Friday, February 29, 2008

Olympus WS-300M Voice Recorder Problem Solution

I have an Olympus WS-300M DVR (Digital Voice Recorder) and am very pleased with it. The case seems flimsy but I've been banging it around for a year and no problems yet. It is small, runs efficiently on a single AAA battery, and records with spectacular audio quality and in stereo. It's a great little unit. But I ran into a fairly big problem with it:

The WS-300 also has the ability to serve as an MP3 player. You can transfer WMA or MP3 files to the unit and play them. I use the unit mostly to listen to lectures recorded at 56kbps MP3. A couple of months ago I decided to reformat the memory and start fresh. All was well except that most of my MP3s would no longer play! I get an "Illegal File" message. Music MP3s were okay but my lectures would not play. Huh? Very strange. I did a bunch of research on the Internet and found a few cases where others reported this problem but there were no solutions. I found two solutions.

If you take a look at page 80 of the user manual there is a hint of this problem but no details. Personally, I think it's a bug. At any rate, what seems to happen is that after reformatting the memory, the unit will detect MP3 files that are recorded at less than 128kbps as "illegal files". Converting my 56 kbps lectures to 128kbps solves the problem but also makes the files much larger. That's a bad thing in a device with only 256 megs of memory. The other solution is to use one of the many converters that are out there to convert the MP3 to a 48k or 64kbps WMA file. It's a hassle but it works. The unit will play low bitrate WMAs but not low bitrate MP3s. Don't ask me why, it makes no sense.

I hope this helps anyone who might be having this problem with Olympus digital voice recorders, WS-300M, WS-310M, WS-320M, and perhaps other models.


j said...

I have a WS-300M as well. I haven't reformatted it and it has problems playing certain mp3 files... sometimes they're songs from the same album, so I don't know what the issue is. Anyway, thanks for your post.

ShutterSparks / KW2P said...

Hello J,

Interesting. I assume that you've checked the obvious, to see if the failing MP3's play on another player. If so, the only thing I can think of is to check the bit-rates for those files. It seems that once this "feature" turns itself on, it won't play MP3's that are less than 128 kbps. It will play low bit-rate WMA files but not MP3's.

I'd be interested to learn if you find out any more about this problem. As a voice recorder, the WS-300M works fantastically well, so I can't really complain too loudly, but the MP3 playback feature was definitely a part of my purchase decision and now it doesn't do the job like it did before this problem cropped up. :(

Демид said...

It really sucks, you know! Why couldn't they just skip the files that are "illegal" and keep on playing. So each time the player bumps into such a file it stops playing and have to manually select next song. I'm throwing this "illegal" device away!

ShutterSparks / KW2P said...

Yes, the problem is strange. But I like the unit and continue to use it. Works great as a voice recorder and my lectures I just convert to WMA.