on July 16, 2012
UPDATE 3/22/13: I've used this recorder now to make hundreds of audio recordings. Its batteries have gone out many times, due to so much use. Only once did I lose some of the recording, and that only a tiny part at the end. The sound clarity is good, even on the smallest file settings (like 48kbps). Am really surprised. Initial review, follows below the line.
UPSHOT: right now as I type, this is the lowest-priced and best Olympus recorder in Amazon - if you buy it from Amazon. There are other sellers of this unit advertising via Amazon who sell the 702PC for up to twice what I just paid for it (I paid less than $50). So compare prices, here in Amazon. I would have been willing to pay up to $80-90, but why do it if you don't have to?
I fear even the Amazon-sold 702PC won't remain cheap for long; but I feel duty-bound to say all this, after seeing how my older models are selling for 3x more than I paid for them, today here onsite. I made reviews on my other recorders, the WS-110, 960PC, and 1800, here in Amazon, so you can compare. All four models are sitting on my table as I type. 'Mike' did a review after mine here. You might want to read his review, before reading mine. He brings up certain points which aren't wholly relevant to my usage, but might be important for yours. So what he says, I don't cover in this review.
MY USAGE, so you can decide whether to keep reading: I intend to use this unit primarily as a portable storage device, plus to record lectures, make memos; and especially, to do voiceovers for my 'brainouty' Youtube videos.
So: I Just got this 702PC from Amazon. It is my fourth Olympus recorder; I've been using them for years, and all of them still work -- well, on 7/17/2012 the 1800 died because I left the batteries in it for too long. With these recorders, you should remove batteries if you'll not use the unit for awhile. Else the batteries can corrode the contact wires, or the long storage makes the software go crazy. You don't lose your recording if you remove the batteries, for it's all stored on a chip. You only lose the date and time, and maybe some of the other settings for the recorder. But you can't lose, the recordings.
This 702PC has special features the others -- even later models -- don't have.
================= PHYSICALITIES ======================
This unit feels more substantial, comfortable in the hand, versus the other models I have. It is about the thickness, width and heft of three AAA batteries (it holds 2 which ship with the unit), about the height of a CD jewel case. Big, convenient buttons. Optionally big letters on the LCD screen. Too much glare from the face plate. Contrast levels also don't seem to make any difference. Try to pick the lowest size of letters and the lowest contrast to conserve power, especially if you'll record a long lecture.
POWER ON and OFF is a slider toggle on the left side of the machine. Slide it down to turn on, and again to turn it off. Or, slide it up to HOLD and make it go into sleep mode. The screen stays on, when in sleep mode. You bring it out of sleep mode by moving the slider to the middle position. If you do nothing, it shuts down after five minutes, to conserve power.
================ COMPARISON and SALIENT FEATURES ================
This recorder differs from, say, the 710 and 700 models in a few key respects, and that's why I bought this one, rather than those:
1. This recorder has PLASTIC buttons. I got sick of the slick metal buttons on my otherwise-beloved WS-110, with which I've made hundreds of voiceovers for videos.
2. This VN 702PC recorder has a STAND. Yes, you can pop open the stand at the back of the recorder, so you don't have to hold it. So the recorder sits on the table at an angle while you talk. Hands-free. Don't bump the table. :)
3. This recorder has two EXTRA BUTTONS, one for MENU and another for SCENE/CALENDAR. Handy features! MENU makes it easier to handle the recorder options (which are arcanely named), enabling you to scroll (by + and - buttons, with >> side of the wheel, as entry INTO a menu).
4. When you connect the recorder to your computer and rename the files you made, the recorder stores those files AS the date made, still; but the new name given, is retained. You can actually READ THE FILE NAMES in the recorder's calendar, now. So you're no longer stuck with folders and message numbers. Just scroll through the calendar. Also, after you've renamed files, when you scroll through your folders, each renamed FILE is at the very top of the screen! That's a big improvement. Or of course, plug the thing into your computer to see file names, just as you can do on prior USB (usually named 'PC') models, going all the way back to WS-110.
5. This recorder allows a 32GB microSD card, per the manual. The recorder's rubber SD cover is a royal pain; the attachment strap won't move out of the way. So you hold the recorder in one hand, and must use some of the fingers of your other hand to push the rubber cover out of the way, and hope that your remaining fingers can actually insert the card. So for me, that was my pinky pushing the cover away, then with the other fingers, inserting the chip.
But oh, my 16GB micro SD was a joy to insert. Trick is to insert it with the gold contacts FACING you, and INTO the slot (so you're inserting it upside down, relative to the recorder face). Happily, it only will go in that way, and it EASILY goes in that way. So if you're struggling to insert it, and it looks crooked, you've inserted it wrongly. Flip it over so you can see the gold contacts going in FIRST.
Next, and for a few seconds, the screen flashes 'please wait'; then it asks if you want to SWITCH to using the card for memory rather than the interna memory. And of course you DO, so you can just take the card out and put either the recorder's USB cable into your computer; or the card, into your SD reader (I bought the Manhattan reader, see my review here at Amazon).
And here's a bonus: the recording comes out better, and the volume is better, when you record to the SD. I was so shocked and happy. So clearly the sound quality and recording quality are affected by having that SD card. Since SD cards are so cheap (16 GB for three bucks, before shipping, $7 with shipping) -- it's easy and smart to have the card in there all the time. You aren't likely to record 100,000 messages on the recorder in your lifetime; that's the card's supposed duty cycle (lifetime limit before it's likely to go bad). And fast? Even the 'class 4' I purchased was almost instantaneous, versus the typical external hard drive. Awesome stuff.
So you can stick any computer files onto it, up to 32GB or the limit of your card, if less. NOTE: I suspect this same capacity will also pertain to the 710 and 700 models, but their instructions only tell you they tested up to micro 16GB, and only from SanDisk and Toshiba. Bet you can do 32GB with them, as this 702PC allows micro 32GB max.
6. This recorder has a nice thick POUCH, too-short USB cable, and a hole at the bottom through which you can thread a WRISTSTRAP; unfortunately, you must buy the wriststrap from Olympus; they made the hook holes so small, you could only thread string through it. Their straps are not as good as one you could make from a keyring. But their strap hole is too narrow and shallow to allow keyring threading. Still, if you have an old, compartmented zipper wallet lying about, you might be able to stick the USB cord, recorder, pouch and even some microSD's into the wallet, make that your carrying case. Or, use an old leather 100s' cigarette case, like I did. Then attach a strap to that via key ring through the leather. Or, thread a key ring through the pouch loop, and attach a wriststrap (preferably the 'jelly' kind) to the keyring -- the latter will eventually tear through the loop.
7. Users of the 710 and 700 model report that after a short period of disuse, the recorders won't work. I suspect that is a software problem with respect to those two types, so I opted for this VN 702PC model instead. I'll have to wait a few months to see if it also has the same problem. If you bought a 710 or 700, try removing the batteries from the unit for two weeks or more. Also, see if you can use the unit without batteries but plugged into your computer, or plugged into the adaptor mentioned in #8 below. I suspect the problem is like with Windows; sometimes you have to remove all power and wait. For these recorders, the wait might be 10+ days, for Japanese products typically have a storage backup in case of power outage which keeps operational data that long. You can't lose the recordings, but you will lose settings, if there is no power source in the unit; here, that's EXACTLY what you want to happen, NO power source. So take out the batteries, and either immediately try to use the unit from electrical power only, or don't use it at all for maybe two weeks. Then try to use it via the adaptor or computer, but still no batteries. See what happens.
8. The models in #7 offer AC usage, so you're not stuck with batteries. This is done by purchasing an A-514 AC adaptor here in Amazon, filling the unit with rechargeable AAA batteries (two); then, plug the USB cable into the unit; then plug the other end of the USB into the adaptor. You can record while hooked up to the adaptor or the computer. Not sure why the latter is of value, but you can do it. Olympus also says that the unit's rechargeable batteries will recharge while the unit is plugged into your computer. I'm testing both the adaptor and the charging via computer. Can't yet say the results.
=================== CORD and possible AC PROBLEMS ================
The 702PC's manual doesn't say you can recharge from the adaptor, or even that the A-514 works with the VN 702PC. Instead, I learned all that, from Olympus' website, prior to buying; so I purchased the adaptor here in Amazon. I'm not sure it works on this model. I plugged in the AC Adaptor after shutting the unit off. It recognized the adaptor, but keeps on flashing PLEASE WAIT. This happens whether batteries are in the recorder, or not. So if batteries are in it, do they recharge, but the recorder remains unusable? I left it plugged in overnight with AA rechargeable batteries that needed recharging. It did work the next morning. UPDATE, 8/2/12: After writing the above, I stopped using the unit, and just now turned it back on. It works. So it SEEMS to have fully charged.
I'll have to check back with Olympus to verify this, on the 702PC. They were quick to reply, before. Meanwhile, assume the 702PC, unlike later models, cannot operate solely in AC mode when plugged into the adaptor. It also seemed to recharge when I used the Belkin recharger here at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Belkin-Outlet-Mount-Protector-Charger/dp/B0016IXEWG ). But it's hard to tell.
The too-short (six inch?) USB is a problem. It does work with my Acer Aspire One AOA150 netbook, but I don't want to overtax the ports when the Acer is operating on batteries. The best way to plug in these recorders, is into a separately-powered USB hub which is an adjunct to one of your external drives or your monitor, since the capacity of the thing is 34GB, with the microSD inserted. It's especially important with a netbook, not to overpower the USB ports with devices that really need their own separate power, like the big external drives now sold.
So if you're hooking up the recorder to a desktop, most desktop USB ports are too high, too low, or otherwise inconvenient; so the recorder's USB must be twisted in order to fit into the port, and/or you must prop the recorder on something, so it will lie flat. However, it will still operate if you use a USB extension cord. Mine came from Amazon; both AmazonBasics meter-long USB extender, and a Belkin six-foot USB extension, worked. Limit is 10 feet total, on passive USB extenders. Else, your transmission will become glitchy, degrade.
RE DISCONNECTION FROM COMPUTER: be sure you first obey the instructions about 'Safe Removal' (a utility on XP systems): you must remove the device first by closing whatever window you used to access it; then click on the Safe Removal utility in your notification area; then (with a great deal of confusion) find what USB port the unit is hooked up to; then select STOP in the computer's dialog box. Be sure the light is off the recorder after you select STOP -- only then can you remove the device. Else, you'll maybe fry it. This is a Win98 holdover hardware rule. It might not be a problem on Win7 machines, you'll have to test it. However, I've never followed those instructions with my WS-110, which has a built-in USB dongle (doesn't need a separate USB cord). After closing the window, I just remove the recorder.
======================== RECORDING FEATURES ======================
Basically, this thing records better than it plays from within its own speaker. Clarity when played back from a computer, is sterling. I use these recorders to record lectures, and they can be inside a pocket, sitting in an open briefcase, and still record well. Test the 'scene' settings in the unit. The 'user' setting is one you can create yourself. Basically, the latter is whatever setting you currently use, when 'scene' is off.
Like other Olympus recorders (thank God they don't much change the interface), you have five folders for recording. So just select the folder with the folder/index key (it cycles from A-E, with the last folder accessed, maybe showing first); then, hit Record button. Suggest you don't record too many memos before labelling them on your PC. The renamed files WILL show up on this unit, that's one of its many advantages over older models. Still, unless you watch a movie while doing computer housekeeping, you don't want to have to listen to and rename, 20 files at a time. :) So when you record, get into the habit of FIRST saying the intended title of your recording, even if only a grocery list. That will save you time.
One of the touted features is 'index', the ability to bookmark certain moments in recording, WHILE recording. Then when you replay, you can skip to the index points. I have no use for that feature, as the fast-forward and rewind help just as much; the unit provides real-time, onscreen elapse of playback or recording, anyway. So I won't review the 'index' function.
=============== RECORDING VOICE QUALITY =======================
* On this model, the default recording setting has a lot of hiss; yet it didn't record the sound of the loud ceiling fan over my head. Default is 'rec level high', meaning high RANGE of sound pickup. So LOW means the RANGE of pickup is limited to near your face. If you put the Voice filter and 'Low Cut' filter ON -- never mind trying to actually understand what they do, it's all in technical jargon and pictures, drat -- those settings reduce hiss, but also reduce sound of your voice. Playback is just fine from the computer, professional quality; but sound is almost inaudible, from the recorder itself.
* Next best setting seems to be DNS. See comment to this review, the commenter says it means Dragon Naturally Speaking; which means, the unit is designed to work with DNS so it will TRANSCRIBE your voice into PRINTED CHARACTERS of your word processor. (WordPerfect version 10 has DNS.) I've not used the feature. But the DNS setting is good quality. (It's the cartoon character speaking to a sheet of paper in the Scene Selection menu; meaning, your recording 'scene' of conference room, meeting, memo, or that sheet of paper.)
* Another good 'scene' selection is MEMO (cartoon character speaking into the recorder). Hiss is removed. The 'User Setting' in 'Scene' just tells you what your settings are. To see them, when you are on 'User Setting', press the >> side of the wheel.
I've not yet tested the other 'scenes' (meeting and conference), but the above two change the TYPE of compression to WMA, rather than whatever setting you chose. I usually prefer MP3 at 192kbps for video voiceovers. This is defeated by the 'scene' selection. File size is smaller, volume is somewhat lower (but fine for PC playback), almost no hiss on the above two DNS and MEMO settings. NOTE: if you're recording for Windows Movie Maker, the wma setting is just fine, that's how WMM will compress the sound. Same is true for many video editors.
In short, the unit's own speaker isn't as good as my earlier models, but it is acceptable. Usually I just plug the unit into my PC, for playback. But if you have powered speakers (ones requiring an electrical outlet, like the Logitech computer speakers here for $10 at Amazon, see my review), you can just plug the stereo jack into the 'ear' of the player, and hear quality sound. Again, it seems the hiss problem is restricted to the speaker in the 702PC itself.
===================== PLAYBACK ============================
There are two ways to change playback speed. One is in your computer, usually a program by Creative (i.e., if you have SoundBlaster). You can set playback speed by reducing or increasing the Hz setting for the recording. Reducing it, slows playback and lowers pitch. Increasing it, increases both. This applies to any recorder, even one without PC connectivity. Simply plug a patch cord into the EAR jack, then into your computer's LINE IN jack, then play. Sound should come out your computer speakers, and you can record it using one of your computer's sound recorder programs (usually you have several within your video or DVD player software, not merely Windows' default Sound Recorder).
The second way to change playback speed, is within the recorder itself: while playing a recording, hit the OK button in the center of the wheel, and then the left << to slow the sound, or the right >> to speed it up. You hear the results right away; speed change is DISPLAYED at point 1 (.1) increments per right or left wheel adjustment. It's a nice improvement over prior models (earlier models just slow down or speed up at fewer set rates). You'll want this feature, especially if you record lectures or record while driving.
VELCRO NOTE: put about .5 inches of soft velcro on the battery door; slide DOWN the door first (it won't detach, which is a mixed blessing). Adding Velcro makes the unit a) easier to hold, less prone to slippage; and b) if you put some harsh velcro on your steering wheel where you want the unit to reside, you can thus attach the unit to the center of your steering wheel, and easily turn it on, record while driving. To do that best, before you start driving: hit the REC button, say a word, then hit REC again to pause recording. That keeps the unit ON; you merely hit the REC button again, to resume recording. Same good manners (and safety) with a cellphone, apply to recording. :)
========================= MANUALS ==========================
Oh my, there are three. The paper manual shipping with the unit covers only some of the features, and is labelled 'Basic'. Stored on the recorder in several languages, is a 'Detailed' manual. It is outdated, but useful, and is in the 'pdf' folder on the unit. Go to Olympus and download the later manual. Search on the model number 702PC to get the download. Frankly, that's the best way to shop for electronic stuff. READ THE MANUAL before you buy. Whatever's wrong will likely become apparent, from reading the manual.