Getting the best from a portable recorder

Olympus LS-11 Recorder

Olympus LS-11 Recorder

Using a portable voice recorder can take some practice, and sometimes you may find the results disappointing. Here’s a question on this subject from Samson:

“We bought one lS-11 last year for our lectures in African but the recording didn’t come out right and we really need to capture lectures on recorder for further distributions. Can you please send me proper setting for using this equipment foe recording lectures.”

Samson is referring to the Olympus LS-11 handheld voice recorder, which is a great piece of kit for recording high-quality audio. It records ‘linear’, meaning no compression is used. The built-in stereo mics are OK, but the LS-11 lets you plug in another mic via a 3.5mm socket if you want to use a different microphone.

As for the audio quality of your lecture recordings, we don;t have much information on what the problem was with your recordings, but here is some general guidance:

Using a portable recorder

Here are some general notes on how to get better results from your portable recorder

Recorder Location:

Ideally, you want the voice recorder pointing directly at the speaker’s mouth, at a distance of between 15 and 100 cm.

Setting up the recorder:

When setting up your recording, have a listen using a set of headphones. This will allow you to check the sound quality before you start recording, and adjust the recorder’s position or recording levels to get the best recording.

Settings the levels:

Generally speaking, it’s better to make a recording that’s too quiet, rather than too loud. It’s easy to boost the level of a quiet recording, than it is to fix a recording that’s distorted because the record levels were set too high.

Make good use of the meter, to ensure that you don’t peak. The LS-11 will ‘peak’ over 0db resulting in clipping. There’s a handy red LED to warn of overload. Reduce the REC LEVEL or MIC SENSITIVITY to ensure you’re not overloading.

Olympus LS-10 Meter

The Olympus LS-10 Meter, with the Peak point highlighted


Do some test recordings in various situations to find out how the recorder behaves. Settings for recording a close-mic interview are very different to recording ambient noise, so try some test recordings, listen back to them, and find out what works well for your requirements.

Change the Mic

Built-in microphones on handheld recorder are always a compromise. For best results, a decent quality external microphone can be used. Some mics are better for vocal work than others, and you may find that the right microphone, correctly positioned, works wonders.

Hope that’s a help.

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