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Old September 26th, 2007, 09:26 PM   #1
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Decent audio recorders under $225?

Anyone know of any decent digital audio recorders under $225, or do the decent ones start at $350 and up?
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Old September 27th, 2007, 04:32 AM   #2
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Anyone know of any decent digital audio recorders under $225, or do the decent ones start at $350 and up?
What defines "decent" for your application? What do you want it for? (There's a big difference between what you need to plant on a groom at a wedding versus recording a symphony orchestra in concert.)
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Old September 27th, 2007, 01:18 PM   #3
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What defines "decent" for your application? What do you want it for? (There's a big difference between what you need to plant on a groom at a wedding versus recording a symphony orchestra in concert.)
This would be a backup system to record interviews for a documentary. Mono is fine.

Here's my setup so far.

Recording on HDV. I'm treating the stereo as two seperate mono channels. I'd like to hook up a wired or wireless lav mic to the subject and a second wired lav mic to myself, asking the questions. But I'd like to have a second audio recording (say from a shotgun placed under the subject out of frame, recording into a second device?) as a backup in case there are audible problems with the primary recording.

Audio is much more important than video for this production because I can always overlay the audio with separate video.

If it's over $225 though - then I might just think about picking up a second HV20 camera from Circuit City for $900 and get backup audio AND backup video.

I already have an Olympus WS-300M... I suppose if it's just a backup, I could use that...

Last edited by Brian Boyko; September 27th, 2007 at 03:38 PM.
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Old September 28th, 2007, 04:55 AM   #4
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This would be a backup system to record interviews for a documentary. Mono is fine.

Here's my setup so far.

Recording on HDV. I'm treating the stereo as two seperate mono channels. I'd like to hook up a wired or wireless lav mic to the subject and a second wired lav mic to myself, asking the questions. But I'd like to have a second audio recording (say from a shotgun placed under the subject out of frame, recording into a second device?) as a backup in case there are audible problems with the primary recording.

Audio is much more important than video for this production because I can always overlay the audio with separate video.

If it's over $225 though - then I might just think about picking up a second HV20 camera from Circuit City for $900 and get backup audio AND backup video.

I already have an Olympus WS-300M... I suppose if it's just a backup, I could use that...
I wouldn't consider anything like one of those memo recorders unless there's just no other option.

I'm confused by your approach - you say high quality audio is far more important than video and yet you're spending many time's more money for the camera than it appears you're willing to pay for the audio. Seems you've got your strategy turned on its head <grin>.

You don't really need an extra mic for your backup - how about a mixer that with two outputs that would allow you to direct audio from your two lavs to two destinations, hence sending the same audio to both the camera and your other recorder? In any case, shotguns indoors are a poor choice and placing them below the subject make them an even poorer choice. A hyper on a cheap mic stand suspended in front of and over the subject would be a much much better solution.

As to the recorder, I can't think of anything in the price range you mention that would be suitable - "digital" doesn't in itself mean it'll be a decent quality recording and gadgets like the Olympus you mention, though perfectly fine for their purpose, are intended for recording memos, class notes, etc and sound quality isn't given much attention. If you're on a budget go for something like the m-Audio Microtrack 2496 or one of the Zooms - the H2 or H4. Frankly, if you're serious about the project and are investing for future projects as well, I'd go ahead and get a proper recorder like the Tascam HD-P2 or maybe one of the Marantz 6xx models. Bite the bullet and do it right the first time - it'll be the cheapest solution in the long run.
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Old September 28th, 2007, 07:37 PM   #5
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Second Steve's comment.

After all, the ear is a lot more discriminating than the eye, particularly in the way the eye deals with motion.

We add motion blur to effects to make them smoother and more believable, and dial down the detail in video to prevent flicker.

Would anyone intentionally add "blur" to a sound track?

I think what Steve is saying is that in a sense by skimping on the audio you'd effectively be "adding blur". Or noise, or whatever.

Of course, it's all relative. If you're after classical music, the sky's the limit on what you'd need to spend on audio, if dialogue, significantly less. I think for what you've mentioned, as long as the speech is clear, you're OK, so no need to break the bank, but also probably not a good idea to go for the lowest cost solution.
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Old September 28th, 2007, 07:42 PM   #6
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Look at the H2 (search on this site), the problem is the clock but as you say you can work around it and mask it with a visual insert if needed.
It's a compromise but, hey, it's $199 and sound great.
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Old October 2nd, 2007, 11:08 AM   #7
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You know what, I think I'm going to get the H2 - if only because I want two good-quality audio recordings in case there's a problem with either the video or the audio on the HDV tape (which is not uncommon, I'm told.)

There's also the advantage with the H2 where you get good quality recording from the entire room without having to mic everyone - and you can set that up first thing so you don't miss a single beat - even as you're working on the camera and getting the lighting right, the subject may say something that you just want to add, you know?

Sync issues... well, I don't think I'll be using audio and video together in the finished product on one cut for any longer than five minutes, max (probably less than that) and I can always cut manually. I did this trick with a video recording to my Olympus recorder. And at $200 or so, it's a good deal, full stop, and well within budget.

Plus, I can use it in my normal day-to-day work, so there's that as well.
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Old October 2nd, 2007, 11:30 AM   #8
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...

There's also the advantage with the H2 where you get good quality recording from the entire room without having to mic everyone - and you can set that up first thing so you don't miss a single beat - even as you're working on the camera and getting the lighting right, the subject may say something that you just want to add, you know?

...
That's a bit over-optimistic I'm afraid. You'll probably be able to get something understandable but "good quality" always requires careful attention to micing. You can't violate the laws of physics regardless of the budget, whether you use a $200 Zoom or a $15000 Deva to do the recording.
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Old October 2nd, 2007, 11:56 AM   #9
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That's a bit over-optimistic I'm afraid. You'll probably be able to get something understandable but "good quality" always requires careful attention to micing. You can't violate the laws of physics regardless of the budget, whether you use a $200 Zoom or a $15000 Deva to do the recording.
The only problem is that I'm a little hesitant to ask my subjects to wear TWO Lav mics...
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Old October 2nd, 2007, 12:37 PM   #10
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Monitoring all recording with headphones will tell you instantly if there is a problem with a lav mic. Standard operating practice for all pro audio in the field.
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Old October 2nd, 2007, 12:47 PM   #11
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Not sure what manufacturing status, but I have Sony HiMD recorder, with a mic input, that captures PCM level quality. I can pair that with the Beachtec adapter I would normally connect to my adapter, and get a pretty decent recording.
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Old October 2nd, 2007, 06:08 PM   #12
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Monitoring all recording with headphones will tell you instantly if there is a problem with a lav mic. Standard operating practice for all pro audio in the field.
Oh, I plan to do monitoring with headphones, but I don't want to have to ask my subjects to go over the same story over and over again if there IS a problem with the microphone, and I only have a limited time with each. It's a "you only get one shot" deal.
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Old October 2nd, 2007, 09:03 PM   #13
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The only problem is that I'm a little hesitant to ask my subjects to wear TWO Lav mics...
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Oh, I plan to do monitoring with headphones, but I don't want to have to ask my subjects to go over the same story over and over again if there IS a problem with the microphone, and I only have a limited time with each. It's a "you only get one shot" deal.
I mean this constructively - I think you need more experience more than you need more equipment. If your rig of one lav is a problem (and attaching the lav is a significant challenge), then the second lav will likely have the same problem.

Getting an additional recorder, and, going for the lowest possible cost in the process may well just result in more complications in the shoot and in post than are justified by the (potential) benefits of having a backup recording. More complications create the potential for more to go wrong. More things that can go wrong means dividing your attention more widely... increasing the possibility that if something does go wrong you won't notice! It can be a vicious circle.

How to close the circle? Realistic assessment of risks and planning to manage them. I know that's what you're trying to do through adding a backup recording device, but the bigger risk is inexperience, which applies to your backup sound as well as your primary sound approach. Plan for your primary audio recording to be good!

So, IMHO:
Get more sound education/experience, or, get someone on the project who has it. Maybe there's someone you know who can help you out in learning to rig a lav. Maybe a better approach would be a hypercardoid mic on a stand just out of frame. Maybe someone who could help out on the first interview, and you pick their brains, learn from them as much as you possibly can.

DON'T let the first time you use this equipment and technique be a "you only get one shot deal". Set it up and practice on friends and family until you have some experience on what can go wrong and how to deal with it.

Last edited by Seth Bloombaum; October 3rd, 2007 at 10:47 AM.
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Old October 3rd, 2007, 10:43 AM   #14
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Actually I have an Olympus WS-300M as well and it's not too bad. I bought the ME15 external mic that they offer as an accessory. As the manual says and as their tech dept. says, if you record at the HQ mode you'll get the best results. This is what I plan to use for back-up audio for a video project that involves backpacking, thus the need to carry ounces, not pounds.
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Old October 3rd, 2007, 11:12 AM   #15
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It's a "you only get one shot" deal.
This is where experienced help comes in handy. You're in Austin according to your info. You just missed a seminar I did for on-location sound. The Austin Film school currently doesn't offer any classes on sound, and they are trying to get me to teach a course on it. Right now, my schedule doesn't lend itself to a regular course, but it might happen at some point.

I can send you a copy of the slides I used for my course. They might be helpful. If you want to get together at some point and go over a few things, let me know. I'm working on a few projects, but none of them are month long projects, so I'm sure we can figure out some time to get together.

Wayne
(shoot me an email - waynefb - at - earthlink.net )
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