You may want to go make a cup of tea before you start reading, this is going to be a long post. Why so long? The DM-450 and DM-550 are just amazing digital recorders and are packed to the brim with features while at the same time being extremely easy to use out of the box. So, if you have your tea made then lets begin….
The new Olympus DM-450 and DM-550 digital note taker voice recorders from Olympus have recently replaced the massively successful DS series note takers (DS-30/DS-40/DS-50 and more recently the DS-55/DS-65). With each new evolution of this range of recorder they just get better and better in all areas; look, feel, software, audio quality and ease of use.
The DM-450 and DM-550 follow a similar pattern with previous Olympus recorders. Essentially they are both the same internally with only slight differences between the DM-450 and DM-550, if you record a WMA or MP3 in ST XQ on both recorders they would record pretty much record the same audio (DM-450 stereo mic records 100Hz to 15kH, DM-550 stereo mic records 70Hz to 20kHz). Let’s start with the huge list of what they both can do:
Features of both DM-450 and DM-550 are:
- Mac (Intel) and Windows (XP, Vista, 7, 32-bit & 64-Bit) compatible.
- Records in .WMA or .MP3
- Expandable memory via the MicroSD/MicroSDHC slot using commercially available MicroSD/MicroSDHC cards.
- Supports playback of audio in WAV, WMA and MP3 format, either recorded by the recorder or transferred from files on your computer.
- Built in Variable Control Voice Actuator (VCVA) allows voice activated recording based on variable volume triggers.
- Low Cut noise filter attempts to remove low level audio sounds like air conditioning units
- Noise cancellation and voice filter functions to enhance audio on playback.
- Built in and programmable recording and playback scenes (e.g. conference recording, interview recording, dictation etc).
- Move or copy files between built-in memory and expanded memory.
- Backlight display.
- Index and temp marking.
- Controllable playback speed.
- Voice guidance feature, the recorder talks to you to advise of menu selections, perfect for vision impaired users.
- Folders can be named.
- Timer record, set the record to start recording at preset times and days.
- Alarm feature, set the recorder to playback audio at preset times.
- Directional mic, records wide all around audio (interviews, meetings, focus groups etc) down to single directional for direct dictation.
- Comes with Olympus Sonority software for audio file editing, enhancement and email functions. Although software is not required to take audio from the recorders, they are plug and play on both Windows and Mac – no software required.
- Batteries can be charged via USB.
- Recorders can be used to store and playback podcasts, configured via the Olympus Sonority software.
- Recorders can be used as an Audible device, store and listen to your audio books on the recorders.
The subtle differences between the DM-450 and DM-550 are :
- DM-450 has 2Gb of in built memory, expandable via the micro SD/SDHC slot (512mb – 16Gb).
- DM-550 has 4Gb of in built memory, expandable via the micro SD/SDHC slot (512mb – 16Gb).
- DM-450 is silver, DM-550 is black.
Features available only on the DM-550 are:
- PCM audio recording. This creates a better than audio quality CD recording to an uncompressed .WAV file. Typically used to record music and nature sounds like birds or frogs.
- Recording level can be adjusted automatically or manually.
- Files can be moved between folders in the memory.
- Files can be split or divided on the recorder.
- Intro play feature when searching through files.
- Partial erase (PCM files only)
Ok now that you know all the features and functions let’s look now at the using the recorder itself. Both recorders are about the length of a Snickers bar and about 3/4 the width. They fit nicely in your hand and when placed on a desk is held firmly in place by four tiny rubberized feet. The recorders are housed in an aluminum shell so they are tough and can take some abuse.
Both recorders are super fast at start-up, this will appeal to journalists in particular who need to quickly whip out their recorder to grab sound bites. The record, stop and play buttons are located on the right side of the unit if you look at it face on, this is perfect positioning and takes no thought as to which button to press, this is similar to the tried and trusted design of the Pro range of digital dictaphone, all of which have the record/play/stop controller on the side. By placing the button here makes the device universally acceptable to both right and left handed people, with the mics at the top of the unit it can be flipped to suit either dexterous ethnicity.
As you can see from the image above showing the play/stop/record button location just above on the top of the unit is the grill protecting the phenomenal stereo mics, which are not only gorgeous (you have to be a digital recorder fan to think that a mic grill is that good) but super sensitive. A new feature introduced in this range of digital recorders is the zoom mic. This can vary the range of audio pickup from narrow to wide. For the vast majority of your recordings you would choose a wide setting. Zoom would be rarely used except for when in an audience and you are struggling to hear a speaker, flick to zoom and point at the presenter to get the best chance of audio pickup. As always, my general rule of thumb, if you can hear what is being said, so will the record. If you are struggling to hear, zoom will be your best chance of audio pickup.
The DM-450/DM-550 are powered by 2x AAA Ni-MH rechargeable batteries (included) and can also be powered by standard alkaline AAA’s. They can also be powered via USB, both PC/Mac connected or via mains power. Olympus claim that you will get 51 hours of recording off the batteries in LP mode. Nobody uses LP mode so expect less than that, personally I recommend USB powering the units if you are going to be recording long sessions.
Essentially the DM-450 and DM-550 are now the work horse Olympus units for recording interviews, sound bites, conferences, lectures, meetings and with the PCM capabilities of the DM-550 music and nature sounds. In our business we use the DM-450 for any onsite recording we do for clients.
The DM-450 retails for $349.00 incl. GST and the DM-550 is $449.00 incl. GST in Australia.