LS-100 Review

Olympus has really made a mark in the portable-recorder arena over the years – we loved the pocket-size LS-5 that we reviewed in February 2011, giving it nine out of ten for its great sound and build quality. The LS-100 is the company’s new flagship model, packing numerous features. Physically, its size is more portable device than pocket-friendly, and it ships with a slick carry case and wrist strap. 







The Big Players

There have been quite a few of these larger portable recorders released recently; we have already reviewed Roland’s R-26 and Tascam’s DR-100 MK2. Both are similar in size, but their features vary a fair bit more. Check out the Measuring Up box for more details.

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The first thing we noticed about the LS-100 was its lightweight yet durable look and feel. Its underside is blank apart for the camera stand hole and a playback speaker – no hidden buttons here, which is a sensible design.

From the left-hand side you access playback volume, external 3.5mm headphone/mic connections and independent phantom power switches for each XLR input. These are combi inputs but the jack connections are unbalanced and line-input only, so there’s a good range of connection possibilities, but not them all.

From the right-hand side you access the supplied lithium-ion battery. We recorded for quite a few hours and didn’t run out of power; the quoted times for standard 44.1kHz 16-bit are 12 hours for the onboard mics and just under three hours when using phantom power, which is quite impressive. You also get a USB plug adaptor for plugging the supplied USB cable into. This is a good feature that should mean the power adaptor will prove durable as the cable is detachable/replaceable and the plug is solidly built.

Form And Function

The recording modes are also unique features of this recorder. The first mode is straightforward two-track (stereo) file recording – set your levels and record until you stop. The second enables you to perform overdubs in a sound-on-sound fashion (good for sketching down musical ideas quickly). There are also two other modes, one of which enables you to record a source while listening to another file over headphones. You can perhaps jam along with an audio file and record your performance alone, making it feasible to location-record, for example, a vocalist singing along to a backing track  without needing a laptop studio. Finally, there’s auto-record, which many now recorders have. In this mode, recording starts when the input signal crosses a certain threshold.

Recording multiple tracks is possible thanks to the LS-100’s eight-track recorder, making this unit a viable option for recording quality demos or even professional recordings to later import into a DAW for mixing and so on. You can record in stereo to two tracks or mono to one, so it really is an eight-track and not a stereo-only four-track.

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The functionality and menu system is all easy to grasp and we quickly made a demo recording of percussion, guitars and vocals. The frequency balance of the recordings was quite natural and the stereo image had good centre focus. The XLR inputs also sounded good and we got some great clean vocal takes using various condenser mics.

Another big feature of the LS-100 is the Lissajous meter, which enables you to analyse the phase alignment of both left and right signals. Although handy for positioning the unit when using the onboard mics, this is most useful when using an external stereo pair, perhaps for recording a general soundstage at a live gig or one-take performances of multiple performers on-location.

Verdict
+ Great sound quality
+ Genuine eight-track recorder
+ Onboard Lissajous meter
+ Phantom power

– No TRS inputs
– No Instrument inputs

Portable and a great performer. The Lissajous meter is a useful feature and the multitrack functionality makes this a good alternative to a laptop for location work.

8/10

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