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  • Olympus LS-100 Field Recorder

    Posted by Richard Schiller on September 18, 2012 at 11:29 am


    I recently bought and used one of these and thought I might share my experiences.

    Firstly I have to say that it does its basic job of recording clean audio alongside the video being shot on a variety of cameras including DSLR. I have used it with a studio condenser mic and, a more usual for video, shotgun – both using phantom power. It is small and although it feels robust for what it is it is not a throw-it-around sort of piece of kit. I tend to use it mains-powered.

    The recording quality is pretty good by which I mean the pre-amps while not the lowest-noise are still fairly low noise and there are no buzzes or other interference. From my experience this unit will make you very good audio recordings and that earns it a whole lot of marks out of ten from the start.

    Battery life is good and getting a recording going is pretty simple. I cannot be bothered thinking about the filing system in detail and the Olympus suits me pretty well here. There is a bit of a ritual to get into the mode where you can record but once there you simply prime the recording by pressing the button once and then again to actually record. A nice touch is that the record button not only flashes to say “you have not actually started full recording yet” but also there is a beeping noise in the headphones too. If I was being picky I would wonder why it cannot just record when I press the record button first time however.

    I have found that setting the mic gain switches (in the menu) to low and setting the record volume controls to around 5.5 provides a noise floor that cannot be improved and a good deal of headroom for anything I am going to record. For me then there is no need to adjust recording level. Both the studio condenser and the shotgun simply raise the noise floor if the record level is increased – and given I can shout into the mics from close distance without appreciable distortion there is little need to reduce (on dialogue). This is fantastic because it makes set-up so easy. However the level meters and monitoring jack become irrelevant. There is not enough sound level through the headphones at maximum volume (I have tried a selection) and the meters barely register. I fear we have digital recorders being built by people who are stuck in an analogue world. Why anyone thinks they should simulate 1940s metering technology on a 21st Sentury recorder is beyond me. Being critical I would say that these two parts of the user interface encourage the unwary to fiddle with recording levels even though it is a pointless exercise which will only lead to reduced audio quality (higher noise floor and lower headroom).

    Too much of this recorder is set in menus for me. It would be far superior to have key core functions like samplig rate and mic gain selection on well shielded switches. Most of the competitor’s units are the same of course.

    The display turns off after a few seconds. This is annoying and especially when the unit is mains-powered. The display houses the meters for goodness sake! For me this is the biggest nonsense I have found so far. While I mention the display; it is rather small. Nor is it all that bright which has been difficult when recording in good weather.

    The case smacks of design over substance I am afraid. It does not protect knobs like the record levels as well as I would hope yet it does intrude on simple operation of the controls. The headphone volume is particularly difficult to change for example. Controls are small and awkward. Everything is just a bit dictation recorder and while that is where these units originated from they are allowed to evolve.

    I do not use any of the fancy functions like metronome or multi-tracking. I just use it to record one or two audio channels.

    Would I buy one again? Yes. I would still be bitching about the downsides though. I know some of them are because this model has to fit across a number of uses to keep production volumes adequately high. I still think the user interface could be improved quite a bit. So while I would buy one it is the audio quality, battery life and the small size (if I needed it) that would persude me and not the user interface.


    Richard Schiller

    Working amateur

    Panasonic Camcorder 1080p, Nikon SLR with video acquisition 720p, Sony Vegas editing software.

    Richard Schiller replied 2 years, 8 months ago 2 Members · 2 Replies
  • 2 Replies
  • george bazley

    November 22, 2020 at 10:17 pm

    Hi! REad you post on the ls100 olympus. Got one myself some time ago, haven’t used it yet…But i was concerned about what you mentioned in terms of the low volume on the headphone playback, etc…I got it for use as a personal home recording studio…is there anything i can do to work with this low volume headphone aspect? are the settings you said you used (in your post) the ones picked to best deal with this low volume on the headphones? and, anything else at all you can recommend to do to get around/deal with this aspect of the recorder while I’m using it? Any info/tips would be much appreciated! Sorry, I just don’t know anyone else who has one and is knowledgeable in this area and I don’t see it mentioned much at all in general, so I’m asking you in hopes you can help me with this so I can get the best use out of this recorder which for me , was a big-ticket purchase and investment that I’m to be using for the bulk of my recording work which is very important to me and an important aspect of my life. Thank you deeply for any assistance you are willing to extend my humble way. Sincerely, George.

  • Richard Schiller

    October 13, 2021 at 3:41 am

    Hi George. Deepest apologies for not replying earlier. I really need to turn notifications on.

    I do hope that you have been enjoying your LS-100 and getting good use from it.

    In answer to your question (in case it is still relevant to you or maybe someone), I only found one solution. I know this solution will not be relevant to lots of users though. I would record the tracks, transfer them to a laptop, and then listen back in something like audacity where I could both have a higher listening level and apply gain to the file as well (temporarily) in order to get the listening volume I needed.

    Warning to all readers, do not listen to any audio at levels likely to cause you harm.

    There are two problems. One is that the headphone outputs on these devices are quite quiet for many headphones. In my case, for any headphones that I have tried. There are a few reasons, but I think the dominant one is that while most headphones need quite a bit of power the device can’t afford much power because of battery life. The usual solution people resort to – often without knowing the impact of what they are doing – is to set recording levels so the monitoring sound is easily audible. This is wrong. It is also encouraged by the way the meters are calibrated. Recording at the right level on the LS-100 means the meters hardly ever indicate anything – in my experience. The recording level should ideally be set to match either the noise floor of the microphone to the recorder or to match the microphone’s peak level to the recorder’s maximum. Hence why there is no reason to go above low gain and 5.5 on the level dial on this Olympus model.

    Another solution could be an external headphone amplifier plugged into the LS-100 and feeding the headphones. I have no experience of such devices.

    The last solution I know of is to use the first solution here to establish the right general levels and then to just trust your recording and hope. There is so much to be said against this and I would not recommend it, but it is a method I have used many times myself.

    What such recorders really need is a degree of digital gain that can be switched in to the monitoring path only – before the headphones and the meters.

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