Voice Recorder: Olympus DM-650 vs Olympus WS-833

Hi, all

I am currently looking at various voice recorders, which I will be using to record meetings with my clients and often conferences/lectures that I attend in universities in Singapore. It would be ideal to spend less than S$300 (about US$240) to achieve the highest quality possible.

Currently, the options considered are:

  1. Olympus DM-650 (S$280) - A class higher, but older by few years
  2. Olympus WS-833 (S$230)
  3. Olympus WS-823 (S$180)

The questions I have are:

  1. Do voice recorders get outdated quickly like smartphones? (Is DM-650 outdated by WS-833 in quality?)
  2. What is the actual difference between WS-823 and WS-833?
  3. Which of the following would you recommend for my usage? Any other recommendation?

Would love to hear your comments and recommendations.

James Wood

I will be using to record meetings with my clients and often conferences/lectures that I attend in universities in Singapore.

Have you ever done recording like this before? My guess is you will not be able to record conferences unless you are seated next to one of the public address speakers. The forum is full of complaints from people trying to record various performances from the back of the hall. We can’t take out echoes and if the hall is big enough, you will not be able to understand what is being said on the recording.

As far as meetings, I have been able to get that to work, but not in a way that’s helpful to you. I use a very old Olympus S701 physical cassette Pearlcorder and I like it very much. I like less that it only has a reduced quality recording time of one hour. Half hour at full quality.

If you Google personal recorder complaints, they almost all say the same thing. My new XXX digital recorder is terrible compared to my older tape machine.

I experimented with a USB Flash Drive Recorder. The whole thing the size of my thumb. I attached a clip to it and wear it just inside my pocket. It’s terrible. It has a very high hiss level and I discovered through experimentation that it uses voice processing and noise reduction internally, which means it’s very sensitive to clothing and handling noises and further noise reduction is very difficult. The one advantage past it’s size, is its six hour recording time.

There is a clean break between “personal recorders” and theatrical recorders. Zoom series, Tascam, etc. Those don’t use any tricks. Those can be processed later to help remove noises and bring up voices and conversations. Many times you can use one of those for separate sound on movie and video shoots.

In case you think I’m flying around in fantasy land, recording a conference or meeting is as difficult or more difficult than a movie shoot.

So, you’re almost certainly going to buy the first one in order to find out what you really wanted. You won’t know until after the first few failures.

I’m tempted to use a File Format demarcation. If the recorder can deliver WAV format, there’s a chance it can produce good work. If it’s MP3 only, I wouldn’t consider it.


WAV format is generally a good sign that the manufacturer is serious about sound quality, and (importantly) it can save a lot of headaches trying to convert it into a format that you can edit.

Thanks so much for your sincere and detailed reply - it is the first one I have gotten among various forums.

This is the first time I am purchasing an audio recorder. There have been some disputes arising from lack of documentation and recording last year. Hence, my primary objective is to record meetings (with about 3-6 people most of the time) and not so much of recording conference/lectures. After changing the context, I would like your opinion on the following:

  • Should I not consider both “personal recorders”, DM-650 and WS833 at all and opt for “theatrical recorders”? (side note: DM-650 and WS833 can record in WAV)
  • Are there any specific features/specifications that I should look out for, when buying my first recorder?

James Wood

In addition to the questions asked in the previous reply, I would like to ask the following:

  • Will Zoom H1 Handy Recorder better meet my needs? (Costs about S$170 from Amazon with shipping)
  • Is an omnidirectional microphone a must for meeting recording? (e.g. if I am sitting behind the recorder, will unidirectional microphones catch me?)

James Wood

There’s some homework you can do while we’re composing an answer. Google “complaints.” Anybody can write a glowing, positive review of a device, Suppliers frequently do, but the valuable comments are from the people where the device failed or did something they weren’t expecting.

“The VivoPlexer Recorder made it through the first two recordings OK, but on the third one, it went up in a ball of flame singing the eyebrows of the people at the meeting and putting a black mark on the ceiling.”

But, seriously, one of the complaints of the Zoom H4 is a volume switch instead of a continuous volume control for recording. It’s good to know that if you do wild sound recording and need to change the recording volume on the fly gradually without seeming to do so.

How do you power your recorder? Being forced to recharge the unit instead of rapidly changing AA batteries may be important to you.


I did investigate the H1 for casual recording. It’s problem is the marketing people designed its look to scream that it’s making a recording. My little black tape machine can be put in my pocket face down and nobody can tell it’s there.

It seems to me a marketing ploy to stuff as many microphones as possible up in the head in order to look good on the advertising. My little tape machine makes very good use of one single pickup capsule at the top.

The H2N has five different microphone capsules. I suspect nobody will ever figure out how to use them all. I note that the older, simpler, reliable H2 is still going for large amounts of money on eBay. Nobody wants to go near the product that the marketing people designed.

That’s an H2.

I did do a meeting microphone system a while back that used stereo microphones and WAV quality recording. It was a big hit for some very odd reasons. Turns out if you record a [quiet] meeting in stereo, you can listen to the work on headphones and understand multiple different conversations at the same time. The first meeting was an experiment just to see how good we could get the quality, but we could hear and understand the person giving the meeting as well as assistants and guests talking to each other quietly. Your head can split different conversations by direction. You can’t do any of those tricks with a single mono sound track.

That wasn’t a personal recorder. That was a stand-alone sound mixer and balanced lines between different parts of the building, but the principal was exactly the same.

I have an H4 and its claim to fame is the ability to plug grown-up XLR microphones into the bottom and use your own mics instead of the built-ins.

If you do go the H1 route, let us know how it goes.

There was one point I researched when I was doing this. If you plan on stuffing this into your pocket, some provision must be made so the buttons don’t push when you do. Butt-dialing your mum by accident is one thing, but stopping a valuable recording at the wrong time could be a lot more of a problem.


Hi, Koz

Thanks again for your detailed response.

So my options are narrowed down to:

  • DM650: More expensive but low profile design with omnidir. mic & 2 unidir. mic
  • Zoom H1: Cheaper but conspicuous with 2 unidirectional mic

I would like to ask for your final opinion before I decide (I am really stuck):
Which would be your choice if these two were the only options?

Once I decide, I will update this thread, together with my Week 2/4 review. :slight_smile:

James Wood

A note on “flexibility”.
If you are ever likely to be recording just two people, it would probably be better to use a couple of tie-clip mics. Do either of those devices allow external mics (or an external “line level” device, such as a mixer) to be plugged in?

While that may be a feasible option, I would prefer not to use those clip-on microphones.
(Most of my clients don’t expect to have themselves talk directly into the microphones, you see :smiley:)

So it would be the most ideal to use less conspicuous built-in microphones and hence the questions above.

James Wood

you see

I see. They don’t need to know they’re being interviewed.

That was my problem with the H1. It’s difficult to hide that thing. Attached is my tape machine.

Your recorder looks perfect for my use. Shame they don’t seem to make those kind of low profile recorders that also perform well.

I was also looking around for other options (for example, DR05 and DR07 from Tascam - I believe it was made to compete directly with the H1). While the design is more inconspicuous and they have great performance, the microphones at the top do bother me.

Any recommendations for low profile recorders with good quality?

James Wood

This is a difficult question. There is another poster who is using a Tascam to produce audiobook quality works. So there is no quality restriction. The designers decided to produce flashy jewelry instead of low-profile devices.

I thought about sewing up a cloth cover. I have some thin, non-shiny black polyester. I have to do sound tests to make sure anything I do doesn’t muffle the sound and I just haven’t yet.

I have no other ideas.


Hi, all

My final choice is the Tascam DR-07 Mark II, which I have used for about a week.

The reasons I chose Tascam DR-07 Mark II over Zoom H1 are as follows:

  • Reviews that recommended the Tascam over the Zoom
  • Blind test of sample voice recordings in which I chose the Tascam
  • Lower price due to promotion on B&H (US$89.99)

So far, I am pretty satisfied with the quality of the recordings - it does a great job at clearly recording in meeting and interview settings. There is a little bit of noise, but this can easily be fixed through post processing with minimal effort and time on Audacity. There are more than enough functions for basic use, including peak reduction, limiter and auto level, which you wouldn’t need most of the time.

The only downside would be its size and conspicuous design, which wasn’t actually as serious a problem I thought it would be. If needed, I put the recorder at the outer compartment of my messenger bag, which would then be placed on the table or a chair nearby. While I have no issue covertly recording, considering how useful the voice recorder has been for the past week or so, I may purchase smaller sized Olympus WS-833 or DM-650 dedicated for covert recording.

From my personal experience, I would highly recommend this recorder to students or businessmen who do not often require covert recording. However, for those who need to record without the other party knowing, you may want to consider getting a smaller voice recorder to save yourself the trouble of setting it in your bag and post processing every time. (handling noise is rather apparent in the bag, if you were to move it at all)

James Wood