Olympus DS-7000 Digital Dictation System

Olympus DS7000 digital dictation system : digital dictatphone voice recorder

The new Olympus DS-7000 Digital Dictation Voice Recorder

Olympus DS-7000 Digital Voice Recorder

Review

The successor to the hugely popular Olympus DS-5000 digital voice recorder is here. Olympus believes the new DS-7000 Digital Dictation System improves on its predecessor in almost every way and so has abruptly discontinued production on the older model.

Was this a good move? The DS-5000 was so successful because it delivered excellent ergonomics and ease of use, offered high recording quality and came bundled with the Professional level dictation management software, DSS Player Pro.

Let’s find out if the new Olympus DS-7000 Digital Dictation System stacks up…

Look and Feel

The look and feel of the new Olympus DS-7000 is similar to the Olympus DS-5000 it has replaced, featuring a black metal casing, thumb slider operation and

a near-identical face button layout. It is slightly wider, but has the same height and thickness. I couldn’t detect much of a weight difference either.

Something that has obviously changed is the screen. The new screen is slightly wider and around 50% taller than the now small-looking DS-5000 screen. Turn it on and you’re greeted by a nice full-colour LCD screen, which immediately gives the machine a more exotic feel.

Build quality is typical Olympus. The machine feels reassuringly solid, with good weight and a nice, consistent “clickiness” to the buttons. Olympus claim the slider is also improved, but I struggled to tell the difference. Not a bad thing, as the DS-5000 was already equipped with a smooth, reliable slider that is easy to get into position.

Operation

The functionality of the new Olympus DS-7000 is more or less identical to the outgoing DS-5000. All the buttons are where we’d expect to find them and the usual features expected of a professional voice recorder – rewind, playback, overwrite, insert, etc. – are all present.

The power switch has been relocated to behind the larger microphone area, which makes sense as one of the quirks of the DS-5000 was that the switch was

blocked when docked. It’s also harder to accidentally switch on and off.

Speaking of docking, the new docking connector is supposedly also improved, but seems to be exactly the same. Again, not a bad thing as the DS-5000 was blessed with perhaps the most reliable docking of the (then) current crop of dictaphones. The Olympus DS-7000 also now has the ability to USB charge while switched on (the DS-5000 could only USB charge when switched off, otherwise the AC adapter was required).

The battery has been upgraded to a new Lithium Ion unit which charges faster and lasts longer than the outgoing NiMH battery. This is great, but the redesigned battery compartment no longer allows for AAA batteries to be used in urgent instances of battery failure.  We believe this is a major oversight as the current Grundig Digta 7 machines have both the Lithium Ion battery AND option for standard AAA’s.  We would recommend purchasing an addition battery and battery charger so that you are never caught short due to unexpected battery depletion or failure.

Now back to that nice big colour screen. The background colour actually changes while recording to alert the author of the current mode, as though the recording LED and counting timer weren’t enough already, but it’s a nice touch. There isn’t really any additional information displayed on the screen, but the increased size means it’s all presented much more attractively and with less clutter – making it easier to read and reduces the instance of accidental operation.

Microphone Quality

Olympus has focused heavily on the quality of the built-in microphone. The DS-5000 already had a good one, but it wasn’t particularly suitable for certain applications like speech recognition, where background noise had the potential to spoil the party.

The Olympus DS-7000 features a larger microphone element, which should increase the voice clarity of recordings. Olympus also claim the new microphone housing is an isolated chamber, which should minimize the audible omovement and button presses, etc. while recording.

With regular dictations, voice was crisp and clean. The DS-5000 microphone had a tendency to sound bright to the point of sibilance, which could have a negative impact of speech recognition. The DS-7000 sounds slightly more subdued, with a flatter frequency response.

Speech recognition with Dragon produced a better signal to noise graph that the DS-5000.  Inital testing of the Olympus DS-7000 with Dragon were extremely positive.

The Olympus DS-7000 and the associated Olympus ODMS Dictate Software can be used for real-time (on-line) speech recognition and also background (off-line) speech recognition.

It is also worth noting that the Olympus DS-7000 is only supported for use with Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional V10 & V11 and also Dragon NaturallySpeaking Legal 11.  Currently the DS-7000 is NOT supported for use with Dragon Medical.

The Software

The DSS Player Pro software has been renamed to Olympus Dictation Management System (ODMS) for the new version (R6), but it is functionally very similar. One major change, however, is the introduction of integrated speech recognition (very much identical to the Philips SpeechExec Pro V7 ) using Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional and Legal.

This allows dictations to be queued and recognised in the background, rather than the clunky dictation-by-dictation Recognise -> Correct -> Repeat process of R5, cementing Olympus’ intent for the DS-7000 to integrate with speech recognition.

Unfortunately, at this stage, unlike the Philips SpeechExec Pro and Enterprise software, ODMS is not licensed for use with Dragon Medical 11

The new software also supports the new 256bit AES file encryption from the recorder for added security over the DS-5000’s now-dated 128bit offering.

ODMS Admin tool is now available separately for larger installation sites.  Previously, many of these tools were included with the Olympus DSSPlayer Pro.  This allows for some Citrix / WTS installations and administrators control, plus the advantage of Multi User Licensing – an essential requirement for managing licenses in medium and large sites.

ODMS Admin definitely allows the software to be easier to use and manage in sites with multiple users, but it is still not as feature rich or as flexible as some other centralised dictation management software, such as Philips SpeechExec Enterprise.

Compatibility with older versions

We have given a BIG tick to Olympus for making the Olympus DS7000 both backwards AND forwards compatible.

Yes…. You can you the Olympus DS-7000 and AS7000 with the DS-5000 and AS5000 system

Yes…. You can use the Olympus DS-5000 and AS5000 with the DS-7000 and AS7000 system

Yes… You can use the new ODMS Admin Software to manage both 7000 and 5000 system users

Users of the older Olympus DS-4000 and AS-4000 digital dictation systems should consider upgrading both the software and hardware.  The 4000 system is

not compatible with Windows 7 and has been deemed “end-of-life” by Olympus; meaning that parts and accessories will soon (if not already) be discontinued.

Conclusion

Overall Olympus have once again provided a practical and reliable digital dictation system and we at VoiceX Communications expect it to be one of our top sellers.

The Good

  • Subtle improvements without taking away from user familiarity
  • Backwards AND forwards compatible with DS-5000 / AS-5000 system
  • Impressive colour screen
  • Proper integration with Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional and Dragon Legal speech recognition software

The Bad

  • No longer compatible with AAA batteries
  • Side placement of earphone/microphone jacks is questionable
  • Nothing revolutionary
  • Not licensed for use with Dragon Medical 11

The new Olympus DS-7000 and AS-7000 Professional Digital dictation and Transcription System is available from VoiceX Communications – Australia wide.

VoiceX are a fully authorised Olympus Pro Dealer and can be contacted on 1300 551 778 or you can view their website at www.voicex.com.au for full product information.

VoiceX supplies all states of Australia and New Zealand.  Delivery of the Olympus DS7000 can generally be over night and they have a range of installation and support options.

http://www.voicex.com.au/Dragon-Medical-11-Speech-Recognition-Software.html

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Philips SpeechExec Pro vs Enterprise

Philips are leaders in digital dictation, with one of their primary strengths being the simplicity and reliability of their bundled software, Philips SpeechExec. The professional range of Philips dictation and transcription kits are complete with the SpeechExec Pro Dictate and Transcribe software respectively.

While SpeechExec Pro provides all of the features and functionality that most small businesses require, medium to large businesses will benefit from the additional features of SpeechExec Enterprise, which is geared towards organisations with a large number of users or those with thin client environments.

Central Administration

SpeechExec Enterprise features a central administration console. This allows every user’s software to be configured and monitored from central administration PCs, eliminating the need to physically or remotely visit every workstation to make settings changes.

Users can be assigned to groups, each with their own default settings, with further changes unique to each user also possible. Each setting can be locked from user changes, on a per user basis, reducing the need to troubleshoot issues relating to user error.

In addition to configuration, users can be monitored, edited or deleted and group assignments are a simple drag-and-drop process. SpeechExec also integrates with Windows Active Directory.

Concurrent Licencing

With SpeechExec Enterprise, there is no need to purchase a software license for every single user or workstation. Licencing is concurrent, meaning licenses are required only when a user is actively running the software.

This allows fewer licenses to be purchased than would otherwise be required. Depending on the work environment, the ratio of users to licenses can be up to 5:1.

Licenses are distributed from a central license server, a small application which consumes minimal resources, and are valid for both dictation and transcription applications, whichever is required at any particular time. Additional licenses can be added as required.

Citrix and WTS Ready

SpeechExec Enterprise is the only software of its kind to be certified Citrix-ready, with compatibility from Presentation Server 4.5 through to XenApp 6.5. It is also fully compatible with WTS environments and a large variety of commonly used thin clients.

The central administration offered by Enterprise goes hand-in-hand with the core principal behind Citrix and WTS. As the number of users grows, the benefits multiply.

Modularity

SpeechExec Enterprise is constructed from modular building blocks, which can be distributed across network infrastructure as dictated by the network. Components needn’t be localised to any particular location or hardware.

Integrated Speech Recognition

Dragon NaturallySpeaking (sold separately) speech recognition is fully integrated into SpeechExec Enterprise with no further investment required.

Speech recognition further increases the efficiency of dictation workflow by automatically transcribing dictations into text. Typists then proof read and correct errors rather than type documents from scratch.

Full integration of Dragon within Enterprise eliminates the appearance of an additional GUI, simplifying the workflow and reducing user training requirements.

SpeechExec Enterprise will fully integrate with Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional, Dragon Legal and Dragon Medical.  User training and integration of Dragon speech recognition products is available from VoiceX Communications.

Widespread Reach

For larger organisations with multiple sites, SpeechExec Enterprise presents further optimisation potential. Local networks connected by WAN can be housed under the umbrella of Enterprise, sharing licenses and dictations as required.

Alternatively, each site can be configured to handle its own dictations, with only licences shared. This prevents dictations from needlessly travelling from site-to-site, reducing network traffic and processing times.

Expandable

In addition to the core modules, SpeechExec Enterprise features a suite of add-on modules designed to expend its functionality and convenience depending on the work environment and its requirements. These include:

Core Modules:

SpeechExec Enterprise Manager

Enterprise License Manager

SpeechExec Enterprise Dictate

SpeechExec Enterprise Transcribe

Expansion Modules:

DPM Connect

Statistics Module

Workflow Manager

Remote Device Manager

Web Director

Enterprise Mobile Server

iPhone and Blackberry client applications
Philips SpeechExec Enterprise V4.1 is available in Australia from VoiceX Communications.

VoiceX Communications are specialists in digital dictation and speech recognition systems.  They are the only authorised Philips MDCe in Australia and a Nuance Certified Gold Reseller and Training Partner for the entire range of Dragon Speech Recognition Productsion.

VoiceX Communications service all states of Australia and can be contacted on 1300 551 778 or visit their web site at www.voicex.com.au

Plantronics SAVI W440 Review

The new generation of Plantronics wireless PC headsets has arrived, with the modestly-priced Plantronics W440 representing the first DECT wireless headset with a focus on portability. Does this portability compromise usability and voice quality?

Technology

DECT technology has been around for years, most commonly found in household cordless phones, offering clear voice quality and long wireless range.

DECT PC headsets are also nothing new; the previous generation of headsets from Plantronics (the iconic CS-60) used the same technology. However, although wireless, these headsets were never portable. The DECT connection was between the headset and its base, which was chunky and required connection to the electrical mains.

In contrast, the new W440 has a DECT connection to a small USB dongle, much like many Bluetooth headsets, including Plantronics’ own Voyager line. Bluetooth headsets are handy and have their place, but crystal clear audio, as required by speech recognition, is not their forte.

Unboxing

When I first laid eyes upon the Plantronics W440 retail box, I was stunned at its size. From what I had known about the headset, I was expecting a compact unit, but the box was huge.

Upon opening the box, all was revealed. It was filled, not with filler, but with accessories.

The contents are listed below:

–      Plantronics W440 headset and hot-swappable battery
–      DECT USB dongle
–      Base station and AC adapter (for charging)
–      USB cradle (for charging)
–      “Fit kit” including ear gels, ear loops, headband and neck band
–      Carry case
–      Manuals, warranty card, etc.

This is a very complete bundle. About the only thing missing that might be of interest is a spare battery (available separately) for those wishing to use the headset for extended periods without access to a charge point.

This non-inclusion is no deal-breaker, however, since Plantronics have supplied both AC and USB charging options. With a claimed battery life of 7 hours talk time, most will struggle to justify a second battery.

Comfort

Headsets can be worn for hours at a time, so comfort is a critical consideration. One of the big ticks for the Plantronics CS-60 was its comfort, so how does the new Plantronics W440 fare?

I’m pleased to report that, for me at least, the Plantronics W440 is more comfortable than the CS-60. This is due to the inclusion of more fitting options, as well as the less common back-of-the-head/upper-neck band, which is my personal wearing style of choice.

The headset itself is also extremely light. Weightier headsets never really bothered me, but some users may gain additional comfort from this.

Performance

Okay, so the idea is good, the kit is impressive and the headset is lightweight and comfortable. Now for the burning question – how does this thing actually perform?

PC headsets are typically used for two primary purposes – softphones and speech recognition (such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking) – of which, Speech Recognition is by far the more picky when it comes to audio quality. Speech recognition software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking require clear, clean audio to product the best results.

To test the audio quality, I created a new Dragon profile and completed the initial training. While performing this training, you can get a feel for how well Dragon understands your speech by how it responds. This was promising…

I’ve now been testing the headset with my new profile for nearly a month and the recognition accuracy is excellent – certainly an improvement over the already great Plantronics CS-60USB. This is hardly an objective comment, but the noise cancelling (more correctly, noise isolation) also seems very good, making this headset a suitable option for use in somewhat (within reason) noisy environments.

IMPORTANT: The audio quality was poor out of the box. Plantronics recommend downloading their software, but they don’t supply an installation disc. DO IT! The driver update noticeably improves the microphone’s audio quality.

Conclusion

The Good

–      Comfortable, lightweight and portable – the first of its kind
–      Excellent accessory bundle, including a surprisingly good quality carry case
–      Very high quality microphone with ample noise isolation

The Bad

–      The microphone boom feels a little delicate, so use the carry case when out and about
–      While the microphone quality is high, the speaker quality isn’t – good enough for a conversation, but you wouldn’t use it to listen to music
–      No installation disc included, but the driver update is a must
The Plantronics Savi WW440 is available in Australia from;

VoiceX Communications : 1300 551 778

www.voicex.com.au