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Alon Audio Recorder: Voice Notes Made Easy Print E-mail
Written by SymbianOne   
Friday, 17 February 2006
Alon Audio Recorder for UIQ is not only a handy tool for to record voice notes while on the move, it also provides a sophisticated MP3 player. Richard Bloor looks at why you will want another MP3 player for your UIQ phone.

The Sony Ericsson P series UIQ phones have always had a recording application, sound recorder, so why would you possibly need to consider buying another? The simple answer is convenience. While the built-in sound recorder can be accessed in both flip open and closed modes, it is not easy to quickly start a new recording. To made a recording, while on the move, the phone's keypad needs to be unlocked, sound recorder started, the menu activate, new selected and the jogdial clicked to start recording. More or less the same number of clicks are needed if you simply add the new recording to an existing one. The whole process is four or five click and some scrolling, if you use the jogdial rather than menu shortcuts on the keypad.

Now with the Alon Audio Recorder, you can simply pick up your P910i, unlock the keypad, press the Internet (camera or power) button and start recording.

This quick recording feature comes courtesy of Audio Recorder's ability to map its recording and playback controls onto the hardware keys on a P series device. The keys are mapped as part of the application's setting.

Six functions can be mapped to hardware keys: play and pause, play and stop, record and pause, record and stop, next track, and previous track. These options have enough flexibility to allow Audio Recorder to be set up for quick access as a voice recorder or music player. Unfortunately, there are not enough hardware buttons to do both functions fully. One clever feature is that the mappings can be controlled by whether the recorder is in the foreground or background. I found this most useful when in flip open mode. Here it stopped the recorder from interfering with other key shortcuts, when Audio Recorder was open but in the background. With the flip closed I found it best to turn this feature off, so that recordings could be made on demand regardless of the recorder's visibility.

Microphone gain is another setting option and an indication that Alon thought carefully about how to build a useful recorder, rather than simply added a recording capability to a player because they could. Gain can be set to either automatic or one of four preset levels.

Other settings options allow the recording format and quality to be set. The options include four WAV formats and five MP3 quality settings, from 8 kbps to 96 kbps. Compared to sound recorder, this gives Audio Recorder the advantage of allowing recordings to be easily shared with a PC or MP3 player. The recursive subfolders option allows the tracks from folders below the standard UIQ category level to be accessed. It does this by displaying all the subfolder tracks when a UIQ category is selected. It is also possible to define the folder and default name for recordings.

"Show track's end" is an interesting option. It allows you to alter the track listing so it shows the audio file names from the start (with the end of the name truncated) or from the end (with the start of the name truncated). This is quite handy if you have long file names of artist, album and track name for example. By selecting "Show track's end" you can see the track name, not just a long list of artists and albums.

It should be clear from the preceding comments that Audio Recorder can be run in flip closed mode. While this is a nice feature it is limited. This is because the menu has to be activated to use any functions not assigned to hardware keys, but this is a common feature of flip closed applications.

Audio Recorder maintains the same layout on flip closed and open modes. At the top of the screen the name of the playing or recording track is shown. Under this is a time and quality display, stereo level meter, and visual indication of the current action and play option. Below this information is a play progress bar and to the right a volume indicator. Both the progress bar and volume slider can be manipulated with the stylus, to jump to a position in the track or set the volume respectively. When recording, with manual gain selected, the recording gain can be set using the volume slider (which displays the level in red when recording). Volume and recording level can also be manipulated with the wheel on the jogdial.

Next are the player controls, with standard play, record, pause and stop functions plus next and previous track buttons. The final control on this row is a switch that toggles the main display between a track listing and the equalizer.

From the menu there are features to move, rename and delete tracks, along with a send option. The menu also provides access to the play modes: single play of a track or playlist, repeated play of a track or playlist and a random play option.

The basic playlist is all the tracks shown in the track display, which reflects all audio tracks on the devices or those from a selected UIQ folder. As mentioned before, if a folder has subfolders the "recursive" options ensures that all track in any subfolders are listed. Playlists can then be customized by either displaying all tracks and then removing ones that are not required or by starting with a specific folder (or nothing) and adding tracks from any folder. Tracks can only be added or removed from a playlist when the player is inactive.

Once a playlist has been created it can be saved for reuse. One small disappointment is that it is not possible to control the order of the playlist, except by adding tracks in the order required, which is a little time consuming. Playlists can also be shared with Winamp.

The final option is a equalizer. This allows up to three equalization nodes to be used, with the ability to set the equalization level and frequency range.

Once you have found an ideal setting it can be saved, as can any number of settings for different styles of music.

Alon Audio Recorder is something of an application plus bonus, depending on what you are after. You could buy it as a voice recorder, with the bonus of a full MP3, WAV and OGG player or visa versa. However, this does make Audio Recorder a little of a compromise. It does not have the slick controls or visually attractive interface of some player only applications. However it does do a good job of playing MP3 files, with the ability to create playlists and modify equalization. As a recorder it does an excellent job. It is more convenient to use than the built-in sound recorder and has the advantage of recording in WAV or MP3 formats, which makes sharing recording easy. The ability to control the microphone gain is useful and shows that this application has been well thought out.

If you interest is purely an MP3 player Alon Audio Recorder is certainly worth considering. On the other hand if you have been looking for either an MP3 recorder or a more convenient way to make recordings on your Sony Ericsson I would recommend this application. Similarly if you are looking for a MP3 player and think recording might be useful Alon Audio Recorder is a good choice.

Alon also provides an almost identical application for S60 devices called Alon MP3 Dictaphone. Versions of the software for UIQ and S60 are also available without the recording function.

Alon Audio Recorder is available here from the SymbianOne Application Shop, powered by Handango, for $24.95. The S60 version is available here, also for $24.95. The player only versions are available here for UIQ and here for S60 at $18.95.

For more information see www.alonsoftware.com.



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