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Olympus LS-10 Digital Recorder - Olympus LS-10
Perhaps because of these advanced features, not to mention the sizable built-in microphones, the LS-10 is a fair bit larger than your average digital voice recorder. In fact, it's a fair bit larger than your average mobile phone and, at 165g, a little heavier too. However, it's a solid and robust metallic unit and the size means it can accommodate all the inputs and outputs you need, including a mini-USB connector for transferring files to and from PC, a standard 3.5mm headphone socket and separate connectors for an external microphone or line-level source.
There are also manual controls for record level, microphone sensitivity and the low-cut filter on the right side of the case, with a volume control on the left. The front is dominated by the easy-to-find stop and record buttons, along with a play button enclosed within a four-way navigation rocker, an erase button and the four smaller buttons that manage menus and crucial functions.
Last but not least, a flap on the left hand side of the case covers a slot for an SD/SDHC memory card, giving you access to a further 512MB to 8GB of memory should the 2GB onboard prove insufficient.
Up to a point, the LS-10 is extremely easy to use. Switch it on, press record once to monitor the sound and adjust levels, then press record again to start recording. Things get trickier, however, when you have to navigate between files or change your options. The decision to stick with a monochrome display makes sense when you consider that battery life and sound quality are more important here than visual appeal, but the GUI is cluttered and navigating and selecting options using the four-way selector and the function keys isn't always as easy as it should be.
On the plus side, you can see at a glance what recording mode you're in, the sample rate, the volume levels, time remaining and battery life, but it's safe to say that the LS-10 takes just a little getting used to, and a rather opaque and oddly-worded manual doesn't really help that much.
Still, that's the bad news over, and the good news is really pretty good. Generally speaking, the LS-10 captures excellent quality sound. Recorded speech is beautifully clear, handling the tone and character of people's voices far more accurately than any voice recorder I've come across to date. The stereo imaging also works wonders; record several people in a room or around a boardroom table having a meeting and you'll be able to picture where everyone is sitting.
Anyone who needs to record ambient sound or, say, bird or animal noises will also be pleased with these characteristics, not to mention the flexibility with which you can tune the microphones to focus on sources in front of the LS-10 but at a distance or fan out to grab the widest possible range of sound.