over the room and records them clearly. It enhances the voices over other extraneous noises, and it allows you to save and/or export your recordings.