dictation recorders

Adjusting the Settings

The WS-300M series Olympus digital voice recorders have two primary modes: a voice mode and a music mode. As journalists, we will only be using the voice mode. Please refer to the official Olympus online manual (PDF) for instructions on using this recorder as a portable music player.

Note: This device requires one AAA battery. In the field it is highly recommended to purchase extra batteries.

Turning on the Device and Accessing the Menu

1. Make sure the slider switch on the left side of the device is in the "Voice" position.

2. Next to the music/voice mode selector switch is a "Hold" slider switch. Make sure that is turned "Off" (off is the position toward the bottom of the device). The hold mode also acts as a pseudo "off" for the device, as it prevents accidental operation by disabling all of the buttons.

 Olympus WS-300 series recorder hold button

If a battery is installed in the device, you might notice that the device will wake up from a sleep state. You may see the words "System Check" in the LCD for a brief moment. This is the wake-up system cycle, and the batteries should never be removed during this check.

System Settings:

There are two main menus on this device; one for the music player mode, and one for the voice settings. Make sure your recorder is in the Voice mode.

  • To access the main menu press and hold the center "OK" button on the front of the device for longer than 5 seconds.
  • At any time, you can press the "STOP" button on the right side of the device. This will get you out of the main menu without making any changes.

Olympus WS-300 voice recorder side shot

The main menu has several options for setting the recorder. You can navigate the main menu by pressing the bottom of the wheel (-) to move down; the top of the circular wheel (+) to move up; the left side of the wheel (<<) to move out of a particular menu; and the right side of the wheel (>>) to make a selection. You can also press the center "OK" button to make a selection.

 Menu  Setting
Rec Mode ST HQ - Stereo High Quality
HQ - Mono High Quality
SP - Mono Standard Quality
LP - Mono Low Quality
Mic Sense Conf - High Audio Levels
Dict - Low Audio Levels
VCVA (Variable Control Voice Actuator) On - Device will stop recording when it's too quiet.
Off - Device will always record regardless of noise level.


Here are explanations as well as recommended settings:

Rec Mode - There are four record modes on this device. If you are using an external Stereo microphone, you should use the "Stereo" High quality mode (ST HQ). However, this will dramatically reduce the amount of audio you can record by half, because it records to two separate channels into an single audio file (right and left channels). If you are using a Mono microphone – which is likely to be the case – it is recommended that you use the high quality mode (HQ). If you are not using an external microphone, it is recommended that you use the "HQ" mode, and the built-in microphone will record only one channel of audio. NOTE: some microphones are wired for dual-mono. Please see section on differences in microphone wiring options.

Mic Sense - This is the closest thing to adjusting the audio levels that is available on the recorder. The "conf" stands for conference and is designed to pick up audio from far away. However, excessive noise (which might sound like hissing) is introduced into the recording and loud sounds will peak. "Dict" stands for dictation, and is designed for recording at very close distances. This helps to eliminate background noises, and generally offers a much higher quality recording. The "dict" setting should always be used when using an external microphone during interviews.

VCVA - This should always be turned "off" as it will likely cut your recordings in an unnatural way.

Additional Settings

The WS-300M recorder has various additional settings found in the "Sub Menu" that deal with functionality and playback, and not necessarily recording. Here they are in brief:

 Sub Menu Item Setting
 Lock Lock certain folders/files from accidental deletion
 Back Space Specify the amount of time the recorder will skip backwards when pressing the back (<<) button during play back (good for repeating a word or phrase)
 All Play Listen to all files in a folder continuously without stopping
 Time & Date Set the time and date (important, because this will put timestamps on the files)
 Format Format the device. This will erase all files
 Contrast Set the contrast for better viewing
 Backlight Turn orange backlight on or off
 Beep Turn audible "beep" sound on or off
 System View system information