If you put your ear up close to the speaker grille on the Olympus DS-660 Digital Voice Recorder, you can hear the faint, distant screams of agonized microcassette manufacturers. For years, portable audio recording meant fumbling with these infernal tapes, which often broke, tangled, got demagnetized, or melted on your dashboard, and had terrible sound quality besides. Thankfully, digital recorders like the DS-660 will rid us of microcassettes for good.

The lozenge-shaped DS-660’s 32MB of memory holds about five hours of quality audio in standard recording mode or up to 11 hours in extended recording mode. It’s extremely easy to use, even covertly: To start a recording, just push the Record button on the right side of the unit.

The DS-660 sports features common to many digital recorders: To make it easy to return to a particularly interesting spot, you can set index marks while you’re recording. Five different folders make organizing easy for anal-retentive types. A voice-actuated mode starts the recording only when there’s sound to record, and a “dictation” mode muffles background noise.

Back at your desk, you drop the DS-660 into its USB cradle and download the files into the included Dictation Module software, which can play the recorder’s DSS file format, hand off the recordings to voice recognition software, or export files to the more-common WAV format.

For portability, versatility, and ease of use, it’s hard to beat the DS-660. So long, microcassettes–and good riddance. –Dylan Tweney

Olympus DS-660 Digital Voice Recorder
Weight: 2.6 ounces
Size: 4.2 x 1.8 x 0.9 inches
Specs: 32MB of RAM; DSS recording; USB 1.1 cradle; microphone jack; earphone jack; requires two AAA batteries or AC adapter (not included)

Best Feature: One-button audio recording couldn’t be simpler
Worst Feature: Pleather carrying case muffles the microphone

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Link: Olympus DS-660 Digital Voice Recorder

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