Review: Olympus LS-10 WAV/WMA/MP3 Recorder
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The Acid Test

As with most of my reviews, I recorded my guitar at 44.1kHz, 16-bit resolution using the recorder's internal mics. Because it's the same guitar, recorded the same way each time, you can compare the microphones and preamps on each of the recorders. Here's the same recording in both MP3 and WAV formats:


To my ears the LS-10 did a good job capturing the thump of my big Taylor flattop. There's plenty of high-end detail, though it's not as smooth as I'd like, and I can hear a little hiss creeping in as the guitar trails off. Nonetheless, I think the LS-10 does as good a job recording music and voice as some recorders costing quite a bit more.



And the Winner Is…

I like the Olympus LS-10 a lot. I'm tickled with the design, ergonomics, audio quality, and the rugged aluminum case. I even like the little carrying case; it's just big enough for the recorder and a mini tripod.



I'm less than thrilled with the DSP effects. The playback effects are okay, but I don't like the Limiter or AutoGain, both of which are pretty heavy handed.

I'm quite happy with the mics overall — they did a good job of grabbing the full range of instruments at the various sessions and rehearsals I recorded. Although the mics are reasonably free of wind noise, interviewers will want to use the excellent windscreens and engage the low-cut filter to minimize handling noise.

For those who need more flexibility, the external microphone input does a reasonable job, as you can hear in this voice recording. I go quiet in the middle so you can analyze the sound of the preamps:

I also like the wide variety of file formats and resolutions the LS-10 offers. It's handy to be able to record to MP3 to save memory with non-critical recordings; WMA compression is almost as efficient and sounds noticeably better. When memory is not an issue, WAVs at higher sample rates and bit depths will improve the sound of your recordings.

So, is this the ultimate flash recorder? I can't say until I finish this series; there will always be a contender on the horizon. But it is within spittin' distance of the winner's circle. If you are looking for a recorder that is easy to use, can go anywhere, gets great battery life, and makes excellent recordings, give the Olympus LS-10 a try.

Mark-o's Buying Advice Rant 2.0

Although I've said this before, it appears it's time to repeat it: I cannot give personal buying advice or tech support.

Every week I get dozens of e-mails from readers just like you asking me which recorder is the best for recording a church choir or documenting endangered grunting traditions in Touriststan or capturing every precious moment of a five-hour, folk-Goth, punk-rock opera.

Other readers want help with specific technical issues, such as uploading files to their computers or understanding why their grandmothers sound like they've been hitting the helium again.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, these are great questions. In fact, they're so great that you ought to share them. That's why we have a nifty little discussion area at the end of each article.

And don't forget O'Reilly's Digital Audio forum, where you can post questions and comments pertaining to any facet of digital recording.

These are invaluable resources. Without them I never would have learned how to create surround sound using the Zoom H2, to name just one example. (Another great resource: all the audio examples posted with each review. I strive to record similar material with each recorder so it's possible to compare them long after I've returned the review unit to the manufacturer.)

By posting your questions to the forums, you have the eyes and ears of a large number of committed and interested recordists. That means you'll get real, useful answers, often from folks who know a whole lot more about the subject than this boy. I'm consistently amazed at the level of expertise out there.

What's more, the chances are pretty good someone else may have the same question down the line. By posting yours publicly you will help your fellow human, promote truth and beauty, and make the world just a little bit better. Isn't the Web wonderful?

The remaining one percent of the questions I get are from folks too lazy to read the reviews. My all-time favorite was the guy who wanted me to create a point-by-point comparison of five recorders — including a couple I had not reviewed — and record a short interview and musical example with each one. At each supported sample rate and bit depth. He stopped bugging me when I quoted my studio fees.


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