Top Rated Olympus Voice Recorders for Singing & Recording
By James Lee Phillips
A portable digital recorder is an essential tool if you want to get a musical idea down quickly or make a field recording. You can get by with your smartphone or a cheap voice recorder, but even demo-quality music requires something more professional. Although best known for cameras, Olympus also produces a number of high-quality digital audio recorders. Keep in mind, however, that only a few of these models are truly suitable for music-makers.
Like many recorders commonly sold at big box stores and electronics retailers, Olympus' D, V and W series are designed mainly for recording dictation, presentations and lectures. Most voice recorders, including smartphones, use a mono microphone that highlights certain vocal frequencies and filters out noise. This makes voices more intelligible, but it limits the detail and frequency range needed to create a high-quality musical recording. Even worse, when the input volume drops below a certain level, many voice recorders use a "noise gate" to mute the microphone or a "voice actuator" to stop recording completely. You could wind up losing the softer passages of your musical recording, simply because the recorder will treat them as merely background noise.
The Olympus LS series is designed with features and specifications that suit musical recordings rather than dictation. PCM recorders feature a pair of high-quality microphones, built-in pre-amps and 24-bit / 96 KHz -- "better than CD" -- audiophile specifications. You can also record from external sources on all LS models using a 3.5mm mic input. Recordings are made in standard WAV or MP3 formats, and a USB port allows you to transfer these files to and from any computer. Each model also offers a standard 3.5mm headphone jack for critical monitoring, and at least one speaker for field playback.
The Olympus LS-10S is a slight redesign of the original LS-10, which the Sound On Sound website praised for "sound quality, simplicity and ease of use." There's a pair of dynamic microphones, 2GB of internal storage and an SD slot for expansion. The "S" means that this is the only LS model with stereo speakers, as well as a headphone jack for more critical monitoring. The LS-10S is also the only model in this line with native WMA support, which may be a helpful addition if you need to regularly convert WAV or MP3 files to the WMA format.
LS-12 and LS-14
The Olympus LS-12 and LS-14 -- collectively referred to as "a musician's best friend" by Digital Trends -- both feature higher-quality dynamic microphones than the LS-10, as well as a lower-impedance 3.5mm line input in addition to the standard mic input. The LS-14 features a third omnidirectional microphone to beef up the lower-frequency response of your recordings, and also has double the LS-12's 2GB internal memory. Both models have a built-in metronome and tuner, and the option to overdub, or layer, audio tracks for sound-on-sound song building. An index mark feature allows you to place "bookmarks" at specific places in your audio tracks -- a feature that was not included on the original LS-10.
The LS-100 is the high-end Olympus recorder, sporting a pair of condenser microphones to replace the dynamic mics found in lower-end LS series models. The expanded frequency range and more detailed audio clarity is highly rated by Wired and SlashGear reviewers. Like the LS-14, the LS-100 starts with 4GB of internal storage, but can be augmented with an additional SD card. A pair of phantom-powered XLR inputs lets you record using pro-level studio microphones, and the Lissajous function helps with precise positioning of stereo microphone pairs. Multitrack capability allows you to overdub while keeping new tracks separate for later re-recording, editing and mastering -- either on the LS-100, or after transferring via USB to a computer.
James Lee Phillips has been a writer since 1994, specializing in technology and intellectual property issues. He holds a Bachelor of Science in communications and philosophy from SUNY Fredonia.