The Sony PCM-D50 includes a great-sounding pair of condenser microphones built into the top of the recorder. The mics can be turned like a pair of rabbit ears to either point inward, for focused recordings, or outward (pictured) for wide stereo recordings.
The Sony PCM-D50 is pretty chunky compared with most portable audio players, but part of the bulk is because of the recorder's use of four AA batteries, housed in the back. From top to bottom, the right side of the Sony PCM-D50 includes a microphone input, line input (analog/optical), a large recording level knob, a power switch with a small guard above it, and a loophole for a wrist strap.
The secret to the Sony PCM-D50's fantastic battery life is the use of four AA batteries, housed in a swappable cartridge that fits in the back. Compared with devices that depend on an internal rechargeable battery, AA batteries offer users a way to quickly replenish power, and they're easy to stock up on.
One of Sony's competitors, the Korg MR-1, boasts superior recording resolution. But when it comes to practical features such as built-in microphones, ergonomic controls, and battery life, the Sony PCM-D50 steals the show.
If you're looking for a stealth portable audio recorder for bootlegging live concerts, the Sony PCM-D50 isn't exactly discreet. You'll get a great recording, however, and with 6 to 12 hours of battery life, you could record a whole music festival. Also notice how each of the Sony PCM-D50's buttons are visually and physically distinguished from one another by color, texture, or placement, making it easy to operate in dark conditions.
The left side of the Sony PCM-D50 is packed with ports and switches. On the silver edge, from the top down, you have the line output (analog/optical), headphone output, volume knob, hold switch, digital pitch control switch, and remote control input. To the left of the silver edge of the PCM-D50, from the top down, you have a line/microphone input switch, a -20dB input gain switch, a mini USB port, and a 6V DC power input.
When you mount the Sony PCM-D50 on a tripod and outfit the microphones with the optional windscreen, it starts looking like a little creature. The windscreen is very effective in reducing distortion caused by wind blowing directly on the sensitive microphones, and the use of a tripod helps minimize any rattling caused by handling the recorder or placing it on busy surface.