In regard to the line of vision, I have often noticed that speakers become agitated, even arrested, when they see a hand-held device emitting a red LED as if it was recording. You can put them at ease by turning off the recording LED and disabling the sound system so it does not emit any beeps during an event.
The DS-2500 black-and-white LCD display pales in comparison to the approximate 2-inch diagonal (1.25 inches wide by 1.5 inches high) DS-3500 color LCD display. The color display makes it much easier to see the active settings on the device. See Figure 2.
Figure 2 shows the DS-3500 using its micro-SD card in conference mode. The recorder indicates the frequency of speech on the LCD as it is captured. The recording and playback position bar indicator in the middle of the display can indicate a green marker for a verbal comment and blue carrots for index points in the file. While recording, you can also use an earphone to listen to speech as it is being recorded.
The DS-2500 and DS-3500 both use side buttons to initiate actions such as record and rewind, but my fingers found the location of the buttons on the DS-3500 more to their liking. Both the DS-2500 and DS-3500 can create a new file from the top-most button and record from the second button, which is slightly raised to meet your thumb. Press the Record button a second time while recording and the device pauses the record on both devices. But the stop button on the DS-3500 is just below the Record where I can find without looking and use it with urgency the stop button on the DS-2500 is down below the Rewind/Fast-Forward button.
Like the DS-2500, the DS-3500 has three programmable function keys on the front panel below the LCD display. Below the function keys are navigation keys that rewind and fast-forward through a voice record, and plus or minus keys to adjust the volume. Note that when the device is in VCVA (Variable Control Voice Actuator) mode which conserves memory by stopping recording during silent periods the left and right arrow keys adjust the actuation level (i.e., the point when the device registers a break in silence). With no ambient noise around me, I found levels six through nine sufficient when dictating on my desktop. With ambient noise, I set the actuator over 10, but found that the device was always picking up sound and always recording at the maximum level of 15.
Like the DS-2500, the DS-3500 has five folders A through E capable of holding 200 file per folder. Before starting to record over a previously saved record, I made note of the methods to record, i.e., overwrite (default) or insert text at the insertion point or append text to the end of the file. In overwrite mode, I overwrote previously recorded files from points within files with ease. And I inserted text into files using the F1 key while playing the file back.
During playback, the device can rest firmly on its back due to raised rubber mounts that keep it from sliding on a flat surface. As I played files back, the function keys allowed me to insert text, adjust play back speed, and set index points in the file. I used the navigation square to go forward (cue) or backward (reverse) in the file, which is the same as the REV (review) button on the side. While playing back, the OK/Menu button in the center of the navigation lets me insert a record just like the F1 key (change that?). The plus and minus navigation keys raise and lower the playback volume. From the stop position (not playing back), pressing the arrow keys forward or backward will allow you to leap through the file, only stopping at index points between the beginning and end.
INTERFACE TO PC OR MAC
The DS-3500 comes with ODMS Release 6 software for Microsoft Windows and DSS Player software for Macintosh computers. The big differences between ODMS and DSS Player: ODMS can customize function keys on the DS-3500; automatically transmit downloaded dictation files via email and FTP; automatically backup downloaded files; allow voice recognition text editing, e.g., using Nuance Dragon Naturally Speaking; and encrypt dictation files. See Figure 3.
Figure 3: The ODMS interface to dictation files downloaded from the DS-3500 and ready to be transcribed. The Workflow tab in the Options window let me configure the email and FTP server to automatically route voice records for transcript management and set up external voice recognition software to work with ODMS.