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Old 03-13-2011, 01:00 PM
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Infero Exicution Infero Exicution is offline
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Kick mic question

Hey Everyone,
The videos I've been putting out lately even with the LS-10, have been lacking bass qualities. So, I've been wanting to get a bass drum mic. And I want to know, what do I need to get it to work? I now have a laptop that I think I can use... I know I need the mic, but what else? An interface? And I have recording software. \
Thanks in advance.
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Old 03-13-2011, 02:22 PM
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Re: Kick mic question

I'm still using an SM57 with no problems. If it sounds good at home, remember that YouTube only give you a 16bits sound. When you really need 32bits.

Though I'm not really familiar with your setup and software, maybe you just have to boost the EQ a little on the bass.

Trial and error my friend.
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Old 03-13-2011, 03:32 PM
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Re: Kick mic question

With the Ls- 10 your limited to having two stereo Condensor mikes of average quality with a frequency that is limited base wish and takes more treble..the LS-11 has a better range frequency response has an input that you can use in conjunction with a mixer... so you can mike up and send a mixed signal to record...
i guess.....Therefore you could use a D12 and either SM58s or condensors mikes all around the kit and then sub mix it. direct into the LS-11...if you want individual drums it means recording each drum seperate onto Cubase SX... but then you loose feel and it sounds like a drum machine...

more info below

Monday, April 26, 2010
This review will compare the merits of the Sony PCM-M10 against the Olympus LS-10 and LS-11 portable audio recorders. All three are excellent units that will suit those who want a hand-held recorder with the convenience of built-in mics and very good pre-amps.

If you never plan on using external mics, there are cheaper options. If you require phantom power for professional microphones, there are larger and more expensive units. For details of these options see my previous articles, starting here. But otherwise it is these three models I have chosen to investigate further, on the basis of my previous evaluation.

Unlike my previous summary, where I compared devices based on published information and third-party tests, I have the M10 and LS-10 in hand and have used both for some time in the real world. Not having the LS-11, I will assume it is identical to the LS-10, except for colour and those improvements the manufacturer has stated.

Olympus Build
First, let's have a look at the physical interface. You can click through the image here to view larger versions on my Flickr stream.

Olympus has long been a manufacturers of recorders for voice dictation and business markets. With the LS-10/11, they are taking on the musician and semi-pro audio market with a high quality series of recorders.

The device is designed to be easily used in one hand. Controls are well-placed and responsive. There is enough separation between them to ensure they are all easy to find with the thumb. Definitive clicks indicate activation. A large peak light sits front and centre. The Record button is rimmed with a light that is impossible to miss. It takes one push of the button to go into record standby and a second push to initiate recording. Easy!

On the left-hand side is a socket for your headphones, a knurled volume dial that will not turn accidentally and a power slider that you must hold for a second or two to activate. Sliding this the other way turns on the Hold feature. A well-protected USB socket and SD card slot complete the profile.

On the right-hand side (picture below) we find sockets for line in and microphone, a record level knob and sliders for input sensitivity and low-cut filter.

On the bottom is a socket for AC power. On the back is a tripod mount and the speakers. These are useful only to quickly confirm that you have a signal; use headphones to listen properly. On top of the unit, between the microphones, is a socket for a remote control.

Sony Build
The Sony PCM-M10 is the latest in a long line of digital recorders from that manufacturer, who paved the way with MiniDisc units of surprisingly high quality some years ago. This is the third in their line of solid state portable recorders, and is the smallest so far.

As you can see from the side-by-side comparison (top photo), the Sony is not as long as the Olympus but more chunky. Though you can hold it in one hand it feels more likely to slip away from you. The circular buttons are recessed and provide good tactile feedback. They are illuminated in use, which is a slick touch. The line of buttons above these are somewhat clunky to use, as they have no space between them and require a very firm press. Instead of a compass arrangement, Sony has chosen to have three of the round buttons double as navigation controls. This is less "intuitive" than the Olympus.

To enter record standby one presses the Rec button. To begin recording, press Play. The pause button will now flash. While this may be similar to how cassette decks used to work, the Olympus system is much simpler, requiring one button and not three.

On the left-hand side of the unit lies the line/headphone socket, USB socket (no cover, unfortunately), micro-SD / M2 card slot and AC power socket. Just below these, facing onto the back panel, is a speed control switch and the output volume rocker. While easy enough to use with the thumb, I prefer a dial, so one has better control and can see the setting. Otherwise one could have the level cranked from listening to the speakers and then plug in headphones -- ouch!

On the left-hand side is a large record level dial, the power/hold switch and a socket for the remote control. I believe Sony includes this with the unit in all markets. (It's pictured in the top photo for scale.) Below these, again facing onto the back side, is the sensitivity switch and a switch for manual or automatic record level. I am not fond of the way these controls lie on the bottom edge of the recorder.

The bottom of the unit is home to the speaker. The back also has the battery compartment and tripod socket. The top of the unit has sockets for line in and microphone in. Again, I prefer the LS-10 in this regard. The top of the recorder, between the microphones, is the least convenient place for access. I prefer that something infrequently used be here, rather than mic in, which I use all the time. That said, I see Sony's logic. If you are using mic in, you do not care about the internal microphones, so it's OK to fiddle around in their vicinity.

Build and UI Comparison
The LCD panel on the Sony is bigger and seems to display more useful information. But I have had no problem using either. In fact I often wish for a display mode that would convey less information, so I can focus on what is critical during recording. Holding down Stop on the Olympus transforms the display mode momentarily. But this is obviously not useful when recording, as it would stop that process! The Display button on the Sony only changes the date/time part of the LCD. I would like multiple display modes that are easy to cycle between. Why not a display filled with the record levels? Or another with only track info? Or even a frequency analysis? Even MP3 players have features like these.

The Sony has independent LEDs for each microphone that indicate a -12dB signal and a positive ("over") signal. I like having separate channel indicators in theory, but as one cannot adjust left and right input channels independently (a limitation of both units) it is not that field relevant. In fact the central positioning and larger dimensions of the Olympus light makes it more practical. It lights an unmissable red for OVER. If it lit green at -12dB it would be the best of both worlds.

To summarise: the overall fit and finish of the Sony is good, much better than the Edirol, Zoom and other cheaper makes I have used in the past. But it is no match for the Olympus, which I prefer even to my Fostex FR-2LE. The Sony power switch, a wobbly bit of plastic, is particularly worrisome. The LS-10 switch is also plastic, but much firmer. Still, this is one place Olympus could improve their unit.

The difference in the functionality of the provided controls is minimal. If you really need an external switch for auto record level, you need the Sony. If you prefer to have low-cut on hand, get the Olympus. Not that these should be your main decision points!

The LS-10 menu system is dead simple to use by way of the compass control. It is clear and well organised into groups. You can cursor left to move between the groups or just cursor down through the lot. This is easier to do than to describe.

The Sony menu is a confusing linear list. Hidden in the many options is a "Detail Menu" that contains a further sub-menu of choices. Several of its options might need to be accessed regularly; having them buried here is a pain. Sony need to improve this aspect of usability.

Both units provide quick access to repeat mode, a rather useless function for our purposes. Both also have buttons for the menu, folder access and erasing a track. The Sony has a dedicated track mark button but the LS-10 does not have this feature, an oversight corrected on the LS-11.

Finally, the Olympus has a convenient "Fn" button to which you can assign various functions, depending on which one you need to use the most. I think all recorders should provide this level of customisation.

Both units run off two AA cells in easy-to-access compartments on the back. I use rechargables and get good battery life. In fact, this is one area in which the technology has advanced to an amazing degree. The LS-10 is rated for 12 hours, a claim I have not tested. But since it is easy to carry a spare set I have never been caught short. However, when I first started using the Sony I forgot it had batteries at all! I used it day-to-day for a couple of weeks before the indicator dropped a notch. Officially it is rated at 24 hours when recording CD quality. But it's easier just to say "it's magic". The Olympus LS-11 has a similar official figure, which I no longer doubt.

All units have a peak limiter (digital realm) that works very well. I have done many recordings that occasionally peaked out -- the resulting files are totally usable with no distortion. Of course an analogue stage limiter would be even better, but I do not expect that feature at this price point.

The LS-10 has 2GB internal memory and takes handy SD cards up to 8 GB, but you need to specify in the menu which you are recording to. The LS-10 has 8GB internal, supports SD up to 32 GB and lets you move files between memory locations. The M10 has 4GB and will record "cross-memory" between the two locations... nice! All units operate as mass storage devices. All power on and are ready for use promptly. However, this delay will lengthen when using large storage cards.

The Olympus has a "zoom mic" feature, built in reverb and something called "euphony"; the Sony has the aforementioned speed control, pitch shift and bass boost. I don't care for any of these DSP tricks. But oddly, though both devices function as MP3 players, neither has a proper EQ control, something I would take for granted on a dedicated MP3 player.

Each brand provides one useful "bonus" feature. The LS-10 (sorry -- available on the LS-11 only) has what they call "Voice Synchronization", which is simply sound-activated recording. Once the input level gets high enough, recording starts. The M10 has a five second pre-record buffer, which can be terribly useful in situations where you are waiting for a particular sonic event, say a bird call. Wait for the bird to chirp and then press record. It's like having your own personal time machine.

Microphones And Recording
The LS-10 and LS-11 have cardioid microphones angled 45 degrees from the centre axis. These are perfectly decent in frequency response and noise floor for low-demand applications like street interviews or getting a quick recording of a band. The unit comes with custom foam shields to help keep out wind noise. Though I mentioned above that the Olympus feels better in the hand, always use a tripod if you can, since these units are notorious for picking up handling noise.

The M10 has omni microphones, which results in them being less directional, with a rather poor sound stage, but significantly lower noise floor (spec says 17 dB(A)). In practice I have found that when targeting a point sound source (eg interviews) the subject sounds distant and background noises can become objectionably intrusive. But for ambience these mics are superior to those on the Olympus.

Of course, if you are serious about recording you will be using external microphones. Both these units have a stereo mini socket with plug-in power (PIP) to fuel electrets. If you use more demanding condensers you will need to power them from their own internal batteries or an external battery pack.

In independent tests (by Avisoft Bioacoustics) the microphone pre-amps on these units, in the best case scenario, have identical EIN noise figures of -122 dB(A). That is a remarkably good spec. In practice, however, the frequency characteristics of the noise might make one unit more or less objectionable. This also depends on the noise floor of the microphone you have chosen as well as their sensitivity and other factors. I have not done extensive tests but find both units entirely usable.

The LS-10 can record in WAV, WMA or MP3 formats at a range of rates up to 96KHz 24-bit. The Sony does not support WMA but provides lower quality standards, namely 64kbps MP3 and 22KHz 16-bit PCM, perhaps useful for when you are trying to cram a lot in memory. The LS-10 has 64kbps in their WMA options, but no PCM format as low as 22/16. Only the LS-11 provides mono recording, a useful feature that effectively doubles available recording space. I would like to see FLAC support in these units, so as to increase recording time with no audio compromise.

If you need to record continuously for long periods of time, the "seamless file" feature is important. Otherwise, once the file reaches the WAV/FAT file limit size of 2GB/4GB, recording might stop or even be corrupted. The Olympus LS-10 has supported seamless recording as of firmware 1.10. I assume that the M10 also has this support, since the previous Sony models did (but I have not tested). The recorder will then automatically save the first file and open a new one, continuing to record with no loss of data.

Tracks are automatically named with the date and time on the Sony unit but are given arbitrary numbers on the LS-10, an unfortunate and annoying choice. On both units the LEDs and display can be turned off (independently), for times when lights would be disruptive or stealth recording is called for.

If you are running low on space the record light on the Olympus units starts flashing a warning. When you plug a mic into the Sony, it asks you if you want plug-in power turned on. Both great ideas!

The Bass Issue
On their Asian site Olympus provide a graph comparing the internal mic response of the two models. The LS-10 starts rolling off bass at 150Hz and the LS-11 at 90Hz. The smoothness of the curve indicates that this may be a deliberate decision, and maybe not a bad idea to help beginners, since it limits handling noise, wind noise, rumble and so on. But here's the bad news: some have measured the mic input on the LS-10 and found that it too rolls off the bass at about 6dB per octave. While it would be possible to EQ it back up again, that is a less than perfect solution. I have not found anyone who has confirmed the problem on the LS-11, but I must assume it is still there. It appears that Olympus have decided to arbitrarily limit the low-end reproduction of microphones connected to their recorders. (The line input does not have this problem.)

By comparison, the Sony mic is down only 3dB at 40Hz, according to their own chart. And their input is not reputed to have this limitation.

Does this matter? Well, maybe not as much as it might appear. It depends on what you are attempting to record. A piano or orchestral piece might sound weak. Birdsong would be unaffected. For what it's worth I have used the LS-10 successfully to gather material for my electroacoustic compositions with no issues. But that is because I use a larger and more professional rig when ultimate sound quality is a priority. I don't expect too much out of a hand-held recorder.

Furthermore, a German listening test (Google translation) found the LS-11 to be one of the best recorders in their batch. Intriguingly the LS-10 was not rated so highly, so perhaps the sound improvements Olympus claims in the new model are definitive in the real world. Certainly 60Hz more bass extension is a real benefit, but it is not enough. I hereby call on Olympus to fix this problem once and for all.

Package And Accessories
All units come with a USB cable, hand strap, and two batteries to get you started. I recommend Eneloop rechargeables and a good charger. Cheap mini tripods can be found for a fiver and are very handy.

The M10 is provided with an AC power adapter (120V only) and wired remote control. On disc is a copy of Sound Forge Audio Studio LE, editing software which is capable but sometimes quirky (baulking at perfectly good files, for example). An essential wind screen is a $50 extra. A carrying case is $30.

The Olympus units come with a foam wind screen; a fluffy "Windjammer" is an optional $50 accessory. A wired remote comes with the unit in Europe but in North America it's a $60 option. Cubase LE4 is provided on disk, which can be good value for anyone needing a multi-track recorder. But it's maybe not the best choice for stereo editing.

In both cases the software is Windows-only, so users of other operating systems are left without freebies.

Feature Summary
I now list the main benefits and features of these units. Prices are retail.

Olympus LS-10:
* 2GB internal memory
* cardioid mics
* top-notch build quality
* excellent interface
* wind shields provided
* good battery life
* very good sound except for the low end roll-off
* 165g weight
* 131.5 x 48 x 22.4 mm = 141 cc
* $300 / 349

Olympus LS-11, as above except:
* 8GB internal memory
* insanely good battery life
* index mark
* sound-activated recording
* mono recording option
* improved low-end response (but still limited)
* $400 / 499

Sony PCM-M10:
* 4GB internal memory
* cross-memory feature
* omni mics (low self-noise but poor sound stage)
* good build quality
* average interface
* insanely good battery life
* index mark
* remote supplied
* pre-record buffer
* excellent sound
* 187g weight
* 114 x 64 x 22 mm = 161 cc
* $400 / 410

Finally, to be complete, I will list the limitations of this class of recorder:
* no digital input or output
* no phantom power
* no lossless compression (eg FLAC)
* inability to edit track or folder names
* limited display options
* sensitive to handling noise

Olympus have given us an object lesson in how to design an interface. Their units, made of aluminum, are solid and have excellent fit and finish, better than some professional gear. With the LS-11 they have corrected some omissions (track mark) and provide so much internal memory one may never need the SD slot. The interface is dead easy to use and responsive. The fact it has cardioid microphones make it a better choice for voice recording or any other directional application. And if you need sound-activation or mono recording, it's the only game in town. The low-end response is the Achilles heel, but it still rates well in listening tests.

The Sony M10 has microphones with the lowest self-noise of any portable recorder and so is the recorder best suited for phonography. However, this matters less than one might think, since in these cases most recordists would be using external mics. The pre-amps rate the same as the Olympus but are said to be better in practice, which will matter if you have pro microphones with very low self-noise. It has decent build quality and sufficient memory for many situations. If you add a micro-SD card, the ability to seamlessly use both locations is a boon. The pre-record buffer is the killer feature for certain applications.

Good luck choosing!
"La Radia"
Sony PCM-M10 and Olympus LS-10 Sound Examples
Revisiting the Sony PCM-M10 versus Olympus LS-10 / LS-11 Discussion
Reaktor 5.5 UI Critique
New Reaktor in Free Beta
43 comment(s):

Anonymous said...
Thank you for this great comparison! I have the M10 and can agree the interface is confusing and awkward.

27 April, 2010 02:55
Olympus said...
Always a pleasure reading your reviews. Very thorough; fair and balanced. Thank you for featuring our LS-10/11 units.

28 April, 2010 16:03
Anonymous said...
Thanks for the comprehensive user's comparison. I have the LS-10, and I find it very, very useful. I used minidisc and Hi-MD recorders in the past and the ease of use is great.

There is one issue with the Olympus that hasn't been addressed with the LS-11, however, and I'd like to know if the Sony has this as well:

If the Olympus runs out of power when recording a file, the entire file is lost. All of my MD recorders would conclude the file before switching off. Does the Sony conclude and save the file if the power runs out during recording?

03 May, 2010 00:46
robin said...
Olympus: Glad you are reading and hopefully taking notes! ;-) A lot of simple things could be fixed with a firmware update, perhaps (date-stamped file names, for example).

03 May, 2010 01:12
robin said...
Anon: Good question. I know the Olympus saves a file if it runs out of disk space but I have never had either recorder run out of battery in the middle of a recording.

03 May, 2010 01:13
violinbf said...
First off, excellent comparison.

There one major problems with both the LS-10 and LS-11 you didn't mention regarding the microphone input. The bass roll off that is present with the LS-10/11 internal mics is also "built in" to the microphone preamp of the Olympus units. Thus even if you plug in a mic that is flat down to 10Hz you will still get 6db per octave roll off which is almost 30db down at 20hz. There is no way to bypass this without using an external preamp.

This makes the the Olympus useless for any critical recording application even with external mics.

If you are looking for full frequency reproduction the Sony PCM-M10 is the only choice.

One additional PRO that the Sony has is that its inputs (mic and line) are very resistant to overloading. The M10 will take a 4db (2V peak) full professional line signal without clipping. The Olympus will only accepts consumer -10dbV (0.447V peak). This makes the Sony very easy to use with professional studio equipment.

06 May, 2010 02:17
robin said...
violinbf: In fact I did mention quite specifically that the mic input on the LS-10 "rolls off the bass at about 6dB per octave". This does not make it "useless" however, since many sources do not have usable content below that frequency. But I agree it does severely limit the applications to which you would want to put this recorder.

Thankfully Olympus are reading and taking notes, so this will be fixed in their next model. :-)

06 May, 2010 02:44
London Sound Survey said...
A very useful review and comparison. For some reason Olympus made the LS-10 to have very low Line-in sensitivity compared to other handheld digital recorders, which is a minor problem for anyone using an external preamp.

Despite Aivsoft's figures, I have found the noise floor on the LS-10 to be noticeably higher than with the Edirol R09-HR, which despite its poorer build quality, is a nicer-sounding recorder imo.

08 May, 2010 13:04
Anonymous said...
Very nice reviews and comparisons you've been doing. Thanks a lot. I'm looking for a handheld unit and have found your articles to be the most helpful of all.

10 May, 2010 19:37
Anonymous said...
It is not true about the battery dying aspect of the LS10. I routinely leave mine running all night somewhere and enjoy the dawn choruses that recorded, once I add fresh batteries.

Great review! Unfortunately my 3rd LS10 is going back for a dead internal mic channel.

17 May, 2010 06:51
Stan Courtney said...
The LS-11 can only record a file 4 gb in size. Then the recording stops. Whereas the M-10 allows you to fill the complete 4 gb internal and 16 gb external card.

07 June, 2010 21:58
robin said...
Thanks Stan for emphasising that point. I did mention the "cross-memory" recording feature on the Sony. It's handy if you need many hours of uninterrupted recording, though that's likely to be a minority concern.

11 June, 2010 15:18
Rosie said...
Thank you for such great reviews.SO informative. I am still on the fence about Olympus LS-10 or 11 or Sony M10 or Sony PCM-D50. I will use for recording a band I am in with alot of percussion, bird sounds in nature for a children's project I am doing as well as other musical recordings which I may want to ownload to my i-tunes. I am willing to pay for a superior product. I may be doing all this in the dark and wonder which of these have a light up display and which is best compatible with a MAC. ?

21 June, 2010 04:09
robin said...
OS Compatibility: These are "USB 2.0 Mass Storage Class Devices" and hence are recognised by Mac OS and other operating systems. The only limitation would be that the bundled software is for Windows only, but this is not necessary to use the recorders. You can check the manufacturers' sites for more specific info, though often they might say they support a more limited subset of operating system versions than they in fact do.

Suitability for different sources: Both recorders are quite capable for recording a wide variety of sound sources. They have a high sensitivity setting for quiet sounds and low sensitivity for a band or other loud sounds. Sound quality is (in all except extreme situations) not limited by the recorder but rather by your microphone selection.

21 June, 2010 14:10
robin said...
LCD screens: Both units have decent screens, much better than on older recorders I have used. The M10 allows you to set the back-light to be always off or on, plus timed settings of 10 and 60 seconds. The LS-10/11 also has settings for 5 and 30 seconds. While the M10 screen is reflective it is still readable in light. Mind you, my eyesight is a bit bonkers so I am not the best judge of this.

21 June, 2010 14:51
carillonista said...
I read multiple reviews and searched manufacturer's websites but didn't find everything I needed to know until I found your review. Thanks for all the info, particularly comparing the bass rolloff.

16 July, 2010 18:35
Blue Robin said...
Thanks so much for sharing this very informative review! I really appreciated finding such resources when I'm trying to make my choice.

I am an ornithologist working in a tropical rainforest, and currently I'm looking for a good recorder to try to record the bird calls as I do my bird census. I probably should be able to get an idea from what you have written, but still I'd like to hear your comments on these two models regarding this specific application - if the focus is to be able to identify the different bird calls (hence the bird species that gives the calls) from the recordings, which model would you give more preference to?

Thanks very much again.

02 August, 2010 16:15
robin said...
It would be difficult for me to recommend a unit for a specific application I have not tried. It would seem to me that the microphone you use would have more impact than the recorder itself. Do you plan on using some sort of parabolic dish so you can more accurately pinpoint calls?

03 August, 2010 11:37
Blue Robin said...
Thanks Robin for your response! As of now, I'm not planning on using such an external device (mostly due to portability issues) - but I'm not against this idea if it is necessary/highly recommended. Given this, could you give me some comments? Thanks so much!

07 August, 2010 14:17
robin said...
You are limited with the built-in mics. By their very nature, both will capture best the sounds immediately around the recorder. Though the Olympus is more directional, most would recommend you get external microphone(s) to suit your purpose. If you want to be able to hone in on sounds you hear, pointing a microphone at the target, then you could do well with the Sennheiser ME66 supercardioid, which requires the K6 power module. This can run off a battery, so you have nothing else to carry.

But even for this moderately priced mic you will be paying significantly more than the recorder.

A good resource for you would be the Nature Recordists Yahoo group.

07 August, 2010 23:13
Blue Robin said...
Thanks Robin for your comments and great help! That has been quite helpful. I'm heading for the forest soon, and for this time, I guess I'll try using just the recorder and see how things go - and will explore the external mics more later. Thanks so much!

10 August, 2010 18:29
Anonymous said...
And following on Blue Robbin's and your discussion, I already have the K6/ME 66 and wonder which of the 2 recorders, the Sony M 10 or the Olympus LS 11 would best interface with it in the field to record bird songs.

01 September, 2010 23:00
Anonymous said...
Hi Robin,

Thank you for your review. I still cannot decide between the M10 and the LS-11. I'm an aspiring opera singer and I'd be using the machine to record my practice sessions. I'm a mezzo-soprano with an extended voice (E flat bellow middle C to E flat 2 octaves above middle C = 3 octaves). I need to get recordings as close to reality as possible and not something that is flattering....
I'm a bit confused... I know most people think that the Sony PCM-D50 is an excellent machine and that its little brother the M10 comes close to it. But when I compare the M10, D50 and LS-11 on the Wingfield website, using the cello recording, the sound coming out of the Ls-11 seems closer to that of the D50 than the sound of the M10 does. Here is the link:Portable Recorder Sound Samples
I really like the sound recorded with the M10 (that's the one of the three I prefer actually), but as it seems very different from that of the D50, I'm wondering if it's not a distortion of reality (it seems to lack brightness in the middle range).
What do you think?

Thank you very much.

16 September, 2010 09:29
robin said...
I have addressed some of these concerns in a new article. When I listened to the recordings I preferred the LS-11 to the M10, but I am sure that is the microphone. The M10 sounded "boxier" to me, less forceful. But as I discuss in the article, it is difficult to make conclusions from those recordings.

16 September, 2010 18:19
Anonymous said...
Hi Robin,

Would you recommend the Olympus LS-11 for recording DJ sets off a mixer? Or which digital recorder would be best for this purpose?

22 September, 2010 14:45
robin said...
I think most DJ mixers operate at -10dBV so you could plug the Olympus straight in. However, if you take the output of a professional (studio) mixer that operates at +4dBV you might overload the inputs unless you turn the output on the console (assuming the outs you are using have an attenuator) way down.

22 September, 2010 15:46
COLOMBIA Birding - Diego said...
AMAZING GOOD review Robin, thanks!.. I plan to use one of these recorders with an external shotgun Sennheiser K6 ME67 to record birds... I was just wondering about the MANUAL REC LEVEL of the Sony unit: does this wheel works as well with the external mic as it does with the built-in mics?... I guess you will use the whell based on the meter shown in the screen WHILE recording, right?..
I am more for the Sony one but would love to hear from you before deciding!..
Diego (diegocolombiabirding@gmail.com)

30 September, 2010 01:40
robin said...
Yes, sure, the record level attenuates either the built-in mics or the input signal of anything plugged into the mic in socket. Is that what you mean?

30 September, 2010 02:46
Tim said...
Hi Robin,
Which recorder is easier to use?

I had a Zoom H2 that was a bit complicated, but I was able to figure it out.

I lost it and replaced it with an H4 which I got rid of because I couldn't figure it out.

I hear some reviews saying thee Sony is easy to sue and others saying it isn't.


10 December, 2010 01:00
Anonymous said...
Has anybody found or cobbled-up an external battery pack for LS-10? For example, how about a pair of D-cells and wires to dummy AAs...as is done sometimes for Vivitar flashguns....? Would require a small hole in the battery lid for the wires.

Other, slicker solutions? I do run out of battery frequently.

10 December, 2010 06:31
robin said...
I find the Olympus slightly easier to use since the menu is organised and the buttons more intuitive. But that said they both are quite simple devices once you have your settings the way you want them. Likely they are simpler than multi-channel (>2) recorders or those that overdub etc.

10 December, 2010 12:39
paul said...
I like your review and comments from readers. Which one would you recommend for recording a choir usually numbering 50 - 60 singers? I currently use a Sony Hi-MD MZ-RH1 minidisc with the Sony ECM MS907 mic, but would like something a bit better, sound quality-wise without the hassle of going to a multi-track recorder with multiple mics. I'm considering getting an Olympus LS-11, a Sony PCM M10 or a Yamaha pocketrak W24.

11 December, 2010 13:48
robin said...
Welcome, Paul! You have given me the opportunity to emphasise once again that to get better quality, get better microphones. And use better microphone techniques, including positioning.

In your case, a coincident pair of cardioids placed above the choir might work out very nicely. You can also experiment with a spaced pair. Such recordings have been done since the dawn of time and every European broadcast institution seems to have their own protocol.

One of the newer flash recorders will not give you better sound quality than a Sony Hi-MD. Even if they can record at a higher sampling rate than 44.1KHz, and at greater bit depth than 16, this is only of relevence if the signal they are being fed needs more ones and zeroes to capture the information accurately. And that will not be true unless you are using top of the line mics.

Though the flash recorders might be easier to use and more convenient, especially when it comes to loading the results onto a computer.

Your best investment is in microphones plus the stands to hold them, the cables to attach them and the phantom to power them.

If you must use the built-in mics of a flash unit, be sure to use the screw mount to attach it to a stand so the mics are positioned appropriately. A remote will then be essential to control the recorder, as it will likely be out of arm's reach.

Either the M10 or LS-11 will do just fine, depending on mic positioning. The M10 has a wider placement of omni mics and so will pick up more room sound. It may need to be placed closer to the singers. But that depends on how nice the room is and how much reverb you want to colour the recording.

11 December, 2010 16:35
Paul said...
Robin, many thanks for your advice. Because live recordings need to be unobtrusive, I think I will go for the Olympus LS-11 with built in mics, mounted on a tripod, and consider external mics later on.

12 December, 2010 00:14
nick said...
very well written review, i used this review to base my latest recorder purchase off of - 10 olympus ls-10s.

one question i have is that this is the only place (the olympus manual included) that i have seen anything about the ls-10 having voice activated recording. i'm very interested in finding out how to set this up.

thanks much

14 December, 2010 19:43
robin said...
Nick, good catch! That feature is available on the LS-11 but not the LS-10. I have updated the article to correct this mistake.

15 December, 2010 14:03
robin said...
There is a new article available with sound samples.

15 December, 2010 17:46
Anonymous said...
I have not found a review of the Auto level functions. This feature is taken for granted and is required for general speech, conference, and casual recording where lower volume sources vary unexpectedly from whisper to casual conversation levels with occasional spikes from ambient activities.

I bought a PCM-M10 expecting its AGC to be at least as good as my aging low cost Olympus WS series recorder. To my dismay, the M10 records low to medium sources at an unbelievably low -30db to -24db.

I confirmed this in my Sound Forge Pro 10 editor after extensive testing. I had to zoom the scale very far to see the signal. It is nearly inaudible on PC's at normal volume levels so you can't share or submit the file to others. I could edit and boost the waveform to -12 to -6db but that destroys the quailty.

E.G., talking 6" from the mics in a normal voice ends up at -24 to -30db and doesn't light the Green OK level lights (-12db).

Sony Pro support also thought it was too low but admitted they hadn't investigated the Auto function. So, I exchanged the unit for another one and it, too, did the the same.

Without an effective AGC, you cannot use the unit for many dynamic level situations, like conferences, interviews, notes, friends talking, family gatherings, quiet music like harp, or any other situation where it is incovenient, infeasible, or unprofessional to stop and play with manual mode and setting the recording levels.

Since Manual control with level=5 gives a wonderfully strong recording level in the same situations, it is clear there the amps can do what is needed. So it suggests there is a fatal design error regarding the AGC or lack therof. In fact, setting Auto is almost the same as setting Mode=Manual, Level=5 and Mic=Low. IOW, it is useless for many common low-moderate volume scenarios. That is 60% of my needs.

Of course, if all you record is medium to loud events, like bands, parties, orchestras, etc, then Auto may work for you since it seems as if the mode can reduce strong source levels but only mildly amplify lower level sources to a useless -30 to -24db level.

Any thoughts? Does the LS-11 have a truly effective Auto (AGC) function like in its speech recorders that will boost low signals as much as manual mode can?

Thanks for the great reviews.

01 January, 2011 07:13
robin said...
I didn't mention it in every article, but my coverage of these recorders is related to my activities as a phonographer and sound artist. As such I would never use AGC.

Nonetheless I am surprised Sony screwed up AGC. I would hope Olympus did better, since they made their name in dictation machines. Anyone else have experience with this?

01 January, 2011 19:50
Anonymous said...
Hello,Could someone help me to decide between the M10 and the LS-10 or maybe LS-11.The point is that i need the divice to record violin playing,so i need a qualitative and professional sound,so which device is more suitable for this purpose.Nevertheless Sony M10 is a bit expensive.Thanks in advance.

11 January, 2011 13:44
Anonymous said...
In case it hasn't already been stated above from other user's comments, the Olympus LS11 does not have the same bass problem that the LS10 Does. Olympus USA will not recognize this, but Olympus in Germany has come out and mentioned this which can be found on the internet if you search enough and follow other forum threads such as the one found here (if you follow it far enough): Sony PCM-M10 vs Olympus LS-11 - Gearslutz.com

The LS 10 has a range of 70Hz - 20kHz and the LS-11 has a range of 60Hz - 20kHz.

Wingfieldaudio.com is a widely respectable source known to many for their tests. In short they tested the several audio devices with the Sony PCM-D1 scoring the highest. With this in mind, that being the Sony PCM-D1 being the highest quality audio to the real source that has created it, it can be used as a benchmark against other recorders.
If you were to go to this URL:
Portable Recorder Sound Samples
And compare the audio samples between the Sony PCM DS1, the Sony PCM M10, the Olympus LS10, and the Olympus LS11, I think everyone will be as surprised as I was at which one sounded as close to the Sony PCM D1. in short the sound quality of the Sony PCM M10 was noticeable different and in my opinion un-reliable for true audio recording. You can view their final rating of all these devices here:
Portable Recorder Reviews

In my Opinion, I have been using the Olympus LS11 and am extremely happy with, so much so that I have sold my Tascam equipment and have been using this as my portable in-field recorder for my specific application needs.

16 January, 2011 18:22
robin said...
Thanks for the references and your thoughts on these devices. I have long kept an eye on Wingfield Audio but find their short voice samples less than ideal for discerning differences in full-scale spectra. Not that my little tests are any better!

The German article referenced in the thread you noted is here in English translation. They do a great job of providing a variety of recordings with each unit, but unfortunately do not have a top-end baseline, something like a SoundDevices. More to the point, they do not test the Sony M10.

I could not find any definitive reference for the improved LS11 low end, without which a claim of an extra 10Hz doesn't mean too much.

16 January, 2011 22:22
hugo said...
Hi all

My name is Hugo I'm a sound designer, I decided to buy a PCM-M10 because i wanna start to build my own sound library.
I'm very happy with them-1 overall performance, today i decided to record a hollywood quiet background ambiance close sunset, i've set the m-10 to record at 96khz 24bits, manual rec level, low cut filter enable and hi sensitivity pattern selected.
I've noticed some distortion in some real calm sounds, and i'm pretty sure that my levels didn't clip, i can't figure out what's wrong.

i uploaded one of the examples to sendspace

Free large file hosting. Send big files the easy way!

28 January, 2011 07:49
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Old 03-13-2011, 09:32 PM
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Re: Kick mic question

Originally Posted by Tainojim View Post
I'm still using an SM57 with no problems. If it sounds good at home, remember that YouTube only give you a 16bits sound. When you really need 32bits.

Though I'm not really familiar with your setup and software, maybe you just have to boost the EQ a little on the bass.

Trial and error my friend.
Thanks Tainojim.
I have Cubase LE 4 as my software, and I tried to boost the bass EQ on it. It just isn't working to what I want. I asked Guitar Center online, and they said that I needed the mic, and interface, and a cable... and the laptop of course with the software.. Does tht sound accurate? How would you recommend the EQ settings?
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Old 03-13-2011, 10:25 PM
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Re: Kick mic question

There's an old military saying, K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Silly) especially when it comes to home studios or some call it garage studios. W are all on a shoe string budget as it is.

1. What type of mic are you using. If it's one, the move it around and keep test the locations for the best sound. Or perhaps a mic with a wider range would do it.

2. Are you using an inter-phase? If you are then turn down the levels and turn up the bass and master controls. Some recording software's have that option.

3. What GC told you is pretty accurate.

4. If you get the ESI Audio U24 XL USB Audio Interface, there are only 2 inputs and one output USB. Again trial and error for the mic position testing.

5. Experiment with any type of material to create a drum shield. If you're using an overhead mic, this will reflect more of the bass sound upward towards the mic. One possibility would be moving your drums facing a wall or a corner of the room to get that drum shield effect.


WE have some other suggestions here at DSC.


Always try the most reasonable way before investing into more equipment.

I hope the least expensive way works for you my friend.

Let me know if it helps. I'll keep banging my head against the wall on this subject.
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