Personal recorders are surprisingly useful devices. The trouble usually comes in trying to finding the one that works best for your needs (not trying to find uses for one once you have it). If you’re just converting from a traditional tape recorder, or if you need a power-hungry dual XLR micro studio, it should be clear which options would best serve your needs. Olympus has refreshed most of their audio recording lineup in order to help users choose which would work best for them. We recently had some hands-on time their 2012 models. DP-201In case you hadn’t noticed, tapes are disappearing. While most people have probably changed their home phone to include a digital voice machine, there are plenty of people who hold onto their voice recorder for dear life. Typically when people find a voice recorder that works well and doesn’t eat, they keep a hold of it. The DP-201 is built to be a super simple replacement to that tape-based voice recorder. For $35 and a pair of AAA batteries, you can record 98 hours in HQ or 202 hours in SP. There’s no removable storage, so you’ll be recording over anything you had on there before, but the calendar search option allows you to keep specific days of recording with no risk of recording over that information. The giant buttons on the front for play, record, and stop are pretty self explanatory, completing the whole easy to use package. WS-802 and WS-803If you need to archive audio as you record it, or if you need greater control over the quality of the audio you are recording, the WS series was built with needs like noise cancellation and voice balance in mind. Tools like Voice Playback allow you to skip though the parts of the recording that don’t have any speech in them for faster transcription, or just to zip through an interview you recorded. The WS series has a pair of directional condenser microphones and enough storage to record for hours. The WS-803 comes with 8GB of internal storage and a micro SD slot to expand that storage by 32GB. Additionally, the 803 allows you to record and listen to FM radio with the built-in tuner, for those who still prefer their local radio station over internet radio. The WS series starts at $80 for the relatively basic WS-801 and goes up to $150 for the WS-803. The WS offers a wide enough range that anyone interested in higher quality voice recorder would have access to one for the right price. LS-100Having a professional grade microphone is a serious purchase. The right set of features for your needs are critical. Of course, you could also just go and get the biggest thing you can find and just use that. The Olympus LS-100 is overkill for everyone but the audio professional or the budding musician, but it doesn’t make it any less fun to play with. The LS-100 has a pair of 90 degree directional stereo condenser microphones capable of capturing audio with a frequency response of 20Hz and support down to 140db of sound pressure out of the box. If you’d rather not use the microphones, the LS-100 has a pair of XLR input jacks on the bottom of the device to record audio straight to the recorder. When you have any instrument connected, you can take advantage of separate volume controls for each input, as well as the multi-track recording tools on the recorder, capable of recording up to 8 tracks simultaneously. For musicians, the LS-100 also includes an instrument tuner and a metronome, as well as an audio jack that will allow you to has exactly what is being recorded by the unit. The Pre-Recording function allows the two seconds before hitting the record button be captures as well, so the LS-100 is always recording the last two seconds of whatever it is you are doing. If you have the LS-100 mounted in the studio Voice Sync will allow the recorder to start capturing when the volume in the room reaches a pre-set level. Everything that gets recorded is saved either to the 4GB internal, or any secondary storage you have added up to 64GB.The greatest part of the LS-100 is how incredibly light it is, and how sturdy it feels. While I’m certainly not going to go throwing such a serious piece of audio equipment around, it feels like it could take a hit without risking harm to the device and is might enough to be easily mounted anywhere. For $400 this recorder is clearly aimed for the audio professional, and feels like it would get the job done. Final ThoughtsPersonal recorders are still a pretty important device to have around for a lot of professions. Like point-and-shoot cameras, many casual users have found that the microphone and an app on their smartphone has served as a “good enough” replacement, but the difference in quality can be significant. Taking advantage of the available and steadily decreasing price of digital recorders seems like the best way to make the switch away from the classic tape recorders and on to something that has the advantage of no moving parts to break.