The Olympus WS-500M doubles as an MP3 player, but voice recording is where this digital recorder really shines. This Olympus WS-500M doesn't take memory cards, but its 2 GB of built-in storage accommodates nearly 35 hours of recording at the highest-quality stereo setting, and nearly 545 hours in its lowest-quality mono setting, which experts say is still quite usable, especially for personal note taking. It can also store up to 500 songs. A built-in USB jack means you can plug the Olympus WS-500M right into a Mac or PC without a separate USB cable. Budget buyers might also want to investigate the Olympus VN-6200PC; it has less memory (1 GB) and fewer features, but experts say that it is a competent performer overall. If you need a higher-quality digital voice recorder for podcasting or radio, experts say that the Samson Zoom H4n (*Est. $270) is an excellent, but expensive choice. For those on a tighter budget, the Samson Zoom H2 (*Est. $150) also gets good reviews for professional-grade recording.
The only professional review of the Olympus WS-500M is at PCMag.com, where editors offer a thorough evaluation. A few dozen owners of the recorder post detailed reviews on Amazon.com.
PCMag.com gives the Olympus WS-500M an Editors' Choice award for its full-featured recording options and what reviewer Eric Grevstad calls a "fairly robust digital music player." Grevstad also likes that the Olympus WS-500M plugs directly into your computer for easy transfer of files. On the downside, Grevstad says that to take full advantage of all of the recorder's features you'll encounter a steep learning curve, as some buttons are multi-functional and features are nested behind several menus.
Review: Olympus WS-500M, Eric Grevstad, Oct. 9, 2009
More than 30 users contribute to the Olympus WS-500M's overall rating of 4 out of 5 stars. Many of the users have owned Olympus digital recorders in the past and compare the WS-500M to older models. Most reviewers are very pleased with sound quality for recording lectures and voice memos, and a few musicians say music sound quality is also good. Among complaints are difficult navigation and poor sound quality through the external speaker -- a complaint which is resolved by downloading files to a computer or using headphones.
Review: Olympus WS-500 Digital Voice Recorder, Contributors to Amazon.com