The Olympus WS-321M comes in two other models; a 512MB version for $99.00 and a 2GB version for $199.00. The one we are reviewing is the 1GB version which retails for $149.00.
What is cool about the WS-321M is that it also can play your music too. It can run on your computer via USB, can sync with Windows Media Player, and plays MP3 and WMA formats.
Whichever model you choose, there are some common features among them all. They all run on a single AAA battery. They can also run on recharcheable batteries.
The top of the Olympus Digital Voice Recorder has headphone and mic jacks. Your thumb controls the Stop, Record and Play buttons down the right hand side of the digital recorder. The left side of the device has a Hold switch, as well as a record setting that determines mic sensitivity where you can select MUSIC or VOICE recording. There is a round set of controls on the face of the recorder that contains your scrolling and selector controls. The OK/MENU button works as a play button. All in all, a very intuitive interface. When you want to connect the recorder to your PC just pop the back cover off and plug it into your USB connection.
Transferring and Playing Music Files
You can store MP3s and WMA files on the recorder. Since it operates as a general storage device your PC will simply recognize it as another “drive” on your PC. So you can just drag and drop files over to the player. Since it also syncs with Windows Media you can also work with the device through the Windows Media Player interface. Personally I prefer the drag and drop method, but both methods work fine.
There is no playlist capability on the Olympus 321-M, but you can arrange songs by artist, album, genre, or whatever method you choose. There is a shuffle (random) mode.
It’s not the most high fidelity sound on playback, but I imagine that is because the device is mainly a VOICE recorder. Bass can be a bit muddy and the highs can be a little thin. Some people claim the WOW effect and the onboard EQ cleans the sound up nicely, but I’m not sure I necessarily agree on that. But it’s totally great for podcasts, books on MP3, and even music for running or something like that. I would see this working great for doctors, writers, novelists, and maybe even journalists.
The microphone has two recording modes, conference and dictation. In “Conference” mode you get the premium amount of sensitivity and an omni directional mic pattern. This would be good for panel discussions, group meetings, seminares, and stuff like that. The “Dictation” mode is good for one on one discussions and personal dictation.
As mentioned at the start of the review, there is a mic jack on the top of the recorder and you can plug in an external mic for added control, sensitivity, and audio recording quality.
Real world tests showed impressive results in a crowded group office, and local town meeting. Background voices are generally picked up well and there isn’t a lot of hiss or extranneous ambient noise. These tests were done using the standard onboard microphone.
Sometimes audio can be hard to decipher on playback. If you find this is the case there are noise cancelling filters on board. Settings that can cut low and high frequencies and just give you the frequencies commonly associated with human voice. This is a great feature that can save recordings that might otherwise have been rendered useless and indecipherable. You can also place “markers” in recordings to bookmark certain spots in a long recording so that you can go back to it later.
There is also an “auto backspace review” feature that lets you play the last few seconds of audio again. This is great for transcribing interviews or conversations. This can be set to 1, 5, or 10 seconds.
While the 321 M is billed as an MP3 player AND recorder, it’s strength clearly lies in the digital voice recording features. While it can “do the job” as an MP3 player, it really shines in the recording area. If you are looking for a professional recorder, this could well be it.