As a pianist, home recordings are part and parcel of my musical life – they help me listen to myself and fix things in pieces, are great for performance prep, and finally, enable me to self-publish my pieces.
As luck would have it, the grand piano is one of the most acoustically complex instruments to capture. I wanted something that sounded good but didn’t require a degree in audio engineering to run. In my search I focused on finding a mic that captured the resonances in the piano, sounded good, was easy to use, and wasn’t cost prohibitive.
I ended up experimenting with a condenser mic, and later the iPad mic – neither of which sounded good enough consistently for me to regularly record and publish with. The best option is of course to have a set of mics strategically placed on the piano’s soundboard to capture the sounds well – but that’s both difficult to set up as well as expensive (the equipment runs for a couple thousand dollars).
I finally found the Olympus LS-100 Recorder that sounded great while recording, and didn’t cost an arm and leg by comparison.
Ease of Use
The Olympus LS 100 is incredibly easy to use. This was a huge issue for me since I wanted to ensure that I was using my time to actually record rather than learning how to use recording equipment. As soon as I received the mic, I had figured out how to use it in a matter of minutes from the instruction booklet. Everything I needed to know was clearly written, and the equipment itself is fairly intuitive to use.
It does seem to me that this particular recorder was made more with musicians in mind. It has a built-in metronome which is a nice added bonus. There are dials on the sides of the mic to adjust the input volume, and it has handy blink lights to tell you when you’re peaking out – perfect to know when the ff sounds awesome or distorted. The recording interface itself is simple – it has a number of folders so you can organize your tracks during the sessions. When I try to record multiple pieces on the same day, it’s easy to organize the attempts that way.
Another really nice feature for me was my ability to customize it. Being new to recording, I got incredibly nervous when I saw the light go on when I hit record. Changing it to so the light wouldn’t show was an easy task and I was pleasantly surprised that I had the option to change it in the first place.
As a musician, this is high up on my list. I was really blown away by how good it sounded with the piano – considering the size and portability of the recorder. It seemed to pick up all the right resonances, and this is all with me just plopping it on the music stand and playing. Here is a recording of the Bach – it has portions with the pedal as well as completely without to compare how the mic can pick up sounds:
The battery life is amazing for this recorder – it auto shuts off when not in use, and the screen goes dim even while recording so it really saves on power even while recording the long stuff. I can’t remember the last time I had to charge it.
I can’t really comment on the multitrack options in the device since I only really use it for solo piano recording. If I were to record multiple tracks and dub over, I would probably do it using an audio editing software anyways since I am more familiar with those.
In short, from a solo musician with a tough-to-record instrument perspective, this recorder is awesome. I bought it with a specific need and expectation and it does the job beautifully. Now my only issue is to not get nervous while recording! 🙂