Sound Recorder is an audio program created by Microsoft. It was first released with Windows 3.0 and has been updated with each subsequent version of Windows. The program allows users to record audio data through a microphone. In the early versions of the program, only 60 second files could be recorded, but in later versions, files of practically any size could be made. Features continued to be added to the program until its peak with Windows XP. The versions for Windows Vista and onward removed nearly all features and modeled the program to be more like a traditional tape recorder rather than an audio editor.
Each major release of Windows contained an updated version of Sound Recorder. The different versions are discussed below.
Sound Recorder made its debut with Windows 3.0 and the same version was also included in 3.1 and 3.11. The program is located in the Accessories program group.
This version of Sound Recorder lets you record audio data from a microphone into WAV format and play it back. It also has several features that let you edit your recording, or any other WAV file. These features include clipping the audio sample, and performing basic transformations like adding echo, reversing the audio, altering volume, altering speed, and overlaying a sample with other files.
Recording time was arbitrarily set to a maximum of 60 seconds, even if you had more memory available. However, you could open files longer than 60 seconds, provided you had enough free RAM to load the file. Unfortunately, this version required a WAV file to be loaded entirely into memory in order to be played or modified. This created a duration limit based on your computer's available RAM.
In Windows XP, Sound Recorder is located under Programs, Accessories, Entertainment. This version is the most feature-rich release to date. It not only has all the capabilities of the earlier versions, but an additional feature for saving files.
This version used the Windows Audio Compression Manager allowing it to open, play, and save to any codec compatible with the Windows ACM. By default, this included the usual PCM WAV compression (from 8kHz 8-bit mono to 48 kHz 16-bit stereo) as well as many other codecs including CCITT A-Law, CCITT µ-Law, DSP Group TrueSpeech, GSM 6.0, IMA ADPCM, Microsoft ADPCM, Microsoft G.723.1, MP3, WMA v1, and WMA v2. This did not let the program open other formats—it was still not possible to open or save MP3, for example—but it did let you save or open a WAV file that used MP3 compression.
Also, due to the increases in memory capabilities of the time, few WAV files were so large that they couldn't be opened, played, or edited.
Windows Vista / 7
In Windows Vista and 7, Sound Recorder was retooled to function only as a simple digital recorder. Because of this, almost all of the previous features were removed including all audio transformations, clipping abilities, and the ability to specify your output. Most of the interface was eliminated, even the visual wave form. Also, this version of Sound Recorder no longer lets you save in WAV format under normal circumstances, and instead uses lossy WMA at 96 kbit/s which is unsuitable for any high-end audio use. The program won't even run unless you have a microphone connected.
In spite of the overall decrease in functionality, this version of Sound Recorder did have a few new features. In particular, the program now records directly to the hard drive eliminating the earlier memory limit. Huge files can now be recorded as long as you have hard drive space available. It also allows you to edit the meta data of the WMA file.
The latest versions of Sound Recorder can be purchased with the latest supported versions of Windows. But the older versions can no longer be obtained legally as Microsoft holds their patent, but refuses to sell them. However, if you're looking for a competent audio editing program, Audacity has all of the features of Sound Recorder plus many more, and is totally free.