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I use this for recording rehearsals of musicals I take part in- so it needs to ba able to pick up music, singing and speech/acting. I also used it whilst at university to record lectures and seminars and I found it transitioned between these perfectly. The sound quality is second to none- as long as you keep it stationary and aren't too close to the microphone. There are variety of settings to tweek for cancelling out background noise - although I found this did a good job on its own. You can create different folders in which to save files- great if you're doing different projects. Playback on the machine is of a high standard and can be very loud (if the highest volume is selected) which is unusual (but welcome) for th size of speaker! Hook it up to the computer and it was easy to transfer the files over to mp3 and then put them onto my mp3 player or iPhone! The buttons could be a little bigger- but you wouldn't want them much larger as it would be clunky and hard to use! The screen is a good size which helps as there are a lot of settings! Overall a fantastic purchase, and would recommend to any musicians, singers or students out there who likes to listen back to things!
Olympus ds-30 digital voice recorder == What is it? == This is a digital voice recorder designed to record your own voice or for recording interviews, conferences or lectures. You can use this as a MP3 player and listen to music on this but because of the limited memory, and the fact it doesn't have in-built rechargeable batteries, I don't use this feature myself. == Hardware == The recorder is well-built and feels durable. A protective case would have been nice though. It is a black colour, and the buttons are silver. It is 96 x 38 x 16mm (without stereo mic) and it weighs 73g. It feels heavier than this though, which is probably due to the batteries. All the buttons on this are raised and easy to feel. On the right side of the recorder, it has the standard record, play / pause and stop buttons along with the power button which is spring loaded and you need to push it downwards and hold it for a second or so to come on. If you push the power button upwards then you can lock the buttons on the recorder, which is useful when I'm recording as it means I can't accidentally stop recording by pressing the stop / pause buttons or accidentally press any buttons while it is in my pocket. On the left side of the recorder, is a standard 3.5mm headphone socket, underneath this is the sensitivity switch and it can be set to three positions, starting from nearest to the headphone socket: - LECTURE: Highest recording sensitivity suitable for conferences with large crowds and recording audio at a distance or low volume. - CONF: Suitable for recording meetings and seminars with a small number of people. - DICT: Lowest recording sensitivity suitable for dictation. Below this is the USB port for plugging in the USB cable. Even if I lose or damage my USB cable, I can easily find a replacement as it uses the same kind of connector as the N95 mobile phone. On the top of the recorder, there is a stereo microphone that you can pull off to reveal a 3.5mm microphone socket. On the front, there is a small white backlit LCD screen that gives the battery status and information like how long the current recording is and displays the files saved on the recorder. It has three buttons below the screen which are a Browse button for jumping between different Folders, an Index button and the last button is a shortcut to the Podcast folder. The index button is used to insert bookmarks in a file, which can be inserted either while recording or playing a file. You can navigate back to the bookmark when you press the left and right arrow keys on the recorder while playing the file. Below these is a standard circular shaped, up, down, left, right arrow key configuration with an Enter button in the centre. There's an erase button which is below the arrow keys at about the 7 o clock position which is used to delete files off the recorders memory. On the back of the recorder is where the in-built speaker is located. The headphones that come with this are nothing special. They are the in-ear kind. == Memory == This particular model has 256mb of memory built into it. It doesn't have a memory card slot that you can use to expand it. I have had no problem with the memory running out so far though. This is because I copy any recordings I make onto my PC as soon as I've made them. Officially, you can record up to 8 hours 40 mins and up to a maximum of 66 hours depending on the sound quality of your recordings. The lower the quality, the longer time you can record for. I believe the DS-40 and DS-50 models are the same as this, the only difference being the amount of memory in each. The former has 512mb whereas the latter has 1gb. == Sound quality and recording == I have used this to record meetings and to perform transcription work and the sound quality was fine both for recording and playback. I've not tested this out in a large lecture hall or where there were many people. It has a stereo microphone at the top of the recorder which until recently I thought was part of the recorder itself. However, I discovered by accident that it is detachable and you can use an external microphone of your own choosing if you wish. The player has a 3.5mm microphone socket. I believe there's another mono microphone built into the recorder itself, but I've never tried recording using that. It's something I've read about in its user manual. Another feature I stumbled across was the ability to listen to what you are recording as you are recording it. If you plug the headphones in while recording, you can listen to what the microphone is picking up so you can adjust the position of the recorder, if you can't hear all the detail you want. I think this is a nice feature that I have not heard of mentioned in other reviews for this or other digital voice recorders. It has an in-built speaker which gives satisfactory output. I mainly use it to test recordings I've made and for that purpose it is fine. It has many settings you can tweak for example, it has a button on the side that you can set depending on whether you are recording your own voice, a conference or lecture. I usually have it set to the conference setting. I've not played around with any of the other settings but there's supposed to be settings to help remove background noise like air conditioners and you can set it to only record when it hears a sound. I think its called voice activated recording. One thing I don't like about this is the fact that it saves recordings in the WMA format. I would have preferred it if it had saved files in MP3 or WAV formats which are both easier to mess around with and edit. == Voice guidance and sound feedback == This comes with voice guidance for the blind. Depressing the Ok / Enter button on the front of it for a second until you hear a beep, will bring up the settings menus. When you press the arrow keys, the player will speak each item as you navigate through them. My eyesight isn't very good, and I find this a handy feature. I don't think it is possible to get a spoken prompt of the current battery status, and the ability to hear the length of the currently recording file, would also have been useful. The recorder gives audio feedback whenever you press a key on it. It makes a chime sound when you power it on and off and it makes a beep sound when you press any of the other keys. I find this reassuring when I'm recording. == Software == I don't use the Olympus software that came with the recorder. It doesn't have any features I want to use and it doesn't allow you to convert from WMA to WAV or MP3. I find it easier to use the recorder as a normal USB flash drive as that is the way it acts when you plug it into a PC. I copy any recordings onto my PC as soon as I've made them which helps to make sure I don't run out of memory on it. I also prefer listening to recordings on my computer, as a pose to on the recorder itself, as I don't really like the fast forward and rewind function on it. It can take a while to get to where you want to start listening from if it is somewhere in the middle. == Batteries == The battery status is shown on the screen. Battery life appears to be excellent. It takes 2 AAA batteries. I would have liked it if it had in-built rechargeable batteries but the normal Duracell batteries I have in it at the moment have lasted me more than a year. Saying that, I rarely use it and even then it is no more than an hour or so at a time. If you just used it for recording then I'd say the batteries could last you several weeks if used on a regular basis. When recording anything important, I always make sure I put in anew set of batteries. Officially, the batteries are supposed to last between 20 to 32 hours depending on what sound quality you have it set to record to. == Summary and recommendation == I have given this three stars, as I would have liked it if it could save to MP3 or WAV formats and it had rechargeable batteries. I would use it more if it did. However, I find it performs the task it is designed for satisfactorily. It is well-built, has many settings you can play around with to get the perfect recordings and has voice guidance for the blind.