Image: Olympus America
Earlier this year, Olympus America Inc. introduced the Olympus Digital Voice Recorder DS-3500 along with the DS-2500 and DS-7000 Digital Voice Recorders. The DS-3500 and DS-7000 recorders are part of Olympus' professional dictation series; the DS-2500, reviewed in the September 11, 2012 edition of Law Technology News, offers some entry-level dictation features.
The DS-3500 is a step up from the DS-2500, yet can act as an entry level dictation system for legal professionals. It records and edits voice records, like the DS-2500. It can insert and append text (voice recordings) to voice records and delete selected portions of a voice record as well as mark up to 32 index points per file which makes it easy to return to those points in the file using forward and back navigation keys located on the front panel. Unlike the DS-2500, the DS-3500 can affix verbal notes to files for transcriptionists, encrypt voice records, and use the included Olympus Dictation Management System software to automatically route dictations via email or FTP.
Like the DS-2500, the DS-3500 uses buttons on the side of the recorder to create a new file, record, play back, rewind, and stop the current action. The DS-2500 uses one see-saw button for fast-forward and rewind; the DS-3500 has no fast-forward button on the side. Instead, you can play back a file at variable speed (fast, slow, and normal) and you can adjust the speed setting from the menu interface. To do so, you press the OK/Menu button on the front panel of the recorder and choosing Device sub-menu, where you can select Cue/Rev and choose from 1 to 5 speed settings. I found the default 3 speed to be adequate for my needs.
The DS-3500 can record voice using the Digital Speech Standard Pro or DSS Pro (DS2) file formats in Quality Play or Standard Play mode; PCM Stereo (.wav); or mp3. When you select the recording mode, the device calculates the remaining memory available if that recording mode were used for the remaining space.
I stuck with the default DSS Pro QP mode, which samples sound waves for audible voice records at 16 kilohertz and can store up to 149 hours of speech in the internal 2-gigabyte micro-SD memory card. The DS2 file format is a proprietary format developed by Olympus that compresses audio files by 12 times. The DS-3500's internal memory would fit only 3 hours of PCM-recorded voice and from 16 to 33 hours of mp3-recorded voice. The DS-3500 supports an external SD memory card from 512 megabytes to 32 gigabytes of memory. If the device fails, you can eject both cards and use them in another device that supports memory cards such as a computer or digital recorder. See Figure 1.
The micro-SD card rests behind the Lithium-ion battery (3.7 volt), which supports about 18 to 21 hours of recording and playback, using the default DSS Pro QP mode. But I will miss the DS-2500's ability to run on two AAA alkaline batteries when I do not have the time or tools to recharge the device's Ni-MH batteries. The slimmer battery, however, does not make for a slimmer device: The DS-3500 is actually .5 millimeters wider than the D-2500.
The DS-3500 power switch sits high on the back of the device where it is not in any danger of inadvertently turning the device on or off when placing it in its leather carrying case, which can be fixed to a belt or purse strap. The power switch also serves as a hold switch that, when operative, preserves the running conditions of the recorder but disables all buttons. In effect, you can enable hold and place the device in a backpack or purse without inadvertently pressing any key. You can also enable hold while recording and the device will continue to record until it runs out of memory or battery power. But the microphone is not effective from inside a closed space.
Although the DS-3500 has a larger and more exposed microphone than the DS-2500, it is still a monaural microphone, not digital, and is limited to recording audible voice in the frequency range from 20 hertz to 20 kilohertz. The microphone works best when pointed at a speaker when the device is set in dictation mode or visible to all speakers when the device is in conference mode. If the microphone is not in line of vision with the speaker, it may not capture voice sufficient for quality playback.