Whether you're a doctor dictating notes or a musician recording a live performance, the Olympus LS-100 is one of the best digital voice recorders around. It does everything – it can be a simple voice recorder or a portable recording studio. The LS-100 is one of the few portable recording devices that can record up to eight tracks at a time, and it even comes with XLR/TRS inputs for additional external microphones and instruments. It also has prerecord and voice-activation features, which make it a good choice for recording lectures and meetings.
The Olympus LS-100 was a finalist with the TASCAM DR-05 in our search for the best handheld recorder for business professionals. However, it lost out to the TASCAM DR-05 in head-to-head tests. While the LS-100’s audio quality was excellent in some scenarios, such as when recording a musician playing a song, it wasn’t as good as the TASCAM DR-05 in recording clear voices in business settings. It’s also the most complicated and difficult recording device to use.
This Olympus recorder uses two omni-directional microphones arranged in an OTRF configuration, which captures an excellent stereo image by creating space between the left and right hemispheres of what you’re recording. However, the microphones aren’t adjustable, and the OTRF configuration isn’t ideal for lectures where there’s a primary voice in the middle of the mix. This was evident in our tests, as the lecturer’s voice was deemphasized and ambient noises on the edges of the room tended to dominate the recording.
You can record eight tracks on one file, making the Olympus LS-100 a portable studio. If you're a songwriter, the multitrack feature is great for working through melodies and harmonies. It also has two XLR/TRS inputs for microphone cables and guitars, so you can track instruments to a file. It even has a tuner and metronome to assist in songwriting. The multitrack feature is also great for recording podcasts, where you need to isolate different voices to different tracks. As such, this portable recording device is a good option for creative professionals, though it still lacks the audio fidelity and versatility of the best professional recording devices.
One downside of having XLR/TRS inputs is the size. The LS-100 is one of the biggest and heaviest digital voice recorders we reviewed. At 6.2 inches long and weighing 9.87 ounces, you can't easily slip it into your pocket, though it’s still small enough to carry in a purse, backpack or saddlebag. For comparison, the lightest handheld recorder we reviewed weighs 1.9 ounces and is 4 inches long. The portable recorder comes with a travel case that helps keep it safe while you're not using it.
The LS-100 has voice-activation and prerecord features. When the voice-activation mode is set, it only starts recording when it detects a voice and stops recording when there's silence for a few seconds. This eliminates dead air, which is helpful for capturing lectures. In addition, the prerecord mode has a continual five-second buffer so you never miss a word, even if you hit the record button late.
This digital voice recorder uses WAV and MP3 playback formats, which are the two most common. WAV is lossless, meaning it contains the audio’s entire digital footprint. You can convert all files to MP3, which is the most universal format. The advantage of MP3s is that they are compressed – an MP3 file is about 10 percent of the original WAV file’s size. However, that compression also means the audio quality isn't as detailed as with a WAV file, though many people can't tell the difference. The only file format it doesn't support is WMA, which is a compressed format similar in quality to an MP3.
One of the LS-100’s best playback features is overdub. This is mostly used for recording instruments and vocals, and it allows you to record over mistakes. It's also useful for correcting dictations errors or commenting over lecture audio. You can also adjust audio speed, which is an excellent tool for transcribing.
The Olympus LS-100 is one of the best digital voice recorders for business professionals because it captures excellent audio and has a lot of playback features that help with tasks like transcription. In addition, it’s a good portable recorder for musicians, as it features an eight-track portable recording studio with XLR/TRS inputs for microphones and instruments, tuners, and a metronome.