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September 27, 2008

Olympus LS-10 Linear PCM review

Olympus LS-10: The Test
When Olympus, famous for their clout in the photography world, takes on the audio market, we get the LS-10, a portable digital recorder determined to stake its claim in new territory …

LS-10

Many manufacturers specialized in audio have recently released portable digital recorders, among them renowned experts like Marantz or Nagra, but also more accessible brands like M-Audio, Edirol and Zoom. There’s something for everyone and especially for all budgets. Olympus has therefore ventured into a field already populated by brands well known to audio lovers. Despite this, Olympus hopes to take advantage of its photography experience and expertise in order to find its niche in the audio world.

At first glance, the LS-10 has very interesting specs, judge for yourself – two electret microphones, a large backlit display, 2GB built-in flash memory, an SD SDHC card reader, encoding on the fly in MP3 or WMA , recording in 96 kHz wav … Add to that a nice but serious look, and construction that breathes quality, and you get a very attractive recorder … Right off the bat you’ll get the feeling of solidity and robustness: Olympus’s know-how seems undeniable here. This is clearly a notch above what some brands like Edirol or Zoom have to offer: you won’t be afraid to take the LS-10 along with you wherever you go. It’s weight, slightly more than some of its competitors, (165 grams including batteries) probably contributes to this feeling of ruggedness.

But let’s see if the little guy delivers the goods…

 

he LS-10 lets you record in three different formats: linear PCM (WAV files without loss of audio information, but relatively space consuming), MP3 (compressed format) and WMA (also a compressed format made by Microsoft). The first format allows a sampling rate of 96 kHz 24-bit, which would be suitable for ‘def’ recordings but would be totally overkill as a ‘notepad’. Mp3 format (128 Kbps to 320 Kbps) will save a lot of space, and WMA (from 64 Kbps to 160 Kbps) will be even lighter. With an integrated memory of 2 GB, the LS-01 will let you save up to 3h10mins in WAV 44.1 kHz/16 bits 17h45mins in Mp3s 256 kb/s or 69h35mins WMA 64 kb/s! That’s quite a bit of recording time, especially if you add a SD HC card (up to 8 GB) which will multiply the above times by 5!

As for autonomy, the LS-10 claims 16h recording 44.1 kHz WAV/16bits and 35h playback. Knowing that the device takes 2 AA batteries, it will be easy to take along a couple of spare batteries in your pocket … This small recorder, therefore, lets you make long recordings without having to empty the memory onto the computer or change the batteries, a good point!

In terms of inputs and outputs, there’s a mini headphone jack, a mini-jack mic input (with ‘plug-in power’ and an impedance of 2 Ohms) and a mini line input jack. It would have been nice to have one or two XLR inputs (like on the Zoom H4) to broaden the scope of the LS-10, but only MiniDisc type microphones can be used, unfortunately. Here are some examples of compatible microphones: ME30W, ME51S, ME-15, ME-52W, ME-12.

Olympus has made a nice entry into the professional audio recorder arena. One will greatly appreciate its quality of construction, its overall sound quality, its autonomy, and generous integrated memory. Of course, in certain situations, the LS-10 will be showing it limitations, for example, recording an instrument with very low frequencies. But we forgive this quite easily in view of its compactness and its numerous strengths.

Quality of construction
Sound quality
Autonomy
2GB + integrated SD card reader HC
Windscreens supplied
Integrated reverb
Looping feature
Big backlit screen
Cubase 4 LE included

No adapter for mic stands
Bass Frequency less pronounced
Volume Knob not easily adjustable
Unable to rename Files
No XLR Connections

Read the full  Olympus LS-10 Linear PCM review on Audiofanzine.

 

 

September 17, 2008

Rupert Neve Designs Portico 5014 Stereo Field Editor

Rupert Neve Designs Portico Series
Portico Series: The Test
Neve. If there’s one name that causes the studio professional’s pulse to quicken, this is it! Even if the company has gone their own separate way with AMS since 1985, Rupert Neve, creator of the brand, has not hung up his soldering iron and is still creating new modules for his Portico range.
5032 avant
5032 arrière

After designing products for the likes of Focuriste or Amek this famous engineer is now working for his own Rupert Neve Designs. Through their Portico products, Rupert Neve Designs makes several pledges. First and foremost a no-compromise sound, worthy of their name, but also technical choices favoring more accessible prices.

Well, I can already hear your credit cards coming out of your wallets, so let’s be clear. At an average 1200€ per module, we are not in the same league as the slew of chinese products that litter the walls of many stores. But even if Portico isn’t looking to break into the entry level market, if they keep their sound quality pledge Rupert Neve Designs will have the additional appeal of their prices.

The Portico series isn’t new, the first model came out in 2005. But since they’ve had a ‘face lift’, we decided to take a new look at these products.

There are currently 8 modules in the Portico line:

  • The 5012 – Duo Mic Preamp. Rupert Neve Designs’ first product.
  • The 5014 – Stereo Field Editor. A tool for stereo image and phase manipulation
  • The 5015 – Mic Pre / Compressor. A preamp / compressor combo
  • The 5016 – Duo Mic Pre / DI, here again a preamp / DI combo with phase adjustment
  • The 5032 – Mic Pre / EQ, preamp and 3 band EQ
  • The 5033 – Five Band EQ, as its name indicates, a 5 band EQ with shelving filters
  • The 5042 – Tape Simulator, true tape simulator
  • The 5043 – Compressor / Limiter Duo, double compressor limiter
Conclusion

 

Rack

It was about time that we lent an ear to these great achievements from a legend of the audio world. With their new look, which is much nicer than the old cheap-looking facade, they now look the part. These modules have, in all cases, impeccable sound quality and a genuine character.

With their 2 distinct modes, the preamp and compression modules are very versatile and very useful tools for handling all kinds of sources.

Because of their interesting price, at least for the stereo modules, they should be on your test list.

The Sound!
My Favorite: the Compressor
The price of double channels
Compactness

The price of single channels
Power Switch on the Back

You can read the full review of  Rupert Neve Designs Portico 5014 Stereo Field Editor on Audiofanzine.

September 7, 2008

Line6 M13 stompbox modeler review

Line 6 has been so strongly associated with their Pod that one almost overlooks the fact that their other line of products, stomp box modelers, have long been part of many guitarist’s (some of them famous) arsenals. First there were effects pedal modules dedicated to a certain type of effect, then the concept evolved into the likes of the M13: a multi-effects pedal board integrating all these modules and effect types, but also integrating new features and capabilities.

M13

Exit the original big pedal format: the M13 comes in the form of an almost square metal multi-effects pedal that’s about 40 centimeters wide. Taking up most of the device are the four identical “units” (they look like big channel strips) each having a display, knobs, a protection bar, and three footswitches, one on top of the other. To the right, another unit with three footswitches lets you activate different functions of the device with your foot.

As for inputs/outputs, on the back panel there are 2 ins (for stereo ins), a pair of outputs (stereo/mono), an effects loop, midi in/out, and a pair of inputs for expression pedals. As far as design is concerned, the device seems robust and heavy, seeing as all components are made of metal, with the exception of the knobs, which seem to be even smaller than your average knob on a standard pedal.

 

Once turned on via the dedicated switch, the whole thing lights up everywhere: displays, LEDs next to the switches, blinking ‘tap tempo’, all in multicolor! Let’s take a closer look.

n the end, what’s to be remembered from all this? First, that the M13 is not your average effects pedal: it’s a hybrid between a traditional multi-effect pedalboard and a set of modeled pedals, with a looper as icing on the cake. In use, one appreciates its extreme flexibility which will satisfy both aficionados of the traditional system of pedals or multi-effects lovers. Of course, you can’t choose the effects on board, but the impressive collection and the effects loop for which you can add your favorite pedals can cope with the vast majority of needs… In fact, apart from the sound and the quality of the effects, which will perhaps not be to everyone’s taste, it’s hard to see what to criticize about the M13, except maybe the impossibility of switching amp channels at a distance. But ultimately, this is nothing compared to the enormous possibilities of the device. In fact, the real question is: who will use the M13 to its full potential? The answer is unimportant, because for less than the price of two of their ‘stompbox modeller’ pedals, you get the complete collection and more, and new capabilities. Line6 has launched a new approach to ‘multi-effects’ which will probably be emulated in the future!

 

Vast Collection of Effects
Flexible Usage
Integrated Looper & Tuner
Great Modulations and Delays
A New Approach to Multi-effects

Quality of Distortions Compared to the Rest
MIDI Documentation Insufficient
Not Possible to Remotely Switch Amp Channels
Effects Editing: Knobs not sensitive enough
LCDs should have been tilted towards the front a little more for better visibility

You can read a more complete review of Line6 M13 on Audiofanzine.

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