Sangean DAR-101 Digital Audio Recorder Review - Good recorder, awkward player
May 13, 2012
Review by shadowcatcher
Rated a Very Helpful Review
User Rating: Very Good
Pros:Good, versatile, portable, direct-to-mp3 audio recorder.
Cons:Navigating within a file needs to be easier, quicker, and bug free.
The Bottom Line: Recommended for use mainly as a recorder. Not recommended if good playback versatility is required. (Recommend to a friend is no because of firmware bug.)
When I bought this recorder, I was looking for a compact portable digital audio recorder that could be left unattended for several hours making a high quality recording, then brought with me during my commute so I could play back the recording as time allowed.
Recommend this product?
The concept of this device is exactly what I was looking for.
I'm pleased with how it functions as a recorder. It can record at mp3 bit rates up to 192kbps, which produces a recording that sounds quite good. I like having manual controls for record balance and record level, and like that it has both a VU style meter as well as a peak-level warning LED to alert you if the recording level is too high. It can record directly to a SDHC memory card, so long recording times are no problem.
From my point of view, its main limitations are in the lack of versatility in its playback functionality, and also, one problem that I encountered that is clearly a bug in the firmware (relating to playback).
The firmware bug is that 'fast reverse' can fail and lose the connection to the audio stream for the file that you're playing! This seems most likely to happen if I'm an hour or so into a multi-hour recording and try to back up a bit with fast reverse. The only remedy I could find was to quit playing that file and start fresh (from the beginning). For me, this was the deal-breaker since it made it impractical to search back and forth to find a seciton I wanted to hear again, so I returned the unit. I hope this problem gets fixed soon, because the device is so close to what I was looking for that I'd like to see it get there.
I have a couple other gripes related to searching while playing back. In fast reverse and fast forward, you hear very brief samples of the track as it's going by, but the individual sound samples are such a small fraction of a second that it's hard to get a sense of what you're hearing. I prefer the CC Witness, where the samples are still less than a second, but long enough that you can get a sense of what you're listening to and when you transition from one song to another, etc.
Also, there appears to be just one speed for fast searching, and it can take a long time to start at the beginning of a multi-hour recording and get to a point well into the file. I think it would be well worth the effort to spend some more development time on the firmware to support several speeds of fast searching (forward or backward) - the rotary knob combined with an indicator on the LCD screen would work just fine.
Note - I did encounter one other problem which is a known problem, in which charging current gets applied to the batteries - even if you've set the switch in the 'alkaline' position which should prevent this. The batteries oozed out some of their contents. I assume this is fixed in new units, but if you buy an old one, there's a chance it could have that problem. (One solution would be to use it with rechargeable batteries!).
So, if your main focus is on getting a device that does a good job of making the recording, and you're willing to move the file to a computer or some other device after that point, this recorder could work well.
If, like me, you want to have good playback functionality too, then this unit's limitations could get frustrating, especially when working with long recordings. If you're in this camp, I'd recommend keeping an eye on the product in the future - hopefully a successor will show some improvements in this area.
Amount Paid (US$): 120
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