While testing the LS10, most people asked us what it is, then volunteered a guess that it’s a voice recorder.
They’re right to a degree; it’ll do a fine job of replacing any dictaphone, but it’s actually a professional-quality audio recorder that can be put to use recording live sets, spoken word podcasts or roving reporter field assignments.
Punching above its weight
It’s up against some strong competition from the likes of the Korg MR-1 and Roland Edirol R-09, both excellent products from trusted audio brands, so this offering from camera specialist Olympus is going to have to punch above its weight to get noticed. Fortunately it does.
First impressions are good. The metal casing is sturdy, with a small but clear LCD display, a fixed stereo pair of microphones, external record-level and volume controls, stereo speakers, a 3.5mm socket each for mic-in, line-in and headphone-out, side-mounted toggles for mic sensitivity and an SD/SDHC card slot.
Transport controls and menu navigation are handled from the front panel. Power comes from either two AA batteries or via the DC input, and there’s a tripod mount on the rear for easy set-up.
There’s 2GB of internal storage, plus whatever you can add via SDHC (theoretically up to 1TB, but at the time of writing, a maximum of 32GB), so recording as 320kbps MP3 is a good trade-off between sound quality and file size.
That all-important sound quality is there, too. The bundled wind mufflers and low-cut switch combine to strip out unwanted fluff and boom from the outside world, while in enclosed, controlled environments the internal mics pick up an impressive amount of detail across the frequency range, and their arrangement makes it incredibly simple to record stereo podcasts.
Easy to use
Basic operation is simple enough, but there’s no feature to give your recordings meaningful filenames. It’s a pain, because it means you end up with a bunch of files called LS10001, LS10002, LS10003 and so on, which in turn makes it difficult to grab the file you want when you’re back in the studio or hooked up to your computer.
That’s fine for photos on a camera, because you can see what’s what, but with audio it means listening back to everything and renaming once you’ve transferred them.
There’s not much else to complain about. The menu system could be more user-friendly, but there is a Function key that can be assigned to menu shortcuts.
Otherwise the LS10 makes a great companion. It’s slimmer than any of its rivals and small enough to be slipped into a jeans pocket without a fight. It’s quite tough, too, with the solid-state technology triumphing over the Korg MR-1’s hard drive, and a metal shell that’ll take more knocks than the Edirol R-09’s plastic body.
Olympus may not be a name you’d normally equate with quality audio gear, but on this evidence, in future it should be.