Jun 21, 2010
Olympus LS-10/LS-11 Review
One of the things any motion picture production needs is good audio, whether it's captured in a studio or on-location. Typically - and most especially - on-location audio is normally done by experienced sound engineers with very specialized field recorders and expensive boom mics inside "blimps" or "dead cats" (you see these all the time on the news, the really large, oblong-shaped covers with a screen over them or the fuzzy cover at the end of the mic pole). And on top of the pricey equipment also comes the proper methods for setting up the equipment from proper levels, to cabling to years of experience in microphone placement.
But if you're an indie producer with the typical low-budget or worse a "one man band" attempting to do everything by yourself or with inexperienced help then a fully-rigged and trained sound person is out of the question. So what to do?
For years Olympus has been making very high quality and inexpensive personal recorders and dictation machines for the general consumer market, and they've taken these years of technological know-how and used it for a more high-end purpose, that of a near-pro level sound capture device that can be used both by the total neophyte to sound or the experience pro.
The LS-10 is a brilliant combination of simple operation and high-quality sound components. Like it's more expensive competitors by Sony, Edirol and others it comes equipped with 2 top-mounted mics in a "Y" pattern to create a natural sounding stereo soundscape on capture. The on-screen menus are logically laid out and the high-contrast, backlit screen is easy to read with straightforward navigation and fully functional level-peaking meters.
It also has a very small form factor really no bigger than the mini-casette recorders of old (believe it or not, they still make those dinosaurs!) approximately 5"x2"x1" inches, small enough to be tucked away in a shirt pocket or a cinema-shooters' vest.
Battery life is also excellent and you can easily get 8-hours or more of constant use depending on conditions, the format selected and whether or not AGC is turned on or not.
But the real story about this amazing little device is just how good the sound really is. With auto-GAIN (AGC), a "MIC SENSE" switch for high and low settings and a low-cut filter switch the captured audio from the LS-10 sounds like it came from a much more expensive unit; very low noise, well defined stereo imaging and tons of dynamic range.
In fact, I've actually used the LS-10 for a professional voice-over session when in a pinch, professional equipment wasn't available. I simply put a "dead cat" (fuzzy pop-screen) over the top-mounted mics (available from a third-party developer), used the low-cut filter to remove the unwanted low-end room ambience, turned on the AGC and voila - I had a gorgeous voice-over that didn't need any compression or EQ tweaking! Amazing.
CONCLUSION: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
There certainly are more expensive and better sounding portable PCM recorders on the market but they're all much more expensive than the Olympus LS-10 by hundreds of dollars costing over $1100. Olympus does have an upgraded model the LS-11 which offers a few more features and a great deal more built-in record time but it's also $100 more than the LS-10 and for my money not worth the cost. If you really wanted to get a higher-quality recorder with a true professional interface (and cost) then take a look at the Tascam HDP2.
All in all the Olympus LS-10 can easily pay for itself on just one commercial gig and with it's plethora of recording formats and setups the usages for this little wonder are limited only to your imagination.