Sony ICD-UX560 Review

An ultra-compact digital recorder that can fit in a shirt pocket

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Sony ICD-UX560

Sony ICD-UX560

Lifewire / Jeff Dojillo 

What We Like

  • Pocket-sized and ultra-lightweight

  • Simple button layout

  • USB data transfer directly from the device

  • Great build quality

  • 4GB internal storage

What We Don't Like

  • Maximum of 16-bit audio recording

  • No screw mount for tripod

  • Basic microphones

Sony ICD-UX560 is an ultra-compact digital audio recorder that’s perfect for recording lectures, conversations, speeches, and seminars with high-quality, 16-bit audio.

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Sony ICD-UX560

Sony ICD-UX560

Lifewire / Jeff Dojillo 

There are massive amounts of audio recording devices on the market today. Most of the options available are large, clunky, and have features that may not be useful for the average user. But the Sony ICD-UX560 handheld recorder is different—it’s of the smallest audio recorders available and puts the ability to record high-quality audio at your fingertips. 

We tested the Sony ICD-UX560 to see if its diminutive design still delivers on the features we expect.

Sony ICD-UX560
Lifewire / Jeff Dojillo 

Design: More than compact—it’s tiny 

Measuring 1.44 x 4 x 0.41 inches, the Sony ICD-UX650 is quite small and feels compact in your hand. It's about as thin as a smartphone and can fit perfectly in a shirt pocket. 

Made out of durable plastic, the Sony ICD-UX560 feels substantial in your palm and has buttons that are pleasant to the touch and easy to access with your thumb. Despite its substantial build, it also feels a little fragile due to its small size. But the recorder’s compact and straightforward design makes it a great fit for business professionals. 

The Sony ICD-UX560 has 4GB of internal storage with the ability for microSD card expansion (there’s a card slot located on the left side of the device). On the right side, there are the power and volume control buttons that have nice soft clicks when pressed. Toward the bottom of the volume control is the external USB connector that can be directly plugged into your laptop or desktop for direct transfer of files. 

The recorder’s compact and straightforward design makes it a great fit for business professionals.

Setup Process: Turn it on and it’s ready to go

After turning on the Sony ICD-UX560, we could see that it had a little bit of battery power out of the box. We first had to set the time and date and, fortunately, we had the ability to disable beep notifications when navigating through menus (the beep notifications are loud).

Rewind and fast forward buttons on the Sony ICD-UX560 allow the user to navigate through the menus easily. Selecting the toolbox icon in the menu allows you to access the settings—you can switch the audio quality from MP3 to 16-bit WAV, and adjust the microphone sensitivity, noise cut, and low-frequency cut. You can also access folder storage options. 

Sony ICD-UX560
 Lifewire / Jeff Dojillo

Display: Great for a compact device

The Sony ICD-UX560’s OLED display measures about one square inch with a monochromatic display. A black background with contrasting white menus makes it easier to read as you cycle through options and settings. 

Battery Life: Over 24 hours of usage on one charge

The Sony ICD-UX560 can run up to 27 hours depending on the style of usage on its rechargeable lithium-ion internal battery. With this device, there is no need to replace batteries. 

The rechargeable lithium-ion battery and 4GB of internal storage are worth the price alone.

To charge the Sony ICD-UX560, the device needs to be physically plugged into a USB port of a computer. This can be difficult if a user only has a desktop workstation with hard-to-reach USB ports. A solution to this issue would be to purchase a USB hub or male-to-female USB extension cord for easier charging solutions. You could also go directly to a household electrical outlet with a USB AC adapter. 

Microphones: Tiny but mighty

The Sony ICD-UX560 has a “Scene Select” option that alters the microphone recording style. The menu features recording settings optimized for meetings, lectures, personal voice notes, interviews, soft music, and loud music, with the ability to customize two personal user settings. Sony also provides an “Auto” function for off-the-cuff recording situations. 

The input jack is located at the top of the device in between the left and right microphones and allows you to connect various styles of microphones, such as shotgun and lapel microphones. Since the device is so small, it could be a great option for videographers—an actor or interview subject can be wired directly to the Sony ICD-UX560 and the device discreetly tucked into their pocket, which would provide cleaner and crisper sound with less ambient noise.

 There is also an output jack next to the input jack. This is a key feature that is great for audio recording. We connected the Sony ICD-UX560 to some noise-canceling headphones during our testing, and it was very helpful in positioning the device to get the best sound. It also let us hear just how sensitive these tiny microphones are.

Sony ICD-UX560
Lifewire / Jeff Dojillo 

Performance: Great for dictation and transcribing

The Sony ICD-UX560 can record 16-bit high-quality audio, which is perfect for a device designed for dictation and transcribing. Point the device toward your subject, press the record button, and a red indicator light will start flashing to show the device is in use. Left and right audio channels can be monitored through an audio level indicator on the display screen once a recording session is in progress. 

It can record 16-bit high-quality audio, which is perfect for a device designed for dictation and transcribing.

Besides connecting to external microphones, the Sony ICD-UX560 can also record the output of an audio device connected via its input jack. This includes a mixing board at a conference or even a stereo system during playback. 

The Sony ICD-UX560 also has external speakers that provide clear and clean audio playback if headphones are not available.

Price: Decently-priced for decent quality

The Sony ICD-UX560 retails for $81.99 and generally sells for around $80-$100, which is very affordable for a digital audio recording device. 

The rechargeable lithium-ion battery and 4GB of internal storage are worth the price alone when considering how many other devices require batteries and memory cards. 

Competition: You’ll need to spend more for better-quality audio

Zoom H1n Handy Recorder: A direct competitor to the Sony ICD-UX560 is the Zoom H1n Handy Recorder, which sells for around $120. Measuring 2 x 5.4 x 1.3 inches, the Zoom H1n is much larger and has better X/Y microphones. 

The key difference between the two recorders is that the Zoom H1n can record audio at 24-bit/96 kHz, resulting in a much richer-sounding, higher-quality sound file. When we compared an audio file from both devices, it was very clear that the Zoom H1n Handy Recorder’s 24-bit/96 kHz WAV file was better in quality, clarity, and richness.

The Zoom H1n has the ability to use a wide range of accessories due to its popularity with video makers, musicians, and content creators. Windscreens work amazingly with the Zoom H1n Handy Recorder, but the Sony ICD-UX560 would not be able to utilize a windscreen due to the way the microphones are designed on such a small device. 

The screw mount available on the Zoom H1n Handy Recorder is an amazing feature. This gives the user the ability to place the device on a tripod, mic stand, DSLR camera, or boom arm to bring the device as close as possible to the subject for an even cleaner and richer sound.

On the other hand, the Zoom H1n Handy Recorder lacks the wonderful rechargeable capabilities and 4GB of built-in storage that the Sony ICD-UX560 has. The Sony also works in on-the-go recording situations without the need to look for batteries and memory cards. 

The Zoom H1n Handy Recorder can do what the Sony ICD-UX560 can but at a higher quality and better functionality—and it only costs about $20 more. If you are a content creator and sound is a major aspect of your project, or if you need to archive audio files at the highest quality possible, the H1n is clearly the better choice.

Sony PCM-A10: Retailing for $299.99 but often selling for closer to $200, the Sony PCM-A10 is a more high-end digital audio recorder with advanced features. A major advantage of the Sony PCM-A10 is its ability to record 24-bit/96 kHz high-quality audio, as well as its Bluetooth connectivity features. The ability to monitor wirelessly is almost worth the price alone. The microphones on the Sony PCM-A10 are more high-quality than the microphones on the Sony ICD-UX560. They’re also adjustable, giving you the ability to fine-tune the sound. Combine that with 24-bit audio recording capabilities and the PCM-A10 is a powerful tool for content creators. If you’re just looking to record audio for transcribing purposes, then this device is probably overkill for your needs. 

Final Verdict

A great device for transcription and recording notes.

The Sony ICD-UX560 is a compact digital audio recorder perfect for lectures, voice notes, and meetings. If sound quality is paramount, then we’d recommend spending more on a device with higher-quality microphones. But for basic recording tasks, the ICD-UX560 is a great-looking device with long battery life and an ample amount of internal storage that gets the job done. 

Specs

  • Product Name ICD-UX56
  • Product Brand SONY
  • MPN S01-11199575-F
  • Price $81.99
  • Release Date October 2015
  • Product Dimensions 1.44 x 4 x 0.41 in.
  • Recording Formats Linear PCM, MP3
  • Internal Storage: 4GB, plus microSD expansion
  • Microphones 2-element internal system
  • Ports 3.5mm microphone input, 3.5mm headphone output, USB 2.0 for PC & Mac
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