Olympus DS-7000 Full Review - Battle of the_digital_recorders
1April 17, 2012Introduction:While preparing to review the new Olympus DS-7000 and DS-3500 (little brotherpushbutton version of the DS-7000) digital recorders, it occurred to me that the mosteffective way to do so would be in the context of the other top ratedtranscription digitalrecorders.Note that when you purchase a digital recorder from KnowBrainer Inc., you additionallyreceive a hard copy of our exclusive Digital Recorder User Guide which includespictorialstep-by-step instructions on how to create a digital recorder profile, setting up yourrecorder, transcribing your recordings and setting up the Dragon AutoTranscribe FolderAgent for effortlessbatch file transcription of multiple recordings with no end-userintervention other than effortlessly connecting your recorder to a USB port. Note thatthis feature is only available in Dragon Pro, Medical, and Legal.The following reviewconsists of 3 parts:(1) My personal take on the evolution of professional dictation digital recorders(2) A general consensus of5 speech recognition experts on the pros and cons ofeach recorder(3) My personal assessment of what the numbers meanIf you wish to skip past the brief microphone history, click Pros and Cons. If youwish toskip further ahead to myconclusions,clickrecommendations.Evolution of Speech Recognition RecordersWhen we first began using DragonDictate speech recognition software in the 1980’s itseemed to be incredibly impressive technology. Never minding the very deliberate pauseafter each and every word, we waited with baited breath to see another (hopefullyTRANSCRIPTION DIGITAL RECORDER FACE-OFFOlympus DS-7000 vsPhilips 9600&Grundig Digta 7
2correct) word miraculously appear on our somewhat blurry little screens.It was fun! Itwas frustrating!In 1996, NaturallySpeaking continuous speech recognition was released. Withtheemergence of this new technology, we had a viable tool for professional as well aspersonal use. That being the case, we needed something better than the usual classiccassette recorder to better utilize this increasingly more sophisticated software andseveral manufacturers responded. The 1st digital recorder we were able to test wascalled the VoiceIt which was manufactured directly for DragonSystems (previous ownerof NaturallySpeaking). Olympus released the DS-1000 on the heels of the VoiceIt andfollowed up a year later with the DS-2000. We found the DS-2000 to befair but theVoiceIt and DS-1000 fell below our level of acceptability. Eventually, Olympus took adecisive recorder lead when they introduced what we considered to be the 1st seriousprofessional recorder, the DS-3000 and the consumer grade DS-330. Both units featuredthe new Olympus patented DSS algorithms which were designed for speech recognitionbut limited to 5 kHz frequency response. Olympus eventually improved on theirtechnology by releasing the DS2 algorithms with an 8 kHz frequency response. Oddlyenough, the 1st digital recorder to hit the market featuring the new DS2 algorithms wasthe Philips 9600. Although Philips licensed the DS2 technology from Olympus, Olympusdidnt get around to releasing the DS-5000, featuring DS2 algorithms, until 9 monthslater. A few years later, Grundig introduced their Digta 7 series and on April 17, 2012,Olympus released their 4th generation professional digital recorder, the DS-7000 and asecond-generation DS-3400, relabeled the DS-3500 (same as the DS-7000 but withoutthe cradle, or slider control).There are literally several hundred digital recorder choices on the market, includingmany that are recommended by Nuance. Although most Nuance recommendations workokay for consumer use, AllNuance recorder recommendationsshould be taken with ahealthy grain of salt. For example, Nuance gives the Sony ICD MX20 (which comesbundled with some versions of NaturallySpeaking) a Dragon rating of 6 but we considerit to be more of a consumer grade toy than a professional dictation tool. By contrast, thesuperior Olympus DS-5000 scored a 4 Dragon rating and the Philips 9600 scored 3Dragons.If a digital recorder and speech recognition play a major role in your workflow, we canonly recommend “non-jack of all trades recorders” that are designed exclusively fortranscription and utilize DS2 algorithms which reduce the error rate and include alossless 12 to 1 compression ratio for quick and securefiletransfer. You might think thata stereo 96 bit HD quality digital recorder would be excellent for speech recognition usebut the recordings are huge (not easy to e-mail or FTP) and as amazing as it sounds,
3can produce as much as twice as many errors which is simply not efficient. Additionally,the controls on these types of recorders are simply not designed for dictation. HD digitalrecorders are intended for recording live music and dont feature professionaltranscription amenities like cue/review, seamless glitchless punch in, double speedplayback (without the Mickey Mouse effect), main functions located under a convenientslider control, along with other standard transcription features. Professional recordersalso include specialized transcription assisting applications for encrypting recordings andsecure FTP and e-mail transfers along with NaturallySpeaking support. If you are aphysician or an attorney handling sensitive materials, only professional digital recorders,such as those in this review, include 128/256 bit AES encryption. If you are a physician,dont even think about using most Nuance recommendations because they are notHIPPA compliant.This review only covers professional transcription digital recorders that utilize thepatented OlympusDS2 algorithms. We are not the only ones who tested and found DS2algorithms to bemore accurate for speech recognition transcription. Apparently bothPhilips and Grundig also agree because both companies are willing to pay Olympus aroyalty to use their patented DS2 algorithms in their top-of-the-line recorders. This isalso why only carry digital recordersthat feature DS2 algorithms on our website.A professional digital recorder just might be what you need if:You realize that your Siri speech-enabled smart phone app doesnt live up to thehype.You dont have time to wait for your computer to boot up.You dont have the space or budget for a mobile computer.You need to make verbal notes on the go that you can transcribe at a moreconvenient time.You need to quickly e-mail or FTP recordings for someone else to transcribe.You require 128/256 bit AES encryption for security reasons.You need to be able to make quick noiseless edits/changes (punch-in) to yourdigital recordings without introducing an audible click.The following is a general consensus of 5 speech recognition experts on the pros andcons of what we believe to be the top 3 speech recognition professional digitalrecorders, followed by our ratings.
4Pros& ConsOlympus DS-7000 Pros:MSRP Map Price: $4992 Year WarrantyThe only recorder that can utilize a 32 GB SDHC card which can record over 2500hours (that’s 105 consecutive 24-hour days) at the highest quality setting.Impressive largest color BACKLIT 2" HD screen. Other recorders are nowhere nearas easy to view under varying light conditions and most recorders do not include abacklit screen.Largest Microphone element of any professional transcription recorder, includinganti-vibration feature and extended conference style recording range.File transfer speed is nearly double that of the competition.Metal housing includes secondary exoskeleton for additional strength when theunit lands on 1 of its corners.The best tactile feel pushbuttons of any recorder.3 end-user programmable buttons.Improved Ver. 6 Dictation Module application includes far more features than thecompetition along with impressive support for NaturallySpeaking right down toRoaming user profile support and even an option to automatically launchNaturallySpeaking and transcribe recordings in the background (a 1st).A choice of Real Time or Background NaturallySpeaking transcription.Programmable slider control.21 hour lithium fast rechargeable battery pack.Optional password lock protection.256 AES Encryption (HIPPA compliant)Workgroup and Server install options.Olympus DS-7000 Cons:Microphone and headphone jack moved to the side of the unit which we found tobe clumsier than other units (including the previous Olympus recorders) whichlocate the microphone and headphone jack conveniently at the top of recorder.$50 more than the Philips 9600.Although the battery pack can handle up to 21 hours of continuous dictation, weprefer the DS-5000 design which would allow you to substitute AAA batteries inthe event that the battery pack went dead.Longer boot time than the previous DS-5000 model.
5Smaller playback speaker that the competition.Plastic power on/off switch looks flimsy.Philips 9600Pros:MSRP Map Price: $4491 Year WarrantyIncludes 3 recording modes as opposed the 2 offered by the DS-7000.Includes around the world voltage adapters for charging in any country.Best playback speaker.Philips 9600Cons:Limited to the included 2 Gb memory card but doesn’t include a separate built-in 2Gb micro SD card like the DS-7000 and Digta 7.Slider controls a bit stiff when compared to the competition.Notably dated technology when compared to the modern amenities of the other 2units.Proprietary rechargeable AAA batteries only last approximately 9 hours ascompared to approximately 25 hours in the other 2 units.Buttons are a bit mushyGrundigDigta 7Pros:MSRP Map Price: $524 - $5502 Year WarrantyOnly Pro speech recognition transcription recorder with dual microphone elements.Only transcription recorder that includes a WAV file option for recording live musicin HD.Includes over a dozen formating options.Includes anaccelerometer that will automatically turn off a recording when itsenses its been dropped 3 feet.Direct transfer of dictation via smartphones (limited to 704 Bluetooth model).Slider control includes “touch pin” which lets the end-user operate the unit by feel.128/256 bit encryption for security and hippo compliance.Works with included battery pack or optional AAA batteries.Programmable slider control.
6Includes docking station which can charge an additional 25 hour lithium batterysimultaneously.Grundig Digta 7Cons:Requires closing NaturallySpeaking before you can transcribe a recording.Grundig has pulled its North American support which casts serious doubt on futuresupport and availability.Digtation-ID Editor software is fully featured but more difficult to set up than thecompetition.Larger than comparable unitsPlastic housing as opposed to the usual metal designs on recorders of this caliber.Conclusions:All 3 units were equally accurate at transcribing into NaturallySpeaking Ver. 11. This isprobably not a surprise considering that all 3 units utilize the same Olympus DS2algorithms. However, only 1 recorder can be #1. Although we factored hardwarefeatures/construction into our scoring, we also factored in pricing, software features,ease-of-use and manufacturer support.The Final Score:1st Place ~ Olympus DS-7000(Click to See)1st place goes to the Olympus DS-7000 which was probably no surprise considering thatthe Olympus DS-5000 (the predecessor) narrowly captured the 1st place position overthe other 2 models. The new DS-7000 design raises the bar by adding seriousNaturallySpeaking support(including Roaming user support and backgroundtranscription), 32 Gb SDHC memory card support, the largest and by far, the easiest toread color backlit viewscreen, larger control buttons, improved tactile feel, smallerrecessed Erase button (to prevent accidental deletes) and even an improved batterycompartment. Additional manufacturer information available atwww.olympusamerica.com2nd Place ~ Grundig Digta 7(Click to See)If our decision had been based on features alone, the Grundig Digta 7 wouldve been #1with a number of unique features including touch pin, expanded cradle (which can
7charge a secondary battery), Bluetooth, stereo HD microphones and anacceleratormeter which turns off the recorder after it senses a 3 foot drop but we alsohad to subtract points for the unusually large size, plastic housing, Digtation-ID Editorsoftware(that was more difficult to set up) and the requirement to closeNaturallySpeaking before transcribing a file. However, the final nail in the coffin wasGrundigs decision to pull North American support. The Digta 7 is still a safe purchaseand covered by the manufacturer warranty but when a manufacturer decides that theycant compete and purposefully limits their market, its usually the beginning of the end.We are now concerned that the Grundig digital recorder division may cease to exist atsome point in the future. Additional manufacturer information available atwww.grundig.de3rd Place ~ Philips 9600(Click to See)When the Philips 9600 was 1st released, it was the proverbial king of the hill but whilePhilips rested on its laurels, Olympus and Grundig dropped it down a couple of pegs.Although this is still a great recorder, the technology is somewhat dated. We found thebuttons to be a little mushy, smallest greyscale viewscreen, 9 hour AAA battery life (thecompetitions batteries last 25+ hours) and limited to using a 2 Gb SD memory cardwhile the other 2 units include 2 Gb built-in micro SD cards along with the option ofadding a much larger memory card. The Philips 9600 is still a great recorder but whysettle for a Taurus when for $50 more, you can get a Cadillac. Additional manufacturerinformation available at www.dictation.philips.comPrevious Reviews:If you would like to see some of our previous reviews check out the following:KnowBrainer TableMike Face-OffKnowBrainer Handheld Microphone Face-OffKnowBrainer Headset Microphone Face-OffKnowBrainer Telephone Microphone Face-OffKnowBrainer Digital Recorder Face-OffKnowBrainer Wireless Microphone Face-OffKnowBrainer USB Soundcard Face-Off (coming soon)Current Gold Standards:The following is a list of microphones that we consider to be #1 in their microphonecategories we: