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Old February 22nd, 2008, 02:37 PM   #1
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Sony PCM D50 Review

Thought you all might like to know what I think of the new kid on the block...

I ordered it on friday at midnight U.K. time online from B&H Photo Video New York and it arrived via UPS at noon on the Monday here in Bristol U.K. Well that in it's self was pretty amazing!

So how does it stand up...

Well I bought the Zoom H2 when it came out and was somewhat dissapointed by it's sound with the built in mic's and the line in. The former had a nasely quality, a bit like Mettle Mickey and the line in was very poor with distortion underlying everything. Verdict was my old portable mini disc was sonically far superior.

To cut to the chase... the Sony is very good.
The self noise with the built in mic's is very low for a hand held unit.
The mic's themselves sound good.
The line in is excellent, as is the line out.
The digital in (optical) is a breeze.
The headphone amp is loud and clean. As is line out.
The analogue circuits are great and noise free.
Good limiter.
Good meters.
Useful speed control feature (helpful for checking things back in a hurry).
The handling noise is good but still there ( of course, never avoid that completely)
Windjamer does a good job.
Menus are clear and easy to navigate.
Backlight is great and switchable.
Buttons are well laid out like a real deck.
Battery life is very good.
Feels good in hand.
Good features all round.

Finally a product which does the job properly and for $460 + $45(windjammer) or for me £345 all in, the best in class.

Don't bother with anything else, there really is no comparison with the Zoom. If you can spend a bit more then do.

The only things I would say the Zoo h2 has going for it is the side address mic's.
I would love to see this unit with an M-S pair option instead of X-Y too.
I would change those but nothing else in this design.

The project manager and team who created this should be congratulated. It is a product that harks back to Sony's glory days.

I have recorded line in from various T.V. situations, bootlegged applause and through the desk. Drum kit (amazing for a unit like this) guitar, various voices close up and away. Nature, ambiance.

Can't say yet if the mic's are as quiet as an MKH 50/30 pair yet but they are quiet. Would be pretty surprised if they where that quiet though.

Basically I really like the way it sounds and works. The optional windammer is a must and a great idea.
The tripod is not required as a regular camera mini tripod from the pound shop will do.

My U.K. freinds should buy online from USA as it saved me £200. I paid £63 import tax and the total was £345 inc.

To finish off I just say that I have been working with 3 old pro's all week and they all intend to buy one. One in china when he does the Olympics and the other 2 via B&H.

Cheers
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Old February 22nd, 2008, 03:18 PM   #2
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Sony PCM D50 - Additional Info/Link to Another Good Review

Thanks Jimmy. Great review mate!

I'm currently using Zoom H2 and the XLR/phantom power capable Fostex FR2-LE - both are completely different animals but both have pros and cons at their specific price points, in my opinion.....(H2 is about 142 quid and FR2 is about 380 at the moment in UK.) I can certainly believe that the Zoom is not worth considering if you have the cash for one of these new Sony's but it's still devoid of XLR inputs, which is where the Fostex comes in handy for us.

I suppose it's worth pointing out also that the mics are moveable on the Sony PCM D50 (90 or 120 degrees) and that an, albeit very expensive, XLR adapter box is available for it. You can also get a remote for it to circumvent any handling noise when using it's on board mics. Certainly looks/sounds like it's a quality product and the unusual limiter feature it has looks a real winner. Have fun with it!

More info and pics in this review for anyone wanting it.

http://digitalmedia.oreilly.com/2008...er-review.html

Also, a previous forum discussion on it in this link.

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=110475
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Last edited by Andy Wilkinson; February 22nd, 2008 at 04:19 PM. Reason: Adding Link to Another Good Review
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Old February 23rd, 2008, 06:39 PM   #3
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Sync Record

I was reading the O'Reilly review and became curious about the sync recording function. Would this function work while shooting video or does it record as soon as a signal is detected?
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Old February 25th, 2008, 10:32 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimmy Tuffrey View Post
I ordered it on friday at midnight U.K. time online from B&H Photo Video New York and it arrived via UPS at noon on the Monday here in Bristol U.K. Well that in it's self was pretty amazing!
Thank you. We like to do amazing when we're able.
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Old March 1st, 2008, 06:29 PM   #5
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Update - windjammer

Ok so the windjammer is ok but outdoors in wind it aint a proper windshield. I had to put the whole thing in a stereo rycote kit to get away with the wind the other day.

The windjammer is good but don't think it will make outdoor recording possible in high or medium wind. It is better than foam but not as good as I hoped. I tried two little rycote furies,(lav covers), on the mics and that was a lot worse than the windjammer though.

Still liking it all the same.
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Old March 8th, 2008, 12:11 AM   #6
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Something easy to try (and cheap like me!). Stretch a Radio Shack (black or grey) foam mic cover over your D50...then wig it. I bought light weight fake fur (get long-haired with stretchable on 2 axis fabric) 'Transparency' characteristics are quite par with the high price hairpieces... It's all fake fur.

(info source: a nature recordists group ...professionals who strive for accurate low level sound capture ...great place to learn audio)

...course, foam alone works in light breeze. Looks like an English Bobbie (policeman) though

EXAMPLE: Watch this 'Green Jay' video ...the 'sonogram' part is the D50 in action ...wearing it's garments in ALOT of wind! http://www.viddler.com/explore/texdig/videos/2/
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Old March 8th, 2008, 02:30 AM   #7
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I ordered a D-50. I will pick it up tomorrow. I am also waiting on a Microtrack II I have on order.
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Old March 8th, 2008, 09:21 AM   #8
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The Sony PCM D50 doesn't look like it has as many recording options as the Microtrack II. We do a lot of transcript recordings these days directly to MP-3 and often give the Media directly to the producers. We have been using Compact Flash and SD cards for this purpose
Sony is selling an XLR adapter for the unit but it seems priced as high as the base unit to go with it.
Sony XLR-1 XLR Mic Adapter for PCM-D1 and PCM-D50
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Old March 8th, 2008, 01:35 PM   #9
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The XLR plugs add bulk in themselves, so you can expect adaptors for any small recorder. The Sony's adaptor is, of course, way overpriced because that's their style of targetting a pro level market. It's just a passive device that supplies 48v phantom.

I use Beachteks dual phantom (screws onto bottom of D50 perfectly, though slightly wider)... it costs 250 bucks ...and there are cheaper brands. 'Passive' means no pre-amp (thus no added noise)...just isolation and voltage. Sony's phantom box just looks prettier with the recorder though (if you have 500 bucks for 'Sony Style'). Using the Seinheisser ME 66 (phantom powered) adds 10 db self noise. That is very low for a mic. If you use it's self powered battery phantom, it jumps to 15 db noise. Of course, these levels hardly affect typical video, but it's nice have for your quieter recordings like nature, low level ambience, and building your sound f/x library.

The built in mics aren't the quietest, but the recording is 'brighter' than other brands. Reduce that brightness later (parametric equalizer) and you've got a hard to beat recording. Though it is targeted for the professional with wav only, I wish there were some handy compressed formats from this unit ... but you can always downgrade a recording format. You can regret recording lesser formats when you want them to shine later, you know.

A smaller/cheaper unit that is comparable quality? Pros are field testing the new Olympus LS-10 at this time. Olympus will not supply meaningful noise specs (fishy) ...keep fingers crossed!

(note: The D50 has 10dB self noise noise (mic in) ...considered very good... only a few exotic mics are quieter than that!)
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Old March 13th, 2008, 12:58 PM   #10
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I bought the PCM-D50 and received it today and must say that i am really impressed with its sound and will use this device a lot in the future. I am really glad that i found this thread before i bought a Zoom H4.

Thanks Jimmy for starting this thread and all others that have given valuable information to me and others.
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Old March 13th, 2008, 07:20 PM   #11
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Great recorder! I don't know if I would call it "bright". I think it records a clean signal that has less coloration than the others in its class. Other recorders sound muddy by comparison. it's harder to create detail in muddy audio than to round out crisp, clean audio.

I've been thinking of picking up an H2 for my kids to use for recording their choir rehearsals, which is recommended by the director. Being a family of musicians, a handy recorder would be great. However, I'm not sure I can do that after using the D50. I had high hopes for the MicroTrack II but the new batch has been back ordered for 3+ months.
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Old March 14th, 2008, 03:26 AM   #12
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This is very much a newbie question, I'm afraid...

My PCM-D50 came in yesterday and I'm wondering if I can use it with external mics without a Beachtek or Sony's ungodly expensive adpater....

I have the EV RE50N/D-B mic that I use with my Sennheiser wireless kit. Just a cord or...?

What are the guidelines in choosing mics for this unit?

--Darin
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Old March 24th, 2008, 02:05 PM   #13
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Sad sad sad, this unit can not be used with balanced mics at all I mean that it will pick up all the usual interferences caused my unbalanced mic cables, damn how on earth can one use this in environments with cellular phones or the like. Every unwanted incoming GSM/radio signal among the audience will be recorded. Even if one buys that expensive XLR adapter it will be interfered by radio signal because of the unbalanced 3,5mm cable that is between the box and recorder.

Is there anything that comes close to this PCM D50 that can use real mics and balanced cables?

Thanks,
T
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Old March 24th, 2008, 03:01 PM   #14
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Try a Fostex FR-2LE. Bigger, not as nice looking but plug in any XLR mic in you want and away you go.
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Old March 24th, 2008, 09:05 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darin Boville View Post

What are the guidelines in choosing mics for this unit?
The mic's are built in. If you want external mic's then you also want an external mixer. That is the design.

The unit is not meant for using with external mic's, it is just an option. Not a serious one though. The unit's strength is as a hand held/tripod mounted mic/recorder.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Toenis Liivamaegi View Post
Sad sad sad, this unit can not be used with balanced mics at all I mean that it will pick up all the usual interferences caused my unbalanced mic cables, damn how on earth can one ...
T
As above - If the un-balanced in's are a problem then get a dedicated recorder unit such as FR2LE etc.

But don't over re-act. Irrational fear of un-balanced cables is not something I would believe in. As long as the outputs which feed it are buffered from any balanced feed going elsewhere then where is the problem?
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