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If I were to design my ideal compact field recorder, here is my wish list: It would be tiny yet rugged, have a decent pair of microphones with sturdy windscreens, and record both compressed and uncompressed audio at a variety of resolutions. I'd be able to set recording levels with a thumb wheel and operate the transport controls with one hand.

It would have acres of memory, run forever on replaceable batteries, transfer files to my computer at the highest possible speed, sound great, look cool, and fit inside the accessory pocket in my ukulele case. Oh, and I shouldn't have to take out a second mortgage to buy it.

Tall order? Maybe not when you consider the new Olympus LS-10.

Picture This

Although this is its first high-resolution audio recorder, Olympus has been in the game for quite a long time. The company's pocket voice recorders are well regarded by many users. With the LS-10, it looks like Olympus was paying attention to what musicians and broadcasters want, too.

The LS-10 fits comfortably in your palm and makes barely a bulge in your shirt pocket. Despite the recorder's diminutive size, the display is large and the controls feel reassuringly solid. There is little wasted real estate, yet nothing feels cluttered.

Olympus LS-10
With its metal case, elegant curves, and solid buttons, the Olympus LS-10 feels good in hand. (Click to enlarge).

The rear panel sports two tiny stereo speakers (handy for spot-checking recordings, though not powerful or hi-fi enough for serious listening), a metal insert for a camera tripod, and a large door for two AA batteries. Olympus claims battery life up to 20 hours; I can't dispute that because I'm still using the original batteries after almost two months! A jack for an optional power supply is located on the bottom.

Two slider switches for the low-cut filter and Hi/Lo microphone sensitivity are within easy thumb range on the right side. Above them is the sturdy little Rec Level wheel. Next come a pair of mini jacks for an external mic ("plug-in power" is available) and a line source.

Olympus LS-10 Left and Right
Ports and controls are well laid out. (Click to enlarge.)

On the left, a three-position slider turns the LS-10 on in a respectable four seconds (it takes slightly longer with a card inserted); moved the other way, it serves as a hold switch, locking out all the function buttons. Next comes a small flexible plastic door covering a mini-USB port. The LS-10 supports hi-speed USB 2.0, though transfers may slow down depending on the removable memory card you choose. Even better, the LS-10 runs off USB bus power. It will not double as an audio interface or record while connected, however.

Rounding out the left-hand side are a volume wheel for playback volume and a 1/8-inch jack for headphones. Watch out — the headphone amp gets loud!

You'll also find a slot for a memory card; SD and SDII cards up to 8GB are supported. But you don't need one to start recording, because the LS-10 also has 2 gigs of internal memory. I really like the flexibility of recording to internal or removable memory; it's handy for organizing files or quickly adding memory in the field.

A pair of small condenser mics angled at 110 degrees sits up top, with a jack for an optional remote between the mics.

Olympus LS-10 Top and Bottom
Top and bottom view. (Click to enlarge.)

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