Audio Au Go Go


I’ve been fooling around with audio enough this last year and half to have finally put together a kit that meets my criteria: good sound, versatility and small size. Audio geeks philes will tell you that there are better choices in every one of these categories, (although the Olympus is highly respected even by them), but these are all plenty high-quality for what we photogs need to do, while retaining the all important  portability factor.

The lynchpin of the setup is the Olympus LS 10 recorder….tiny and full featured with good sound. It has great built-in mics and they have foam windscreens, but adding a crazy-looking “dead cat” windscreen over the top is the best for windy conditions

The Koss Portapro Stereo Headphones are great because they sound good, block out a lot of the external noise, but fold into the themselves for a tiny package. Not as tiny as earbuds, mind you, but better able to block out external sound. Using headphones whenever possible will really help you hear stuff like humming fridges and vibrating airconditioners, and all that subtle ambient sound that can really screw up your audio.

An external mic is good, and you might as well get one that does something your built-ins won’t do, and that is focus its throw out a bit so you can record at a distance. A shot gun is great for this, but most of these are a foot or longer. Enter the tiny Sennheiser MKE 400.

It’s a few inches long, weighs ounces, runs on one AAA and offers as an accessory  its own dead cat (not shown) and does an outstanding job. You’ll need to buy a headphone extension cord (same thing you use on your iPod) to connect the mic to the recorder, because this mic is designed to ride on top of a mini-camcorder and has a short built in cord (this is my only critique of this fine mic…that little cord should be modular and user-replaceable).

And finally, the original Gorillapod works well either screwed into the recorder and used as a stand (and one that you can wrap around the back of a chair or something so you can place that recorder really close to your interview subject), or as a handle for the shotgun (you never want to handle your mic and/or recorder directly, because it’ll record that sound.)

Total weight: about a pound or so.

Total cost: Under $700 (it kills me, but those dead cats make up 1/7th of that price! At $50 a piece, the price/value ratio is totally out of whack considering their, um, low-techness, but absolutely commensurate with their value in the wind!)

Total size: Fits in a camera bag pocket or small waistpouch.

olympus ls-10images

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. A comment re headphones — I use etymotic in-the-ear plugs, which I originally got because I travel quite a bit. Their sound quality is superb, and they have amazing noise canceling. These are well-worth checking out, and IMHO the best audio quality choice for this type of purpose.

    Regarding the “cats” — Doesn’t Oly offer their own dead cat? I assume that’s even more expensive ?

    1. Chris : Have to give them, and LS-11 a look. Oly outsources its dead cat biz, so it may be the same brand…there are a few suppliers and they all seem to hover at $50, except for a couple of suppliers on Ebay.

  2. And, BTW, Oly seem to just have released the LS-11, an even more highly featured recorder.

  3. Bob,

    I also use one of the little Oly recorders. Mine is 3 years old and I got it when it was discontinued, so it’s probably a 4 year model. Best $60 I spent. The other advantage to the Sennheiser is that it comes with a built in camera shoe foot gizmo. So if you use a 5D Mark II it’s a great option to the tinny built in microphone.


  4. Just posted a photo of my LS-10 setup minus the deadcat already ordered. Thanks for sharing. w

    1. Gary: Cool looking rig. I love the Hoodman over the LCD….that’s a great idea.

  5. Bob,

    Didn’t catch what kind of video camcorder you use !


    1. Bill: I use a D90 when I need a video grab! Same camera I shoot stills with.
      I also have a small Panasonic but I haven’t taken that out on assignments, just for some home stuff.

  6. Bob,

    I’ve always heard matching up separately recorded sound with video is difficult. I assume that this is your workflow. Care to explain what you do ?


    1. Bill: I havent done too much, but if you clap loudly twice, you can match the audio spikes in the two different tracks and have them synched perfectly. This is why they used to use the “clapboard” in movies…you know that thing that they hold front of the camera and then open and slam the top hinged part? Same theory…makes a big spike in the soundtrack that allows you to match up different audio tracks.

  7. Thanks Bob! I learn something every day. What video editing software do you use?

    BTW, If you and Peggy are in Jackson ( WY ) this Saturday (1st) or Sunday (2nd) I’d enjoy buying your lunch. My daughter, Lane , works for Chip Holdsworth at WIld By Nature Gallery and is getting married next week.

  8. Hi Mr Krist,

    Like Mr Griffin, I too would like to know what software you use. I tried the Adobe Premier trial but coudln’t properly sync up audio within less than 1/10th a second. Maybe I was missing something but video isn’t very intuitive for me!

    1. Skunk: Please see my reply to him in the comments section. Keep in mind that I’m no expert, but that technique in iMovie 09 has worked for me. I’d Google the issue if I were you, to get more experienced voices answering you.

  9. Bob,

    I printed out this post on sound equipment awhile back and submitted to my purchasing department here at the Southern Ute Drum Newspaper and simply said, “Trust me on this-it’s been well recommended”.

    Needless to say, I did my first trial run of the equipment this morning in preparation for an upcoming assignment requiring audio coverage at the University of Colorado……and what great sound! Simple to use, clear as a bell, and yes-compact!

    Thanks for doing the legwork/research on this fine audio setup.

    I have another question for you, off topic. Is it possible to set up an RSS feed on your blog? I keep a blog roll on the side bar off my own site-tracking recent posts, and yours gets overlooked due to the nature of link not updating with each new post.

    I am sure you have probably already addressed this, but I thought I would mention it just in case.

    Cheers, Jeremy

    1. Hi Jeremy: Glad to hear the gear is working out. As for RSS feeds, it’s all possible, and has been for a while. It’s perhaps a bit buried, but if you look over in the righthand column of the blog, under the heading Meta, you can subscribe to an RSS feed right there. I might have to move it to a more obvious place because you’re not the first to ask for it,even though it’s there! Thanks,Bob

  10. Bob,

    Glad you linked to previous tech posts in your current post. When I saw “sound recording” I came here right away as I’m ordering a recorder Monday.
    I had already decided on the LS 10 but it’s great to get confirmation from a highly respected source (you) who is already using it. Thanks!

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