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Part One of a review of the Samsung Note 9 by Franka Philip.*

The more appropriate subhead for this is probably, “the only time Franka tried her hand at mobile phone reviewing”. I played boldface and asked someone if they thought Samsung would let me review the Note 9. I didn’t expect them to say yes but they actually did.

I’m a very satisfied Note 4 user and the reason I’ve stuck with the Note, even though swankier phones have come and gone, is the handy stylus – the S Pen. It’s incredible to me that this new S Pen is Bluetooth enabled, can operate the camera and do other nifty, practical things but more about that later.

I’ve never reviewed a phone beyond saying, “oh goooooooode, the camera real sweet!”. I’m not a techie and while I get some of the details about the operating system, battery and the camera (the reason most people use a mobile phone these days), I’m more interested in how a phone fits into my lifestyle and how it makes my work (making audio and podcasts) much easier.

Initial Impressions
I usually look at the Samsung unveilings to see what new advances they’ve made in mobile technology. The last time I came away super impressed was at the launch of the Note 7, it made such great strides but we all know the story of how that phone met its untimely demise.

Samsung put a lot into the Note 9 presentation and based on the responses from social media, people were suitably blown away. The first thing that struck me was the expanded storage – 128 GB at least. That means there’s a lot of space for apps, music, pics and other media. I’m an avid podcast listener and that storage is more than enough for all the podcasts I want to download.

I’ve had my Note 4 with 64GB of total storage since 2014 and I keep balking at the amount of spring cleaning I have to do to win back some memory. If 512 GB still isn’t enough, there’s the option to further expand that storage by up to an additional 512 GB via a micro SD card.

 

Samsung Note 4, left, next to the 2018 Samsung Note 9
My 2014 Samsung Note 4 next to the 2018 Samsung Note 9

The Note 9 is sleek, its design isn’t much different from the Note 8. The screen, at 6.4 inches is the biggest ever on a Note and it means that videos look a hell of a lot better that they do on my current phone. The Note I’m trying out is midnight blue (I was hoping for the Lavender Purple, jokingly nicknamed Thanos Purple after the Marvel villain).

As I said before, as a maker of podcasts, I also listen to a lot of them. So the first thing I did was download Google’s new podcast app and start listening to a couple of podcasts.
The sound on the Note 9 is very good, the specs say the speakers are “stereo speakers tuned by AKG, surround sound with Dolby Atmos technology”. The sound was incredibly clear with the spoken word. Music reproduction isn’t bad but it’s much better with headphones as you’re able to hear more nuances in the music.

Making the podcast
In the first of this multi-part review of the Samsung Note 9, I said this, “I’m more interested in how a phone fits into my lifestyle and how it makes my work (making audio and podcasts) much easier.”
At the outset, the improvement in storage is a big advantage for people who are recording interviews. Samsung has its own voice recorder which is used widely by journalists. For print journalists, there isn’t a question of quality because the recordings aren’t being used for broadcast. On past models, including my Note 4, the quality of recorded audio was just okay, and if you wanted to push it to use the audio for broadcast, the interview had to be recorded in near perfect conditions.

The voice recorder on the Note 9 gives three options – standard, interview and speech-to-text. Speech-to-text enables the conversion of up to ten minutes of audio to text and the standard mode is best for dictation. In standard mode, you have the option to record in 128kbps, 44.1kHz quality or 256kbps, 48kHz in stereo.

Interview mode amplifies sound from the top and bottom of the phone and reduces intrusive sound from the sides. You can also set the recorder to record interviews in stereo as well. The audio from the Samsung Voice recorder is saved as M4A and this can be converted to MP3 in editing software like Audacity or Adobe Audition.
Of course, there are Android-compatible programmes that can be downloaded specifically for doing voice recording. The one I use is Rec Forge, a useful program that is used by a lot of journalists at my former employers, the BBC. The main advantages of Rec Forge over the Samsung Voice recorder are 1) being able to save audio in Wav format and 2) being able to do some basic editing within the program.

As it was our Independence holiday in Trinidad, I decided to do a small podcast on freedom recorded exclusively on the Note 9 using a mixture of audio from Samsung Voice Recorder and Rec Forge. For this, I spoke to people in various sound conditions – on a balcony on a busy street, inside an office (with no sound treatment), in a living room with wooden floors (with no sound treatment) and on the street with a parade passing in the background. To be honest, there was little difference in quality between the audio samples.

The Samsung Note 9 can be a useful tool in the broadcaster’s or podcaster’s arsenal. Depending on where recording has to take place, it’s good for short interviews and clips. It’s very portable and delivers decent quality. However for ideal quality, it’s best to use a dedicated audio recorder with a good quality microphone.
Have a listen to the resulting podcast on my program Talk ‘Bout Us, the sound is good and there are some pretty interesting views on Independence and Freedom too.

*This review was originally published as a four part series on Facebook. You can read Part Two here.

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