[bct] Olympus WS200S review

  • From: "Darren Duff" <dduff@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "E-mail list" <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 6 Dec 2005 13:26:53 -0500

Hi guys.
Just wanted to share this with you.
I would like to have some kind of carrying case to carry my WS200S and
my sptfb2 binaural in ear mikes. If anyone knows of anything like this,
could you please let me know? thanks.
a review of the Olympus WS200S. Note that some of the features the
author talks about are not accessible to the Blind.
I've been getting lots of mail about my
enthusiastic review
of the Olympus DS-2 stereo voice recorder. Several readers wondered what
I thought of the WS-200S, a smaller, higher-capacity model that came out
after I finished the review.
Well, because I really liked the DS-2 but found it a tad too big for my
(admittedly overcrowded) pocket, I took a chance and bought a WS online
after returning
the DS-2. Here's what I discovered.
Three Amigos
Left to right: Olympus WS-200S, DS-2, and V-90, the ancient model that
got me hooked on voice recorders. The WS-200S image is pasted on, but
As you can see in the photo, the WS is significantly smaller than the
DS-2, which made it the perfect size for me. What you can't see is that
the silver
and black halves slide apart, revealing a USB plug, which was a feature
I really wanted in a voice recorder. (The DS-2 requires a mini-USB cable
or docking
station to initiate computer file transfers.) There have already been
several times when the WS saved the day by acting as a pocket flash
drive. It also
has double the memory of the DS-2, 128MB.
One thing I hadn't thought to try with the DS-2 was playing back
prerecorded music files. (Its 64MB of memory would hold only an hour of
music at a listenable
resolution.) But the WS's extra memory inspired me to try, so I dragged
a WMA music file into the "E" folder. It worked! I could listen to the
music through
the stereo headphone output as well as the WS's 16mm mono speaker.
Unfortunately, the DS-2 and WS don't play MP3s. Encrypted WMAs and WMAs
with very high
bitrates didn't work either. (And as far as I know, there's currently no
way to make a WMA file on a Mac short of running Virtual PC. Let me
Unlike the DS-2, the WS has both an on/off switch and a "hold" switch,
which disables the other buttons so you won't press them accidentally.
When the WS
is switched completely off, it takes about five seconds to boot up,
which is annoying. However, leaving it on and in Hold mode doesn't seem
to drain the
batteries, so that's what I do; the battery gauge hasn't budged in three
weeks. Both models take only a second to boot up when switched on from
Hold mode.
I also found the DS-2 slightly easier to navigate, thanks to its larger,
better-labeled buttons and larger display.
Another thing you can't tell from the spec lists is that the WS picks up
more handling noise than the DS-2. (O'Reilly blogger Giles Turnbull also
this shortcoming in his
quick review of the WS,
though it wasn't clear if he had the mics in high-sensitivity mode.) I'm
now careful not to slide my fingers on the case when recording, and to
wait a second
after the sound I'm recording has stopped before I click the Stop
button. That lets me chop off the inevitable thump later in my audio
Speaking of which, the WS doesn't come with Olympus's DSS Player
software, so to edit recordings, Mac users will have to convert the
Olympus WMA files to
another format. (Several WMA editors exist on the Windows side.) The
shareware program
works well for that. I still had the DSS Player software on my computer
and was happy to see that it worked with the WS as well.
For transcription, Mac users can try my free AppleScripts, described in
Turn Your Mac into an Audio Transcriber.
" A couple of those scripts started misbehaving in QuickTime 7, so I'm
currently rewriting them.
Can't have a shootout without bullet points, can we? Here's a list of
the benefits each recorder brings to this showdown. (Read my
full DS-2 review
for more background.)
WS-200S Benefits
List of 7 items
. Significantly smaller
. Integrated USB plug
. Twice the memory
. Speaker is on the front
. Uses single AAA battery (DS-2 requires two)
. Slick-looking dual LEDs
. Less expensive (currently $103 on Amazon vs. $119 for the DS-2)
list end
DS-2 Benefits
List of 16 items
. Multisegment recording level meters
. Backlight
. Less handling noise
. Bigger buttons and screen
. File naming
. Folder naming
. Alarm
. Timer recording
. Two noise reduction settings
. More Fast Forward and Slow playback speeds, with better sound quality
. Looping
. Bigger, better-sounding speaker (23mm vs. 16mm)
. Docking station
. Carrying case
. Works as USB speaker and microphone
. Comes with DSS software for editing, converting, and playing back
list end
You might think that getting all that for just $16 more would make
choosing the DS-2 a no-brainer, and for most people, I'd agree. For me,
though, the WS's
smaller size and integrated USB plug made it the better choice. Because
uploading recordings to a computer is so easy, I haven't come close to
up the memory with recordings, though I did max it out when using the WS
as a thumb drive.
For around $200, you can get a version of the DS-2 with double the
memory; it's called the
I also heard from a reporter for Fortune who opted for an
Olympus DM-20,
also about $200. This model looks very similar to the DS-20, but with a
full metal case and the ability to play MP3s. Although it supports
optional external
stereo mics, its built-in mic is mono and has a frequency response that
tops out at just 8kHz.
Here are some links for further comparison.
DS-2 product page
DS-20 product page
(not yet listed at Olympus, so this link goes to RadioShack)
WS-200S product page
DM-20 product page
Interactive comparison table
If size and integrated USB plug are important, get the WS-200S. If tons
of features and enhanced usability are important, get the DS-2 or DS20.
(The backlight
and alarm are pretty handy, and so is file naming.) If you want to carry
an occasional MP3 and don't need built-in stereo mics, go with the
Happy recording!


Darren Duff.
Assistive Technology Instructor.
Blind & Low Vision Services
Phone  (678)936-6113
E-mail dduff@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Blind & Low Vision Services of North Georgia
3830 S. Cobb Dr.,Ste 125, Smyrna, GA 30080
http://www.blvsgeorgia.org <http://www.blvsgeorgia.org/> 
Phone (770)432-7280
toll free (800)726-7406
Fax: (770)432-5457


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