The benefits of owning a mobile recording device are obvious. Capturing ‘found sound’ is the primary goal, environmental noise and atmosphere that no plug-in can really offer. Then there are those moments of inspiration. A small device to capture fleeting musical ideas would be the ideal net, but isn’t that device your phone? Good question, but the Olympus LS-P4 has some good answers…
First of all, the more obvious: size and weight. At just 75g and a lot smaller than most phones, this device is more portable for those field-recording expeditions. It’s almost identical in this regard to the LS-P2 that I reviewed a couple of years back, a device I’ve been using for interviews (which has never let me down and is the most mobile recorder I’ve ever used).
Then there’s the sound quality. Okay, microphones on phones are improving, but the LS-P4 features a Tresmic array: three microphones for capturing stereo sound with centre microphone that helps extend the bass response down to 20Hz.
There’s a good choice of formats, too. The FLAC format offers better than CD quality as half the storage size and you can go down to MP3 if you are worried about eating into the supplied 8GB.
It’s easy too
I used to use my iPhone for all sorts of recording tasks and some of the recording apps were atrocious. The LS-P4 keeps things really simple, almost old school, but in a good way. There are options to play music (via Bluetooth if you wish), record and find what you’ve recorded via a calendar, a simple filing system or even using your voice. You can go deeper and access menus for File (for voice detection and file management); Rec (set levels, record mode, low cut filter and more); Play (for noise cancellation, audio editing and EQ options) and then LCD/Sound and Device (for global and set-up options).
The actual recording process is so easy that, once set up, it’s doubtful you’ll be delving too deeply into many options bar the editing ones. The unit also plugs into your computer via USB so file management might well end up being via your desktop.
Sound-quality wise, I road-tested the LP-4S with some interviews I made at Real World for our feature and it handled each with some aplomb, never letting me down and even allowing me to distinguish, by position, two interviewees with very similar voices. Great sound quality, too. On a more musical note, I tried it on my acoustic piano, finding it best placed right in front for some lovely, deep and intricate results.
The LS-P4 is a great device for capturing the moment, but also good enough for getting good acoustic recordings very quickly into your DAW. Yes, your phone will do a certain job, but this one will do it with less fuss, better quality and more mobility.
- High-resolution 96kHz/24-bit recorder
- Records in stereo and FLAC, PCM (WAV), and MP3 formats
- Tresmic built-in microphone
- Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz (60Hz to 20kHz with centre mic off)
- Internal memory: 8GB
- External memory: up to 32GB with micro SD/SDHC card
- Features Voice Guidance activation
- Bluetooth operation
- Fade-in/fade-out editing and overdubbing
- Remote control via Android app
- Battery life: 39 hours
It’s a bit more expensive, but the Zoom does feature four-channel recording and can be used as a four-in/two-out USB audio interface. At nearly 300g, it weighs a lot more than the Olympus, though. It also requires two batteries rather than one.
Coming in a lot cheaper than the Olympus is the Tascam DR-05X, which offers a mostly similar recording quality, but lacks FLAC and only comes with 2GB of storage. It only has a couple of mics – not the Tresmic on the Olympus. Good price, though.