A Recorder With Everything–Except Ease

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Digital voice recorders are remarkable tools–small enough to slip into a pocket because they record directly to memory chips–including an Olympus DS-30 ($150) that I've been playing with for a couple of months.

COURTESY OF OLYMPUS

This little recorder packs startling capability: It's less than half the size of a microcassette recorder, captures up to 67 hours of sound (four at CD quality), lasts seemingly forever on AA batteries, has a stereo mike that can detach with a cheap extension cord, plays back MP3 files, has an optional remote control, and can store its audio files in seven different folders.

Please, can I just have something simple to use?

For a year or so, I've had my eye out for a simple, inexpensive, digital voice recorder–something my mom can use to voice her thoughts and memories. She could use a cassette recorder, but then it's a hassle to convert her voice to digital audio, which is easier to catalog, back up, and edit.

Every digital recorder that I've tried has complicated folders, which are simply confusing. Does anyone ever organize audio files on the recorder itself? I don't. The buttons on the Olympus are an improvement–it actually has a "record" button on the side, unlike earlier models I've tried. But its power button (at least it has one, unlike earlier models) is combined with a "hold" button, which still trips me up and surely would do the same to Mom.

Once again, it's tech that's amazing in all its capabilities–and frustratingly complicated.