The display is large, clear, and informative without being cluttered. The bottom line shows the currently selected record mode or format of the file being played plus low cut filter and limiter status. Variable speed or pitch settings when engaged are also displayed. Level meters, time, and current file name complete the display area.
Manual record level is adjusted with a thumb wheel easily accessed from front or back. A rocker button adjusts the headphone or speaker volume during playback.
Overall, 44.1 kHz recordings using both the internal and external dynamic mics sounded very good. It may not be as detailed and dynamic as the Sony PMC-D1 flagship handheld recorder, but you can tell it is from the same family — and it is $1,600 fewer dollars.
Mike Rivers does a great job pointing out the virtues of the PCM-M10's recording capabilities. As with all recording pocket portables, I wanted to see how it handled my collection of high-res downloads, DVD/SACD copies and original high-res guitar tracks.As a fan of high res PCM 24 bit music, an iPod does not cut it with its 16-bit 44/kHz maximum playback rate. I have found that the 24-bit capable digital media recorders make nice players for high-res music on the go. Do they sound like a high-end home playback system? Well, no, but 24-bit tracks sure sound better on one of these than a sample-rate converted or downloaded MP3 version of the same music.To see how the PCM-M10 fared, I downloaded some ITrax (www.itrax.com) jazz cuts at 24/96 and compiled for transfer several other bits of music from my collection: acoustic guitar, and first-generation copies of DVD-As and SACDS in 24-bit/96. As long as they have .wav extension, the tracks dragged easily from my Apple desktop to the ‘M10,. But the transfer is really slow via the USB port. Lets just say a GB worth of high-res music took a long, long, long, long time.After I transferred the tracks, I popped in a set of AKG K701 headphones via the 1/8th inch adapter,. The 701s are a fairly hard-to-drive set of ‘phones for small portables. Much to my satisfaction, the PCM-M10 actually drove the AKGs to a fairly loud level. And it did a nice job of reproducing high-res music. In particular, “Roundabout” by Yes, (analog copied from the Fragile DVD-A), sounded quite good: nice transient detail, good imaging and a nice job of reproducing the detail on Steve Howe’s classical guitar intro.On the Lawrence Juber's rendition of "Strawberry Fields Forever" (from a 24/96 ITrax download) the fingerstyle guitar playing was impressive for a $300 buck player. This latest generation of converters — even running on lower voltages — sound really good.I compared the M10 to its big expensive brother, the PCM-D1. The M10 has the same general playback tonal characteristics; the $2,000 D1 has more stereo image width and transient detail, but it is not really that much smoother. The M10’s music playback sounds more separated and detailed than a $399 M-Audio MicroTrack II, though the MicroTrack was analog-like smooth in its sonic presentation via headphones.With the PCM-M10, I think I have found my new portable high-res player. It is iPod-sized, easy to use, sounds hi-fi, and, oh my, it plays forever on a set of double AAs. Mate the M10 with a pair of Shure's new $100 SRH-440 headphones, and you got a nice little hi-res playback system. Oh yeah, it records 24-bit, too.–John Gatski