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      09.12.2013 10:40
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      Top notch entry level dictaphone

      As technology moves on, I've come to learn that even the most favourite of devices get improved, or something comes along that does everything the same or better and adds functionality as well. For a long time I championed the Olympus 100 series of dictaphones, in particular one where the two parts separated to reveal a USB port within the device, enabling you to plug it in and transfer the data stored directly without worrying about fiddly cables. It's for this reason that I've probably put off upgrading until recently.

      The funky element of the integrated USB was the lure, so that was my starting point, and although I did some further research, I found that I didn't need to move any further than this particular model, the Olympus WS-812. The initial improvement on the USB is that it's not a retractable one and doesn't require the device being split into two. The added bonus here, other than a more stable device, is that the power stays on when you use the USB, whereas beforehand with the other model the split ,meant that the content was with the USB and the battery was in the other part. This one though has the battery compartment and the USB kept together and no separation needed. A note on the battery - whereas most dictaphones operate on a AAA battery, this one has its own Ni-MH battery and can be charged within the device.

      I suppose there are just improvements all round. To start with, the amount of memory is now huge. $GB of audio files is a hell of a lot of speaking and listening, and this is something that may not have been as important to me, where usage is usually limited to a few hours at most before the device is wiped and then reused. However, if you're looking for something with substantial storage then this is a good one to go for. There's also ample opportunity for file arrangement, with the controls making this seem much more like a controllable file saving device rather than just a basic dictaphone. The menu system may seem complicated at first, but if you're trying to learn how to do everything all at once then this may well be the case with most devices. It doesn't need to be like that. If you want to order your content by folder then this is possible, but if you're planning on just making a few recordings without fiddling around until you transfer to a PC, then this is also easy to do without the other substantial functions getting in the way.

      Modern sound alteration techniques are also present here - features such as drowning out background noise are particularly useful if recording in a crowded area or outside in severe weather conditions, and the voice balancer stops you worrying about hearing the person across the other side of the room bey being able to make it sound as if all speakers in a meeting for example are all equidistant from the dictaphone. Pitched as an entry level dictaphone, it certainly doesn't seem like one, particularly when you compare just what you can do. It doesn't have a touch screen facility or anything like that, but the flexibility the device offers you with audio recordings is substantial. I particularly like the feature which removes unwanted blank pauses, so if you're dictating something for transposition onto a VLE or recording for a podcast, you can take a pause to gather your thoughts and regain your thread without worrying that you'll have to go back and edit for ages to remove the unwanted gaps. This will do it for, and although you have to find the setting, it goes back to what I was saying about just using the functions and features you're keen on and not trying to devour everything it does.

      The device also feels good in your hand. The controls on the front make it extremely easy to use, and while there are some devices where pause actually means stop, there's no confusion here. The intuition is present, although it's very mechanical and not particularly conducive to hopping. You tend to have to return right to the start to find something new, it's not quite at a 'computer' stage yet. Nor is there any voice recognition in this particular device, although the slightly lower spec 811 DNS does feature this with Dragon Dictation software included. That would be fantastic, although again it's not something I particularly need, it's more something that would give additionality to the device.

      Quality device, and one I was lucky enough to get a couple of in a sale a while back. They won't cost more than £100, although you regularly find them reduced down to £70 or so. If you can get them for this price then this'll be worth it depending on what you need. If you're just after simple record, transfer and play then there are simpler devices, but if you need something slightly or significantly more sophisticated then this would be a good move. Highly recommended.

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