Review: Olympus LS-14 24/96 audio recorder with Tresmic mic

The Olympus LS-14 is a portable digital recorder with integrated microphones. It supports recording at up to 96 kHz/24 bit. Although you might not hear much difference between this and CD quality (44.1 kHz/16-bit), the higher resolution is still worth it if you want to do any post-processing, as it gives you some headroom for processing without audible loss of quality.


In the box is the recorder, a combined stand/clip which screws into the device (the screw hole is also the right size for direct tripod mounting), a zipped bag of reasonable quality, the usual USB cable, getting started manual, and batteries.


The unit feels well made, though after a couple of days some plastic broke off the head of the bolt that attaches the clip. Glued back and seems OK, but annoying.

In the Olympus range, the LS-14 falls between the pro LS-100 with multi-track recording and XLR connectors, and the budget LS-12 which is similar to the LS-14 but with only 2GB internal storage and lacking some features like the third microphone.

There is a brief getting started manual, but I recommend you connect to a computer and copy the detailed manual from the internal storage as otherwise some features are a little perplexing (I thought the metronome feature was broken at first).


The device seems well made but is not particularly small by today’s standards: 52.5 x 138.7 x 23.5mm. Not really bulky, but seems large compared to my Philips voice recorder, for example.

The most notable feature is the third microphone, which sits in the centre on the end of the unit. Olympus calls this the Tresmic mic, and it is the recording equivalent of a subwoofer, capturing low frequencies that would otherwise be missed.

The quoted frequency response of the internal mics is 20Hz – 20kHz with the Tresmic mic, or 60Hz – 20kHz without.

Unfortunately the level of the third mic is not separately controllable, though you can switch it off, and I found the bass tended to be excessive with it engaged. On the other hand, if you want to capture those low sounds you will be grateful for it, and I guess you can tweak the EQ later.

Recording formats range from 64kbps mono MP3, if you want to record for many hours and don’t care about the quality, to 96/24 PCM which will fill up your 4GB internal storage rather fast (about 1.5 hrs). Still, you will want this for pro recording.

There are three recording modes. In Smart mode, you press record, it spends 30 seconds adjusting the level automatically, and then starts recording. In Manual mode, you press record, adjust the level using the on-screen meters, then press record again to start. In Quick mode, you press record and it start, using the current levels.

There are a couple of extra features. In tuner mode, you can use the device to tune an instrument. It shows the note you are playing and whether it is sharp or flat. In Metronome mode, which only works during a recording, two lights flash and a tick sounds through the earphone output; you can adjust the timing of the beat.

On the right-hand side of the unit are microphone (with plug-in power) and line-in inputs, as well as an SD card slot (up to 32 GB). On the left-hand side is the USB connector, headphone out, and input for a receiver for the optional wireless remote.

Using the settings, you can set mic sensitivity, limiter (automatic level control) and a low-cut filter at 100Hz or 300Hz.

There is also a pre-recording feature. In this mode, the unit is constantly recording, and when you press Record it will capture the previous two seconds.

Various editing features are supported, such as trimming and dividing files, though since you are more likely to edit on a computer these are of limited value in my opinion. You can also overdub a file, provided it is in 14.1/16-bit format, though again, why not record the new track separately and combine on a computer later?

So how is the sound? In my tests, excellent, thanks to the high quality of the integrated microphones and electronics. It compared well to a decent external Sony mic, though that sounded good too with not too much noise from the mic preamp. That said, as noted above, personally I preferred the sound without the Tresmic mic which is rather a waste of the most distinctive feature of the LS-14.

I made some samples so you can hear the impact of the Tresmic mic for yourself:

Internal with 2 mics

Internal with 3 mics

External mic

Olympus states a maximum external sound pressure of 130 db making this suitable for recording live concerts; set the sensitivity to low and adjust the levels carefully.

The LS-14 microphones are rather sensitive to wind, so beware using it as a hand-held microphone or outside. No windjammer accessory is currently listed, though maybe the one for the LS-100 would work; test before you buy!

It is worth noting that the built-in microphones form a significant part of what you are paying for in the LS-14, so if you intend to use an external mic most of the time it is not good value. I am conflicted on this. I prefer external mics, partly because you can choose the right mic for the purpose, and partly because built-in mics inevitably pick up noises if you operate or handle the unit while recording. On the other hand, having a single device is convenient and that sometimes counts for more.

The supplied batteries are not rechargeable, though Olympus quote recording time of 43-46 hours which is not too bad. You can use the USB port for external power. I would have preferred rechargeable batteries and USB charging.

A somewhat hidden feature: you can change the USB connection type to “composite” in which case you can use it with your PC as a USB microphone. Probably not that useful.

For certain types of usage, I think this device is great. For example, you could use it to record school concerts, your live band or music rehearsals. The high quality microphones and high-res PCM format mean you will get great results, though I am wary of the Tresmic mic as mentioned above; try it with or without.

It is also handy as a high-quality recorder for things like capturing vinyl records to digital and works well with external microphones.

Negatives? A little bulky, sensitive to wind noise, batteries not rechargeable, and Tresmic mic prone to make boomy recordings. None of these are showstoppers, but worth noting.


Virtual meetings: as good as the real thing?

Last night I participated in an unusual event: a virtual wine-tasting laid on by Citrix for a few journalists, to demonstrate the capabilities of its GoToMeeting online conferencing software.

Sommelier Akos Hervai at Clusters to Wine talked us through the serious business of how to taste wine and we discussed the merits of four selected bottles – taking the driest first, which I now know is the proper thing to do.

Most meetings are less palatable; but if you can successfully conduct a wine tasting online, does the same apply to most business meetings?

Here are a few observations. First, we were strongly encouraged to use webcams for this event; and yes, it does make a difference. Suddenly, like a real meeting, everyone can tell if you have fallen asleep, left the room, or started talking to someone outside the meeting on your mobile. Of course you also have to think about your surroundings, how you are dressed, and the impression you are making. It substantially changes the dynamics and increases engagement.

I am not sure how many businesses have a policy of webcam use for online meetings, but I could understand such a policy, even though it is hard to enforce; GoToMeeting, like most such software, makes it easy to switch off your webcam or mute your microphone. There is also a limitation of six video feeds (640×480) on-screen, so this will not work for larger meetings.

Despite the general value of the webcams, we found them of little use for visual demonstration. Someone tried to show the label on an interesting bottle of wine they had; none of us could see it beyond a blurry blob.

Second, the flow of conversation is harder than in a real meeting. Bear in mind that there is no real eye contact, no ability to clear your throat or make one of those subtle indications that you would like to get a word in please. Of course the software has a “Raise hand” feature but it is so crude, a binary flag whereas in person we have a million tiny signals.

In practice the online text chat is often a better way to make a comment – if participants remember to keep an eye on it.

Third, in my long experience of online meetings, there are always things that go slightly wrong. Extraneous noise is always a problem. Sitting in a real meeting you would think twice before making banging or crashing noises or slamming a door; yet get a group together online with unmuted microphones and you always hear all sorts of sounds. Depending on where the microphone is situated, typing noises or loud breathing can also be a problem. Personally I favour muting all microphones other than when you need to speak, and in a meeting beyond a certain size – about six? – that becomes essential.

We also had a participant who could not get his webcam working. Then, towards the end, I started to speak and GoToMeeting just quit unexpectedly. Bang. Re-launched and all was fine.

Still, let’s not forget the advantages. Simply, many meetings are possible online which otherwise could not take place, other than perhaps as old-fashioned conference voice calls; and the benefit of screen sharing, online text chat and so on is significant.

Can the software get better? I think so. As hardware and bandwidth improves, there is scope for better video and more intelligent software; for example, GoToMeeting knows who is speaking (it shows this in the control panel); could it not expand the webcam image of the speaker and increase its resolution (hardware allowing) automatically? In general, the goal should be to reduce the friction in online meetings and make it harder for things to go wrong.

That said, no, it will never be a complete substitute for face to face meeting. Human communication is too sophisticated for that.

Windows 8 is another Vista says Samsung memory guy: is he right?

Samsung’s Jun Dong-soo, president of the memory chip division, has likened Windows 8 to Vista and says it has failed to boost PC sales.

”The global PC industry is steadily shrinking despite the launch of Windows 8. I think the Windows 8 system is no better than the previous Windows Vista platform,” he said in a press briefing in Seoul, as reported by the Korea Times. [The link no longer works for me, though the article lives on in Google’s cache].


Is he right? I suspect that the tech world from the perspective of a memory chip manufacturer looks different than it does, say, from the perspective of someone considering Microsoft’s Windows strategy more broadly. Has Windows 8 stimulated demand for PCs, and therefore the memory that goes in them? Generally, no.

Equally, just as in the days of Vista, there is plenty of folk wisdom out there advising people to stick with the previous version of Windows, since the new one is more trouble than it is worth.

The parallel is not unreasonable then. Look a bit closer though, and there are as many differences and likenesses. I wondered if this could be expressed as a table, though no doubt there will be debate over the detail and other things that could be included.

  Strategic reasons for failure – necessary annoyances Long-term goal
Windows Vista User Account Control – usability and compatibility problems. Annoying and confusing prompts. Better security in Windows, better behaved applications
  Performance issues, high memory demand caused by Desktop Windows Manager Rich hardware-accelerated graphics, taskbar thumbnails etc
  Bugs and mistakes  
  Stuttering audio caused by poor drivers  
OEM vendors release Vista on underpowered hardware, laden with usual trialware rubbish  
Windows 8 Strategic reasons for failure – necessary annoyances Long-term goal
  Combining new tablet platform with old desktop jarring and confusing for users. Absence of Start menu from desktop disorienting. Establish Windows as a viable tablet platform and one that can plausibly converge with Windows Phone.
  Create ARM build of Windows, locked down so that no new desktop apps can be installed. Windows tablets that benefit from ARM efficiency, are not weighed down with legacy app compatibility issues, and which are more secure and less prone to degrade over time.
  Bugs and mistakes  
  Release Windows 8 with poor Windows Store apps pushing users to desktop alternatives  
  Windows Runtime platform not really ready, too difficult for developers to make great apps  
  Failure to get Windows OEMs and retail channel to understand and promote it as a tablet platform  
  ARM machines including Surface RT too slow; really needs next generation eg Tegra 4  

The point of the above is both positive and negative for Microsoft. On the negative side, it has nobody but itself to blame for some of the problems around the launch of Windows 8. The Windows Runtime platform should have been in a better state for launch, the built-in apps should have been better (especially Mail), and despite ample evidence of the difficulty new users had when first encountering Windows 8, little regard was paid to the problem. OEM and retail partners then compounded the error by simply turning the handle and putting out a bunch of laptops with Windows 8 in place of Windows 7. I regularly see “Windows 8” displays where there is not a single touch-capable machine, which is extraordinary given that support for touch was the primary new feature and goal.

On the other hand, if you look at the pain points in Vista that were strategic rather than blunders, you can see that they did, eventually, succeed. Windows 7 builds on Vista and by general consensus is the best ever version of Windows. While I prefer 8 for various reasons, including its better performance and some useful UI improvements on the desktop side, Windows 7 has the more coherent and satisfying user interface.

The further implication is that the Windows 8 pain may yet prove worthwhile, if Microsoft can fix the annoyances and improve the Windows Runtime platform, and if OEMs can grasp the demand for Windows tablets when done right.

The difficulty with the above is that when Vista came out there was really nowhere to go, other than to the Mac for those looking for high-end personal laptops or desktops (and Vista was generally helpful to Apple). Windows 8 on the other hand has appeared at a time when the PC ecosystem seems under threat from the surge towards mobile and towards Android and iOS tablets. Even if Microsoft gets it right next time, it is unlikely to dominate as before.

Internal Windows Runtime apps are prohibitively expensive to deploy, says Microsoft Regional Director

Now we know why Microsoft has been so reluctant to divulge details of how to deploy a business app that uses the Windows Runtime (also known as Metro apps or Windows Store apps; though in this case the Windows Store app designation is particularly silly since these apps are precisely not Store apps).

Presuming Windows MVP and Regional Director Rockford Lhotka is correct, a business that wishes to sideload Windows Runtime apps (in other words, to deploy but not via the Windows Store), a business needs to purchase a $30 sideloading key which, by a stroke of marketing genius, is only available in packs of 100.


Note the above screen grab shows a price of more than $30.00. I believe this is because Lhotka’s figures do not allow for any reseller markup, though there could be regional differences as well.

Here is what Microsoft’s Antoine Leblond said back in April 2012:

To enable sideloading of a Metro style app onto a PC:

  • Set Group Policy for “Allow all trusted apps to install”. If you cannot use Group Policy, then you can set this through the following setting: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Appx\AllowAllTrustedApps = 1
  • Verify that the app is signed by a CA that is trusted on the target machines
  • Activate a special product key by using a script on the target machine to enable sideloading. We’ll go into more detail about how the IT admin will acquire the product keys in an upcoming blog post. The product key only needs to be install and activated once on the PC.

I have not seen the promised upcoming blog post but would be interested in doing so if anyone has a link?

Sideloading keys are only valid on Windows 8 Pro or Windows 8 Enterprise.

As a further disincentive, if you want to avoid running a PowerShell script on each target machine, you will need either System Center or InTune to manage the PCs. InTune is the cheaper option, at $6.00 per device per month. Lhotka calculates:

Let’s assume that your organization has 100 Windows RT or Windows 8 Pro devices, so you buy $3000 worth of side-loading keys. And let’s assume you use InTune. Finally let’s assume your devices have a 3 year life – which is pretty typical for corporate devices where you buy a service agreement from Lenovo or Dell or another vendor.

These 100 devices will cost $3000 for keys, plus $6 per device per month. This means that your org with 100 devices will pay around $23,000 extra to deploy a WinRT app just for this licensing.

and he concludes:

Right now it appears that Microsoft has worked very hard to devise a licensing and deployment scheme for WinRT apps designed specifically to discourage the creation of any WinRT business apps. Whether this is intentional or accidental I can’t say, but it is surely the case that no responsible business or IT manager could look at these scenarios and think that a move to WinRT for business app development makes sense at this time

That said, I am not sure he is being completely fair. I doubt a business will subscript to InTune just to support sideloading, and for those who do not want to subscribe, running a PowerShell script is not that hard. It seems to me that the problem could be mostly fixed by offering the sideloading keys in smaller packs.

I would add that now is probably not the moment to deploy a Windows Runtime app. The platform is not as good as it should be, and there is a case for waiting for the first major update in my opinion.

Still, $3000 for a licence pack is substantial, especially for a small business with fewer than 100 PCs.

The “Modern UI” side of Windows 8 has not taken off as yet, and a rational approach would be to encourage rather than discourage corporate developers to target the platform.

Note: a Microsoft Regional Director does not work directly for Microsoft. Lhotka works for Magenic. A Regional Director is an independent professional who is recognized for their ability to train and evangelise development on Microsoft’s platform.