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Old December 17th, 2007, 07:31 PM   #1
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First impressions: Sony PCM-D50 digital recorder

I bought this device about 10 days ago, and I am very impressed. I am not a sound or recording expert, and that is one of the reasons I decided to go with the PCM-D50. It is incredibly easy to use. I figured out how to use it after a few minutes of playing with it. The sound quality seems exceptional to me.

To give you an idea of my audio experience (as a reference point for my impressions), I have had several low-end 4 and 8-track audio recorders in the last 20 years, usually the best thing for about $500 at the time of purchase. I have one decent condenser mic for recording music and a couple of Shure 57's. Add to that a Rode Videomic for use on an HC-7, HV20, or XH-A1. This was the extent of my sound capabilities before I got the PCM-D50.

I wanted the PCM-D50 to serve as a simple, high-quality, camera-independent, portable, stereo recording package for wildlife and nature filming projects. The built in mics sound great to me, with a good response at all frequencies. There is no humming or system noise at all, just a very clean, bright, warm signal from your environment. The built-in mic/preamp combination is what I would describe as hot or very responsive.

I don't have the wind screen yet so I haven't tried too much outdoors. Even a light breeze will give you wind noise if you don't have some kind of wind protection. I haven't heard much in the way of handling noises when I record while holding it. I have recorded some guitar-fiddle duets in my living room. The raw sound is easily better than anything I have yet achieved with the condenser mic and the various multi-track recorders I have had (that probably says something about both my lack of skills with audio and the quality of the PCM-d50). I have to keep reminding myself that this thing is a two channel recorder, not a portable studio.

Anyway I think it will work perfectly for me. It is small, very easy to set up (I mount it to a small tripod), and it's easy to get high quality sound with it. For me that means I can spend more time getting the camcorders and shots set up. I like being able to capture a higher resolution wave file than is possible with my cameras. Your computer sees it as another USB hard drive when connected.

Cheers

Pat

Last edited by Pat Reddy; December 17th, 2007 at 07:34 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old December 17th, 2007, 08:25 PM   #2
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Pat, thanks this is very interesting. I am very interested to see how its clock does vs. a video camera on a long take (50 mins or an hour) (do you have the a1?). If you do happen to do any long take with both and load them into an editor, pls. post back for the rest of us how well the two are in sync.

meanwhile, enjoy the new recorder!!! sounds like fun!
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Old December 18th, 2007, 07:44 AM   #3
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Hi Dave, the last time I recorded for over half an hour was at a niece's wedding. I'm not likely to to record anything lengthy in the near future. I know that time sync probelms have been an issue with the Zoom H4. After the holidays I will have a chance to try some 10 to 20 minute sessions and I will take a look to see if the PCM-D50 is keeping time accurately.

Another nice thing about this device that I forgot to mention is it looks like it is designed to hold up to a lot of abuse. It is solidly built (although the battery compartment cover is a bit loose) and has nice cages or brackets to protect mics and dials from damage. The lcd display is a bit faint but it is easy to see the green and red led level indicators from a distance. At some point in the next few weeks I will also try to see how the Rode Videomic sounds when plugged into the PCM-D50. The PCM-D50 does not have XLR inputs, although you can buy a fairly pricey XLR interface for it.

Pat
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Old December 18th, 2007, 09:13 AM   #4
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Pat, B&H just got in a few of the wind screens.... you might want to get one while they are there.....

Also, Sony makes a very nice leather case for the D50... you'll have to get it from Ebay as I don't know if anyone is bringing them into the states....
The advantage besides protection is that its also a built in tripod... and
it comes with the hand strap and pouch that normally shipped with the D1.

The D50 also works well with the digital out/in puts to your computer....
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Old December 18th, 2007, 01:01 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pat Reddy View Post
Hi Dave, the last time I recorded for over half an hour was at a niece's wedding. I'm not likely to to record anything lengthy in the near future. I know that time sync probelms have been an issue with the Zoom H4. After the holidays I will have a chance to try some 10 to 20 minute sessions and I will take a look to see if the PCM-D50 is keeping time accurately.

Another nice thing about this device that I forgot to mention is it looks like it is designed to hold up to a lot of abuse. It is solidly built (although the battery compartment cover is a bit loose) and has nice cages or brackets to protect mics and dials from damage. The lcd display is a bit faint but it is easy to see the green and red led level indicators from a distance. At some point in the next few weeks I will also try to see how the Rode Videomic sounds when plugged into the PCM-D50. The PCM-D50 does not have XLR inputs, although you can buy a fairly pricey XLR interface for it.

Pat
thanks Pat! I guess I'm just curious, mostly for future reference. I currently use a tascam hd-p2 which I feed a video signal from my camera to keep the recorder clock rate in sync with the camera, but am very interested to know if I needed to add a recorder how the clock rate does. Although, if the clock rate in the recorder is different than the cam, it would be difficult to know which one drifted. I guess I am just looking for 'back pocket' info. Enjoy your new recorder, it looks like a great product, and from the photos, looks well built!
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Old December 18th, 2007, 11:01 PM   #6
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Thanks, guys. I ordered the wind screen from B&H before they had it in stock, and they said it would take a week or two to show up. I'll have to think about getting that case at some point. Santa is just about done for this round.

Pat
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Old December 19th, 2007, 11:01 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pat Reddy View Post
I know that time sync probelms have been an issue with the Zoom H4.
What issues were that? Did you have any?
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Old December 20th, 2007, 12:22 AM   #8
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Hi Carlos, I've never had an H4, but user reviews here and on B&H Photo indicate that it can be off by half a second (if I recall correctly) or so from the camcorder after half an hour of filming/recording. You have to manually correct the difference in your NLE.

Pat
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Old December 23rd, 2007, 08:53 PM   #9
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I have read reviews on the H2 where in a one hour recording, when the start and end were digitally adjusted to start & end with the video properly, the middle was as much as 1/2 second out of sync.

So the complaint was not just that the clock of the H2 was different (slightly faster or slower than the camcorders) but that it seemed to vary inconsistently.

I am very much interested in this as a way of getting better sound either by remote placement (it's up front while I'm on the front row of the balcony of a church sanctuary) or by getting a feed from the sound board that's about five feet from where I'm sitting.

I've downloaded and briefly looked at the manual

http://bssc.sel.sony.com/Broadcastan...sp=83&id=90227

and would like to confirm the following: It will accept a 3.5 mm analog stereo line-in OR an Optical Digital Input. It looks like they go in the same spot, looking at the manual.
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Old December 24th, 2007, 07:59 PM   #10
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Hi Bill, if you have read the manual, you may already know more about the line in options than I do. I probably won't be using anything but a mic in. On the right front side there are two ports, one is lined with a light green plastic sheath and it appears to be labeled "LINE IN (OPT)". The other is all metal and has a picture of a mic over it. Both are for mini jacks. Hope this helps.

Pat
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Old December 25th, 2007, 12:11 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pat Reddy View Post
I bought this device about 10 days ago, and I am very impressed. I am not a sound or recording expert, and that is one of the reasons I decided to go with the PCM-D50. It is incredibly easy to use. I figured out how to use it after a few minutes of playing with it. The sound quality seems exceptional to me.
---snip--- It is small, very easy to set up (I mount it to a small tripod), and it's easy to get high quality sound with it. For me that means I can spend more time getting the camcorders and shots set up. I like being able to capture a higher resolution wave file than is possible with my cameras. Your computer sees it as another USB hard drive when connected.

Cheers

Pat
Hello Pat,

It's good that you're happy with the recording, but having a mic that far away from dialog is not good. You need to be 18" or closer and pointed at the person(s) speaking.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old December 25th, 2007, 12:27 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pat Reddy View Post
Hi Bill, if you have read the manual, you may already know more about the line in options than I do. I probably won't be using anything but a mic in. On the right front side there are two ports, one is lined with a light green plastic sheath and it appears to be labeled "LINE IN (OPT)". The other is all metal and has a picture of a mic over it. Both are for mini jacks. Hope this helps.

Pat
Thanks Pat, it confirms what I'm seeing on page 28 & 29 of the manual.
Take a look. Unless I'm missing something, it seems you can stick either an RCA audio cable with a 3.5 mm male connector into that hole OR a digital optical cable connection, obviously not at the same time.
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Old December 25th, 2007, 06:16 AM   #13
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Hello Pat,

Naming conventions are important. An RCA cable implies a piece of wire with RCA connectors on one or both ends. In your case, I'm going to guess that you'd want a mini TS (tip, sleeve) or mini TRS (tip, ring, sleeve) plug on the end that plugs into the camera.

If this is a stereo input (which it probably is) it will be a TRS. That's a three-conductor unbalanced connector. The sleeve will act as a common ground. Tip for one channel, sleeve for the other.

At some point, you may want to plug in an external mic with a professional XLR connector. The "standard" female XLR to male TRS cable will not work, because you'll be plugging a mono balanced source (the mic) into a stereo unbalanced input (the camera). You need a cable that's been wired so the mono signal goes to both channels correctly.

Trew Audio sells one: http://www.trewaudio.com/store/produ...&cat=21&page=1

Merry Xmas,

Ty Ford
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Old December 25th, 2007, 02:11 PM   #14
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Regarding inputs on the Sony PCM-D50:

On the right side of the unit, near the top, there are two 1/8" jacks. Here is a photo:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/33972417@N00/2086408695/

Top Input (right side in photo) with the picture of a mic next to it:
Mic level stereo input, 1/8" (accepts 1/8" TRS mini-plut).

This has a power option that can be switched on or off. This is not phantom power, but rather it is the the power that is used for the 1/8" plug stereo mics that require power, typically used on miniDV camcorders. Here is one such mic:
http://www.audio-technica.com/cms/wi...6b3/index.html
If used with a powered input (such as on the D50), this mic does not require a batter. Otherwise it does.

Lower input (just to the left of the other one in photo):
Line level input that accepts either an analog or digital signal.

As an analog input:
Accepts a stereo 1/8" miniplug, just like above, but at line level. For example, you could record off a TV using a cable that had left/right RCA connectors (white/red) on one end and a 1/8" miniplut (into the D50) on the other.

As a digital input:
This accepts an optical digital signal, according to the manual (an optical cable is specified). Typically optical cables have a different connector, but there are optical cables with the mini plug. See the links in the posts after this one.

There are adapters and cables for different kinds of digital connections and connectors. What is used depends on the device recorded from.

Here is a link on info on different kinds of digital connections:
http://www.andrewkilpatrick.org/mind/spdif/

The PCM-D50 manual covers what switches to set, etc when using each of the kinds of input available on the unit. Essentialy, these are the options in review:
1. Top input: Analog Mic Level, with or without power to mic.
2. Lower input: Line Level, accepting both Analog Stereo or Digital Stereo, Optical.

Here is a link to the PCM-D50 manual:
http://bssc.sel.sony.com/Broadcastan...ls/pcm-d50.pdf

Here are a links to spec and info sheets for the unit:
http://bssc.sel.sony.com/Broadcastan...pecsheet07.pdf
http://bssc.sel.sony.com/Broadcastan...es/pcm-d50.pdf

Here is a link at B&H. Look under the Specifications page for the basic input and output options. B&H usually has the correct info:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc..._Portable.html

Last edited by Jack Walker; December 25th, 2007 at 03:30 PM.
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Old December 25th, 2007, 03:11 PM   #15
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Sony (opt)

Actually Sony did have a 3.5mm optical adapter when the Mini disc (MD) recorders first came out, if I remember correctly it was optical. with Sony having used this in the past I would bet that it being optical is a possibility. I found this page (I had to research it a bit to prove to myself that my CRS isn't that bad).

http://www.sfb.net/acatalog/SFB_Webs...cables_59.html

look at the bottom of this page and you will see what I am talking about.

hope this helps
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