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I've got a Zoom H2 as a fieldrecorder, but I don't like the noisy preamps and the interface. So I was looking into a new fieldrecorder and found some interesting ones. First I found the Sony PCM M10, which is supposed to be very quiet. It's small and portable, and has a nice interface. However, I have some doubts about using it with a phantom powered mic, and it also doesn't have XLR inputs.

Then I found the Olympus LS-100, which does have XLR inputs and phantom power, but is on the larger side. I won't always have an external mic with me, and am going to carry my fieldrecorder with me most of the time, so the mics and pre's need to be very good quality.

I'll be using the devices mainly to record foley, ambiances and soundeffects. Basicly, anything interesting I might come across. I would like to record very quiet sounds too, so I am also thinking I may need an external preamp, like the Sounddevices MP1.

Budget isn't that much of an issue. Which would you recommend?

  • Does anyone perhaps have LS-100 samples, especially for quiet ambiences, they may be able to share for comparison against the already-provided (below) M10 samples? I'm personally curious to hear how it stacks up. – Stavrosound Nov 23 '13 at 1:27
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I've got an M10 and I love it. As a handheld device, it has very little handling noise, which is great for spur-of-the-moment recording. I find it to be very low noise - definitely good enough for most ambiences. Here is a recording I did with the internal mics of the M10: https://soundcloud.com/hzandbits/french-outdoor-cafe-ambience

I have often used external mics with it though - homemade lav mics using Primo EM172 capsules; supposedly the same type as the internal mics of the M10. That way, I can compensate for the slightly strange A-B stereo configuration on the Sony (the tiny distance between the omni capsules doesn't give a super wide perspective). This is with external mics: https://soundcloud.com/hzandbits/fireworks-in-copenhagen-new

Yeah, I wish it had XLR inputs and P48, but you can't have it all. I'm planning on buying a phantom adapter of some kind and just go with that. I feel the preamps are worth it. But if you can afford a nice preamp like the MP1, then go for it!

  • Do you use a preamp when using the M10 with external mics? How strange is the stereo configuration? How noticable is it? – user6800 Nov 22 '13 at 17:47
  • In my opinion it's rather unfortunate they went with a pair of omni's - the recording sample sound great, but very monaural (sounds even more narrow than the Rode NT4 XY, and that itself is a pretty narrow image). I gather omni's tend to really shine when you space them out pretty fair so there a decent time delay. – Stavrosound Nov 23 '13 at 1:13
  • I don't use an external pre with these particular mics - but I should probably use a battery box to make sure they get the full 5V specified in the Primo EM172 datasheet (for best noise performance). – christiancoriolis Dec 19 '13 at 16:20
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I think the answer depends on your primary usage.

I don't own an LS-100, but I've heard recordings made with it and they sound very good. My guess is that the built on mics need wind protection to be effective outdoors (as most handheld recorder's mics do)

I do own a PCM M10 however, and I absolutely love it.

The Sony's built on mics don't sound as good as the bult on mics for the Olympus, though they do sound good enough for many general sounds.

Its way smaller than the Olympus (similar footprint as an iphone 5, but a little thicker) and the design of the mics is very different. The M10 doesn't really require wind protection - even outdoors - unless winds go over 15 mph or so.

This makes it a superior spur of the moment pocket-carry to most mid sided handhelds.

it's also a killer bit-bucket if you DO end up with a premp in line. The reason is because of not only its size, but also because it has battery life for (literally) days, super fast powerup to record time, and built in memory that cascades recordings out seamlessly to the SD slot when the internal fills up. I use mine as a bit bucket in conjunction with my mixpre all the time, and it never disappoints. I go tape out of the mix pre to line in of the M10 with a very short 35mm stereo cable. That sonic path is top-notch.

bottom line:

If you're going to primarily use the built in mics with a windscreen, then the Olympus is probably the winner. If you're going with a preamp or if you're into the super portability, then the Sony wins.

  • I am inclined to go for the M10, but I find that you can buy windscreens and mounts, would I need those for recording outside? If I were to go for the Olympus, would I need a preamp? – user6800 Nov 22 '13 at 17:42
  • On the M10 you can go without a windscreen in most outdoor situations. The Olympus probably wouldn't require an outboard preamp to get good recordings on the majority of ambiances and fx, but may need to go there for quiet foley recorded in very quiet spaces. Don't quote me on that though, because I don't own one. The recordings I've heard that were made with it sounded excellent. – Rene Nov 22 '13 at 17:53
  • What happens when you use an external mic and use an xlr to 3.5mm cable straight in the line-in of the M10? Do you get noisy recordings? Or is the gain too low on the M10? – user6800 Nov 22 '13 at 21:15
  • never tried it, but be aware the that M10 doesn't provide phantom power. You can use a phantom power box that converts to XLR as I did here and get good sound though - thesoundmyheadmakes.blogspot.com/2011/03/… – Rene Nov 25 '13 at 14:19
  • Great, that's exactly what I'm after. Thank you! I'm also thinking of buying an NTG-2, would I still need a phantom power box for that mic? – user6800 Nov 26 '13 at 17:48

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