Test Drive: The Blue Group PhoneByte Digital Phone-Bit Recorder

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Once several callers have been recorded, stop recording by clicking on the Stop button on the screen, or by pressing the yellow "S" key on the keyboard. (Not only are several keys color coded, but the function is also printed on the key. For example, the "S" key also has the word "Stop" printed on it. The green "P" key also has the word "Play" printed on it, and so on.) If you recorded ten callers, the screen will show the ten recordings in numerical order starting at the top. The ten number keys at the top of the keyboard can be used to instantly access any one of the ten recordings displayed on the screen, or the track-ball can be used to select a recording. When selected, press "P" or click the Play button to begin playback.

As the recordings are played back, this is a good time to decide which ones to keep. Each recording is automatically stamped with a "T" code after recording to indicate that it is a Temporary recording. Click the "KeepIt" button, or press the "I" key on the keyboard. One press turns the "T" to "S" for "Special," and another press of the KeepIt key turns the "S" to "K" for "Keeper." The "S" can really mean anything you want it to mean. Maybe you assign an "S" to all recordings that you want to listen to again later. "Ts" can be purged immediately, and "Ks" are to be kept indefinitely. This is all up to you, but the recordings can be deleted or purged based on this code. This is done by pressing the "U" on the keyboard or clicking the "PUrge" button on the screen. The Purge Screen gives you the option to keep all recordings that are Keepers or Specials. You can also choose to keep recordings that have comments attached to them, recordings that have been edited, recordings placed on a stack, or recordings older than the current date or any other date you wish; or you can keep files with any combination of the above criteria, deleting all others. Of course, you don't have to decide to keep any recording if you don't want to bother with the "KeepIt" function. You might decide to simply attach a note to any call worth keeping. Do this by clicking the "Comment" button or pressing "C" on the keyboard. You get a 30-character field in which to type in your comment. Then, later, you can purge all files that don't have comments. Recordings can also be deleted by clicking on the "RemoVe" button or by pressing the "V" key on the keyboard. This brings up a screen with options to remove the last recorded file or the currently selected file. There's an option to audition these files before deleting them.

Well, you've recorded all these great callers, but these are raw tracks. They need editing. After selecting a file to edit, click on the "Edit" button or press "E." Welcome to the Edit Screen. This is where a Start Mark and End Mark are set and splices made. The editing functions on this screen are similar to those found on digital workstations, but you don't get "cut and paste" type editing. You can set a start point and end point for the recording, and you can make up to ten "splices" on a file. But you can't take a piece of audio from the back of the file and move it to the front. You can't do fancy loops, and you can't play audio in reverse. PhoneByte doesn't try to act like a fancy digital workstation. It's a simple, easy to use device designed for on-air production; and in the on-air studio, the simpler, the better. Besides, if you think about it, 99% of the editing you do with phone calls is basic cut and splice editing anyway. And that's exactly what PhoneByte does very efficiently.

The "Cut" and "Splice" buttons on the keyboard function like "edit in" and "edit out" functions on most digital editors. These Cut and Splice points can be set on the fly while playing back the audio and fine tuned later. Pressing the Cut key sets the "edit in" point. Pressing the Splice key sets the "edit out" point. Once these points have been set, the cuts are automatically made and the splice is done. No other button needs to be pressed in order to perform the edit.

Once the edit is made, the track-ball arrow can be used to adjust the in/out points by clicking and dragging markers on the screen. Or the keyboard can be used. I found the keyboard to be much more accurate. The "scrub" function is done with the nine keys of the numeric keypad to the right of the keyboard. What at first seemed like a strange way to cue to edit points turned out to be surprisingly fast and accurate. Place the index finger on the 7 key, the middle finger on the 8 key, and the next finger on the 9 key. This is a natural and comfortable position. Pressing the 8 key with your middle finger auditions the current edit point. Pressing the 7 key moves it back one second and plays from the new point. Pressing the 9 key moves it forward one second and plays from the new point. Once you're in the ballpark, drop you fingers down and place them on the 4, 5 and 6 keys. The 5 is used for auditioning, and the 4 and 6 keys move the edit point back or forward in increments of 1/10 of a second. If you need even more fine tuning, drop your fingers to the 1, 2 and 3 keys. Again, use the middle finger for auditioning, and the 1 and 3 keys for adjusting the edit points in increments of 1/100 of a second. I have yet to come across a system that uses the numeric keypad in this way, and I was completely surprised at how well this method of "scrubbing" worked.

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