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Olympus VN-8500PC Recorder Reviewed

On this page, we look at the Olympus VN-8500 handheld recorder that comes with Dragon text-to-speech software.


Olympus VN-8500PC RecorderWhat is the Olympus VN-8500?

The Olympus VN-8500 is a handy little voice recorder that makes audio transcription a doddle.

With a 1GB built-in memory, it's able to hold up to 420 hours of audio, then when connected to a PC, perform voice-to-text conversion, saving the need to use an audio typist or a transcription service.

The controls on this little voice recorder are very simple, and the display makes use of a nice large font, ideal for those looking for a simple machine that gets the job done without fuss. It's also a handy size, making it the perfect fit for a shirt pocket. It's powered by 2 AAA batteries and connects to a PC or Mac using a standard USB connector.

Here are the highlights of this recorder:

  • Dragon Speech-to-Text software supplied
  • Up to 421 hours of recording
  • Up to 51 hours on one set of batteries
  • Built-in Noise Control
  • Voice Activated Recording


Olympus VN-8500 UK Availability:

The Olympus VN-8500PC (DNS Version) is available from around £80. The online suppliers we've found are:


We should at this point highlight that we won't be replacing the lovely ladies at Typing Angels, who provide our podcast transcriptions for our shows.


Using the Olympus VN-8500PC

This is not our first review of an Olympus pocket recorder, and we continue to be impressed. They are reliable devices that make the job of capturing voice very straightforward.

Olympus LS10 Rear

To get started, it's a case of pulling down the power switch on the left, waiting a few seconds, and then pressing the red REC button. As you're recording, the display show the elapsed time and the total remaining recording time, the mode you're in, the recording number and the battery level.

Olympus LS-11 Mics

Once recording's complete, press STOP, and you can then play back your recording, or start afresh.

There's the option to delete an item quickly with the ERASE button, and the VN-8500 makes use of five folders (labelled A to E) to allow you to keep recordings in separate parts of memory as needed. Each folder can hold up to 200 individual files.

The bottom right button controls access to the recording folders, and also doubles as the SCENE button, which triggers default settings designed to get the best recordings - Scene modes are Memo, Meeting, Conference, DNS (Dragon Dictation) and a user-settings option.

Other nifty features of Olympus's VN-8500 include the low-cut filter for noise reduction, voice activated recording, playback speed control and the ability to set Index Marks (up to 16 index points per recording). Also, should you forget to turn the device off, it'll auto-off after five minutes.

More advanced settings are hidden away in the menu, including an Erase Lock, Mic Sensitivity, Low Cut Filter (noise reduction) and VCVA (Voice Activated Recording)

Connectivity: Transferring audio over to a computer is straightforward. When connecting via USB, the computer recognises the Olympus as a standard USB mass storage device and allows file transfer as with a USB stick. The box states that the Olympus VN-8500PC supports connection to Windows XP / Vista / Windows 7, as well as Mac OS X 10.4.11 to 10.6

File Format: There are three quality settings HQ, SP and LP. Audio files are in the WMA Windows Media Audio (up to 320kbps bit rate). No other format is supported.

Hardware: The product is nice and light, and not overly plastic-ey. The built-in 28mm speaker is adequate for the job of playing back voice recordings, and the battery life is rated as up to 51 hours on a set of Duracells. The microphone is logically placed at the top of the recorder, and doesn't seem to pick up much in the way of hand noise. There are 3.5mm sockets for headphones and an external mic (neither are supplied).

Olympus LS10 Rear


Speech-to-text Transcription

Undoubtedly the big selling point for this recorder is the ability to convert the spoken word into editable PC text. We put it through its paces.

The VN-8500 DNS version comes with Dragon Naturally Speaking Recorder Edition 10 software on a CD. This seems to be a fairly large program, and installation took around 5 minutes. Once complete, we were asked to set up a user. Pete went through the process for us.

  • First, he was asked to select an accent: General, Australian, Indian or South East Asian
  • Next, Pete was required to read some text. Various text extracts were offered, and Pete had to read the supplied text into the VN-8500. He selected some text from a Scott Adams Dilbert book, and found himself forced to read at least 15 minutes of text. If you're doing the same, get the kettle on - it's a long and thirsty process, but a necessary one.
  • Next - The waiting. After doing the sample recording, you connect the VN8500 to the PC and the software "adapts your user" account - It analyses your recording against the text provided, and tweaks the settings. The software warns that this may take an hour. Tea and Dunking Time. In fact, it only took around 10 minutes on our machine.
  • Next - The software scans your hard drive for documents and emails, to help it learn your writing style.

With the user profile complete, it was time to try it out. We set the Olympus into DNS dictation mode, and read some test text. Then connected the recorder to our PC (Running Vista) via USB, pointed Dragon Naturally Speaking at the file on the recorder, and off it went, taking around 40 seconds to transcribe 90 seconds of test material. Here's a screenshot of the conversion in progress:

Dragon Naturally Speaking - Transcribing

The test we tried was our Pete reading the opening paragraphs of this review. In general, the transcription was very accurate, and with practise, no doubt Pete could improve the accuracy. It's certainly pretty impressive. Below is the audio clip of Pete's dictation, and the resulting text, so you can judge for yourself.

Here's the results of our transcription test! Source file - Windows Media Audio (1.5MB, 1'32")

Olympus Vienna -- 8500 PC recorder review

On this page, we look at the Olympus V and 8500 handheld recorder that comes with Dragon text-to-speech software.

What is the Olympus VN 8500?

The Olympus BN 8500 is a handy little voice recorder that makes audio transcription a doddle. With a 1 GB built-in memory, it's able to handle up to 420 hours of audio, then when connected to a PC, performs voice to text conversion, saving the need to use an audio typist or transcription service.

Controls on this little voice recorder of very simple, and the display makes use of a very large font, making this perfect for those looking for a simple machine that gets the job done simply and easily. It is also a handy size making it the perfect fit for a shirt pocket. It's powered by two AA batteries and connects to a PC using standard USB. That includes the test from frequency cast the award-winning TV and technology podcast



We're impressed. A nice little portable voice recorder, ideal for recording lectures, conferences, and of course, spoken dictation. The process of transcribing a voice recording is quick and painless, and with practise, you can get your recordings to be transcribed with a very high accuracy.

The VN-8500 appears durable, and with its large display and clear buttons, is very easy to use. Setting up Dragon's software to learn our voice is not a quick process, but as it's needed for accuracy, it's understandable. We were also a little surprised that the VN-8500 couldn't handle MP3 files (as many of the other Olympus devices do) - something worthy of note if you need to load podcasts or music onto your recorder.

If ease-of-use and accurate voice-to-text are in order, then put this little recorder at the top of your shopping list. We love it.


Olympus VN-8500PC Availability:

The Olympus VN-8500PC (DNS Version) is available from around £80 from online retailers including and Currys


What's in the box?

Here's what's supplied with Olympus VN-8500PC recorder:

  • Short USB to USB mini cable
  • Copy of Dragon Naturally Speaking Recorder Edition v10
  • Instruction manual
  • 2 x AAA batteries

What's in the Olympus VN-8500PC Box
What's in the Olympus VN-8500PC Box


Olympus VN-8500PC Specification

On-board memory:
1 GB
Battery Life (Alkaline battery):
  • Recording: 32h - 51h
  • Playback (Speakers): 17h - 20h
  • Playback (Earphone): 37h -44h
Recording time (Built-in memory):
67hrs (HQ) to 421hrs (LP)
Dimensions: (without protrusions)
108 x 39 x 17mm
66 grams (with batteries)
2 x AAA batteries
Frequency Response:
70Hz - 13kHz



Your Olympus VN-8500 Questions:

I've lost the software for the Olympus VN-8500!

You can download the software from the Olympus UK website: Olympus Software Downloads

Can you tell me how to set up VCVA and MIC sensitivity? (Bernard Hampson)

Hold down the 'OK/Menu' button to get to the menu. Scroll down to the "Rec Menu". Press 'OK/Menu'. There you will find 'Mic Sense, Rec Mode, Low Cut Filter, VCVA and Rec Scene'

how do I control the speed of playback? Somehow it's got switched on to "slow". (Jane)

To adjust the playback speed, do the following:

  • Put the VN8500 into 'Play' by pressing the OK/MENU button
  • During playback, press the OK/MENU button to open the speed screen
  • Press the + or - buttons on the rotary control to adjust playback speed
  • When you have the speed you want, press the OK/Menu button again


Got a question? Contact us and we'll try to help


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