Review – Olympus digital recorders – WS-710M and VN-8100PC

Olympus Digital Recorders
Prices from $48 to $150 online

There is still a need in this new world order of multi-function consumer devices for  dedicated single-purpose equipment that does its job efficiently and affordably. Olympus’ new pocket digital recorders are world-class products at bargain prices. If you are married to your iPhone or iPod Touch for recording live speech and music, stop reading now. If you have a recurring or occasional need for a compact recorder, keep reading.

WS-710M, which I call the silver one, is a high-end stereo recorder with a zillion optional settings that most users won’t need, plus a ton of onboard storage capacity and a micro-SD slot. There are so many possible variations on its settings that the printed user guide becomes incomprehensible attempting to present them.

I am technically savvy, but I was defeated during several attempts to master this recorder. It has exceptional value for quantity and quality of audio tracks, plus built-in USB rechargeable AAA battery and computer connectivity, but unless you plan to become proficient at its multitude of buttons and options, save a hundred dollars and purchase its sibling, the VN-8100PC.


Both recorders ship with a nifty padded carrying case plus required cables and a concise printed manual in several languages. Many additional accessories are available. Built-in speakers are not very loud. Spend a few minutes reading about each of these two units at their Olympus web sites.

I refer to VN-8100PC as the black one. Within five minutes of unpacking it, I had altered its default settings to my specifications, and I was making my initial test recordings. The microphone is just right sensitive, and the liquid crystal display panel is just right easy on the eyes. Storage capacity is adequate for most personal and professional situations.

Using the included USB cable, Macintosh connectivity and volume mounting are  effortless, as are locating files and dragging them to my Mac’s Desktop for editing in Rogue Amoeba’s Fission. Sound is crisp and accurate — more so than you expect for around fifty dollars.

VN-8100PC ships with two disposable AAA alkaline batteries. The recorder has no moving parts, so each fresh set of batteries lasts a long time. Carry a couple of extra sets with you, as appropriate, or invest in a battery charger and four or six rechargeable batteries, if you are concerned with environmental battery disposal waste.

For quality of sound and enormous quantity of features, WS-710M receives a  good score that is diminished by its bewildering complexity and inadequate printed manual. MyMac Review Rating: 7 out of 10.

VN-8100PC gets a perfect 10 out of 10 MyMac Review Rating for its low price and high degree of usability.

Our rating system

If you are interested, have a look at the Amazon.com user reviews for these brand new products:

WS-710M

VN-8100

8 thoughts on “Review – Olympus digital recorders – WS-710M and VN-8100PC

  1. Simply because you failed to ‘master’ the device, does not provide a fair, complete, nor an accurate review of the device. This device is the latest and best of the WS series. It is a fantastic device! To compare this device to the VN-8100PC is comparing apples to oranges. Different model line, different technical specs, which I’m certain you checked, as a “technically savvy” user – prior to posting a spotty review… didn’t you?! Silly (poor) review!

  2. +1 @ Tim.

    This so-called “review” is completely useless. How long did you use each of them? How sensitive are the mikes? Do they filter out background noise &/or are they adjustable? Can I use this in various sized lecture halls, meeting/conference rooms? How well does it record gigs in pubs? Where’s the results of various audio playback when recording in different environments? AVR? What’s the battery life like? How easy was it to transfer the audio files to the computer? Do I need “client” software or is it recognized as a generic flash drive? What formats & settings do they record to? What’s their physical construction like? What type of software is included & what OS are supported? Does Dragon Dictate recognized their output files? Warranty details?

    “I can’t make it work so it sucks” should have been the title to accurately represent this page (as it should not be considered a “review”). It’s a shame it’s the 5th link on Google for “Olympus WS-710”. This type of “quality content” belongs on 4chan.

    I may buy even so; if a Mac tutor can’t figure it out, it should be advanced enough for my requirements.

  3. Thank you, Tim and Mark, for pointing out the shortcomings in my review. Here is some follow-up:

    1. I used the sliver WS for three weeks, and the black VN for six weeks.

    2. Background noise is adjustable and can be filtered, especially on the more expensive silver WS.

    3. You can use both units in different types of rooms. As expected, the higher-end silver WS will give better results in varied situations.

    4. Pub gigs are tricky, and very “it depends.” Both products can potentially do the job. The straightforward, basic way the less-expensive VN handles complex environments is better than expected.

    5. My objective results are not reported. Let me think about how to answer this question.

    6. Which AVR do you refer to?

    7. Battery life is good to excellent.

    8. Audio transfer is very easy.

    9. Generic volume recognition is the case with both units on a Macintosh. I didn’t test on a PC. My guess is it’s similar.

    10. MP3 and WMA are available.

    11. Physical construction is hardy.

    12. I will comment another time if I have anything to add regarding software and OS.

    13. I didn’t test using Dragon or any dictation software.

    14. Olympus has one year warranties.

    15. You can study the entire PDF manual at the following URL. This manual is exhaustive, in comparison to the included printed manual that is icon-based and difficult to follow. http://www.olympusamerica.com/files/oima_cckb/WS-710M_WS-700M_WS-600S_Instructions_EN.pdf

    I have a question for MyMac readers:

    In a first-look or capsule review such as this one, do you expect to have all your own product questions answered, or are you prepared to go to the products’ web sites and do a little investigation on your own?

    [Nemo]

  4. John –

    Thank you for the future information. AVR is Automatic Volume Recognition, whereas it seems most “recorders” seem to call it/use VOX (Voice Operated Control). Olympus calls this similar feature VCVA (Variable Control Voice Actuator).

    As I’d expect some of your readers would be (budding?) recording artists/engineers, you may also want to mention various formats & settings they record to/playback.

    There’s a world of difference between a “First Look” & a “Review”. I was excited to read your post expecting real-world testing and impressions. Don’t forget you’re working an a dynamic publishing enviorment; why not include one or two clips fr ea. unit to illustrate various results?

    Yes, I did note the links to ea. model in the product titles (thank you, as some sites don’t do this!), but if I wanted the standard marketing BS, I’d just have gone to the Olympus site.

  5. Off-topic:Some may not notice you’re responding to these comments. Consider changing your WP so that post authors come up as a different indicator/css-class/etc. Cheers.

  6. I WILL REPLY TO MARK IN CAPS. NOT SHOUTING. SIMPLY WANT EASILY TO DIFFERENTIATE MY REMARKS FROM HIS.

    Thank you for the future information. AVR is Automatic Volume Recognition, whereas it seems most “recorders” seem to call it/use VOX (Voice Operated Control). Olympus calls this similar feature VCVA (Variable Control Voice Actuator).

    THIS FEATURE APPEARS TO WORK FINE ON OLYMPUS RECORDERS. I DID NOT DO A COMPREHENSIVE EVALUATION OF IT.

    As I’d expect some of your readers would be (budding?) recording artists/engineers, you may also want to mention various formats & settings they record to/playback.

    I WILL CONSIDER DOING THIS IN FUTURE REVIEWS.

    There’s a world of difference between a “First Look” & a “Review”. I was excited to read your post expecting real-world testing and impressions.

    OKAY. GOOD POINT.

    Don’t forget you’re working an a dynamic publishing enviorment; why not include one or two clips fr ea. unit to illustrate various results?

    SUZE’S STAFF INTERVIEW WAS CONDUCTED OUTDOORS USING THE LESS EXPENSIVE “BLACK” RECORDER, FYI. LINK IS BELOW. I WILL DO AS YOU SUGGEST IN THE FUTURE.

    http://www.mymac.com/2010/10/suze-gilbert-—-brief-audio-interview-with-new-staff-member/

    Yes, I did note the links to ea. model in the product titles (thank you, as some sites don’t do this!), but if I wanted the standard marketing BS, I’d just have gone to the Olympus site.

    OLYMPUS DOESN’T OVERLOAD ITS SITE WITH USELESS FLUFF MOST OF THE TIME.

    THANKS AGAIN, MARK. MYMAC APPRECIATES YOUR COMMENTS.

    [Nemo]

  7. Interesting discussion going on here, I have used several Olympus Voice Recorders over the years. I find reviews somewhat helpful but if I really need some advice I like to contact someone that deals with these recorders on daily basis, not just someone using it for the first time. I found a great site http://www.recordergear.com/ I called the guy that runs this site and he was very helpful in answering my questions. Also, he seems to have some pretty decent information in the product descriptions.

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