Corporate Talk Radio

Olympus LS-10

Fresh out of the box, Philip Graitcer invited me to try out this new addition to the small flash card recorders collection.

The big question was, how clean are the mic preamps. We'll let you be the judge of that. This file contains various samples of mics as recorded on the LS-10 with a brief narrative. All files (except where noted that the file was normalized to -3) are from the LS-10.

First we used the internal mics for a two person iterview, positioned so that each of us had one of the two mics pointed at each. You will also hear a segment of the interview made mono so you can judge the effects. After that various external mics were tried.

As noted, some files were recorded at either the hi or low sensativity setting and most were recorded with the limiter off. We did observe that the limiter did a good job and was only obvious when the input level was really obusively hot.

The original files were recorded 16 bit @ 44.1 khz. This sample file is an mp3 at 256 Kbps created in Sound Forge 8.0.

Henry Howard

Olympus LS-10 sample file. mp3. (On pc right click to save as.)

Phil says:

Here's a brief note on the Olympus LS-10 that fellow AIR member Henry Howard and I tested in my office and that I used in the field last evening. The sound files are available for your own ears. I generally use either the EV635A or an AT835b shotgun mic, that's why they were tested (the AT835b file was not included in the sample, but sounded similar to the Senheiser). Our impression is that on low mic sensitivity the pre-amps are very good. On high sensitivity, they are still quiet.

The Olympus looks and works pretty much like described by the manufacturer. It is compact and looks quite similar to those handheld tape recorders we see print journalists carrying. It is easy to use - there isn't much to the menu - you can set the file format - pcm, mp3, or wma. Recording level can be automatic or manual with an option to turn on the limiter which works nicely. There's a low cut filter switch and a switch to select high or low mic sensitivity. There is a mic menu function call "zoom" that allows the user to select a pattern for the two onboard mics - wide, standard, narrow, and zoom. Or it can be turned off. I haven't experimented with this yet. There is plug-power if you have a mic that can use it, but there is no fantom power. There are also a couple of options for playback like reverb and something called EUPHONY.

File structure: There are five folders each capable of handling 100 files. User has the option to chose which folder - A through E - to record into. This is nice if you are on several different jobs in a day - just put the files in different folders. Files are numbered sequentially regardle ss of what folder they are in. So there isn't the issue of having two LS000001.WAV files in different folders.

Controls: Press the record button to set the levels. It blinks when it is on. When you are ready to record, press record again. The button glows red. There is a peak LED, manual knob to adjust input level. (There is another one for headphone/output level - there are two speakers too.) There is an erase button, and a programmable function button where any on the menu controls like file type, playback options, zoom mic can be directly accessible instead of going through the tree-structure menu.

Construction: The case is metal. Access to the battery compartment is like a cell phone's - part of the back of the unit slides off. Unit uses 2 - AA cells, life according to manufacturer is about 14 hours. The unit takes inexpensive SD cards, and the slot is eas ily to access and again seems durable. There are mini jacks for mic input, line input, and headphones. These seem to be well designed and the holes are surrounded by metal, so there is some reinforcement there. I will probably get a right angle mini plug just to keep the stress off the mic input. When using line input, the unit records in mono. The unit comes with a nylon zipper case, about the size of an eyeglass case.

There's 2 GB of memory built in, good for about 3 hours 10 minutes (44.1kHz/16bit) since the unit records in stereo at all times (even with line in when one channel is recorded, the other is silent). It seems to take any SD card, I have tried a few that I have.

There is plug for external power, but the external supply does not come with the unit. Olympus is going to sell a wireless remote control unit (June availability) and there is a plug for that.

What it lacks: XLR inputs. Track marking - you have to stop recording one track and then press the record button twice to start another track. The screen is easy to ready, so keeping a time log of recording isn't difficult and is my workaround to having separate tracks. And it would be nice to have a mono option to have more economy with the flash memory.

I took the unit to a concert last night and using only the onboard mics "pirated" some of the music. Acceptable. I conducted a few interviews at intermission using only the onboard mics. They did a good job. Very little hand or motion noise, except turning on and off the record function when there was an audible click on the file. I think I may use the onboard mics as my close up interview mic, and use just the shotgun when I am doing the rest of the stuff from tape synchs to group interviews. I've done interviews two ways: with the A&B facing the interviewee and me as well as with both mics facing the interviewee..

So far, I like it. Its compact size, seemingly long battery life, and easy of use will make it my recorder of choice for a gun and run situation as well as for traveling, when my SD702 may be more than I want to haul. I'm particularly pleased that unlike other under 500 dollar recorders, it can handle my relatively low output EV635 dynamic mic. I have it on 30 day trial, but I think I will keep it.

I'd recommend this unit for anyone needing a basic piece of recording gear. It would be especially good in classes. And since there are no moving parts and of durable construction, I think it would last for a while. Unless dropped.

Philip L. Graitcer