Olympus WS-700M Digital Voice Recorder

Portable digital voice recorder

Olympus WS-700M: A very nice personal digital recorder

A Very Nice Personal Recorder

Rating:  5 stars (out of 5)

I needed a compact digital recorder for multiple purposes: To record my thoughts while away from my desk, To record myself for later transcription (via DragonSpeak), and to record personal stuff (guitar and ukulele compositions, parties, and my daughter singing). I bought this as a backup to my other Sony PCM-M10 recorder, which is an excellent recorder but I found to be a bit too “large” to conveniently carry around everywhere. I also considered the Sony ICD-PX820 and the Olympus VN 6200pc, but decided to get the Olympus 700M for various reasons I will spell out here.

Firstly, this 700M is the “middle” unit of the latest releases (600S, 700M, 710M). All three have built-in memory (2, 4, and 8 GB, respectively), stereo mics and stereo mic inputs, built-in USB port for direct connect to PC, playback speed control. The differences are in the size of the built-in memory/storage and a few other features. I went for the 700M because I wanted the expandability (microSD card slot) but did not want or need the FM tuner in the 710M. It would have been nice to have the directional mic of the 710M, but again I did not need it. It is just slightly larger than the ipod nano, but the sound is just as good (if not better) with the 700M. The only disadvantage I can see with this unit as an mp3 player is that I have yet to figure out how to create separate subfolders in the music folder. Once I figure it out (if at all possible), I’ll post an update.

It is easy enough to operate. Without any experience with any Olympus recording devices, I found it relatively easy to use out of the box without reading the instructions. The files are labeled by day and time stamps, and the file names are progressive (WS700###). There are 5 folders, labeled Folder A-E.

I’ve plugged this unit into WinXP Pro (32-bit), WinVista, and Win7 and recognized. It is also recoginized by Mac OS X Snow Leopard (I no longer have Tiger, so I can’t speak for this OS, but supposedly it is supported). I will bring it to work one day to see if it will work on Linux OS. Stay tuned.

It comes with a single rechargeable AAA alkaline battery that recharges by plugging the device to a computer via USB (as long as the USB port provides power out, which some of the older PC’s USB ports do not). It can be directly plugged into your Mac or PC (USB Direct) through a USB connector that slides out of the bottom, so no cables are required. It does come with a cable extender to plug it in to a usb port while the recorder is sitting flat on a surface. It also comes with earphones, which is a decent set, but I prefer using my ultimate ears or klipsch headsets.

It has a Variable Control Voice Actuator (VCVA), a “voice activation” feature which sets the audio device to record automatically only when sound is detected at a pre-set level and stop when sound drops below the threshold level. I’ve tried this, but never really used it too much for dictation purposes. The purpose of this function is to eliminate “dead air” during recordings, conserving memory and shortening file times. I’ve always just pressed the record button to pause, if needed.

It allows for Index Marks, which are digital tags that can be inserted while recording or during playback. It is a useful function, which can be used to skip forward and backward in recordings to pre-selected reference points. This can help with finding specific areas in the recording (such as a particular sound byte).

It has a larger backlit LCD screen (compared to previous models). Not having any of the other or older models, I cannot say whether this is a good or bad thing, but I always favor the larger screens to avoid the smaller fonts.

The stereo mic inputs allow me to use my stereo Sony mics (I have both the Sony ECM-DS70P Electret Condenser Stereo Microphone and the Sony ECM-DS30P Electret Condenser Digital Microphone), and I the recording is significantly improved for some cases (recording jam sessions) and not too different for others (dictation). The recording levels can be monitored for both channels on the display. I like that the option is available.

The reason I did not pick the Olympus VN 6200pc is because it lacked stereo recording. I wanted the stereo recording capability because I want to be able to use this recorder on impromptu jam sessions (family gatherings, parties, or just at home). I was tempted to get the Sony ICD-PX820 because although the built-in mic is mono, the mic jack can take a stereo mic (which I have) and record in stereo. Also, neither the VN 6200 or the PX820 have an expansion slot (the WS 700M has a microSD slot), and this is a major factor that swayed me because I want the expandability. Because of these reasons (among others I will not elaborate on) I decided to purchase the Olympus WS 700M.

Overall, I am truly enjoying this recorder. If I need a higher quality audio recorder, I bring my Sony PCM M10 along. This Olympus WS 700M is a great portable recorder that I can bring every day and everywhere. I highly recommend it. For the extra $$ over the other two units, I think it is worth it. I like the portability, and I’ve been truly enjoying this gadget. For the price and quality, this unit deserves a five-star rating.


Comparison with other WS series:

600S – Base recorder
2GB internal memory,
mp3 and WMA recording,
Comes in metallic silver color

No memory slot (the 700M and 710M have a microSD card slot, up to 16GB expandable),
No Noise cancellation (included in 700M and 710M),
No FM tuner (710M only),
No USB battery charge function (in 700M and 710M).

710M – everything in the 700M plus the following features:
8GB internal memory (4GB in 700M)
FM Tuner
Directional microphone
Comes in Metallic black color

For those who want a more detailed specs layout:

-Multi format recording: mp3, WMA, and PCM
-Built-in 4GB flash memory and microSD slot
-Input level: -70dBv
-VCVA (or Variable Control Voice Actuator)
-Max Output: 80mW
-Speaker: 18 mm round dynamic speaker
-Microphone jack: 3.5mm; impedance 2k ohms (mono)
-Earphone jack: 3.5mm; impedance 8 ohms (mono)
-Power Supply: AAA NiMH rechargeable battery, or AAA alkaline battery
-Battery life: Approximately 25h alkaline (not yet tested NiMH)

Overall Frequency Response (these are straight from the Olympus site):

PCM 44.1kHz/16bit: 40Hz-21kHz
MP3 256kbps: 40Hz-20 kHz
MP3 128 kbps: 40Hz-17 kHz
ST XQ mode: 40Hz-19 kHz
ST HQ mode: 40Hz-16 kHz
ST SP mode: 40Hz-9 kHz
HQ mode: 40Hz-13kHz
SP mode: 40Hz-8kHz
LP mode: 40Hz-3kHz


PCM 44.1kHz/16bit: Approximately 6 hours
MP3 256kbps: Approximately 34 hours
MP3 128kbps: Approximately 69 hours
ST XQ mode: Approximately 67 hours
ST HQ mode Approximately 134 hours
ST SP mode Approximately 270 hours
HQ mode: Approximately 270 hours
SP mode: Approximately 532 hours
LP mode: Approximately 1058 hours


About Ask Conrad
I am a University Professor. A Neuroscientist by trade, and a technophile/geek on the side. My work and research is heavily dependent on computers and state-of-the-art technology. I like Jazz and Bossa Nova. I play the piano, guitar, and ukulele.

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