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Customer Review

62 of 70 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice Design, but Concerns About Record Levels, April 16, 2008
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This review is from: Olympus LS-10 Linear PCM Recorder (Electronics)
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.
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Showing 1-10 of 23 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 16, 2008 5:39:33 PM PDT
Bobbo says:
Eric, my observations about the LS-10 are essentially identical to yours. However, notwithstanding what appear to be low playback and recording levels, I have found the audio quality of recordings to be generally excellent. I have used the low microphone sensitivity setting (with the manual recording level set pretty high, as I recall) to successfully record guitar and vocal songs with the unit placed maybe 18 inches from the performer. I assume the low sensitivity setting would be good for loud concert performances, but I haven't yet had the chance to try that.

As far as playback goes, while it is true that I have to turn the volume to maximum to listen to the onboard speakers, earphones generally sound good at a playback volume of about 5. Also, when the earphone output is input to a stereo system (at maximum volume, which I believe is appropriate given that there is not a separate line out jack on the LS-10), the sound level is good at approximately the same stereo amplifier volume setting (perhaps a bit higher) that I use of playing CDs, etc.

I too wonder if my experience is normal for this product, and it would be helpful to hear from those who have raved about the product if that is their experience also, or if on the contrary they have enjoyed higher recording levels or higher playback levels or both.

Posted on Apr 17, 2008 8:44:27 AM PDT
Several posters here seem to be missing the point of this recorder. It's not supposed to be a free-standing boom box or an office-quality dictation recorder. This is a professional 24-bit 96kHz linear PCM recorder that makes absolutely stunning recordings of live music. The low sensitivity mic setting is all I use when recording an orchestra or a live band, or any other (loud) live music source. High sensitivity is better for picking up quieter or more varied signal, like a room full of people talking. The tiny speakers are not supposed to be "the way you listen". They are a convenience to allow you to quickly review your work and make sure you "got it". But ultimately, this is designed to be transferred to computer for further editing, burning to CD, whatever. This is a professional unit, which is why it is sold in pro audio and music stores rather than in Wal-Mart and office supply places like the other small Olympus recorders. I think the people complaining about low record/playback level may be misunderstanding what they have just purchased. Try a nice set of headphones and the sound comes to life.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 17, 2008 8:57:42 PM PDT
Bobbo says:
Thanks for your comments, J. Douglas. But I should point out that my curiosity about the unit's recording levels is based on my past experience with another relatively high-quality audio recording device, a Sharp minidisc recorder. With that device, peak recording levels (approximating zero dB) for a given ambient sound level are obtained at a significantly lower fraction of the maximum recording level adjustment scale than on the LS-10. I can't retrieve exact figures at the moment, but as a ballpark comparison, in the low microphone sensitivity mode, the Sharp might need to be set at only 12 out of 20, while the Olympus might need to be set at 9 or 10 out of 10 (or might need to be switched to the high microphone sensitivity mode), to get the same result. That's what makes me wonder about this issue.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 18, 2008 3:20:34 PM PDT
Eric J. says:
Douglas, I'm not confusing this unit with a boom box. I've done a fair bit of digital recording. But I am experiencing what Bobbo has discussed. The record level wheel has to almost be set to maximum to get decent peak levels for moderate level sound sources. I haven't tried recording really loud sound sources, so maybe the low level mic setting has a purpose. But I haven't seen it so far.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 19, 2008 7:03:28 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 19, 2008 7:05:42 AM PDT
Hmm... I wonder if there are some defective units out there, then? Most of the "low level" posts here talk about the speakers being barely audible, which is true. Have you tried direct line in (e.g. from a phono preamp or a CD player) yet? Are the levels still low, or is it only with mics?

To Bobbo: I used my LS10 last night to record a live jazz concert, low sensitivity and level set to 6. I'm glad I had the limiter on, because the levels were too high! Strange.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 19, 2008 3:46:59 PM PDT
Bobbo says:
Good question. I just recorded some output direct from a CD player and got good levels (peaking near 0 dB) with the recording level dial at 5. That seems right. I guess I need to try recording some fairly loud live music with low microphone sensitivity and see what happens.

In the meantime, though, J. Douglas, have you tried the auto level control feature, and if so did you find it to record at a significantly lower level than one would choose if one were using manual control? That has been my experience.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 20, 2008 4:03:44 PM PDT
Hi Bobbo

Yes, I did notice a low auto level; but I wasn't surprised. If you're used to the auto level features on most small recorders, they compress the signal when it peaks and bring it back up again within a second or two, only to compress again and again. This leaves you with a recording of constantly varying levels, which is fine for talking but not much else. I think I understand what Olympus was going for: if you're recording a music program, you won't want this constant up-and-down change, because it makes the music sound very unnatural. I think it probably "normalizes on-the-fly", using the peak level as zero and keeping it set from that point on. This can make for a low recording level, but it avoids peaks and distortion. Now here's the important part: if you set it for 24 bit recording, even an extremely low level is still much better than CD quality. Each time we add one bit, the resolution of a digital signal doubles, so the difference between 16 and 24 bits is stunning. In fact, 24 bits is 256 times better than 16 bits! After the fact, you can open the file in a wave editor on your computer and edit it to be as loud as you like, still maintaining better resolution than 16 bit CD quality. I think Olympus was looking at the pro recording market here, and not just re-creating the standard auto-level feature found on other small recorders.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 20, 2008 8:04:48 PM PDT
S. Ballew says:
I understand the point of the recorder - it's a professional unit. But seems that a pro unit that can record music so clearly could record a voice at something more than an inch from the person's mouth. Maybe I did purchase the wrong recorder. I was looking for something not for personal dictation but for recording journalistic interviews - specifically athletes at after game conferences.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 20, 2008 8:25:00 PM PDT
Eric J. says:
Guys, I just tried using the line in to the LS-10 from the output of my computer's headphone jack. I don't know if the headphone jack outputs true line level, but the record level on the LS-10 was still low even with the thumb wheel set to 10. The same output level from my computer connected to my 24 ohm Sony MDR-7509 headphones was too loud for comfort. (Maybe because of the low impedance of the headphones.)

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 21, 2008 8:22:36 AM PDT
I've set my LS10 in the middle of a room full of people talking (on auto level, high mic sentitivity) and clearly picked up everyone in the room. It doesn't sound like an RE-20 in a broadcast studio, but it's clear. Perhaps your unit is defective? Do you have anyplace where you could try out another one?
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