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February 14, 2012

Olympus LS-20M Review

Somewhere between the pocket cam and pocket recorder market segments, Olympus has introduced a hybrid called LS-20M. The concept is simple: offer a full-HD pocket cam capable of recording good-quality audio, making the LS-20M the first real competitor of the Zoom Q3 HD, which is currently the only product in this market segment…

The battle between the two, promises a lot: while Zoom is the leading manufacturer of pocket recorders with the H2, Olympus is the leader of dictation systems. Moreover, Olympus is also one of the leading manufacturers in the cameras/lenses market, so it might become a serious challenger for Zoom, and even for the top dogs in the pocket cam market like Kodak, Cisco, Sanyo and Sony.

In The Box

Olympus LS-20M

Olympus included almost everything you can expect inside the box. Besides the device, you’ll find a battery, a 2GB SD card and a dual-function USB cable. The cable will be useful to transfer all data recorded on the LS-20M to your computer, and also to load the battery either via the USB port of your computer or an external PSU. The package also includes the user’s manual in six different languages. And that’s it! No transport bag for the device, no wrist-strap, no HDMI cable — and, since we are complaining, the 8″ USB cable is really short…

The design is quite nice: the device is a bit thicker and longer than a smartphone but less bulky than a Zoom Q3HD (it has a finer design). It has many controls and connections on its small housing made out of different mat and glossy plastic materials in metal finish. The main colors are black and anthracite. On the top of the device, the two mics are placed on both sides of the camera under chrome-like baskets. Everything looks very serious, even if it would be more reassuring to get a silicone or padded leather case to prevent any damages in case of a fall.

Front and Side Views

Olympus LS-20M

Now it’s time to have a closer look at the device. Starting with the left side that provides a power on/off+hold switch, a connector for an optional remote control, a mic in and a headphones out on stereo minijacks. The mic input can be switched to line input and fed with phantom power, which is a decisive advantage over the Q3HD that only has a line input (making the connection of external mics impossible). With the LS-20M, you can use a shotgun mic, a lavalier mic or a good old SM58. This feature will attract users who want to use external mics — just notice that using the mic input mutes the internal mics, so don’t expect to be able to mix both signals…

Olympus LS-20M

On the right side, a switch allows you to toggle between audio/video modes while a small slot allows you to access the SD card. The bottom side of the device includes a miniUSB and a HDMI connector hidden behind a blind plate. Everything looks pretty good, and this also applies to the rear side, which provides an access to the battery, a tiny 2/3″ speaker (it’s not a ghetto blaster but it’s convenient for raw monitoring in quiet environments), and a thread insert allowing you to mount the LS-20M on a camera stand… instead of a microphone stand, which would be more convenient in most cases.

Olympus LS-20M

Between the two mics on the top side of the device, you’ll find a LED indicating signal overloads and (surprise!) the lens of the camera. The surprising position of the camera changes the handling of the device quite radically. To shoot what is happening in front of you, you have to hold the LS-20M horizontally —not in parallel to your body like with most pocket cams— and aim at the scene you want to capture like you would do with a remote control. At first glance this seems more intuitive.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

The LS-20M provides good quality video and high quality audio recording. With numerous useful options, especially in the video department, the LS-20M is a dangerous competitor for the Zoom Q3HD. The awkward position of the camera is certainly its main disadvantage in many situations: except in some rare occasions (shooting above a crowd or recording people who are seated while you’re standing), the camera position is not very practical and makes things more difficult for the user. Now you have all the information you need to choose between these two rivals or you might even consider a third solution: an Apple iStuff plus a microphone kit. It’s up to you…

 Advantages:
  • Nice overall look
  • Seems rather rugged
  • Compact size (it even fits inside your hip pocket)
  • Picture quality on the same level as the best pocket cams on the market, but with a much higher sound quality
  • No need to switch to macro mode for close-ups
  • Video pickup angle wider than most other pocket cams
  • High-quality sound with detailed high frequencies
  • Many audio and video settings and functions
  • All-in-one concept: cam, field recorder, webcam, multimedia jukebox
Drawbacks:
  • Position of the camera — more disturbing than advantageous
  • Few accessories: no protection bag, no wrist-strap, etc.
  • The small buttons are not backlit and their silk screen is hardly readable
  • Many buttons, many menus for a somewhat old-fashioned design
  • Renaming files and folders is impossible
  • High-frequencies a bit too sharp, slight lack of low-end

To read the full detailed article with video demos please see:  Olympus LS-20M Review

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October 16, 2009

Apple iPhone: My iPhone is an 8-Track Recorder

Filed under: Recording reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:39 am

Could the iPhone be the best portable recorder?

The iPhone is a great little piece of machinery.  It can do anything!  What’s the weather going to be like in Chicago tomorrow? At what time does Police Academy 17 run again?  7:20pm.  A Bomberman game? No problem-o.  Lady Gaga’s latest hit?  You got it.  We’re just missing some useful tools for musicians… You think? They are already here.

The iPhone’s first advantage is that it’s a phone, so it spends most of the time in your pocket, being accessible at any time. Its main asset is that its OS is open to third-party applications. In other words, you can download small programs–made by independent developers or by big companies– for lots and lots of possible applications. It’s quite impressive to see what these developers have to offer: an ultrasonic mosquito killer, a spirit level, a software that uses the sound print of a song to recognize it… In short, for every taste and every need, there are currently about 80,000 free or paid applications registered at http://appshopper.com/.

For audio heads like us, this has become quite interesting: the music category boasts over 2,400 very-poorly-sorted applications (when will we get filters and subcategories in the AppStore?). You’ll find the best and the worst you can think of: lots of applications which promote artists or radio stations, and even some which only display animations, song lyrics or artist info when a MP3 file is played. The finest of all is Shazam, an application that recognizes music on the basis of an audio sample (convenient to get the title of a great song playing on the radio). When it comes to applications developed to create music, there are six main categories:

  • Virtual instruments (guitar, piano, drums, synth, etc.)
  • Tools (meters, tuners, chord dictionaries)
  • MIDI control surfaces
  • Sequencers (most of them including a sound generator or a sample player)
  • DJ applications (that allow you to mix and synchronize two tracks)
  • Digital audio recorders

We could actually write a whole article about each of the categories, but given that AudioFanzine is about “Audio,” we thought we’d focus on the recording tools–specially considering that the iPhone could become a must have for on-location recording.

Now let’s take a closer look at how to do just that…

Conclusion

With very affordable applications and some hardware enhancements, the iPhone can surely become a multi-track recorder for anyone (journalist or musician) willing to give up some audio features (transducer quality, simultaneous four-track recording, connectivity) to enjoy its excellent usability and the advantages of an all-in-one solution you can carry in your pocket. Just as the digital camera market is waning due to mobile phones, the portable audio recording market could also face strong competition from the iPhone.  This means that dedicated products will have to introduce technological improvements, like color touch screens, if they want to survive in the future. We’ll have to just keep an eye on it.

To read the full detailed article see:  Apple iPhone as an 8-track Recorder

April 22, 2009

Video Demo: JoeCo Blackbox Recorder

JoeCo talks about their new Blackbox Recorder.

To see more exclusive video demos visit Audiofanzine Videos.

February 15, 2009

NAMM 2009: Video Demo Tascam DP-004 and BB-1000

Exclusive presentation of two new products from tascam, the DP-004 portable multitrack recorder and the BB-1000 portable CD and SD memory card recorder.

To watch all NAMM 2009 video demos visit us on Audiofanzine NAMM 2009.

February 1, 2009

NAMM 2009: Tascam DR-07 & DR-100 Recorders

Jeff Laity from Tascam says a few words about their new handheld recorders, the DR-07 and the tougher DR-100.

To watch all NAMM 2009 video demos visit us on Audiofanzine NAMM 2009.

November 28, 2008

Test: Line6 Backtrack review

Filed under: Recording reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 1:42 pm
Line 6’s Backtrack+Mic: The Test
Unfortunately, we often realize too late that we should have recorded what we just played. How many times have you wished that you could go back in time and hit the record button right before inspiration hit you? Line6 has come up with something along these lines with its portable recorder, the Backtrack, a small device that lets you save a take after the fact. Is it magic? 

No, there’s nothing magical hidden in this little box the size of a pack of cigarettes, and the process is simple: Backtrack continuously records after being activated and automatically splits out audio events thanks to its silence detection. Just press the big Mark button in the center of the device when you want to keep something you just played. It’s both simple and original! But let’s take a closer look at the device.

Backtrack

The Backtrack is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and is therefore easily transportable. It has a belt clip on the back, a ¼-inch guitar input as well as a ¼-inch output so you connect it to an amp. There are two versions: the Backtrack, which is designed to record instruments via a jack, and the Backtrack + Mic with the same features, but which also has an integrated microphone which allows you to record any acoustic instrument. We’ll be testing the latter.

The first thing that should be mentioned is that the device is USB powered. This connection lets you get to the audio you recorded with the Backtrack as well as recharge the internal battery. The manufacturer claims an autonomy of more than 8 hours and its memory (2GB) allows the user to record 4 hours of audio in 24 bit/48 kHz or 24 hours in 16-bit/11 kHz. There are also intermediary settings (22, 32 and 44.1 kHz) for greater flexibility. Note that the Backtrack only supports WAV format. It seems that Line6 didn’t deem it necessary to use less space-consuming formats such as MP3 or AAC. Of course WAV offers better sound quality, but is this the real point of a device like this? A compressed format would have easily fit 10 times more audio in its memory without sacrificing sound quality, which, for a tool of this kind, is not the priority. Moreover, it’s too bad they didn’t integrate a built-in speaker; if you record via the mic you’ll need to listen back to your takes with headphones (not included). If on the other hand, you’ve got the output connected to your amp, you can listen back to your takes through the amp.

But let’s take a look at how it works …

 …

Conclusion

 

Backtrack

Line 6 offers a highly original product that differentiates itself from the competition through its well thought out ergonomics, though they may be confusing at first. Its size and weight will be appreciated by musicians on the go, and its audio quality, without being extraordinary, is adequate for use as a type of audio capture device. Its few flaws remain bearable: only uses WAV format and its start time is a little long.

This recorder was clearly designed for musicians: it goes against the trend of the more expensive recording devices that offer better sound quality. Those who do serious field recording will no doubt turn to these more expensive models, while musicians hoping to easily capture a moment of inspiration will no doubt appreciate this product.

 Ergonomics: original and practical 
 Small 
 Price 
 Integrated microphone for the “+ Mic” version
 Ample autonomy and memory

 Impossible to un-mark a file 
 WAV only 
 Starts up after 10 long seconds 
 No built-in speaker

Read the full Line6 backtrack review here

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.

 

 

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