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on December 2, 2009
I'm amending my initial review -- I decided to keep the DM-520 after all because of its outstanding features when used as Olympus intends it to be used. (I've been using the DM-520 for about a month.)

Initially I'd planned to use this recorder for dictation -- but, that's not it's intended market. It really is meant to be a recorder for music (live performance, vocals, instrument practice, etc.). I've been using it to record guitar lessons with my instructor, and I love it for that purpose. In this context, I set up the recorder at the beginning of the lesson and stop recording at the end of the hour lesson. Playback is phenomenal -- I'm using WMA "SP" mode and the sound is great. The 8 gig Micro-SDHC card I put in has almost 1,000 hours of storage using the WMA SP format (less capacity, of course, when recording in stereo and "high quality" modes).

I would not,however, use this recorder for dictation, which was my original intent. I'm very impressed with the ergonomics and options, but disappointed in the absence of a couple of features that are critical to dictation.

I've owned several Olympus recorders, and except for the lowest priced models, they have all featured the ability to "punch in" new material in the middle of an existing recording. This feature is very important to my work as a writer. I use a recorder to take notes, and, while reviewing the notes at a later time, I need to be able to expand on the original thoughts and observations by inserting into an existing recording. I also need to be able to append to the end of an existing recording so that an entire article or chapter is one continuous file. The DM-520 can't do any of this!

My Olympus DS-2400 does this perfectly -- you just press the F1 key during playback and the recorder stops playback and lets you press the Record button to insert a new segment. Also, you can choose to playback up to a point midway in a recording, and record over the remainder of the recording, or, you can just add to the end of a recording.

I've come to accept these features as a requirement of any dictation recorder. I don't use my inexpensive recorders (like my WS-200S) for "work" because they all start a new recording as soon as the Record button is pressed. You can't add to an existing recording, insert into an existing recording, or overwrite an existing recording. So, you end up with a bunch of chopped-up, disconnected recordings that you have to sort out later on.

After a few weeks using this recorder, I can recommend it for the purposes for which it was designed: "field" recording, music playback, and other purposes where dictation features are not important.
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on October 12, 2009
At the outset, let me say that I am not the typical user for whom the DM-520 was designed. For example, I don't categorize my music into playlists, albums and artists. I simply have a bunch of diverse audio files, including music, that I've successfully transferred to the device for my listening enjoyment, and the device plays it all beautifully. Because of my prior successful experience with Olympus DVR's, I was impressed when I read about the improvements included on the DM-520, specifically:

(1) The increased memory to 4GB, plus the additional SD memory card feature.
(2) The convenience of using two AAA rechargeable batteries.
(3) The improved stereo microphone.

The opening screen on the DM-520 indicates the three major sections for holding recorded data:

(1) Recording
(2) Music
(3) Podcast

Like some of their other models, the Recording section has 5 folders available for making recordings. The folders are labeled A through E, with each folder being able to hold a whopping 999 files. A special word of gratitude for the built-in stereo microphone which is absolutely amazing, with incredible sound quality.

The Music Section actually has two sections, both of which can hold audio content. There is the Music Section itself, and a sub-folder labeled "Audible", set up to accept commercial audiobook files. As mentioned, the Audible folder can hold any audio content, not just audio books.

The Podcast Section was set up to accept Internet podcasts, but fortunately, it has the flexibilty to hold any audio content.

According to the User Manual, there are three methods for transferring content to the DM-520:

(1) Sonority software program
(2) Windows Media Player
(3) iTunes

None of those three methods work for me. Fortunately, when the device is plugged into the PC using the supplied USB cable, it is treated as a separate drive, and files can thus be transferred each way using the file transfer features of Windows Explore. This allows me to bypass the above 3 User Manual methods of transferring files, and instead use the tried and true Windows Explore method. In my opinion, this was the unit's main redeeming feature, and it wasn't even mentioned in the Manual.

I had to call the Olympus Support line a couple times because some of the unit's features were a little mysterious at first. But Support was very helpful, and the DM-520 is working like a charm.

Bottom Line: This is a great high-quality DVR and well worth the price. The Sonority software and the User Manual could have been explained and written better, but what else is new? Overall, it is a sweet, versatile and powerful device.
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on October 11, 2009
I've been using the DM-520 for about one month. It's fun to use. The stereo recordings are just great. I've been using the highest frequency MP3 mode.

The recorder comes with two rechargeable AAA batteries. It has a mini-USB port to connect to a PC and to re-charge the batteries. The recorder also accepts regular, non-rechargeable AAA alkaline batteries. The push buttons are raised, large enough, and well placed, so I can find each one one without looking.

There are three recording formats, WMA, MP3 and PCM. All formats have two or more frequency modes. WMA supports stereo and monaural recording.

The DM-520 has a 4GB memory internal memory and support for a microSD card (up to 16 GB).

The recorder has a metal body and a professional feel to it.

My minimum requirements for purchasing a DVR were rechargeable batteries, a mini-USB port, and good, tactile push buttons. For me, the microSD card, the MP3 and PCM recording modes, the MP3 player functionality were a bonus.
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on February 5, 2010
As a member of a large growing professional choral organization, I purchased this recorder to help me replay our rehearsals as well as to record my part on piano with a friend's voice. I had previously used a laptop with the microphone of a computer headset and an older basic Olympus voice recorder. Neither one provided enough sound quality to do what I needed.

I had considered buying a better microphone for my computer, but a reasonably good one was about 66% of this purchase price when you consider most microphones need a mic amp when plugged into a computer. So I decided on a voice recorder, and I'm very glad I did. When I demonstrate the difference in sound quality between recordings using my previous method and the 520 recordings, everyone is pretty shocked. I'm not really comparing apples to apples, but the comment I liked the best is, "What!?!? That recording was done on THAT!?!? It sounds like a studio recording!!" It is really quite amazing how clear the recordings are. For my personal recordings I simply put the 520 into it's case and clipped it to a book on the music stand of my piano while my friend played and sang. For our rehearsals, I just place it at the front of the chapel we use for our practice hall. It easily captures everything. I have no real experience with anything like this, but having said that, I did not expect such impressive results. With all my recordings, I use the automatic settings recommended by Olympus for music recordings, and use uncompressed PCM format for the highest quality.

The DM-520 is very easy to use, once you get used to it. Pressing and holding the center OK/Menu button accesses the menu, where you adjust every setting. The display is very sharp, clear, and easy to use. The buttons have a nice tactile feel and are spaced far enough apart that there is no danger of pressing the wrong button. I added a few pictures here so you can see the case, and get a better idea of its size in a hand. I am 6ft with normal sized hands, so you can get an idea of its size.

The unit feels very solid, like it is a solid block, and has a nice heft to it. The case is plastic but very sturdy. Again, I am very impressed with the build quality. The battery lasts what seems like an eternity. I have recorder HOURS of full uncompressed wave (PCM) files and it still shows full charge. The 4G built in memory holds almost 6 hours of the same uncompressed format, or 1042 hours of the most compressed format - and anywhere in between depending on the quality you need. Tons of room. I did have a little 2G Micro SD card I put in just to see how it works. I did not need to format it or anything. It just recognized it and worked fine. I doubt I'll use it, but I'll leave it there just in case.

Regarding software and computer compatibility, I'm not sure why there are any complaints. I run Windows XP, so the Sonority software works on my PC, but I don't use it. I prefer to move file myself. I plug in the USB cable, and the computer recognizes a "mass storage device". I then use Explorer to copy or cut files and past them where I want. Additionally, I prefer to use Audacity to edit files. It is a free program easily found on the net, and it works beautifully. I think it's a mistake to hinge a purchase decision of a recorder on the software it comes with. Sonority works fine, but I don't like it as well as a free program anyone can obtain. Would I buy Sonority? Certainly not. Would I skip this recorder because it doesn't come with a better program? Absolutely not. I doubt any recorder comes with a program that is so good it overcomes shortcomings in the base product. You can also use Windows Media Player to move files back and forth.

I do recommend you go to Olympus' website to download the full manual. What it comes with is a very abridged manual as well as a little acordian folded quick guide. I did not print the full manual but leave it on my computer and access it when I need to know something. I have not needed it since the first week.

This little device is pretty remarkable. I absolutely recommend it.

UPDADE: I often wonder about these reviews. 99% of the good reviews are written in the first few days of ownership. This tell you nothing of the longevity of the product. So, I am back after almost a year to tell you that I still love this recorder. Still works great, still sounds great, still perfect.
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on January 22, 2011
If you are a student in need of a recorder to "tape" your lectures ... this is the recorder for you. I am not a great note taker so I needed a device that I could rely on to basically back me up on capturing the lectures. I'm got this in 2009 when I started grad school and it has served me well with no problems whatsoever.

The DM-520 does an awesome job at picking up the voices of the soft spoken, classmates on the far side of the room as well as cancelling out (or minimizing) the noise of humming A/Cs or heating units and street noise from open windows. The recording clarity and playback were my top features. What's good is that the MP3 and WMA recording sound even better on your PC via Real Player or Windows Media.

I LOVE the external micro SD card (again only up 16GB card) and USB connectivity. Although I don't need it I do like the voice capability on this unit. When you turn it on it is so good to hear "Battery level high" at the start. I am typically able to record at least 4-5 two-hour lectures per charge of the included rechargeable batteries. You can use regular batteries or full size USB charger if you're in a pinch. This was the next most important feature to me.

The last critical feature I was looking for was the feel and sturdiness of a recorder. This feels very sturdy and has survived many drops on my part. The added plus is the case which I keep on all the time (since I tend to drop everything). Yes, your recordings will come out perfect with the case on. The tripod stand on the case is a nice bonus as well.

Like others have stated this is NOT a dictation device. If that's what you need ... keep looking. However, if you need an AWESOME recorder for lectures, seminars, webinars, meetings, etc. the DM-520 is a MUST HAVE.
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on July 22, 2010
I've had this recorder for a year now. Love it. Pay attention to other critical reviews to determine if it has all the features you want (Olympus has other recorders better suited for special purposes like dictation).

The voice menus have proven surprisingly useful. I use this in the car a lot to record quick thoughts and reminders. Once you get the hang of where the buttons are, no need to look at the recorder to use it.

Speaking of the buttons, there's an OK button dead center in the front of the recorder, ringed with up/down/left/right buttons. Thes button functions change depending on mode and are all you need for simple playback. If you've used a Logitech Harmony remote, you know how useful this button configuration can be when done right. It's done right here.

Recording quality from the built in (stereo) microphone is excellent for voice. I haven't tried it with music. It picks up voices in a large conference room clearly from 20 feet away. The stereo isn't irrelevant even for voice. When multiple people are talking over each other it actually helps intelligibility. I just don't worry when recording a large meeting about being able to hear everyone. While writing this review, I tried a little experiment, setting the recorder on the floor in a far corner of the living room, default record settings, and then walking around the house talking. In the dining room, 25 feet away, clear as a bell. In the kitchen, partially blocked by walls, still pretty clear. 40 feet down the hallway in the bedroom, still clear, if faint. If there's one reason to choose this recorder above others, it's the ability to grab multiple voices from distances you wouldn't expect.

Hardware quality is excellent. I'd recommend a case if you're going to carry this in your pocket with your keys. My previous DM-20 was pretty marred by being tossed around with keys in my pocket for years. The included case is way too big for a pocket. I ordered another case off Amazon purely for slimness. Unfortunately, the Amazon link thing didn't work for it or I'd link to it. I'd love to find a neoprene case designed specifically for this recorder. Probably this link will be suppressed:

The recorder takes two AAA batteries, and will charge Nimh batteries via USB. Battery life is almost too long. I forget that you have to hold the Stop key while connecting to USB port on your computer to go to charging mode instead of connected mode. The recorder works well as an external USB drive.

Bells & whistles--there are a lot. I have no idea how to use most of them. The Scene stuff seems interesting. It changes a group of recording or playback parameters all at once for different scenarios (music, lecture, large conference room, and multiple custom scenes you can add). Since I haven't gotten an unuseable recording yet from the defaults, I haven't tried any of this. There's voice activation with multiple sensitivity settings. You can add an SD micro card (I put one in just for backup--I've never come close to exhausting the 4GB of built in memory.)You can transfer files from the built in memory to the card and move files between folders. It works as an mp3 player and has Audible support.

Bad stuff:

You do have to press a lot of keys to get some things done. Others have complained about erase--once you learn the dance it's ok (Erase, up arrow, OK, up arrow, OK).

Could we please get a decent case for this? It's supposed to be a pocket recorder but it's hard to carry it around in your pocket.
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on December 28, 2009
I purchased this to download audio books from Audible, since I have not had any good experiences with iPod. This is one of the devices listed on Audible's site as audible ready. Unfortunately, I have been unable to download the audiobooks directly to the Olympus - could be me, my firewalls, I don't know. But I can transfer them from the Media Player very easily. It will play .aa files, which is what audible uses.

Sound quality is AMAZING. My Olympus came with the wrong memory card, but you do not needed it to download files to the device. It takes a MicroSD Card, which you can get at Best Buy for $30 for a 4GB card. Once you insert the card, Olympus will ask if you want to switch to the MicroSD Card or use the internal memory.

Very easy to set up. It will sync up the time and date with your computer. It does have to be turned off for the batteries to charge. I didn't realize this and I was pretty upset when my batteries didn't charge - thought I bought a dud. Turns out, I was the dud.

The instructions do say that alkaline batteries have a longer lifespan than the rechargeable, by about 10 hours. To recharge the rechargeable batteries that come with the device, you just have to plug the device into your computer via usb; make sure the power's off first.

Another nice thing about this is that you can listen to it without earphones. The sound quality is a lot better with the earphones though. It doesn't have a pause button, only play, stop, record, forward, back, volume and ok/menu. If you're listening and press the stop button, when you play again it will remember where it left off, which is great.

Do not throw out the literature and leaflets that come in the package. To install the software, you will be asked for the serial number which is listed on one of those leaflets. I had thrown mine out and was looking desperately for it, until I decided to check the trash, and there it was. It's printed on a square green leaftlet, which quite frankly just looks like "junk".

I have not used the podcast option and I do not listen to music on this. My computer did download all my music to it, and it sounded great, but like I said, I only use it for audiobooks. I've never been into listening to music on MP3s. I have not used the recorder either.

The manual is pretty useless with very limited information, but Google the manual for the DM520 and you'll find the online version is a lot more detailed.

All in all, a great buy.
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on March 30, 2010
This item works like a charm. The most amazing part is how long the battery life is...I haven't changed it yet. You can use the rechargeable batteries but regular Duracell's work foreva!
The quality is top notch on every level but remember recording in WMA will allow you to set bookmarks permanently...super convenient. It records in PCM or what CD's are recorded in. This will allow you to keep your most important events in the best possible quality.
The grill you see on the top of the face and back works both as a speaker and mic. I've tested it both ways and it is for reals.
When you playback your recordings and it doesn't sound that great from the unit, don't's the tiny speaker on the back. Listening to it from your Ipod, car or home theater system will sound fantastic!
Promise you won't be disappointed =)
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on November 26, 2009
I needed a recorder to record lectures but I'm also a stickler for sound quality and this is absolutely perfect. I bought it based on it's highly rated sound quality, ample storage, and low price point. I record my classes at 192kps mp3s and they sound amazing with the built in mics. I'm a tech nerd so the myriad of settings didn't scare me. I still haven't figured out how to set it to auto record when it senses sound but for now I'm rating it extremely high for it's sound recording quality and well built solid feel. I'll add more later.
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on January 17, 2010
I had to spend hours on the phone with Olympus support to discover that they don't have their new "Sonority" software working with 64-bit Win7. Shipped version 1.0.1 installs...opens once, and invites you to upgrade to 1.0.2...then never runs again. Total uninstallation and reinstallation with or without the upgrade doesn't change the picture. Running the installation and/or the program as administrator doesn't change it either. Should be fixed soon, and I expect that will make this a great purchase; hard to beat 51 hours battery life and 4gB storage in such a nicely designed instrface, and the construction is also very solid. I'd buy it again, but be aware you'll need to manually move files around for awhile.
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