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Old September 22nd, 2008, 08:58 PM   #1
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Good all-around audio recorder?

I shoot with a Canon A1 using XLR and a variety of mics. I want to get a separate recorder, I guess a DAT system -- something uncompressed -- for recording singing and some v.o. announcer work. Mostly going documentaries and with a two man crew in controlled situations, probably wouldn't record separate sound, but might.

Any suggestions from the sound gurus here?

Thanks.
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Old September 22nd, 2008, 11:35 PM   #2
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Hi Jeff:

You will get lots of different replies and recommendations on this. DAT machines are history, they are no longer made. What you want is a digital recorder that probably records to SD or CF cards. Depending on your needs, you may or may not want or need TC capability.

There are literally dozens of models on the market. The best for many pro users are the Sound Devices multi-track recorders, they are available in 2, 4 and 8 track models and are generally considered the best on the market without going to something larger and more professional that a sound mixer on features would use like a Zaxcom Deva or Aaton Cantar. Of course, being pro recorders, they begin at around $1,000.00 per track.

If you can go non TC, then there are a huge amount of recorders available from Zoom, Tascam, Marantz, Fostex, Olympus, Sony, Yamaha, etc. Generally, you get what you pay for. More money = better sound and features and more robust build. There are a few medium priced recorders from Edirol, Tascam and a few others that have TC but you really don't have to have TC for most situations although it can save you time in post.

We are actually in a great time to buy a digital audio recorder, the sound quality is pretty impressive and the build quality gets better and better by the year. A lot of low end users (yes, cheapskates or poor people) have been using the Zoom recorders like the H2 and H4 and others have been getting good results with the Sony PC-DM50 recorder. There are a ton of choices, you just have to hunt down the right combo of cost, size, features, sound quality and robustness to fit your situation.

Dan
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Old September 23rd, 2008, 12:25 AM   #3
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I'm enjoying my Edirol R-09HR

So far I've used it for a couple casual video shoots, recording lines for memorization, singing etc.

You probably want something with XLR inputs, maybe phantom power, like the Zooms on the low end. Adding a small field mixer or adapter to the R-09HR really increases its overall cost. Very easy to use, high quality. Nice feel. And 24 bits @ 96K is pretty cool.

Hank
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Old September 23rd, 2008, 01:55 AM   #4
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Just remember that even good, cheap digital recorders have so much mic-preamp hiss that 24 bit recording is useless. Even the very best Sound Devices recorders achieve "only" 20-21 bits worth of dynamic range. Using 24 bits with those noisy recorders only gives you 50% larger files and 7-9 bits of hiss.
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Old September 23rd, 2008, 04:39 PM   #5
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Petri, as usual, tell the people how 16 vs. 24bit stuff compares to DAT that most of the folk are trained on? Or even minidisc ;). You know we here were trained on those, I mean DAT and MD.

T
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Old September 23rd, 2008, 10:04 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Petri Kaipiainen View Post
Just remember that even good, cheap digital recorders have so much mic-preamp hiss that 24 bit recording is useless. Even the very best Sound Devices recorders achieve "only" 20-21 bits worth of dynamic range. Using 24 bits with those noisy recorders only gives you 50% larger files and 7-9 bits of hiss.
It's all relative. If you come from a mainly video background, any of the portable recorders on the market sound considerably better than even the most expensive camcorders. You would laugh if you heard the sound quality from Beta SP. If you come from an audio BG, I would bet that the zipper noise/bit depth or lack of it is more noticeable to your ears.

Dan
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Old September 23rd, 2008, 10:09 PM   #7
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Sound Devices are awesome but I've also had great fun with my Tascam P2HD CF card recorder. And for very compact audio, my Olympus LS-10. Amazing audio quality for the size:

Call Box High Tech Sweet Potato Audio Test

-Noah
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Old September 23rd, 2008, 10:34 PM   #8
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I love my HD P2 and my Edirol R4-Pro 4 trk...
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Old September 24th, 2008, 02:05 AM   #9
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DAT is good 16 bits, but obsolete with its tape and moving parts. MD is also 16 bits, compressed, but perfectly good for video work & documentaries, but it is also obsolete. New CF or SD digital recorders are the way to go, absolutelly, they are basically as good as DAT and the better ones (Sound Devices, Nagra etc) at 24 bits clearly better than DAT. Just have to remember that the final quality is limited by the worst link in the chain, and no system actually achieves real 24 bit resolution (mics, mic preamps, ADC). And it is also usefull to remember that no reproduction system can handle even 16 bit dynamic range in real life. And that even 16 bits is much better than any $$$$$ analog audio system of just 20 years ago. With $300 you can buy a pocket recorder which beats a $15000 analog Nagra of the eighties in dynamic range and S/N ratio. Great movies were made with those, so I do not think that not having real 24 bit resolution is a good excuse if somebody can not produce good audio...

What comes to camcorders not having good audio I both agree and disagree. Audio circuitry is usually not as good as on the best dedecated recorders, but I have been able to get over 90 dB dynamic range from line-in on standard XH-A1 camcorder, that is on par with DAT machines, CDs, and better digital pocket recorders, and much better than any movie older than 20 years. So a blanket statement that any pocket recorder is better than any camcorder is not true in my opinion. It is more important to be able to use the tools on hand optimally, than dream about a new wonder gadget which would do it automatically. Often those wonders (like 24 bit recording on cheap machines) are more marketing hype than reality.
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Old September 24th, 2008, 02:39 AM   #10
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Hi Jeff

I've been looking at these : EDIROL by Roland - R-44 Compact, Solid State, 4-Channel Field Recorder

I was thinking it would complement my Sound Devices mixer well...They look to have good features at a reasonable price..

cheers
Gareth
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Old September 24th, 2008, 05:33 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Watkins View Post
Hi Jeff

I've been looking at these : EDIROL by Roland - R-44 Compact, Solid State, 4-Channel Field Recorder

I was thinking it would complement my Sound Devices mixer well...They look to have good features at a reasonable price..
I assume that your SD mixer can output line level signals by default so you will be really pleased with R44 combo as the only shortcoming of the R44 is the mic level preamp gain noise at 3/4 to 4/4 of the range I meat at near full possible signal gain that would'nt be used in most cases and that would be obsolete in case of line level signal from SD mixer.
So balanced line out from your mixer to R44 would give you awesome results.
Petri used to comment somewhere on that to if I remember correctly but that's basically the same idea as to connect the line outs to the line in of a camcorder if possible, but sure the external recorder would give you a bit better quality.

I have the R44 and I'm using it without mixer just 1-4x mono trimmed to the scene needs.
I haven't used it in soundproofed VO box to see how could I hear the preamp noise in a real recording without turning the gain way up. Sure listening to bare cables and playing with gain will give you creeps but in real life it isn't an issue specially if you have a good preamp like those in Sound Devices products. By the way you will hear ticking noise from the R44 when no mics are connected, don't worry it goes away when you connect a source.
The best S/N rated mic so far I've used with it is the new NTG3 and that sounded really good, when I boosted the silence parts in post I could hear the LED par transformer first and then the noisefloor, never thought that those LED pars hum from one meter from the mic.

We will be getting one of the Sound Devices amps to complement the R44 when really high gain is needed - read it as ridiculous mic to sound source distance in most cases.

For the final word I would recommend to get by with good mics, your SD (302?) mixer and line in on your camcorder. Invest the money in other weakpoints of your production if there's any as the production cost rises quite a bit too when you mess with external sound syncing in post etc.

By the way the first decent choice the Zoom H4 will feel so flimsy and it's shell will wear out quite quickly, the second selection would be the Fostex FR2 LE that could be decent two channel recorder with balanced inputs (I dont remember if it had balanced line level inputs) skip the Sony D50 if you want to record balanced or powered external sources and then there you have it the R44 as the next step if the FR2 LE wouldn't do it for you. And if you have a bit more (double) go with the SD 702? recorder possibly with time code so you wouldn't be buying a next recorder in 5 years or so.

T
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Old September 24th, 2008, 05:52 AM   #12
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Hi T

Thanks for the info... I have the SD Mixpre which only does line out...
I'll seriously consider this recorder...

cheers
Gareth
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Old September 24th, 2008, 07:24 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Gareth Watkins View Post
Hi T

Thanks for the info... I have the SD Mixpre which only does line out...
I'll seriously consider this recorder...

cheers
Gareth
The R44 also has even 2x Mid-Side stereo matrix settings for all four inputs also selectable for both input pairs from the effects menu. And you could have two dedicated mics on talents and one MS mic simultaneously. For music and singing the four channels are really great so you can mix in post and no worries of screwing up the audio in direct/live mix specially when working with almost nonexistent crew.

T
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Old October 6th, 2008, 07:39 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Nelson View Post
I shoot with a Canon A1 using XLR and a variety of mics. I want to get a separate recorder, I guess a DAT system -- something uncompressed -- for recording singing and some v.o. announcer work. Mostly going documentaries and with a two man crew in controlled situations, probably wouldn't record separate sound, but might.

Any suggestions from the sound gurus here?
You don't say budget. ?????

Top line - Nagra VI or SD 733T (I went for the Nagra VI myself).
Slightly cheaper - SD 744T

Mid line, stereo - SD 722, 702T or 702 or the new Nagra LB (due this month).

Semi-pro - Fostex FR-2 (with or without timecode), Tascam HD-P2, Edirol R04-Pro, Edirol R-44.
Slightly cheaper - Fostex FR-2LE.

I hope this helps.

PS - I forgot to say - Don't touch DAT with a bargepole unless you get a really stupid deal on a pristine top pro machine for next to nothing - DAT is a dead format now.
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Last edited by John Willett; October 6th, 2008 at 08:11 AM. Reason: added PS
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Old October 6th, 2008, 10:29 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
You don't say budget. ?????

Semi-pro - Fostex FR-2 (with or without timecode), Tascam HD-P2, Edirol R04-Pro, Edirol R-44.
Slightly cheaper - Fostex FR-2LE.
for a budget, these would get my vote, or a used 702 if the price is right. FR-2 and HD-P2 units can be had for well under $1k new.

before you get the R-44 check it out in person. even use it for a gig. its smaller then it looks, and its made of really chintzy plastic. the knobs are _really_ small - forget adjusting them with gloves on outside, the display so-so. its not really bag friendly in design where as a 702 is. as with anything else, you get what you pay for. I think you'll find the FR-2 and HD-p2 may work really well for you purposes and they are more bag friendly in design.
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