For most of us who are fans of iOS devices, the recording features in GarageBand for iOS or the built-in Voice Memos App suits our needs just fine. There are some people for whom the quality of recorded audio needs to be at a level that exceeds the capabilities of your favorite Apple gear. One possible solution lies with the Olympus LS-10 Linear PCM recorder. The quality of recorded audio is beyond CD-quality, all in a portable handheld form factor.
The first thing that’s noticeable about the LS-10 is the level of workmanship that went into the device. It feels solidly-built when hefted in the hand, with nothing rattling or moving about. This is important in a handheld recorder, since any squeaks from flexing of the device will be readily heard when recording from the palm of your hand. The windscreens on the two microphones at the top of the LS-10 give the impression of a professional-quality microphone for use in a studio setting.
LS-10 requires 2 AA batteries (included in package), but it can also plug into your computer via a provided micro-USB to USB 2.0 cable. Fresh batteries and the internal 2GB of flash memory provide up to 12 hours of recording of music, interviews, or lectures, which is plenty for the needs of most, but there is also an SD-card slot on the left side of the LS-10 for people in need of more capacity. Recording in MP3 and WMA modes also increases recording times. Recording in MP3 mode at 128 kbps will allow you to record up to 35 hours and 35 minutes of audio using only the 2GB of internal memory, while recording in WMA format will allow you to record up to 69 hours and 35 minutes. Recording in these modes also reduces sound quality, to the increased recording time also come with a price.
The default recording format is 24-bit, 96 kHz PCM (Pulse Code Modulation), but there are also recording modes for WPA (mono, 64, 128, or 160 kbps) or MP3 (mono, 128, 256, or 320 kbps). There are plenty of options available, allowing for superior audio quality in nearly any recording environment.
If there is an area where the LS-10 could use some improvement it lies with the user interface. The liquid-crystal display is small and can be tough to read. It almost seems a bit antiquated, given the quality of screens we see all the time on our smart phones and other handheld devices. The user’s guide reminds me a lot of one that might come with a high-end camera — and that’s not a good thing. You can navigate the menus easily enough, but making the most of the LS-10’s features requires a lot of reading of the manual. Once you learn how to use it, that’s fine, but I don’t think it should be this difficult. It takes a few minutes to learn how to use the LS-10, but most people should be able to record reasonable quality clips within thirty minutes of opening the box.
The back of the LS-10 also sports a pair of stereo speakers. I’m not quite sure if two speakers 1 cm apart give a great stereo sound experience. I also had a lot of difficulty getting my sample recordings to play back at levels that were easily heard through the speakers. Plugging a pair of headphones or external powered speakers into the 3.5mm jack at the top of the LS-10 is a must if you plan to listen to your recordings directly for the device.
The LS-10 also comes with a handy carrying case and strap, both of which I would want if using the LS-10 with any degree of frequency.
The bottom line? If you’re in the need of a handheld recorder that provides the higher quality audio required by journalists, musicians, or archivists, the LS-10 is a great device. You’ll need to spend some time getting to know the LS-10 and its capabilities, but it is a solid addition to Olympus’ product lineup.
MyMac.com Review Rating: 7 out of 10