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The Nagra ARES-PII+ is a dictation machine on high-dosage steroids. Where once upon a time a journalist or radio reporter might use a simple compact cassette 'walkman-style' dictation machine with inbuilt microphone and loudspeaker, this fulfills the same function, but with first-rate audio quality.
As you can see from the pic, the ARES-PII+ is handheld, and just one hand is enough. Simply point it at your interviewee (or 'victim') and press the record button (which conveniently is red on the current model, not as you see in the pic).
You might be wondering where the tape goes. The answer is that there is no tape. This unit records directly onto a PCMCIA card or a Compact Flash card. If the PCMCIA option is used, then the card can be transferred to a computer (many laptops have PCMCIA slots) where it will appear as a hard drive for copying and editing. A Compact Flash card will require a reader, but this is still very straightforward.
Audio can be recorded in a variety of formats. For full audio quality, linear PCM can be used with 48 kHz sampling and a resolution of 16 or 24 bits. To extend recording duration, MP3 can be recorded directly with bit rates from 384 kbit/s down to 64 kbit/s.
A Nagra mono mic can be plugged in directly, or a stereo mic if you prefer. If a separate microphone is necessary, then this can be plugged in via a cable (oddly using a 12-pin DIN connector rather than a conventional XLR). The mic connector also doubles as a line input if required.
Of course the ARES-PII+ offers a convenient organization of recordings through a 'takes directory', and editing can be carried out on the machine itself without the necessity of transfer to a computer.
The ARES-PII+ would be an ideal machine for carrying around casually and capturing sound effects, backgrounds and textures when and wherever they are encountered. Sampling musical instruments in interesting acoustic locations would be another potential application.
One could easily think of the ARES-PII+ as the audio professional's equivalent of a domestic digital camera, to be carried around just in case something worth capturing crops up.
And the Nagra ARES-PII+ is just so desirable. It has all the right features in just the right package. Don't expect it to be cheap though. 2,200 Euros is the currently quoted guide price. Marantz make some less expensive similar alternatives.