Thursday, January 3, 2008

Olympus jumps into the pro audio market with the LS-10

Olympus has a long history of making high quality digital voice recorders. But historically these devices have just been fancy dictation devices, letting you record large amounts of low quality audio. But the upcoming Olympus LS-10 is aimed squarely at podcasters, reporters, and other people in the market for high quality audio recorders like the Marantz PMD620, Sony PCM-D50, or Zoom H2.

Unlike its predecessors, the LS-10 can record 24-bit/96kHz WAV audio. Here are a few other goodies:
  • 2GB internal memory
  • SD/SDHC card slot for memory expansion
  • Record in WAV, MP3, or WMA formats
  • Built-in stereo mics
  • 3.5 mm mic and line inputs for recording from an external source
  • 3.5 mm headphone output and built-in speakers for playing back audio
  • Runs on 2 AA batteries
  • Dimensions: 131.5 mm x 48 mm x 22.4 mm
  • Weight: 165 grams (including batteries)
  • Includes Cubase LE4 software
With a $399 price tag, it looks like the LS-10 is targeted at the same folks who would be interested in a Marantz PMD620, Zoom H2, or M-Audio Microtrack II. But while Olympus has been making digital audio recorders for a while, this is the company's first foray that I'm aware of into pro audio, so I'd recommend holding off until we see some real world reviews and hear some audio samples before placing your orders.

The LS-10 should be available sometime this month.

[via Gizmodo]


Gibbon said...

There are several but separate good reviews on the new Marantz and in the new Sony recorder (thanks Brad for your useful review), but sadly there is no simultaneous review on both recorders. I hope someone could be able to compare side by side these two recorders and the new Olympus, specially on the preamp issues... I'm new in this field but I need to make rare owl recordings (for later playback and sonogram analyses) in a very rugged tropical place for a scientific project. I'm thinking about buying a Sennheiser ME-66 or 67 shotgun mic, but I'm still searching for the ideal recorder to couple this mic.
Any suggestion?

Brad Linder said...

If money is no object, go for a Sound Devices 702 or 722. But if you're looking for a recorder for under $500, the PCM-D50 is by far the best one I've used. That said, I haven't tried the Marantz PMD620 or this new Olympus recorder yet. And none of these devices will provide phantom power, so you'll need to make sure any condenser/shotgun mic you use takes batteries.

Gibbon said...

Thank you Brad. Sadly, money is limited and I need an under $500 recorder. Power is not a problem since the selected mics have their own battery module.
I'm very inclined to the Sony PCM-D50, but I can wait a couple of months so I'll be looking for upcoming reviews on the other new recorders.

Brad Linder said...

Yeah, it's one of those situations where there's always something better around the corner, so if you're always waiting for the best possible recorder you could be waiting a long time. I'm pretty happy with the Sony. It offers most of the features you'll find in the Zoom, Marantz, MicoTrack, or Edirol recorders, plus a few more. And most importantly, it has a really sturdy build quality. There's something nice about holding an aluminum casing instead of cheap plastic. I wish Sony would use XLR plugs, but other than that I have no complaints.

Anonymous said...

I'm REALLY interested in this recorder. I'm waiting for reviews and the release of the Olympus ls-10, before jumping for the Sony d 50. I called Olympus and they told me that they didn't know when the ls-10 would be released. If they wait much longer for a release date, I'll probably buy the Sony d50. I'm eager to record my piano music.

dxace1 said...

I'm a PCM-D50 and Zoom H2 user, and have been very satisfied with both, but my LS-10 has just confirmed shipment from Sound Professionals and I will post my impressions soon...

dxace1 said...

Having just received the Olympus LS-10 and putting it through the paces, I have to say this is one beautiful little piece of equipment!

The LS-10 has a heavy duty feel to it, similar to the PCM-D50
but of course is 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.

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 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.

As these are now being shipped, I look forward to hearing from others about their experiences with the very nice LS-10, which so far is the surprise strong competitor among the SS audio recorders.

Brad Linder said...

Thanks for the excellent write up dxace1! Have you tried the LS-10 with an external microphone, or have you just used the internal mics?

dxace1 said...

So far, just the internal MICS -- it would be nice if Olympus shipped this with some sort of hand holder, like the H2. I have used the H2 handle with the LS-10 and it works, but it's uncomfortable -- you really need a pivoting tripod plate to angle it.

Will post more when I have more time to play...

dmar said...

I am not a sound expert or a music
expert. But, I do know when something sounds good. I just received my LS-10 a week ago and have put it thru several paces. I had previously owned an Edirol R-09. The LS-10 looked really well, and I sold my R-09 to get the LS-10. So far, I am not pleased.

OK, it's pretty and has lots of buttons, but in order for me to be perfectly satisfied, It should produce recordings that were as good or better than the R-09. Again, I am not a professional. I just made a couple of recordings with my R-09 and under the same conditions, recorded same with my
new LS-10.

I spent over an hr and tried several combinations of settings
and could not get sound that approached what the R-09 did.
Since I am now w/o my R-09, I hope that this is something that can
be fixed with firmware. I have
called Olympus and am awaiting
a return call. I would love to
be able to talk to a technical person who really knows the unit.
Also... I am looking forward to
seeing what a real expert has
to say abt this unit who is able
to compare the LS-10 to the R-09.
Maybe I am doing something wrong
and the problem is ME.

(BTW... I have used the unit enough
to go through a set of batts.)

Here are some other observationa and some issues that I intend to
discuss with Olympus. I am not
trying to be overly picky, but I want Olympus to be aware of some
things. Hopefully, they will see
my comments as constructive criticism.

1. FN feature does not work as I expected. Page 40 in manual indicated (at least to me) that the
FN button would be able to register
several special functions. Evidentally it will only register one function. This is a bit ambiguous --- in the QA, it says plainly that it will only do ONE function. I sure hope they could fix this..... I would like to able to hit the FN repeatedly to the next registered fundtion.... would
be nice to have a least 3. Probably will never happend and it will stay as it is.

2. Can't see the complete file name - even when looking at "property" - (why not use right/left to see more detail?)

3. When in “Auto” record mode – the recording level settings seem to be far too low in a typical situation. The recorded volumes end up being too low and have to be processed later for higher volumes. I would want the “Auto” mode to produce optimum recording in a normal sound situation. (Haven’t tested in a real loud “rock band” type situation)
I am hoping this is some sort of
calibration issue that can be "fixed" with firmware.

4. Volume sent to speakers is FAR too low. Speakers are probably capable of higher volume. The puny speakers on my WS-311 are louder.
( I assume this could be easily fixed with firmware). The volume
when monitoring a recording is definitely lower than when immediately
playing back the file just recorded.

5. When in “play” mode, would simpler and better to be able to use the up/down buttons to adjust the volume. (Not being used for anything else).

6. When in “record” mode, would be easier and more intuitive to use
“up/down” buttons to adjust the recording level. (Not being used for any
other function.)

7. Why is the case so big? Would be better if it fit the recorder fairly
snug with possibly an outside pocket to store needed items. (extr. battery, ear plugs, etc.)

10. Would be convenient at times to have more recording settings that
would achieve longer recording times - (although less quality).
(At least ONE more setting for WMA and MP3's)

11. I do not understand the need for having the reverb setting for playback.
If these effects cannot be applied to the recorded file, what good are they?

12. Would like to be able to change the file name without connecting to
to computer. Having a meaningful name is a real advantage.
( The Edirol R-09 which been out 2 yrs. can do this. )

13. When displaying the detail files (file "list") in folders, would be helpful
to see date or other information.
(possibly display 2 lines -- as an "option")

14. Seems to take a long time for unit to to turn on. (around 25 seconds) I believe the extra SD is causing this. It is High Capacity... 4GB. I only used
a one and two GB SD with the R-09.

My BIGGEST complaint... is that the
LS-10 does not produce recording that sound as good as the R-09. I recorded using same sound source with both units...(Recorded music played from a CD on a Decent set of speakers) The music produced on the LS-10 sounds "harsh" and sort
of muffled or distorted. If I had
never used the R-09, I still would
have noticed this. I tried varous
combinations of settings .. hi/low sensitivity; manual and auto with
various positions on the thumwheel
in manual. Could NOT get sound as
good as the sound recorded on the R-09 :(

Also, the R-09 will
do somethings that the LS-10 won't.
Like... displaying more of the "file" details, and also ability to change the name of the file w/o
having to connect to a PC.

OK.. these are just my opinions,
but I would love to see a real
expert record music on both units
and see what they find.

Sorry for being so picky... but that's me. And I SURE hope my
particular unit is defective or
I am doing something wrong.

dxace1 said...

Regarding the lengthy negative report earlier:

1. I work in professional broadcasting and find the quality of the mp3 and wav files to be perfectly acceptable. I have not used the Edirol much, so can't comment on the comparison.

2. Re the observations on the FN feature, I have not tried this yet, but imagine this and other issues can be resolved through firmware updates.

3. On the file name, I don't see this as a major issue.

4. On AUTO record, this has also been noted on the Zoom H2 -- you have to normalize and/or boost in after-processing.

5. Speakers sound just fine to me -- in fact, the most impressive I have heard on a unit of this size.

5. When in “play” mode, would simpler and better to be able to use the up/down buttons to adjust the volume. (Not being used for anything else).

6. Regarding the ergonomics, I don't see any problems here either, nor do I have a problem with the overall size or weight of the unit, particularly when compared to the SONY PCM-D50 or Zoom H2 or H4. The Olympus is, of course, bigger than the Edirol and probably the Maranta 620, but nothing to scream about.

7. I agree, and commented earlier, on the number of setting options in various modes. Olympus should take another look at this and provide more for mp3 and wav

8. As for changing the file name onboard, I have always found that to be cumbersome and see no need for it.

9. My start up is far lower than 25 seconds -- more like 5 to 7 seconds, not a problem. The Zoom H2, for example, with a large SDHC, takes 30 to 50 seconds.

Chris J said...

Glad to find some folks talking about the LS-10. I received mine 2 days ago and overall I have to say...SWEEEET!!!!
I love my R-09, but the build quality and overall ergonomics of the LS-10 are what I've been shooting for. I've been carrying around Olympus voice recorders for years to capture all the crazy sounds I hear everyday. The R-09 let me do it in higher quality, but the LS-10 gives me the interface I'm used to and it doesn't feel like it's going to break! Having thumbwheelsl to adjust REC levels and headphone volume is really nice and quite.
The quality of my test recordings are as good or better than my R-09 AND (believe it or not) my Marantz PMD 671 with both acoustic instruments and sound effects. The windscreens work really well and I'm impressed that they actually snap in place. I dug out my mini nikon tripod and took advantage of the threaded mount on the bottom. I play Indian tabla drums which mans you sit on the floor, and this setup is great for recording practices or lessons. I like the quality of the built in reverbs but REALLY wish the input signal could be routed thru them too as this makes practicing more fun. Something I think all musicians can agree on. It might also be cool to have the ability to "print" the verb to a copy of a file while leaving the original dry. But then again that's what DAWs are for. Alos, the ability to adjust playback speed would be cool.
Is this thing firmware upgradable? I'm pretty sure Olympus Digi cameras have that ability. Anyway. Off to capture more samples in the wild!

Brad said...

chris j:

Where did you buy yours at?

Thanx - Brad

doug said...

i might have missed it, but what results do you get with external mics? specifically dynamic omnis, since this is what i and many others use for interviewing. i read in the manual about the plug-in power and sensitivity settings, but the real proof is the pudding - how does it sound, and how strong are the levels?

Chris J said...

y LS-10 at, really nice folks. free overnight shipping. It was $375 total. The only external mic I've used so far is the Rode NT4 and it sounds really good. No dynamic mics yet, but I'll try it soon and let you know.

Chris J said...

Here's some info on an alternative case for the LS-10. I agree with the comment earlier about the stock one being too big. Sears, of all places, has a Craftsman cell phone case that is glove tight with a velcro flap and a metal belt clip. The green one fits better than the black one. I also discovered the cases for the Sidekick work pretty well.

Anonymous said...

trying out the Olympus LS-10 and I find that the recording quality is much better with the limiter turn off since the limiter is quite aggressive. I still find that the built in speakers volume quite low no matter how I set the recording and the speakers setting.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if the LS-10 is firmware upgradable? I read that it doesn't record in mono and like the early H4 firmware, I am hoping Olympus will correct this oversight.

Chris J said...

Olympus has a link setup for software downloads/firmware updates for the LS-10 on their website. As of now it just says "none available at this time". I suspect an update will appear when they release the infrared remote in a few months.

Chris J said...

Hello everybody! I just posted some photos of my experimental LS-10 rig. Click on Brad's Amazon link and check out the ls-10 customer images.
I used a Nikon accessory clamp with a ball head to mount the ls-10 on a mic stand, then pluged in an nt4.

dxace1 said...

So far, just the internal MICS -- it would be nice if Olympus shipped this with some sort of hand holder, like the H2. I have used the H2 handle with the LS-10 and it works, but it's uncomfortable -- you really need a pivoting tripod plate to angle it.

Will post more when I have more time to play...

Gibbon said...

Thank you Brad. Sadly, money is limited and I need an under $500 recorder. Power is not a problem since the selected mics have their own battery module.
I'm very inclined to the Sony PCM-D50, but I can wait a couple of months so I'll be looking for upcoming reviews on the other new recorders.

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