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Old March 11th, 2009, 12:49 PM   #1
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Time to buy a portable audio recorder

I'm starting to shoot some more important projects with my Canon 5D mkII, and need to capture better audio than what it is capable of.

Hopefully you guys can give me some feedback/suggestions, here are my criteria:
1) 24bit recording onto removable media
2) very portable + battery powered (should fit in a large coat pocket).
3) clean sound from external mics, no hissing (had too much of that over the years)
4) price range of $300-$500
5) easy to use/works great out of the box/an automatic mode. I don't know a lot about sound, so a unit that can do most of the work for me would be my #1 choice.

XLR inputs would be a bonus, but I know most don't have them. I'll almost be exclusively using my own mics (lavs + shotgun) rather than the built in ones, so the quality of the onboard mics isn't a big deal for me. 4 channel recording may be a bonus, but again, not critical.

Looking forward to hearing your suggestions, thanks!
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Old March 11th, 2009, 01:07 PM   #2
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First, I am not giving up on in camera sound. I will be shooting some footage this weekend testing the 5D hooked to my ME66 through my Beachtek.... I did just a a brief test earlier this week, setting the beachtek imputs at 6 oclock position. I will post some footage.

Second, in past I have used a HiMD recorded again directly hooked into my ME66 via the Beachtek to get double system sound. HiMD records PCM level sound. Setup allows use of the good powered XLR mic. Of course, some Beachteks, and other XLR adapters, also have phantom power. If I was buy today, I would look at Zoom H4 or a Tascam rather than HiMD. When I record with the HiMD, I just Velcroed the two units together.

With a sound guy and double system, we will likely run things through our Sign ENG44 and the HiMD or a TasCam that is available to us.
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Old March 11th, 2009, 03:41 PM   #3
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Have you looked at the Sony PCM-D50? It is a little bulky but has an excellent build quality with dedicated controls for all major functions and high quality preamps and nice quality internal mics. Battery life is amazing also. Main drawbacks are the size and it use proprietary memory sticks if you need more than the built in 4GB.

Also the Edirol R-09HR is getting some good reviews. The internal preamps are fairly good and it has decent built in mics also. It uses SD cards I blieve. I've seen numerous people who used the original R-09 say the HR is a huge improvement.
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Old March 11th, 2009, 05:09 PM   #4
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Greetings,

I'd recommend not using an H4 for anything that requires it to power two mics with a phantom supply. You can find more info on this thread Zoom H4 - Page 5 - The Digital Video Information Network but in short it beeps and my unit's battery life display is wildly optimistic.

I use mine to record from a SD302 and once set up it gives a very good account of itself. However,it's an ergonomic nightmare to use quickly even when you know where everything is. The display is tiny, it takes quite a bit of time to wake up and if the power fails the settings vanish back to the defaults. Levels are behind a menu so there's no easy way to adjust it without fighting a nest of wires, e.g 2 mics, headphone, power and manipulating it with one hand is pretty much impossible. I still love the thing on it's internal mics as a walkaround capture device but am shying away from using it as anything but a 2nd backup.

In it's time it was one of the best of it's kind/cost but I think it's been beaten out by its replacement. The new H4N seems to have resolved all these issues but I haven't gotten mine yet.Though some audio / reviews can be found here Brad Linder's blog

The Sony rocks but can't directly use XLR's and doesn't have phantom power, just a low voltage substitute plug in power. It still fits more criteria than any of the rest.

Nearly every other choice has compromises re your #3 within the range but

http://www.bswusa.com/assets/pdf/BSW...onChart_v4.pdf gives a pretty good idea of what each can do at a glance. Transom.org/tools has a lot of good in depth reviews too.
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Old March 11th, 2009, 06:43 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Paxton View Post
...I'd recommend not using an H4 for anything that requires it to power two mics with a phantom supply. You can find more info on this thread Zoom H4 - Page 5 - The Digital Video Information Network but in short it beeps and my unit's battery life display is wildly optimistic...
My life with the H4 became a lot happier when I built a high-capacity battery for it. There is a 9.6v NiMH pack for radio-control cars from Radio Shack and an OK charger... my total outlay was about $35, for which I got a life of about 16 hours per charge. More info available via google, or pm me.

This doesn't solve all the problems, but not having to deal with batts is huge, completely eliminates the beeps problem, phantom is now fun! I think some of my hair is growing back...
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Old March 11th, 2009, 06:55 PM   #6
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I recommend the Marantz PMD620 and the Edirol R09HR. I have both and they both sound great. The Marantz unit is a little smaller and has the mic input on the top, so it's better suited going into a pocket IMO. Both are in your price range, no XLR though.

Marantz | PMD620 Professional Handheld Digital Audio | PMD620

Edirol / Roland | R-09HR Portable High-Resolution Audio | R-09HR

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Old March 11th, 2009, 07:46 PM   #7
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I've owned the Marantz PMD620 and the Sony PCM50. I still own the Sony. I liked the media format of the Marantz better, and it's smaller. However, using the onboard mics I found the files less satisfactory than the Sony, which was also better with external mics but less noticeably so. If at all possible, it would probably be very beneficial to try a couple side by side before you buy, although that's hard in most locations.
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Old March 11th, 2009, 07:47 PM   #8
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Dylan...

I have been watching this market for over a year now, and lusting for a 4 channel recorder but realizing my budget was more like 2. My desired model choice has changed over the last year from time to time but at the moment anyway the Marantz PMD 661 has to be my all out favorite. Oade Brothers also is going to do mods for it, and their mods are always worthwhile. It is a little over your $500 (Street at $599 w/o mods) but I suggest you look at it. It is geared towards pro use and appears to be designed that way from the ground up, instead of being an upgraded consumer recorder.
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Old March 11th, 2009, 10:00 PM   #9
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We have had good luck with the Edirol r-09 recorders, which have been superceded by an improved HR version lately for the same price ($399 list). Easy to operate, good quality recordings, even our reporters can operate them (oops, I never said that!). I was on a shoot recently where an MTV crew was working --sound guy with a big boom and zeppelin, humongous mixer, cables galore, and riding on top was --- an Edirol R-09..... The Marantz 660, recently upgraded, is used by our PBS Radio crew who work in our office, has XLR but a little preamp hiss (which doesn't bother them). The Edirol works with XLR mikes if you use an xlr to mini plug cable, we get mono cables made by soundprofessonals.com, fwiw..../Battle Vaughan / miamiherald.com video team
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Old March 11th, 2009, 10:57 PM   #10
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I know your budget is 500 but save up 300 more and you could get the Edirol R44. Using it on a set now and the sound on that thing is amazing and also you get 4 individual tracks as well as 4 individual inputs. Definitely check it out when you get the chance.


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Old March 11th, 2009, 10:57 PM   #11
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Dylan, Zoom Handy Recorder H4n

Zoom H4n pocket handheld recorder - CNET Reviews
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Old March 11th, 2009, 11:07 PM   #12
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Wait!
Is everyone forgetting the other numerous posts about these recorders not being good for double system work?
They don't run at an exact enough speed. They won't stay in sync with the video!!!
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Old March 11th, 2009, 11:12 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by David Morgan View Post
Wait!
Is everyone forgetting the other numerous posts about these recorders not being good for double system work?
They don't run at an exact enough speed. They won't stay in sync with the video!!!
Are you referring to the Zoom recorder? If so yeah I heard there was timing issues with that recorder.

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Old March 11th, 2009, 11:13 PM   #14
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The Marantz PMD620 and The Edirol R-09HR stay in sync perfect for me. Just remember to record WAV files and use the same frequency and bit rate as your camera's. The Cheapo voice recorders that record mp3 format at 44.1 don't stay in sync well, but their are work arounds.
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Old March 12th, 2009, 01:29 AM   #15
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The Marantz PMD620 and The Edirol R-09HR stay in sync perfect for me. Just remember to record WAV files and use the same frequency and bit rate as your camera's. The Cheapo voice recorders that record mp3 format at 44.1 don't stay in sync well, but their are work arounds.

Yes, duplicate the freq and bit rate for the most optimum match and then tweak for exact sync. However, when it comes to music bed over a wedding reception, sync not always required.
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