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Sony vs. Olympus: Digital Voice Recorders

Digital voice recorders have become increasingly popular over the last few years, as they offer a relatively cheap and reliable alternative to older cassette voice recorders. Digital voice recorders use memory - much like the memory used in your personal pc - to record sound, rather than tape cassettes. Newer recorders tend to have very large memory capacities, despite their small size.

Though there are several brands of digital voice recorders to choose from, two stand out as the most popular at this time: Sony and Olympus. Here we attempt to compare two recording devices, one from each company. Hopefully this information will be helpful in deciding which recorder is more suitable for your needs.

Olympus DM-20 Digital Voice Recorder

The DM-20 is a popular new model by Olympus. It has received high marks in the past for it's large memory capacity (128MB Built-in flash) that provides about 45 hours of voice recording time. In addition, the device is capable of holding 120 minutes of high quality mp3 music. The recorder can hook up to both a mac or pc, so there isn't much of a compatibility issue in uploading/ downloading songs or voice recordings. Physically, the device is really quite sharp (picture below), and is relatively light - 3 oz. This is good news for anyone who travels; it can be easily placed in a pocket or hand bag. The device also has some nice features that make it even more attractive, such as reminder alarms (work much like your alarm clock), different play and play-back modes, files may be saved in WMA or DSS format, and an external microphone. The main draw back to the device is the lack of an on/ off switch - something that should certainly be there. You are forced to hold down the hold button for some time before the device will shut down. Other than this, however, the device is well worth your attention. It currently sells for $180 - $270 dollars, so shop around.

Olympus DM-20 Digital Voice Recorder

Sony's answer to the DM-20 is the ICD-MS515 memory stick digital voice recorder. This device uses removable Memory Stick Media that is very similar to the smart flash cards used in digital cameras and other devices. The ICD-MS515 comes with a relatively small 8mb memory stick that holds about 170 minutes of recording. This is much smaller than the capacity of the DM-20, but it is possible to simply upgrade to larger memory sticks. Some of the nice features of this device are the built-in microphone, the ability to work with Voice To Print Software (allows the conversion of voice recording to text), usb connectivity, and a voice e-mail system (allowing you to send audible voice mail). The device is also very light, weighing slightly less than 3 oz. It's proportions are very similar to that of the Olympus DM-20. Besides the low memory capacity (which can be upgraded at an additional cost), this a very solid and competitive device. It currently sells for around $200.

Bradley James is a senior editor at, a website containing many helpful consumer electronics review articles. For more information on digital voice recorders, please visit our digital voice recorder webpage.

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