I was about to buy either a tascam pro digital recorder or one of the competing models - both in the $800 - $1200 price range when Olympus demo'ed me this item just in time to stop my purchase!
UPDATE 9/2010 - this review was from 2008 and one of my first portable recorders. 2 years later all pocketable recorders are using sd cards and compact flash is left to rackmount touring case equipment. I added 2 recorders to audio kits I take on the road - I wanted the quad channel abilities of the zoom h4n which I later found out had its own hidden vices, but it did give me 1/4 TRS and XLR inputs which I needed plus 4 channel recording. I also bought what is perhaps my favorite sounding recorder, a marantz PMD-661, which has a wide variety of inputs including XLR line or XLR mic, selectable, plus digital and 3.5mm TRS, (zoom lacks digital in and just attenuates line down to mic with a 1%-100% attenuator on the frontend instead of a line switch). For high quality mics those recorders come out, but for verbal notes or telephone calls I still use my LS-10. I feel people seeing this review in 2010 should explore what I feel are quality options, the zoom h4n and the bit more pricey marantz PMD-661 before making the buying decision based on mics, price, size, and any factor important to you. Both the zoom and marantz, for example, feature optional remote controls.
In the past 2 years I learned there is not one "BEST" recorder for everything. The olympus is very compact, the zoom can do 4 channels at the same time, and the marantz has a great display & metering, plus a power saving mode like zoom to run close to 20 hours on 2700 mah nimh cells. Everyone standardized on SD memory along the way which is convenient if you own more than one recorder (I'm in the business so it's a big deal for me - maybe not for someone who just wants to take notes in class. In 2010 there is a wider choice of recorders to choose from. I've reviewed the zoom h4n and the Marantz PMD-661 on strengths and weaknesses. Also keep in mind from the LS-10 to the 661 is almost triple the price, so set your budget before you go buying.
(original review from 2008)
A digital recorder is simply a musical fidelity, 2 channel recording device that can record uncompressed digital or compressed (MP3,WMA) formats. The professional models give you a high quality VU meter for adjusting levels, compression options to prevent digital clipping, usually XLR jacks with 48V phantom power (which this lacks, but that's not a big deal as it does have line in), and the ability to insert additional memory cards. Limited editing can be done on the unit, but it includes PC software for real editing later (see below)
For half the price of the cheapest tascam unit, Olympus has the same audio specifications, includes high quality stereo microphones built into the unit, makes a unit that is 1/8 the size of the tascam and literally fits in your pocket, and basically the only 2 things you "give up" are
1 - it is modernized to SD memory while older units are on compact flash
2 - it lacks XLR inputs but has a line level input plus 2 built in mic's
Other than those two limitations, at half the price, it's a killer deal for recording in the studio where you have a line out on your mixing board or on the road with the built in microphones. Since XLR->Line adapters are cheap and I have SD memory (it includes 2GB built in flash which will record for over 3 hours uncompressed digital, w/ USB 2.0 out) I'm not disappointed. Yes, it would be nice to take a high quality sennheiser XLR microphone and plug it right in, but the compact size (just slightly larger than a dictation recorder including microphones) makes this just too optimal to pass up. The extra $400 savings will buy some very nice microphones to go with it!
If you are thinking about migrating from a CD-ROM to a digital recorder to put on your mixing board or a portable digital recorder to capture music / speech / etc, this literally can drop in your shirt pocket and be ready instantly. I've recorded several hours with it now and am perfectly satisfied with the CDs I burned on my laptop. I'm sure any musician will be as well!
Other features - it can act as a USB disk drive, includes a CD rom software package of Steinberg Cubase LE4 for compilations, and has both mic and line in jacks for input, as well as 3.5 mm stereo headphone outputs.
I had my heart set on the $800 Tascam "lugable" digital recorder when I was given a chance to demo this recorder and at half the price the only real difference to me is I loose the 2 XLR jacks and get 2 quality microphones built into the unit - I loose the weight and get a 2xAA 12 hour runtime, and with the built in 2GB I get over 3 hours of linear PCM recording or 60+ hours of WMA audio. The built in backlit LCDs are comparable between recorders. It's complicated my buying decision, but at half price with all the same "recording" capabilities I'm now searching for a simple XLR -> Line mic preamp to compare an equivalent configuration. I would have liked the XLR+48VDC phantom feature but Olympus chose to put in 2 good mic's instead. I've returned my demo unit and am researching the XLR input issue now but I plan to go this route instead of the comparatively huge tascam recorder.
on February 23, 2008
The Olympus LS-10 is one beautiful little piece of equipment and is a worthy competitor to the wonderful SONY PCM-D50.
The LS-10 has a heavy duty feel to it, similar to the PCM-D50
but of course much, much smaller.
It has a superb MENU system, with options to adjust REC MODE, REC LEVEL, ZOOM MIC, REC MONITOR, PLUG IN POWER, six adjustment options for PLAY MODE, along with REVERB and something called EUPHONY for atmospherics.
Other options include BACKLIGHT, CONTRAST, and LED ON/OFF.
Brief testing yielded very good recordings, with the MIC SENS switch a critical aspect. However, there is a RECORD thumbwheel control, similar to the SONY, and you can adjust for MANUAL or AUTO in the MENU options. Note that the capsule MICS do not move, as on the SONY D-50, so if this is a consideration for you, check out the SONY.
Assuming there is no limit on SDHC capacity, one could easily stick 32 GB in there with no problem (I currently use a 16 gb in my Zoom H2 with no difficulty)
Two additional observations:
-- Hand movement noise is a problem, with the twin MICS picking it up, similar to the Zoom H2 and SONY, so I would recommend using a tripod or handle -- there is a tripod dock on the bottom of the LS-10
-- At first, I was not pleased with the placement of the SD door, which seemed far too close to the left hand VOLUME control thumbwheel. However, I now realize it's not that bad -- the SD cover is of the rubber type (obviously they didn't want to have these things breaking off by making them out of hard plastic) and it works well.
I played a number of files on this through a very good speaker system and am impressed again. I believe Olympus has produced a piece of equipment here that will be compete extremely well at this price point ($348 advance from Sound Professionals) with the SONY PCM-D50.
on April 16, 2008
I just received one of these. As mentioned by others, the build quality is excellent and the ergonomics are very good. The menu arrangement seems well thought out, and there is an option to set a function button with a frequently used menu item. I like the ability to use SD cards, which can be changed out if you're away from a computer.
The playback volume for the internal speakers is VERY low even with the playback volume all the way up and the record level set properly. I see others have made this same comment, so I don't know whether mine is a defective unit or not. (I wish I had another unit to compare it to.) The playback volume is definitely better using headphones.
With the mic sensitivity set to low, the record level is indeed VERY low. I'm not sure when I would use this setting unless I'm doing dictation with the unit an inch away from my mouth. (I didn't buy this product for dictation.) I also find the record level to be VERY low when set to auto, so I find myself always using manual recording. I'm still experimenting with the LS-10, so I'm hoping that I can figure out a way to get better record levels with reduced noise for quieter sounds.
I see some people have referred to possible firmware upgrades. Can this unit be upgraded by the user? I didn't see this mentioned in the manual. I have an Olympus dictation recorder that requires a trip to Olympus to upgrade the firmware even though it has USB connectivity.
All in all, I'm somewhat on the fence about this product but perhaps my opinion will improve as I continue to use it.
on April 1, 2008
I can't say enough great things about this unit. I've recorded commercially for years; a lot of stuff in the field like orchestras and choirs. Over the decades I've gone from lugging DAT machines and small mixers, taping down hundreds of feet of mic cables and finding a place to set up all the recording gear, to the 'luxury' of wireless mics that eliminated the need for cables. But this little unit changes everything! It's a self-contained masterpiece of engineering.
I was a little skeptical of the quality of the mics and converters, but I've been nothing but pleased. Put it on a mic stand, set the controls and go! Using 24 bit mode, you can set a conservative level to be safe, and still have plenty of resolution to work with even at low volumes. I generally clean up all my recordings in Sound Forge using Waves plug-ins, and I've found this compact setup gives me just as much to work with as separate mics captured to the hard disk recorder or the DAT machine.
One odd feature (true of all these small recorders) is that they are ready to be mounted on a camera tripod, not a mic stand! Strange. Anyway, I made an adapter out of a mic clip, a 1/4" stove bolt and some epoxy, and it works like a charm.
This unit also doubles as an MP3 player, with a seamless computer interface via USB. The headphone/speaker outputs are extremely quiet. The line input is suitable for recording from external devices (e.g. digitizing vinyl records) and is also very clean and quiet. What a great find!
on July 31, 2008
The Olympus LS-10 is the first recorder of its type of which I've had any hands-on experience, so I won't even try to compare it to any of the other, often more expensive, recorders on the market. My sole purpose for buying the LS-10 is to record the live music that I hear in Houston honky tonks and at any outdoor music festivals I manage to attend each year.
I was looking for something small and lightweight, but built sturdily enough that I wouldn't have to be concerned about carrying it in my pocket and using it in rather extreme weather conditions. And, of course, I wanted a recorder that would produce sound files that were as near to CD quality as possible. Coincidentally, I began my search about the time that the LS-10 first hit the market and, since it fell within my price range (I eventually paid $292 plus shipping), it seemed like a good bet.
I've had the recorder for a couple of months now and have thoroughly road-tested it under various conditions and using several combinations of the recording settings available. My first attempt, recording a country band in a small and very crowded honky tonk, resulted in a somewhat disappointing recording but I blame that largely on the fact that the recorder had been delivered to my front door only thirty minutes before I left for the club. I barely had time to get it out of the box and insert the batteries provided before I left for the evening. The experience was not a total bust, however, because I did find out that the external microphones are extremely sensitive to crowd chatter, learning the hard way how important it is to choose the "quietest" spot possible when setting up for the duration of a recording session.
A few days later I had the opportunity to spend an entire weekend recording bands at a music festival that took place in a covered pavilion. This was my chance to try various setting combinations and recording levels, sometimes recording on the "auto" setting, sometimes using the manual setting, both with and without the zoom microphone, at times using the "limiter" and at other times relying entirely on the sound level meter display. Needless to say, I was more pleased with some combinations than with others when I got home, plugged the recorder into my computer, and listened to the sound files through some good speakers.
Fortunately, all of this trial and error resulted in identification of exactly the combination of setting choices most ideal for the type of recording I intend to do most often. At the end of June I spent three days in Kentucky at an outdoor bluegrass music festival and came away with consistently high quality recordings of the bands whose sound I most wanted to capture there. I am confident that I will be able to reach that quality level each time out from now on.
The Olympus LS-10 is hardly larger than some cell phones on the market today and it easily fits into a shirt pocket despite being a little thicker than a cell phone. The various buttons and dials (record, play, volume, menu, etc.) are well placed and, after a bit of experience, can easily be distinguished simply by touch. The menu, in fact, is so intuitive that I found it easier to learn it by flipping through its options rather than from reading the rather confusing manual that comes with the recorder (some of the English translations in the manual are a tad bit convoluted). The recorder gets approximately 12-hours recording time from just two AA batteries, a great advantage when recording in outdoor situations where everything has to be carried along for the day. Further lightening the load, the recorder has 2GB of built-in memory that offers a little over three hours of high-quality recording time and a slot for SD cards that weigh next to nothing.
As I said, I am not a sound recording expert, nor enough of a techie, in general, to comment on the technical aspects of the LS-10. However, I do have a pretty good ear for sound recordings made on other systems since I've collected live band recordings for years and have several hundred of them now. My ears tell me that the LS-10 is a nice recorder, sold at a reasonable price, and that it produces an end product comparable to most anything in my collection that was not produced by running a line directly from a sound board to a recorder or PC.
I like what I hear and I rate the LS-10 a full five stars.
on April 3, 2008
In particular, I am impressed by the ease of use and sound quality.
I am one of those lazy people who don't like to read the manual. To cut to the chase, I was making great recordings right after I inserted the batteries. The menu system is very straightforward and easy to understand. The controls are intuitive and thus easy to manipulate.
I play flamenco guitar, and I recorded myself playing in my living room. The sound was great, better even than my minidisc recorder, and frankly, easier to use. I put on the (included) windscreens and walked around downtown. Once again, the sound quality was great, even at the mp3 level. I recorded some sound in the office, and once again the sound was great. And all of these recording were made using the automatic volume level control.
One thing I noticed is that this recorder captures the "presence" -- when you record in a room, you sense the dynamics of the room. When you record outdoors you get the feeling that you are outdoors. And all of this comes with the built-in microphones.
The unit itself is very compact and easy to carry. It feels good in the hand. I wouldn't want to risk having it fall out of a shirt pocket, but it travels well in a pants pocket.
Without reading the manual I was able to transfer audio files to and from my Mac laptop.
Well, since then I have actually read the manual, and the manual is easy to read and filled in a few gaps.
One small word of caution: the Olympus press release talks about a remote that will work with the LS-10. Apparently this remote is not now available, nor was I able to discover when it will be. An email to Olympus provided no insight, the response saying only that "Unfortunately, the remote is not available." Oh, thanks dude, but I already knew that. But when will it be available? Olympus was silent. Call me picky, but if you're going to advertise a remote, at least say when it will be available.
That said, the bottom line is that this recorder has blown me away.
on May 13, 2008
Brilliant. The Olympus engineers appear to have thought out every aspect of this recorder, and come up with something that can be operated effortlessly. The LS-10s usability and overall quality are streets ahead of the Zoom H2, which I also own, albeit temporarily. Recording quality is impeccable. The speakers aren't loud, but this is not a boombox. For what I want - which is to check the recording - the speakers do the job perfectly.
This is the ideal workhorse recorder for journalists, or anyone else who needs to collect quality sound and doesn't want to have to be thinking about how to use their recorder under pressure. Or for anyone who records. The culmination of Olympus expertise in this field, and the end of my years-long hunt for a recorder that I can love.
For anyone tossing up between the two, this is my take on the LS-10 vs. the Zoom H2. The Olympus:
- has much better build quality and feels more robust
- is smaller and a better shape in the hand
- has a much better menu system and user interface
- has a more legible LCD screen
- processes information more quickly
- works with unpowered mics like the TP7 telephone mic
- has much better battery life
- plays back with less background hiss
- speakers and user interface allow for quick reference playback from a list of recordings
- interface and controls allow for transcription straight from the unit if necessary.
I can't comment on the finer details of sound quality. Both units deliver superb recordings, but the other attributes of the Olympus make it a standout.
on March 5, 2008
After owning several recorders in this class I'm finally satisfied in almost every way with the LS-10! Before I even turned it on I was impressed with build quality and controls layout. Olympus has really paid attention to customer complaints about the competition. Most importantly is the quality of the recordings I've captured in the field. Excellent! Great results with voice, acoustic instruments and sound fx. Favorite features are: A-B repeat, menu layout, built-in reverb, rec level thumbwheel,built in speakers,threaded tripod mount,snap on windscreens, built-in 2gb memory, the ability to turn off the rec lights for stealth recording and the assignable function button.
Rock On Olympus!
on November 11, 2008
In 1985 I bought a Sony WM-D6C Professional WalkMan Stereo Cassette recorder. I used it off and on but wished there was something lighter. I never got into the DAT recorders. Last year, I discovered that all the great Hi-end cassette tapes from Maxell and TDK were no longer being made and cassette tapes in general are being phased out. As a seasoned consumer electronics technician since 1977, I successfully rebuilt my WM-D6C for $97.00 in parts, but came to realize that I needed to get a digital recorder. Last year I purchased an Olympus DS-50. Then came the LS-10.
After my LS-10 arrived, I quickly discovered that even though you can load it with a 16GB SDHC card (after an easy firmware update) the file size for each recording is limited according to file type and bit rate. But that is something you get used to and you also soon realize that you can stitch together bigger files in software.
I bought the A513 AC power adapter. One needs to realize that this is a lightweight universal input voltage switching power supply designed for very low noise. It is not just a simple transformer-based "wall-wart" as those are being phased out world-wide because of the EnergyStar laws. Since I am a technician, I designed an adapter for this supply to also power my Sony WM-D6C. This makes the A513 worth the higher price.
I liked the size, but needed another case for field use as the supplied case is simply made to protect the unit from damage when not in use. I discovered that a standard cell phone case from Sears fits the LS-10 perfectly. I made a custom hole in the side for a custom lavaliere mic I wired for "dual-mono." Now I can simply hide the LS-10 on my belt via the sturdy belt-clip on the Sears case and walk into a crowd to do interviews with no visible recorder. Works super!!!
Besides the Shure SM58 vocal mic and the Audio Technica Lav for external mics, there will come a time when I will want to use two balanced output mics for a studio recording. I discovered that there are many Direct-Box solutions for the XLR-to-stereo connection issue. Here are some solutions:
XLR Balanced 2-Chan mic preamp for Olympus LS-10
ART USB Dual Pre USB Mic Preamp
Behringer Xenyx 502 5-Input 2-Bus Mixer
M-Audio Audio Buddy
Nady DMP-2 Dual-Chan Mic Preamp
Rolls LiveMix MX34
Rolls CL151 Gate/Limiter/Compressor, Mic Preamp
Sound Devices MixPre
Studio 1 Productions XLR-BP Pro Audio Adapter
I realize that these direct boxes add to the complexity of the recording but this is the solution to the absence of XLR inputs.
Other reviews here spoke of the issue with getting natural sounding voice with pleasant nuances and intonations, etc. Well, I purchased the world's most famous vocal mic -- the Shure SM58. To mate the SM58 to the LS-10 I made a custom XLR-to-dual mono cable with Neutrik's really fabulous right-angle 3.5mm plug. This LS-10/SM58 combo works fabulous and very quiet too i.e. no noise. Works so good I can hardly believe my ears! Vocals and voice interviews are very warm and natural due to the SM58 response. The previous reviewers wanting the natural sound from the LS-10s built-in stereo electret condenser mics aren't going to get it simply because these mics are instrument and not vocal mics!! They are flat from 70-20Khz, but I was able to record pipe organ sounds down to 25Hz easily. Go figure!!
Yes, I had to wait like everybody else to get the RS30W Remote, but it was worth it. It works great and now I can turn it ON,OFF or PAUSE up to 25-ft away. I like the swivel feature on the sensor as well as its very low power consumption. Good work Olympus engineers!
I had wired a custom 3.5MM cord onto a Radio Shack Telephone Pickup which works great with both the DS-50 and LS-10. The only thing I will add soon is a small inline DSL filter to filter out PC noise.
Soon I will be making a custom stereo parabolic mic to pic up long-distance nature sounds. I measured the LS-10s Plug-in Power voltage and got 3VDC on each channel which is perfect for the vast majority of readily-available Electret Condenser mics such as the Audio-Technica Lav I wired for dual-mono.
Using the Piezoelectric sounder from an old smoke detector, I made a very sensitive vibration sensor that picks up sounds on walls, vents, glass, etc. I also will purchase a Shure MX391C or a Crown Boundary mic to make the LS-10 into a super concert and/or room conference recorder. Two of these would make a great stereo recorder for plays and acting rehearsals.
I am astounded at the clarity of outdoor recordings using the built-in stereo mics. I am very satisfied with the LS-10 used to transfer all my cassette tapes do digital and having the 3 file formats and many bit rates to choose from.
My only fear is that since the Olympus LS-10 has become such an international success that I'm certain Olympus is currently busy designing an LS-20 or LS-30. I would then have to trade up. I already am planning to sell my DS-50 to get their new DS-71....
Most folks simply do not realize that the the technical features in the LS-10 if it would have been available in 1985 when I bought my Sony WM-D6C would have cost them about $100K and filled the size of a small closet. With that in mind, how could anyone lose with their LS-10!!
on April 16, 2008
Wow. What great craftsmanship. The build is solid, no wiggly stupid parts or knobs. Voice recording is as good as my Huge Podcast mic. This is heck of a podcast tool. Room recording reflects presence in the room. The echos or non echos are heard. Very strange at first, but truly accurate. Ive found the "Natural" setting works best for warm quality sound. Love the included accessories and - good paper manual. Not just a PDF on a CD.
Agree that Software is good, but needs more refinement to use as a MP3 Player.
My only gripe, the speaker levels are way to low. Also the output levels could be higher too. Perhaps can be fixed in software update.