Olympus LS-5 Review – First Impressions

I’ve had an Olympus LS-5 for a couple of days now and these are my first impressions of the unit.
The LS-5 is a relatively new addition to the LS 10/11 range of hand-held flash recorders and is visually the same (apart from the unit colour). There was speculation that the LS-5 was a repackaged LS-10 but as I have never used an LS-10 I can’t say for sure.

The only comparable unit I have is a Zoom H2 so I’ll use that as a baseline.

Compared to the H2, the LS-5 feels better to use, is less bulky and overall has the impression of being better quality all round.

In the box

In the LS-5 box, the unit, a set of batteries, foam windshields (which nicely click on the mic caps), a strap, a USB cable, a copy of the Olympus file manager ‘Sonority’ and printed manuals. The packaging is good and seems like Olympus are copying Apple to some extent. I did notice that the manuals are heavier than the unit.

In the H2 box (as far as I remember), the unit, a set of batteries, a stand, a mic holder adapter, a mains adapter, some printed manuals and a USB cable.

Start up time

When trying to capture a sound and the unit is off, startup time is of the utmost importance. The LS-5 takes about 3 seconds to start from cold, whereas the H2 takes around 15 seconds with an 8Gb SDHC card. The start up time on the H2 seems to depend on the SD card capacity – the higher the capacity, the longer the start up. One feature the LS-5 does not have that the H2 does, is a pre-record buffer.

Pressing the record button

Both units start promptly but there is a very slight delay on the H2. The LS-5 starts immediately as far as I can tell. The H2 has membrane buttons which are almost silent when used. The LS-5 has mechanical buttons which you can hear has a click at the start of each recording. The ending click on the LS-5.

Pressing the stop button

Stopping a recording is often overlooked. The quicker you can stop, the quicker you can restart. The LS-5 has almost no delay between stopping and being ready for restarting. The H2 does pause for a second or two after stopping and finishing writing to the disk.

Holding the unit

Again, often overlooked is how to hold the recorder. With the H2 mic arrangement I was never sure how to point the mics for best capture and it was certainly more convenient to hold it horizontally that vertically (which was probably the best orientation). Handling noise is about the same for both units.

Sound quality

Without the benefit of a scientific approach the LS-5 sounds ‘better’ and more ’rounded’. The mics seem less sensitive than the H2 (my H2 was used mostly on the mid gain setting at 100 recording units). Best overall setting on the LS-5 seems to be low mic sensitivity with recording gain at about 9.

Other features

The H2 has a 4 channel setting which the LS-5 does not. I’ve tried to use this in the past but with not much real success – post production being the main issue.
Both units have playback effects, not much use I would say.
The LS-5 has 2Gb of internal recording capacity and ‘zoom’ mic settings, although the zoom settings are not compatible with higher bitrate and resolutions.
Both units can record at a variety of resolutions and bitrates, and also MP3 (the LS-5 has the addition of WMA compression too).

Price

2 years ago, the H2 was bought at £150, the Ls-5 at £179, both from high street stores.

The LS-11 / 10 is 30% more expensive than the LS-5. As far as I can tell, you get the same unit but with less internal memory (that the LS-11), no DAW software, no case and no remote control. Apart from the remote control, the rest of these items is of negligible use.

LS-5 Sound recording samples

First sample is a train horn. Recorded using inbuilt mics, on low sensitivity with gain set at about 8/10.

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Second sample is of 60163 Tornado steam locomotive. Recording settings as above. Train passed within about 30 feet of the recorder.

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Both samples are untreated.

H2 Sound recording sample

For comparison, this recording is of another steam loco, A4 ‘Bittern’, using the Zoom H2 from a similar position to the recordings above. The H2 was set to Medium mic sensitivity with gain set to 100.

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Comments 5

  1. Ben wrote:

    “. With the H2 mic arrangement I was never sure how to point the mics for best capture and it was certainly more convenient to hold it horizontally that vertically (which was probably the best orientation).”

    Well of course you should be holding it vertically as it is a side adress unit.

    Posted 25 Nov 2010 at 2:08 pm
  2. jhuckle wrote:

    Sure and agreed, but my stress was holding the thing for best capture. As the mics are very sensitive, using it with the minimal baffling downwards in practice yielded results that did not include body movement etc. Plus, holding it upright was not comfortable. On a stand, no problem.

    Posted 25 Nov 2010 at 2:52 pm
  3. Robin Parmar wrote:

    It’s a shame they basically re-issued the LS-10 without further ergonomic and feature improvements. Still, these Olympus units are top-notch. I have written about them extensively on my blog.

    Posted 11 Dec 2010 at 7:36 pm
  4. jhuckle wrote:

    Apart from some odd behaviour with the unit locking up and requiring the batteries to be flicked out then in, no complaints really, plus mine did a sterling job yesterday in the Arctic Circle.

    Posted 12 Dec 2010 at 4:55 pm
  5. Alex wrote:

    Hi there – I understood that the LS5 is the LS11 without an 8gb memory and some of the gear in the box… Is that not the case??

    Posted 28 Jan 2012 at 3:52 pm

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