Best Digital Voice Recorder-Olympus VN-8100
Reviewer: Paul Good
From Our Readers:
“Paul, I’m a documentary producer and do a lot of in person interviews. I’ve just lost my portable tape recorder and need a replacement. Sound quality is very important and ease of use in the field is equally so. Some interviews can be quite long, so it needs enough capacity and battery life to not cut off in mid conversation. Is there someting you could recommend?” Anisa M – New Jersey
Recording interviews in the field means you only get one shot at capturing the person’s wisdom. You need to have a recorder that you can rely on, can record detail well under various conditions (within reason) and is easy to use.
There are a lot of choices out there, but our research found one that consistently ranked highest in these qualities. It also provides some additional features that combined, qualified it as a GreatStuffThatWorks product.
So here we go!
The Short Story:
Around $69.00 price range
To help you get a great price with a quality merchant, we also worked to track that down.
Click on any of the highlighted product names to see your price today!
Recording Format: MP3 and WMA
Recording Media: Built-in 2GB flash memory
Recording Time HQ mode: Approximately 134 hours
SP mode: Approximately 264 hours
LP mode: Approximately 843 hours
PC Interface: USB port
Folders Messages: 5 / 200 per folder
Overall Frequency Response: MP3 192kbps: 70 Hz to 19 kHz/ MP3 128 kbps: 70 Hz to 17 kHz/ MP3 48 kbps : 70 Hz to 10 kHz/ HQ mode: 70Hz-13kHz/ SP mode: 70Hz-8kHz/ LP mode: 70Hz-3kHz
Practical Maximum Output: 250mW
Speaker: 28 mm round dynamic speaker
Microphone Jack: 3.5 mm, impedance 2k ohms (mono)
Earphone Jack: 3.5 mm, impedance 8 ohms (mono)
Power Supply: Two AAA alkaline (LR03 or R03) batteries or Two AAA NiMH rechargeable batteries
Battery Life: Alkaline: Approximately 51 hours (LP mode)
Size: 4.3 x 1.5 x 0.7 inches (108 x 39 x 16.8 mm)
Weight: 2.3 oz. (66 g), including batteries
Specifications and design are subject to change without notice.
In the box:
2 x AAA Batteries
Beyond the Specs:
Here’s what those specs actually do for you!
The Olympus VN-8100 digital voice recorder is the result of evolving a very successful model, the VN-4100 and bringing it forward through multiple models with constant refinement.
1.) It will record up to 134 hours in the HQ (best recording sensitivity) mode. (839 hours in LP mode! That oughta work for just about anyone. That’s over (20) 40 hr. weeks on one device with no tapes to wear out.)
2.) It also has amazing battery life. Up to 51 hours in the LP mode with some users reporting over 20 hours in the HQ mode with alkaline AAA batteries.
3.) Extensive user research confirmed very good sound quality in a variety of different settings, including lecture halls, meeting rooms, small group meetings, as well as dictation. In our tests, we found it allowed us to record a speaker’s voice clearly, with the voice being well separated from background noise.
Some even used it as a “remote mic” during documentary filming by putting the recorder in the person’s pocket and using the optional noise canceling mic (Olympus ME-52W). See more details below.
4.) Large, easy to read display. It makes it easy to quickly check: What folder you’re recording in, Recording status, that you’re not still in Pause!, remaining recording time, battery level and other critical information in a glance.
5.) Control buttons are human sized and easy to reach. You start recording by pressing Record. (Clever, huh?)
You Pause within the recording session by pressing the Record button a second time. The display will then flash “Pause” until you press the Record button again to continue. (Nice)
Note: If you press the Stop button during a session, it completes that audio recording and you cannot continue recording within that same audio file. When you press Record again, it will automatically create a new audio file for your next recording.
6.) It records in MP3 (and WMA)! Many of these devices create an uncommon audio file that needs to be converted for universal use as an MP3. By recording directly in MP3, it easily allows you to transfer the files onto your computer with no additional software.
When you connect to your computer, the digital storage in the VN-8100 just looks like a flash drive (external drive) to your PC or Mac. With even basic, free, audio editing software, you can complete your edits right on the PC or Mac.
Your audio file can also be loaded into iTunes or any other MP3 player on your computer for playback.
7.) Although the owner’s manual is weakly translated, (you’ll see) the VN-8100 is pretty intuitive. Nearly all users successfully learned to set up and use the VN-8100 quickly and with very positive results.
8.) The noise reduction setting for low frequency noise reduces the noise pre-recording, so you get the benefit built into your resulting final MP3 recording.
Some small recorders only reduce the noise Post recording and you only get that benefit when you play it back through the same recording device. Notta So Good!
It means the audio files you transfer to your computer will still have noise you weren’t hearing when you played them back through the recorder’s filter. (surprise!)
The results get even better when the Olympus ME-52W plug in noise canceling mic is used.
For around $20.00 it solves two issues with hand held recorders:
A.) Hand held recorders with their built in mic, are sensitive to recording your hand moving about the case during the recording.
Keeping your fingers motionless around the case when recording will reduce recording the motion sounds of your hand. Of course, setting the recorder on a surface near the speaker will eliminate the noise too.
But with the extension cable that comes with the mic, you can operate the unit controls without transfer of that inevitable motion noise through the case.
B.) Because the Olympus ME52W also comes with a tie clip and wind screen for the mic, you can clip the mic to your subject “lavaliere” style, start the recording and slip the recorder in their pocket. (Just don’t let them leave with it!)
You instantly simulate “wireless” mic recording with great clarity at a consistent distance from the subject’s voice. Now you can produced even quieter recordings with little or no background hiss and better clarity. Cool, huh?
The Telephone Recording Device (Olympus TP7) was also found through user research to be very effective at clearly picking up caller voices. Although we did not test this, the manufacturer says it will work effectively with a cell phone or a plain ol’ telephone. A valuable accessory if you do a lot of telephone interviews.
The TP-7 is not a suction cup mic. You first plug it into the mic input on the VN-8100. Then you simply put the earbud end into the ear you use when you talk on the phone, make the call and put the phone to that ear. The in-the-ear mic will pick up both sides of the conversation as you talk.
9.) The Olympus VN-8100 comes with a soft case to protect it. Users reported the VN-8100 was quite durable when out in the world, but portable devices tend to live much longer when they have a case protecting them.
10.) It uses AAA batteries, either alkaline or rechargeable’s, which are easy to find.
11.) It organizes your recordings with a Folder / File system. You can have up to 5 folders (A-E) with up to 200 voice files per folder. You can also name the individual audio files, after you transfer them to your computer, for improved organization.
Suggestion: Determine a purpose for each folder letter. Write down the folder letters on your project pad and next to each assign a purpose/subject name.
(A = Nuclear Scientist Interviews, B = Notes to Self, etc.) Put every recording relevant to that subject in that folder and your work with the files later will be much simpler.
12.) There is a Split-File feature that allows you to cut out dead spaces or intros while the recording is still on the device. (vs using audio editing software on your PC or Mac later). This is handy for quick, raw edits in the field.
13.) It also has a Place Marker system. This allows for faster navigation after your session, when you want to skip from key point to key point within the recording. (The button is located in the lower right corner of the control panel, away from the most used controls.)
For example, when your hear your speaker has just made an important point, simply press the marker button. During playback, the skip forward button will jump you from one marker to the next.
By pressing the skip backward (or forward) button twice and holding it, you will then jump over the marker and into the key area you marked. By holding the button down, you can then cue to the exact area you want. You’ll get the hang of it with a little practice.
If you don’t use the Marker system, holding the Forward or Back button will simply cue you through the recording.
The marker unfortunately does not transfer with the recording to the PC download. The ability to read the marker is only within the Olympus.
14.) It has a selectable option for Voice Activated recording with sensitivity adjustment. This will use sound above the sensitivity threshold to trigger the recorder on and to pause it when there is silence. Experiment with this to see if it fits your circumstances.
And that’s the scoop on the Olympus VN-8100 Digital Voice Recorder!
A high performance, moderately priced, digital voice recorder that creates quality voice recordings, is straight forward to use, has a large LCD display so its easy to read on the job, a 3.5mm external mic input, 134 hrs. of HQ recording capacity, around 20 hours of HQ battery life (51 hrs at the LP setting), records in MP3 so its Mac and PC USB download compatible and with an accessory or two, (Olympus ME52W Noise Canceling Mic) and the (Olympus TP7 Telephone Mic) you can do a great job covering a broad spectrum of your work situations.
To help you get a great price with a quality merchant, we also work to track that down.
Click on any of the highlighted product names to see your discount today!
Buy the Olympus VN-8100 and you’ll make remembering what was actually said a whole lot easier!
As always, be sure to let me know how it works for you. We’re all in this together.
PS: If you need to transcribe your recordings to text, the Olympus VN-8100 is Dragon Systems certified. This simply means Dragon Systems has said their software will convert the VN-8100’s Mp3 audio files to text. Only their Premium PC version of Naturally Speaking has this ability. We have not tested it’s ability to do this.
There is also a version for the Mac called MacSpeech Scribe, but you need to first convert Mp3 files to Mac’s Mp4 (you know, the Mac vs PC war) and then the program can transcribe the audio files to text. We have not tested this program either. PG
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