Review: Olympus LS-10 Linear PCM Recorder

Plenty of gadgets claim to be tough without actually being tough. (You know the type; loud as a motorbike, but wouldn’t bust a grape in a food fight.) But the Olympus LS-10 digital recorder actually walks the walk. Its first-rate audio recording clarity builds on a sturdy appearance, and proves to be a great appendage for reckless audio aficionados.

Using the recorder is like peeling some sort of magical golden onion. Transferring files to and from a PC takes only a few moments. The UI folder structure is easy to navigate with little direction (There are 5 folders with a 200-file max, plus one Music folder.) It uses SD memory (2 GIG internal, lasting 3-69 hours, contingent on the recording setting) and it can record audio (from best quality on down) as 96 kHz/24bit Linear PCM (Pulsed Code Modulation), WAV, MP3, and WMA files.

It’s also physically stout and sturdy as hell. The recorder got dropped, smacked, and tossed without any discernible loss in performance. The 5.33-ounce weight lends a solid heft to the device and the brush finish and stylish rounded corners give it (dare we say?) a sexy look. Even the buttons are designed in a way that it prevents accidental switching and flicking. Students, journalists, and other folks who toss gadgets haphazardly in a bag will know this is heaven’s sent.

As a portable music-listening device, it doesn’t work that well. If you transfer an MP3 to the player and listen to it (through headphones) before listening to (awesome) input recordings on the PC for the first time, you’ll be kinda bummed by the average tone. No, it’s not expected to be good as an MP3 player (hey, the iPod sucks as a recorder), but leads to the dreaded pocket bulging misery of taking two media devices at once. And it’s way too expensive. At this price, we would prefer the hardware-software integrated simplicity of an iTunes-type program. That’s not too much to ask.

But what about the all important audio recording quality? We tested the LS-10 in a variety of noisy situations including live narration in the middle of a crowded street (complete with a random lunatic ranting about getting kicked out of Old Navy.) Our recording came out perfectly clear without a scratch of background fuzz. Even when we recorded an indoor musical performance, little nuances in the notes became apparent on playback. The only time we heard any sort of popping or distortion was when we turned the device off and listened to other recorders in our collection.

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