High Quality CF Recorder with Rechargeable Battery for Under $500? at DVinfo.net

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Old December 19th, 2008, 12:42 AM   #1
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High Quality CF Recorder with Rechargeable Battery for Under $500?

Hi everyone,

I recently got an M-Audio Microtrack II CF recorder to replace my Sony digital MZ-NH1 HI-MD minidisc recorder, which recently stopped working. For 3 years, I used my minidisc recorder with an Audio-Technica AT822 stereo cardioid mic (for ambience) and an Electrovoice 635 N/D-B mic (for narration) as part of my wildlife documentary work. Anyway, the Mictrotrack II is compact and has convenient controls and I like the CF capabilities, but its sound quality on my mics is inferior to what I got from my minidisc recorder when using the PCM linear setting. Sound from the T-mic the Microtrack II came with actually sounded pretty good, but it doesnít fit my purposes.

So, for $500 or under, are there any recorders that are CF compatible, use rechargeable batteries, and have sound quality equal to that of the MZ-NH1? In case this seems familiar, I asked similar questions here (http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/all-thing...mic-setup.html). Anyway, I looked up the recorders mentioned in the other thread, but even a lot of the expensive ones used AA batteries, which is something I want to avoid. Sometimes, I set up my mic in the woods and just leave it there for a few hours, which can drain batteries fast, but can produce interesting sounds of things like Canada geese fighting or wood ducks landing. Some of these sounds can only be captured well when no one is around.

Iím now leaning to just getting another minidisc recorder because I know thatís a sure way to get the sound quality Iím looking for. Still, Iím not fond of the Sonicstage software and word is that minidisc recorders are going obsolete. It seems like minidisc is on its way out and most CF recorders arenít quite developed enough to have sound quality equivalent to minidisc recorders and still have their price range. Iíve got projects I need to finalize my narration on and need to get a new recorder soon.

Anyway, Iíve checked out a broad swath of the CF recorder market, so my guess is that Iím out of luck, but Iím hoping maybe I missed something important. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks a bunch.

Regards,
Tristan Howard
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Old December 19th, 2008, 04:40 PM   #2
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Not sure what your aversion to AA batteries is, but I probably wouldn't make that an important part of the decision making process. Why not just buy some high quality AA rechargeables?

In many ways, I'd rather have AAs becasue I can always get them no matter where I am.
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Old December 19th, 2008, 05:27 PM   #3
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Have you looked at the Sony D-50? I've run it for hours on its AA cells - certainly 3 or 4 hours was no probem. I've been quite happy with it and the quality of the built-in mics is quite amazing at its price point. I've done side-by-side comparison with a pair of Schoeps mics and a Sound Devices recorder, and while the Schoeps/Sound Devices combo sounds better, the Sony sounded quite good. At 1/15th the price of the Schoeps/SD set up I think it's a heck of a price performer.
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Old December 21st, 2008, 10:52 PM   #4
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Paul, you have a good point on the AA batteries. I've been stuck in the mindset of viewing them as disposable and thus a poor investment, but after some web surfing, I now know that rechargeable AAs and chargers are easy to find. With all my video and photo work, I've been used to mainly lithium ion rechargeable batteries. Also, as you implied, AAs are easy to find and can easily be carried along for recording expeditions to remote locations. Anyway, the AA thing is no longer an important part of my decision process.

Jim, I re-reviewed the specifications of many card-based recorders and basically settled on the Olympus LS-10 or Sony PCM-D50 as my best options. Both seem sturdy with good sound quality and there were many great reviews for the PCM-D50. Still, most of what I read about the PCM-D50 relates to its built-in mics. If the built-in mics pick up sound better than my AT822 or Electrovoice, I guess that would be good. Still, I'm curious if you or anyone reading this has much experience using the PCM-D50 with an external mic attached via a cable. I was surprised at how poorly the Microtrack II handled my external mics. If anyone knows how the PCM-D50 works with an AT822, that would especially interest me. I want to get a high sensitivity response, so I can pick up bird sounds well. I remember on my minidisc recorder, I was able to change the mic sensitivity to high, but after skimming the PDF of the PCM-D50 manual, I didn't see a mention of adjusting mic sensitivity. Also, does the PCM-D50 automatically adjust settings well for varied intensities and such? My minidisc recorder did (or at least I think it did; I know I didn't have to constantly push a button to re-adjust levels; I could just leave the mic alone & it did a good job). The apparently mandatory manual level adjustment on the Microtrack II really bothered me.

Anyhow, thanks for all your input.

-Tristan
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Old December 21st, 2008, 11:15 PM   #5
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I seem to remember that the Sony worked well with my lav, but all my "real" mics are XLR so it's hard for me to make any test that would be relevant. I'll check out the lav again to be sure I'm not remembering something that didn't happen (not sure which aging problem is worse - forgetting what happened or remembering what didn't!)

Re rechargeable batteries look at the website of an outfit called Maha (like Yamaha without the first two letters) They make a charging system for the AA rechargeables that is really quie sophisticated - it even has a two day conditioning cycle that you use the first time you charge a new battery. Far better than anything I've seen at Radio Shack.

I've noticed that when I use the rechargeables in my SD302 even a just charged battery seems to show a bit lower reading than a regular battery. But I still get completely useful recording times with the rechargeables.
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Old December 22nd, 2008, 01:21 PM   #6
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Another vote for the D-50

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tristan Howard View Post
Jim, I re-reviewed the specifications of many card-based recorders and basically settled on the Olympus LS-10 or Sony PCM-D50 as my best options. Both seem sturdy with good sound quality and there were many great reviews for the PCM-D50. Still, most of what I read about the PCM-D50 relates to its built-in mics.
The D-50 onboard mics are very good IMO. The problem for outdoor use is that they are extremely wind sensitive. Any wind whatsoever is too much. The Sony factory wind muff is okay but certainly not suitable for serious work. Outdoors, you have to have an external mic setup. Indoors or in the right conditions, the onboards give excellent stereo results.

Quote:
If the built-in mics pick up sound better than my AT822 or Electrovoice, I guess that would be good. Still, I'm curious if you or anyone reading this has much experience using the PCM-D50 with an external mic attached via a cable. I was surprised at how poorly the Microtrack II handled my external mics. If anyone knows how the PCM-D50 works with an AT822, that would especially interest me. I want to get a high sensitivity response, so I can pick up bird sounds well.
I have used the D-50 with my wireless systems and a few exterrnal mics. The D-50 gives you exactly what any mic connected to it gives it as far as I can tell, no coloration, no discernable noise.

Quote:
I remember on my minidisc recorder, I was able to change the mic sensitivity to high, but after skimming the PDF of the PCM-D50 manual, I didn't see a mention of adjusting mic sensitivity. Also, does the PCM-D50 automatically adjust settings well for varied intensities and such?
The D-50 is a pro grade recorder and has the same adjustments common to all of them. You can set up the D-50 for any type of input or level on the mini connection.

Because the D-50 is a pro grade recorder, there is no auto level control or AGC. There is a very effective limiter among many other controls.

Quote:
My minidisc recorder did (or at least I think it did; I know I didn't have to constantly push a button to re-adjust levels; I could just leave the mic alone & it did a good job). The apparently mandatory manual level adjustment on the Microtrack II really bothered me.
The old Sony MZ-NH1 was a walkman like entertainment device with consumer friendly controls. The D-50 is a much more advanced recording device.
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Old December 22nd, 2008, 03:57 PM   #7
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Jim, thanks for the quick reply. I did a web search and based on a review and a forum comment, it looks like people have had success using the PCM-D50 with the AT822. Also, I checked out the Maha battery website and it looks like high quality stuff, but I think Iíll go with the Canon CBK4-300 AA Battery and Charger Kit because itís a bit cheaper and I can get it from the same place where I get most of my gear.

Jeff, thanks for answering my questions. It looks like the PCM-50 is the recorder for me. Thanks again to everyone for their input.
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Old December 23rd, 2008, 02:27 AM   #8
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Hi Tristan,
If you need hours of recording, you might want to consider a PSC Powerstation?
Power Station

Alternatively, you could look at consumer battery packs.
I haven't had much experience with them though, a quick search on google turned up this
http://www.digitalcamerabattery.com/index.htm
http://www.bixnet.com/misihicabapa.html
http://www.batterygeek.net/
I'm sure there are lots more brands. Hope the others can chime in, if you've used these battery packs.

Last edited by Hsien Yong; December 23rd, 2008 at 09:40 AM.
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Old December 23rd, 2008, 09:01 AM   #9
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The Sony D-50 is really easy on batteries. I usually change mine just for safety sake, not because they are down.

It can easily record for 10+ hours on a set of alkalines, probably a lot longer. If it is supplying microphone power, Im not really sure how long they last.

With with a good set of rechargeables of lithiums, it would probably go for 15 to 20 hours. That would be a lot of big files.
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Old December 23rd, 2008, 04:33 PM   #10
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The D50 doesn't seem to allow regular XLR mics to be connected to it. This unit seems meant to be best used with its own mics.

What is the problem with the Microtrack? Do you have the original or a II (with limiter)?

Does the RE50 not put out a strong enough signal? The Audio Technica should be fine. How are you connecting the mics?
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Old December 23rd, 2008, 06:06 PM   #11
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Hi,
The PCM D50 does allow xlr mics with the Sony adapter.
Sony XLR-1 XLR Adapter for PCM-D1 / PCM-D50 digital recorders
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Old December 24th, 2008, 10:19 AM   #12
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You might look at the Marantz PM660, which uses cf cards and has 2 xlr inputs. It is sometimes criticized for preamp hiss --- it's there, if you are listening real hard, but easy to remove in post. But, this outfit does modifications that claim to replace the preamps with low noise high fi jobs for a reasonable price....disclaimer: I haven't done business with them, just filed this away for a rainy day: PMD-660 Modifications

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Old December 24th, 2008, 03:57 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Battle Vaughan View Post
You might look at the Marantz PM660, which uses cf cards and has 2 xlr inputs. It is sometimes criticized for preamp hiss --- it's there, if you are listening real hard, but easy to remove in post. But, this outfit does modifications that claim to replace the preamps with low noise high fi jobs for a reasonable price....disclaimer: I haven't done business with them, just filed this away for a rainy day: PMD-660 Modifications
Oade Brothers are well know among people doing tasks like wild animal audio and other requirements that need potability and a high S/N. (This also includes legal and illegal concert recording). I've never bought from them, but they're not a new business or a "fly by night".
Everyone who buys any kind of modded electronic seems to think it's the greatest device ever, so I cant answer the question "is it worth it?"

I do like their microphone recommendations.
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Old December 25th, 2008, 10:49 AM   #14
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The Marantz 661 should be available soon. Same basic design as the Marantz PM660 but a little smaller, better battery economy, OLED display, SD cards, 24 bit, among other updates.
Hopefully Ty Ford will get one soon to evaluate.
D-Mpro.com is the US distributer.
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Old December 26th, 2008, 05:38 PM   #15
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Jack, I've got the Microtrack II. My biggest problem is that the sound from my external mics simply isn't picked up well. There's a lot of static and when I increase the levels to increase the volume of what's picked up while recording, the static gets worse. My old minidisc recorder did a much better job with my external mics. Still, I think my Microtrack II doesn't have any anomalies. It just doesn't work well with my mics. I've actually got it posted on the classifieds here at dvinfo.net.
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