Time To Revisit Portable Digital Voice Recorders
August 17, 2006 10:15 AM   Subscribe

I think it's time to look at the latest portable hand-held Digital Voice Recorders. All the past threads on AskMe seemed to be from 2005 and surely there have been advances since then. It seems a big complaint was proprietary software. I'm looking for something to take quick notes with - as well as the occasional 20-30 minute interview. I would like the unit to record directly to mp3, but if that's not possible - at least wav. Any and all recommendations will be appreciated. One thing important to me: I would like a simple one-button solution so I can grab it driving down the road and make a quick voice note without maneuvering through menus, etc. As always, thanks in advance MeFites!
posted by Gerard Sorme to Technology (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
iRiver T30.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:53 AM on August 17, 2006

I've gone thru a few different models of handheld digital voice recorders.
The one i wound up with - and cannot praise enough - is the Olympus WS-100.
I cant praise it enough, really.

-voice quality is stunning. nearly all the DVRs I've tried in the past, even brand name ones, always had a muddy quality to the playback. The olympus seems to do some digital magic on playback; it almost sounds like there is a millisecond echo added to it. Whatever it is, the result is that, no matter the environment in which I made the voice recording, the playback is ALWAYS clear, distinct, completely understandable, with a very high signal-noise ratio.

-the other very nice feature it has is the following: it has a BUILT-IN USB connector. No wires, no cables. You pull it open just like a thumb-drive and stick it directly into your usb.

-is quite inexpensive. Lovely small form factor.

-converts directly to wav. Has five built-in folders you can switch between. You can also use it as a regular thumb drive (ie, you can copy its contents out or in, along with any other content you wish).

-has all the other features you'd expect from a decent DVR - playback speeds, physical 'hold' button, separate mic and earphone connectors, mic sensitivity, etc.
posted by jak68 at 10:57 AM on August 17, 2006

Response by poster: jak68 - It sounds like the Olympus WS-100 has the features I'm looking for. I especially like the idea of the the built-in USB connector - no cables! I will do further research into this one. Thanks for the info!

Anybody else with favorites?

posted by Gerard Sorme at 11:33 AM on August 17, 2006

I'm in the market for a voice recorder too; can the Olympus WS-100 be used with a Mac?
posted by tentacle at 12:13 PM on August 17, 2006

Response by poster: I have come across the newer Olympus WS-200S, which has the same built-in USB connector, but has 128MB of memory versus the WS-100's 64MB. Jak68, do you know of any other major differences with the model you have?
posted by Gerard Sorme at 12:26 PM on August 17, 2006

I only needed 64mb, but the whole WS-line is pretty highly rated on amazon.com (check out the reviews on amazon) and comes in different memory ranges (and different prices).
note that -

-as far as I know, the main differences in the different models is memory/price. I havent looked at the other models too closely, but all of them in this particular line share the same basic form factor and have the built-in usb connector. The ws-100 was all I needed so I didnt compare it too much with the other models in the ws-line.

- amazon reviews indicate Mac users had some issues with the ws-100. The other models in the ws-line may have addressed those issues, i'm not sure. Best to check the reviews and the specs on each model.

-there are some 'remanufactured' versions available for sale at amazon. In fact when I bought my ws-100, i bought a remanufactured one from amazon (I saved almost 30 bucks; got it for around 50 bucks). It works fine, no problems.

-note also that while some reviewers love the sound quality, others describe the built-in speaker as 'tinny' or 'scratchy'. I think they are really referring to the 'echo effect' that I mentioned above. I dont find that effect to indicate lower quality; in fact, to my ear, its a deliberate thing olympus did, maybe digitally, to enhance the signal-noise ratio. I really think that as a result of it, the signal-noise ratio is improved. (also, you can play with the mic sensitivity settings and adjust sound quality that way as well).

-in this price range, its the only one (to my knowledge; tho i havent checked recently) to have the built-in usb connector feature. (some other brands have that feature but for 100s of bucks more).
posted by jak68 at 12:37 PM on August 17, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, jak68.....Excellent information. Based on your enthusiasm and the Amazon reviews - I placed an order! Thanks again.....seems we can always count on fellow MeFites!
posted by Gerard Sorme at 12:45 PM on August 17, 2006

glad I could help :)
Hope you like it!

posted by jak68 at 1:39 PM on August 17, 2006

I recently bought a panasonic of some sort, model number escapes me, specifically because they include a voice recognition software so you can dictate with minimal human intervention required.
posted by nomisxid at 2:45 PM on August 17, 2006

nomisxid - out of curiousity, what do you think of the accuracy/quality of the voice recognition software that came with it?

By the way guys, upon closer examination the ws-100 doesnt save in wav format but in wma format; You can still play it directly off the device using windows media player, though, which is what I do.
posted by jak68 at 5:15 PM on August 17, 2006

I should also mention in passing that a different Olympus line, the DS-line (for example, the DS-2), is considered better for voice recognition (if you intend to play your voice recording back to a voice recognition software program, which is not included as part of the package), or for recording music. However it does NOT have a built-in usb connector (instead, it has a "dock" and a "cable"). It also comes with software to 'edit' your sound files, etc. And it too only records WMA (or 'DSS") formats. Deets on amazon.
posted by jak68 at 5:24 PM on August 17, 2006

I bought a little old Archos Ondio on eBay for $30 or so. 2003 vintage, came with a whole 128 MB installed. Added a 1 GB and a 4 GB MMC card. Runs Rockbox. Plays Tetris. Has FM. About the size of a matchbox. Built-in mic or line-in if I want to use a powered mic. Runs on AAAs. Couldn't be happier.
posted by meehawl at 6:32 PM on August 17, 2006

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