Recently, we at Christian Concert Photos had a chance to spend some time with a fantastic little Linear PCM recorder from Olympus, the LS-14. The LS-14 is part of a small family of highly functional and very portable recording solutions that fit very well for musicians on the go, multimedia producers, events and more. The possibilities are nearly endless with these very capable devices. We thought this was something our readers would be interested in learning more about as it fits very nicely in our focus; music and photography.
Let me also toss out a little free PSA: please remember to backup your images and recordings if you plan to ever see them again! I had several images of the LS-14 along with several recordings directly from the device as well as via my GoPro HD with the LS-12 as the primary audio source. All were lost when I encountered a very rare SD card corruption. I was not able to recover those files and I was not able to re-create as I had returned the recorder to Olympus before the corruption was discovered. So, boys and girls…the lesson today is backup your files! Keep at least 2, if not three copies of production material! Special thanks to Olympus for understanding and sending me the images used here.
Now, where were we…yes, the wonderful little LS-14 linear recorder is a device that packs a ton of useful features into a small package. Fit right in the middle of a small family of devices the LS-14 is flanked by the entry point LS-12 and the higher end LS-100 which support XLR connections with phantom power and 8 channel multi-track recording. The LS-14 is feature rich and easy to use. Offering full manual control of recording quality and levels to a very good automated approach of a couple different varieties. First of all is the “quick” mode. This is basically a push and go mode. It will start recording when you push the button. Then there is the more interesting “smart” mode of recording. I found this mode particularly handy when doing a test recording during a home study group meeting. With the smart mode, the unit will optimize the levels for the best recording and it also provides a countdown timer before it starts. This came in handy when I set the device on a table in front a guitar player as he prepared to play. Select smart mode, hit start and 30 seconds later the device started recording and it did a very good job of it. The plan was to provide a snippet of that recording here but this was lost in the card corruption.
During test recordings, we found the “tresmic” microphone system to be very good for a small portable package. The sound quality easily surpassed the Zoom H2 I have been using for quite a while and I’d say the same of a couple Sony devices I’ve tested. The tresmic system consists of stereo directional microphones on each side and an omni directional microphone between them for lower end tones. The microphone system supports sound pressure levels (SPL) up to 130db and a frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz. The end result was crisp and clear in most situations. Two different level of low-cut filtering help reduce background noise as well.
Another very cool feature which I think can easily be overlooked is the built-in overdub ability. Working solo and want to lay down multiple tracks/layers? No problem. Record them one on top of the other quite easily. This starts will the first part..maybe a drum beat or a bass line, select overdub and add some keyboard or guitar. Ready for the vocal? Select overdub again and record the vocal. During this process the previous track (the one you are overdubbing onto) is playing in your earphones. Didn’t like what you just recorded? No problem, the devices saves a copy of each layer so it is very easy to rollback as far as you want. Now obviously this is not a full recording studio, but it is a very handy way to work out arrangements, especially while on the go.
The features of this handy device continue…we won’t cover them all, but here are a few. Visit the Olympus site for full specifications. The recorder offers sound quality that exceeds CD recording specs offering 24 bit / 96 kHz Linear PCM recording along with good quality speaker for instant playback. It will also record in either PCM or MP3 formats at a variety of sampling rates. For musicians, there is a built in metronome as well as a chromatic tuner. File playback speed can also be varied. 4gb of internal memory and great additional space capabilities from the SD/SDHC expansion slot give you room to keep up with as much as 46 hours of battery life. There is a standard 3/8″ tripod mount location for flexibility in placement. Also included is a very handy stand clip and carry case.
One thing you may find frustrating while trying to learn all of the features is very sparse users manual. We think that Olympus could provide a much better document to help users get started and taking full advantage of the robust feature set. If you get one, be patient as you learn the unit…it will give you great results.
In the end it is easy to give this device a strong recommendation. There may be cheaper solutions on the market but you will be very hard pressed to find one with a solid a build and as feature rich. With a list price of $199 it should be in the reach of most and it should be added to your wish list. I know it’s on mine!
You can get the Olympus_LS_brochure here.
Full Specifications below images
Recording Format Linear PCM（WAV）/MP3
Recording Media Built-in 2GB Flash Memory Removeable Media SD (SDHC) Card (up to 32GB)
Frequency characteristics (Internal Microphone) 60Hz～20kHz
Card Format SD, SDHC
PC Interface USB
Speaker Built-in ø28 mm round dynamic speaker
Microphone Jack φ3.5mm, impedance approx. 2ｋΩ
Earphone Jack φ3.5mm impedance 8Ω or more
Line in Jack φ3.5mm, impedance approx. 10ｋΩ
Power Supply 2 x AA Alkaline Batteries
Smart mode Yes
Mode select dial Yes
Pre-recording function Yes
Over Dubbing function Yes
Metronome function Yes
Tuner function Yes
Lowcut Filter Yes (100Hz/300Hz)
Voice Guidance Yes
Size 5.46″ x 2.07″ x .90″
Weight 5.82 ozs
OS Supported “Microsoft Windows XP/ Vista/7/8
Mac OS X 10.4.11～10.8”
Specifications and design are subject to change without notice.
LS-12 Package Contents
AA alkaline battery ×2