If you are regular reader of our (excellent?) blog, you’ll have noticed that I recommend the Sony ICD-ux560 as the best recorder for recording interviews, lectures, and small focus group discussions. While I highlight the key features of the Sony ICD-ux560 and give reasons as to why I recommend it, I’ve never done an in-depth review of the Sony ICD-ux560 digital recorder. So, here we go.
With the ICD-ux560, Sony made a few bold (risky) changes from their previous digital recorders. I remember my first impression of this recorder: it’s very thin and lightweight. Photos of this recorder do not reflect how light it feels on your hand and its low profile. How did Sony achieve this?

Summary: Sony ICD-ux560 Review

Sony ICD-ux560 Review
  • Pros: very lightweight; powers up instantly; amazing sound; records in LPCM format; 3.5mm mic input with plug-in power; clear, sharp, and crisp LCD screen.
  • Cons: built in battery; only 4GB built in memory; screen hard to read in direct sunlight.
  • Verdict: amazing little recorder that’s perfect for recording interviews, focus group discussions, and lectures. Stop shopping around and go and buy this beauty on Amazon!

Well, built in battery. Truth be told, I’m not a fan of recorders that come with built in batteries (more on this later). But I have to say, it is a masterstroke. I really like the weight of this recorder. I can place it in my shirt pocket and it’ll not bulge; trouser pocket (when I use a lav mic) and I forget it’s there.

But that’s not the only advantage of having a built in battery. This recorder powers up really quickly – like instantly. I’m used to digital recorders taking a few seconds to power up. The first time I powered up the ICD-ux560 it caught me off guard, like wtf just happened. I thought it had been shipped powered on, so I switched it off, waited a few seconds and powered it back on. It literally takes less than a second to come on – very impressive!

As you can imagine, I was warming up to this recorder – and kinda feeling sorry for my then favorite Olympus recorder. But I was not ready for the third surprise the Sony ux560 had in store for me. It records amazing sound. I don’t know how Sony achieved this – maybe it’s the S configured stereo microphones (which I thought was a marketing gimmick), but when you listen to the recordings, you feel as if you’re in the room: don’t know how else to explain it. I was surprised that a recorder this small, the size of a Hershey bar, recorded at a sound quality that I’d come to expect from my Blue Yeti external mic. It’s not as good, but close.

Sony ICD-ux560 Video Review

Cons

Before I share other reasons why I really like the Sony ICD-ux560 and recommend it, let’s throw some cold water on this sermon. Yes, an in-built battery was a masterstroke, but what happens if it fails? You cannot replace it and you’re left with a very light paperweight. That’s the Achilles heel of the ICD-ux560. Having said that, I’ve not had any issues with the battery in the 18 months I’ve had the recorder. The battery life on the Sony ICD-x560 is impressive; it can easily handle a whole day of recording. And I’ve not heard of this recorder having battery fails (and if your battery fails, let me know in the comment section below).

Sony ICD-ux560 Max recording times

You only get 4GB built-in memory. That’s about 5 hours of recording LPCM audio. Granted, you can record audio using the compressed mp3 format – and get about 40 hours of recording time. But I only record in LPCM format – and that’s the format I recommend researchers and students use. My workaround was to buy a micro SD card. This recorder supports microSDHC cards (4 GB to 32 GB) and microSDXC cards (64 GB or more). I bought the Sandisk Ultra 128GB Micro SDXC from Amazon, which gave me an additional 160 hours of recording LPCM audio. Problem solved – but a little pricey.

Sony ICD-UX560 back
No External Battery!!!

My other gripe with the ux560 is related to the battery. With my other recorders, I usually carry a few extra packs of batteries – just in case I run out of juice. But with the Sony ux560, I’ve been forced to carry a battery pack. I do have one that I bought for my phone. So I didn’t have to spend extra on that. And I usually carry my phone when I’m recording “in the field,” so I’d have to carry the battery pack anyway.

What I have noticed though is the battery on the Sony ux560 is darn good. I’ve never had to use battery pack to charge it. Sony says I can get 23 hours recording without having to recharge the battery. Never had a chance to test this as the recorder recharges every time I plug it into my computer to transfer the files. And you can learn more about how to take care of your Sony ICD-ux560 battery here.

A couple of weeks ago I doing a video recording outdoors. It was a bright spring afternoon and I noticed that if the sun was directly shining on the recorder screen – I couldn’t see the menus. This was the first time I noticed that the screen was hard to see outdoors, but it was only when the sun was shining directly on the recorder. If I turned around (which is what I did), or placed my left hand over the screen to create a shadow, it was okay. I normally record indoors, so not a major issue.

Which brings me to the final criticism of the Sony ux560. And this is not necessarily the recorder per se, but the lack of “accessories.” When I buy a recorder, my expectations are it’ll come with a pouch, a pair of ear buds, and a cable to connect it to my computer. When you buy the Sony ICD ux560, you only get the recorder. I tried reusing one of the pouches that came with my other recorders, they were all too big. You might want to buy a pouch for this recorder (if you have found one that works, please recommend it in the comments section below here’s one that I recommend) and protect it from accidental damage. Other than that, I could reuse cables and ear buds from my other digital recorders.

If you don’t have a USB-A female to male cable, I’d recommend you get one. And if your computer does not have a USB-A port, get the appropriate cable adapter. I once had the mishap of bumping into a recorder that was attached to my laptop and almost knocking off the laptop from the table. Learnt my lesson; I always use a cable to connect my digital USB recorders to my computer(s).

Pros

Back to the preaching. I’ve shared 3 things that surprised me about the Sony ICD ux560: thin and lightweight; instant power up; very good sound recordings. What I did know before I bought this recorder was that it recorded in the LPCM format. That’s a major advantage over other digital recorders that are primarily built to record voice. To my knowledge, this is the only recorder that records in the LPCM format in this class of recorders. A few years ago, Olympus had a few recorders with this feature, but they’ve discontinued production of these recorders (very sad!).

And that was the main reason why I bought this recorder to test it out. It also has a lot of recording options. You have 9 different options for “mic sensitivity.” That makes this recorder ideal for recording in different settings. I’ll share the settings I recommend for interviews, lectures, and focus groups below.

Sony icd-ux560 mic input

The Sony ICD-ux560 digital voice recorder with built in USB also comes with a 3.5mm mic input that has plug-in power. So you can plug in lavalier(e) microphones as external microphones – very hardy if you are recording interviews in a noisy location. After testing a 6 clip on microphones, I have found the Giant Squid (here’s my review of this microphone) to be the best Sony ICD-ux560 external microphone for recording interviews.

Remember I said that that the screen was hard to see outdoors. Well, in dimmer conditions, the Sony ICD-ux560 LCD screen is clear, sharp, and crisp. Unlike previous models, this screen has white text on a dark background that turns to dark text on white background when selected – simply brilliant. This recorder has the best clarity of all the recorders that I currently own.  The caveat is, it’s hard to see outdoors in direct sunlight.

Verdict

The Sony ICD ux560 beat my expectations. It’s a really good recorder, that’s why I recommend it. The jury is still out on what I think will be its major flaw – the built in battery. But the advantages of having a built in battery (instant power up + low profile) means that even if my battery unexpectedly dies, I’ll still go out and buy the Sony ICD ux560. Without any reservations. No wonder the Sony ICD ux560 has a very impressive 4.7 out of 5 star rating on Amazon. So, stop shopping around and go and buy this beauty!

FAQs

How do you Charge Sony ICD-ux560?

There are 3 main ways to charge the Sony ICD-ux560 digital voice recorder with built in USB.

Sony icd 560 usb charge

1) Slide out the built in USB, plug it into a computer and it automatically starts charging – even when it’s not powered on. I recommend you use a cable to connect it to your computer (see cons section above). 2) You can charge it using a USB charger. I normally use my phone charger. Connect it to the charger and it automatically starts charging. 3) Using a battery pack. Great for when you are traveling or away from your home/office. It takes about 2.5 hours to completely recharge the recorder.

How Much can the Sony ICD ux560 Memory be Expanded?

As stated earlier this recorder supports microSDHC cards (4 GB to 32 GB) and microSDXC cards (64 GB or more). The microSDXC cards can theoretically have up to 2TB. The largest microSDXC currently in the market tops at 256GB.  I bought a 128GB microSDXC for about $22 on Amazon, and it works well with my Sony ICD ux560. I also use it on my video camera. I’d recommend you buy a card that has more memory than you need – you can always share it with other devices.

Is the Sony ICD-ux560 Compatible with Mac Computers?

Yes. I recently upgraded to High Sierra 10.13.3, inserted the recorder and it popped up on my mac desktop. I was able to copy, move, paste, and rename files using Finder. The Sound Organizer 2 that comes with the recorder does not work on mac computers. Only works on most versions of Windows (up to Windows 10).  But it’s a basic audio editing program; Audacity is superior.

How Long Does the Sony ICD-ux560 built in Battery Last?

Sony ICD-ux560 Battery Life

According to Sony, 23 hours while recording in the LPCM format, 27 hours to MP3. Playback is 5 hours using the speaker and 30 to 45 hours using headphones. With 3-minute quick charge, the voice recorder can provide 1 Hour of recording.

Where Can I find the Sony ICD-ux560 User Manual

You’ll probably not need the user manual, but if do you can download the Sony ICD ux560 User Manual here.

Using the Sony ICD-ux560: Optimal Settings and Tips

How to use the Sony ICD ux560 to record interviews – optimal settings and a few tips

For a general guide on how to record research interviews, see this popular post. When using the Sony ICD ux560 to record interviews, have a pair of headphones or ear buds – that’s my first tip. The Sony ICD ux560 allows you to monitor the recording using your headphones. Plug in your headphones into the headphone jack, press record (big round red button) to start recording and then press record again to pause the recording. The advantage is, you’re still able to monitor, and play around with the settings of the mic(s) input, while the recording is paused.

Next, you need to find the optimal recording settings for your location. Finding the optimal recording setting that work best for your location enables you to record the highest quality audio possible. When looking for the optimal setting, there are two audio qualities to optimize; noise and audibility. You want to record as little noise as possible, while capturing your interviewee thoughts/opinions clearly. How do you achieve this with the Sony ICD ux560?

While the recording is paused, press OPTION (bottom right hand corner). Select Built-in Mic Sensitivity (using the play button), select For Voice. You have 9 sensitivities to choose from. You have High, Medium or Low, and each of these setting have a Wide, Normal and Focused option. Scroll through the High, Medium or Low setting using the UP or Down buttons. And scroll through the Wide, Normal and Focused options using the Forward or Back buttons.

To increase audibility, choose a higher mic setting and wide coverage. To decrease background noise, choose a lower setting and more focused coverage. A High (Wide) setting will give you great audibility – but you might have a lot of background noise coming through.  So it’s great for conducting interviews in a very quiet location. A Low (Focused) setting, will let in very little background noise, but at the expense of audibility – great for recording interviews in a noisy location.

The default setting I start with, while conducting interviews, is the Medium setting. It works well for most of my interview locations (with fans, fridge, or AC in the background). If I find that very little background noise is coming through, I change the setting to Medium (Wide) or High and see how much noise comes through. If there’s a lot of background noise coming through, I go in the opposite direction, choose Medium (Focused) or Low. One of those 4 settings works 90% of the time.

The only instance I’ve found these settings not to work well is when I’m recording interviews in a location with a lot of background noise (mostly cafes/restaurants). From experience, I always use lavalier mics – I get better quality audio. But before I got my lavs, I used a Low (Focused) setting on the Sony ICD ux560 and got pretty good audio. A couple of tips: place the recorder facing the interviewee. And place the recorder near the interviewee and use the noise cut filter. You’ll get decent audio in cafes, but I’d recommend using lav mics.

How to use the Sony ICD-ux560 to record focus groups – optimal settings and a few tips

In this post, I recommend using the Sony ICD ux560 to record small focus group discussions. Again, when recording focus groups and meetings, I start with the Medium (Wide) setting. If I hear, keep in mind I’m using my headphones to monitor the recording (see above), a lot of background noise coming through, I change to a Low (Wide) setting. Sometimes the Medium setting works, but I’ve found that the Medium (Wide) and Low (Wide) to be the 2 settings that work best for small focus group discussion and meetings.

A quick tip while using the Sony ICD-ux560 to record focus group discussions, place the recorder upright. It’s a bit of a balancing act – since the recorder is so slim, but you want the inbuilt mics facing up so that they can clearly capture all of the participants.

How to use the Sony ICD-ux560 to record lectures– optimal settings and a few tips.

The Sony ICD ux560 is the recorder I recommend for recording lectures. The setting that I’ve found to work best for lectures is the Medium (Focused) or the Low (Focused) setting. I’ve also found in some lecture halls, turning on the NCF (Noise Cut Filter) helps to cut out background noise. To turn on the NCF, while in Record Menu press OPTION, Select Recording Filter > NCF (Noise Cut). Again you’ll want to monitor the recording while making these changes to enable you get the best recording of the lecture.

Those are the settings I’d recommend using on the Sony ICD ux560 when recording interviews, focus group discussions, and lectures. To reiterate, here are the best practices while using the Sony ICD ux560. 1), use a pair of headphones to monitor and adjust settings (to optimize for audibility) while the recording is paused. 2)  By default, the recorder records in the mp3 format. Change the REC Mode to LPCM 44.1kHz. 3) Change the placement of the recorder, facing up or towards the subject(s), to reduce background noise or increase audibility. 4) The Medium (Wide/Focused) Mic Sensitivity setting works wells for recording interviews, Medium (Wide) and Low (Wide) for small focus group discussions, and Medium (Focused) or the Low (Focused) for recording lectures.

That’s it for this Sony ICD ux560 review post. Sorry it’s so long! I hope you’ve found it useful. If you have any questions/suggestions, please post them in the comment section below. Happy recording.

Posted in: Best of.
Last Modified: September 30, 2019
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recording_cat
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recording_cat

How long have you been used Sony ICD UX560 ?
So I can approximate how many years I can use before battery fail. : D

( really love its recording sound quality )

M Christodoulou
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M Christodoulou

Hi
What lav mic would you suggest, will be using outdoors, not sure what noise level might be, could be windy!

mb christodoulou
Guest
mb christodoulou

Many thanks I will wait, though I need to get one this weekend!!

recorder_o
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recorder_o

Hi,

Could you recommend a lav mic to attach to the Sony ICD-UX560 for noisy office environments?

Thanks

Louise Clapperton
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Louise Clapperton

can you use this to record telephone interviews and if so how do you do it? many thanks

Maija
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Maija

Is there a silence detection in this voice recorder?

Dango
Guest
Dango

I used mine about 40 times over the course of a year and then it died. I was recording, pressed pause, set it down, and came back a few minutes later and it was dead. The files in the memory are lost unless I can get it to come back to life. The manual says it might be a dead battery, but the battery was fully charged. If you are tempted to buy one of these, just be prepared for a premature death. I would recommend downloading recordings as soon as possible to avoid losing files once it’s time is… Read more »

Mike T.
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Mike T.

The trick to “revive” this device when power slide is unresponsive is to to KEEP HOLDING down the power slider UNTIL it restart….keep holding ( might seems long…about 10+ secs.) 😉

nekovolta
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nekovolta

Hi, I was doubting between buying the UX650 or the PX470, until I found this website, which made me keep the same doubt hehehe. The reason I was looking for a Sony voice recorder, is that my previous recorder is a Sony ICD-SX800 but it died, and it seem I can’t repair it. I don’t understand about voice recorders, but I bought that one “by chance” almost 10 years ago and I loved it. My main doubt is about the battery. I really like the UX650 concept, but I am afraid I can face situations when the battery is empty,… Read more »

nekovolta
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nekovolta

Thank you Isaac. Yes, I have to transfer the files to the computer very often, as I use the files in the computer instead of the voice recorder. I also considered buying a external battery, which I can use it to charge also my mobile and other staff. For that reason, I want to try the UX560. But as far as I understood, it seems that the UX560 is to record on the LPCM format. Do you think I can have good records if I decide to record on MP3? By the way, as I see you are an expert:… Read more »

Hannah Gregory
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Hannah Gregory

I am going to be backpacking across Europe and would like to record some cool conversations while I’m there, in addition to recording college lectures in the future. I’ve been reading up on recorders a good bit, and the different specs and names have been a little over my head. But this article was SUPER helpful. Thank you! I’ve never used a recorder before, but I am a quick learner, and this seems like a good fit: lightweight, good for interviews and lectures, high sound quality. Two things: 1.) I will only be bringing a kindle and my iPhone xr… Read more »

Tariq Niazi
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Tariq Niazi

HI,
Thanks for fantastic review on Sony ICD UX560. I have bought this device from Amazon.
I have latest MAC with USB C ports, I have connected this voice recorder through Dongle that is C to standard USB for charging purpose. There is a message appearing “Connecting” wonder if it is charging in this situation . or not, or I will be able to download my recorded data on my MAC

Tariq Niazi
Guest
Tariq Niazi

Thanks a million buddy.
I am using High Sierra 10.13.3 MacBook Pro 2017 with USB C.

Yes It charged and I was able to transfer data as well. In the man while I am in a process of learning ropes on it as used to use OLYMPUS. Sony looks pretty good though, hope I will have command on it soon.

Thank you once again for the response.
Tariq

Alaa
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Alaa

thanks for the great review.
how to go in voice activation mode

Vi
Guest
Vi

Hi Isaac,

I’m deciding between a Tascam DR-05 and the Sony UX560. The price of the two are very close to one another in Australia, there’s only a $30 dollar difference.

I’d like to be able to record my thoughts, and conversations with people in all sorts of environments so that I can use them as a source of inspiration at a later time.

I really do like the size of the Sony compared to the Tascam, but I’m not sure if that’s enough to buy the Sony considering the amount of features the Tascam has.

What are your thoughts?

Ren
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Ren

UX560 was provided by my company for dictation purposes. Unless I missed something, it doesn’t seem to allow me to “edit as I go”. In other words, I dictate a paragraph or sentence, review it and want to “redo” it…or I misspeak and, before continuing, I want to correct (i.e. “type over”) what I just said. Is that possible? If not, any recommendations for another recorder?

ELIMELECH
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ELIMELECH

does it record in MONO?

ELIMELECH
Guest
ELIMELECH

I record lectures and produce CD’s from them for sale
no need to be stero. Voice is goood as mono and it takes up less place
i record as WAV or PCM not mp3
SO I want it to be mono as 16/44 for cd quality
thank you

ELIMELECH
Guest
ELIMELECH

thanks
Tascam and Olympus has recorders that record in Mono as a WAV file
16/44. I was hoping the cute Sony 560 would do the same.I know about the editing option ,I was trying to skip that step.thanks for your time.

Colin
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Colin

How is the sound quality outdoors? Is there a windshield/deadcat we can purchase for this recorder? Trying to decide between the Zoom H1N or this Sony one as my first recorder. I am new to recording audio. Thanks!

Peter
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Peter

Hi Isaac. Thanks for your review. You mentioned in the review you’ve used a Blue Yeti external mic. This has impressive specs. I wonder how you might configure a power supply for the Yeti, when using it with the Sony ux560?
My use is couple counselling.

Marc
Guest
Marc

Thanks for the detailed review! I’d like to know if this can record while recharging.

Marc
Guest
Marc

Sorry, a couple more questions: Is the battery removable? Will the device run on USB power with no battery installed? Also, is it safe to assume that a new recording is started automatically when the 4GB limit is reached?

Mitchel Julio
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Mitchel Julio

Isaac, thank you for your great reviews.
How can I playback the Sony UX560 thorough my NAD amplifier with RCA inputs ? What cable do I need?
Thank you. Julio M

Fathima
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Fathima

Hi, can I use a 400GB micro SD card along with the Sony ICD UX 560? Do you think it would be be compatible?

bar
Guest
bar

i am planning on recording in mp3 mode, will this recorder work better in a quiet room for a class if i put a microphone right near the recorder the same distance away from the speaker or will not make a difference?if yes which mic do you recommend?

Bobby S.
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Bobby S.

I live in a senior community with the responsibility of recording meetings in a large clubhouse. I need to hear people from way back in the room. Will this (or another is recommend device) do this?

Charles Chaves
Guest
Charles Chaves

Hi Isaac,

Can I only use TRS mic input with the ux560? I tried recording with the Rode MicMe mic for smartphones and it does not seem to work. However, the Rode Video Micro external mic for cameras work. Im guessing I need a TRRS to TRS adapter ?

DND
Guest
DND

Hey Isaac! Thanks for all the tips.
Just wondering, do you use low cut or noise cut?
I’m planning on using this with lav mic on groom in wedding ceremony (mostly outside, normally with wind or background noise) maybe I should use sensitivity in medium focused?

Bashu
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Bashu

Great review for the recorder but I need help for the next stage and that is to transfer recordings into text. Do you have any information that can help me choose a transcriber that will work over long periods of recording? Dragon equipment does not handle any constant transcribing.

Siva
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Siva

will the headphone jack give a live output of what’s being recorded? like i can do a livestream with audio output via 3.5mm output while the recorder still records…? tq

Luis S. Delgado
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Luis S. Delgado

Hey, I’m Luis and I’m considering using this digital recorder to record audio for large classrooms with a lot of students. The purpose is to collect data that later needs to be transcribed, coded, and analyzed. Yet, I’m unsure whether this type of recorder would work for me under such conditions. I’m talking 30 to 40 students in relatively large classrooms. I would appreciate any comments on this matter. Thanks

Lluís
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Lluís

Hi Isaac,
Thank you so much for this amazing review. I do fieldwork among farmers and shepherds in the mountain pastures. I need a recorder to interview them while walking around. Sometimes it is windy, sometimes sheep (bells) are around, that is the kind of environment I record in. I would interview only one farmer or shepherd at a time, two meters away or so. I was wondering if Sony ICD UX560 would work well for outdoor interviews or I should find another device.
Thank you very much.

Amanda
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Amanda

My question is about playback. I like to record lectures and then listen to them on the device while I am driving. If the device is paused during playback and sits idle for a few minutes does it shut off? And if so, does it lose your place during the playback? On my last device, I found I spent too much time restarting the recording and trying to fast forward back to my spot. Any tips to avoid this? Also, if the battery dies, does the device lose the recordings? I thought I read that it does in another review.… Read more »

Owen
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Owen

Hey how loud is it?

Marcus
Guest
Marcus

Hi, Isaac. Thank you for this great review. I want to know if it’s possible to record my phone interviews through my iPhone using this recorder.

Manish
Guest
Manish

Will the Sony UX560 be good for recording violin practice sessions? Or is there another portable recording device that will do a better job?

Singhal
Guest
Singhal

Hi. Thanks for a great review. I have been looking for a voice recorder for non professional uses. I wish to use the recorder in my pocket all day long as I am extremely forgetful and end up getting a lot flak at work and in general due to it. Will u recommend this for my use case scenario? Another model I looked at is tx650 as that is even tinier and seems to have decent reviews thigh a bit more expensive and a bit smaller battery. Olympus vp-10 seemed even better than these two as its reviews claim excellent… Read more »

Alice
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Alice

Will this Sony recorder work with a Mac using Mojave Os 10.14.15
Also will it record WAV files? I am doing oral history interviews, and the library I am sending them to prefers those kind of files. Thank you very much for your review of the Sony 560.

MOHAMED ELBANNA
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MOHAMED ELBANNA

How long does Sony’s ICD-ux560 battery last in battery? In the case of continuous recording without stopping .. thanks

MOHAMED ELBANNA
Guest
MOHAMED ELBANNA

How do I transfer a voice recording to my computer

Fiona
Guest
Fiona

Does this Sony machine record in DS2? If so, is there an option to record in another format and how? Thanks 🙂