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Digital Voice Recorders

Jeff Davidson

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I’m seeking recommendations for an inexpensive but good-quality digital audio recorder for taping at least a half-day presentation, with easy transfer and editing on a computer.

(Note that this question was also addressed in 2005 and 2003.)


— David Lee

I use an Olympus DS-20. It’s stereo which I didn’t need. It’s works great. I slip it into my pocket. I use a Radio Shack lav mic which works fine. That mic is only about $30 so it’s not outstanding, but totally fine for public seminar production. When I do the editing, I use the freeware program Audacity, which is easy to use, even for a non-techie. To convert the .WMA files that the Olympus makes into MP3s which you can then edit, I use MP3RM converter, which is a shareware program. I highly recommend the Olympus or whatever mono version they have now.

— George Silverman

I use the Olympus DS-30. The 40 and 50 have even more memory. I get about 20 hours of very high-quality recording. Then, I plug it into the USB port, and it shows up as a separate drive, from which I can drag the recordings. It has four different audio quality settings. Even the lowest quality is excellent.

— Shivani

I use Olympus digital voice recorder WS-100 with about 17 hrs taping on it. I then put it up on a site and pay around $100 to get it transcribed if I need as a document.

— Joanne Factor

I’ve been using an Olympus WS-110 with a lapel mic. So far very reliable and works well. The specs say it can hold 17 hours of recording (but have extra AAA batteries on hand). Files easily transfer onto my computer. Haven’t yet tried to edit them, though.

— Bill Conerly

I’m using an old Olympus DM-1; very happy with it, though there’s probably new product with more features out now. I use the audio from the Olympus (and a Radio Shack powered lapel mike); combined with my PowerPoint slides.

— John Putzier

The Olympus line of DVRs are small, lightweight, huge recording capacity (up to 20 hrs) and easy to use. I have been extremely happy with the Olympus DM-1, until last year when bought a new computer which runs the notoriously evil Vista operating system it’s not compatible with Vista. Olympus does have a patch that they sent me by mail, absolutely free, after much effort.

— Jeff Korhan

If you are considering the Olympus DM-20, be aware that it will revert from English language to Japanese if it sits around without being used for a few months. Olympus is aware of this peculiar behavior but charges you to fix it. Having owned the device for several years, I finally got around to sending it in to take care of this. Unfortunately, there is a charge of $95 to give it a “hard boot” according to the technician. Since it works fine otherwise, I elected to have it sent back and I’ll just have to find another brand. The logic of the buttons is not intuitive at all and the “self-directed, non-reversible language adjustment” is simply unacceptable.

— Lisa Braithwaite

I use the Olympus WS-300M, selling for under $100. I bought a clip-on lapel mic to go with it. It’s easy to use, and the USB plug is built into the device; just pull off the battery compartment of the recorder and there it is!


— Jim Bouchard

I use a Sony ICD-P520 digital recorder priced at around $60. It will record about 130 hours, buy about 40 hours at it’s highest quality setting. Most of these have a mic input jack. I generally take one output from my wireless mic receiver and feed the recorder with it, the other going to the PA. If you’re not using a PA, almost any lavalier mic will work. Most of these units come packaged with a USB cable and some software to transfer, organize and even edit your audio files. Just be sure to buy one marked “USB.” The USB is fast, easy, and doesn’t cost that much more.

— Blaine Rada

I recently purchased a Sony IC Recorder (ICD-P520) that I’m very pleased with. The price was right and the ease of use and functionality seem good. I recently recorded a half-day presentation, downloaded it on to my computer and converted the audio to an MP3 file to put on my iPod to listen to while driving. Much better sound quality than listening through the device itself.


— Tom Terrific

I love the Edirol R-09. Not “inexpensive,” but one of the best tech investments I have made. It uses SD cards, which are easy to slip into a reader and instantly download to my hard drive. I can get many many hours of workshop voice recording on a 2 gig card. Two rechargeable AA batteries last a long time, too. It comes with a cord and transformer, too. You can also perform some editing and track functions in the machine as you go. It has built-in stereo mics, which work if I am in the field (pyramids) and want to drop it in my shirt pocket, but I usually use a lavaliere mic. It will fit in a large pocket and does a great job. I also found a small Sony mic and stand, better quality, that I will be using for more professional home studio type recording.

I use an older iRiver FP-795 with a lavaliere mic. Make sure you set the audio input to “manual” not “auto.” I get good quality audio from that setup.

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