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Old May 4th, 2009, 10:03 AM   #1
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Choosing a Solid State Sound Recorder for Film Production

I'm looking for a good quality solid state field recorder for film making and currently have a choice between the following units:

Sound Devices 702 - 1800
Tascam HD-P2 - about 900
Fostex Fr-2 - about 900
Fostex Fr-2 LE - about 500

Though perhaps there are similarly priced units out there that are better?

I will be recording to CompactFlash memory cards. I can afford at most the Sound Devices 702, but would rather save the extra expense to buy other equipment if the other units are comparable in quality and adaptability.

Up until now I've had my Audiotechnika At815b shotgun mic plugged via XLR cable into my XH-A1 camera. This has proven inconvenient as to alter levels the sound engineer has to use the levels dial on the camera. And the mic has to remain plugged into the camera at all times which makes many shots difficult because of problems with cable reach - especially for tracking, steadicam or handheld shots.

I will initially only use a single shotgun mic but in future may want to use Lavaliers or stereo recording. The unit I will buy needs to be carried by the sound engineer in a pouch and must have levels control. I don't want to have to connect other preamp or power supply units to it making it more bulky. Good battery lasting power would be useful but it's not critical.

I'm an amateur filmmaker wanting to get as professional results as I can without spending enormous sums of money on equipment. I've been trawling the net and DVi all day trying to work out which field mixer to buy, but often opinion varies from site to site and I've just ended up with a headache.

Can anyone help me decide which field mixer to purchase?

Thanks!
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Old May 4th, 2009, 10:20 AM   #2
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I've had good results with the Fostex FR2, and better results with the SD702(T) which is currently my weapon of choice for two-channel double-system w/TC.

Both have good pre-amps, but the SD702 has better ergonomics, easier to use, sturdy build, superior limiters, superior battery life, smaller form factor (not sure if it's smaller than the FR2-LE though).

The FR2 is like a metal framed hollow plastic box. The SD702 is a solid metal brick in comparison (not in function!!).

Get what you pay for, though diminishing returns may mean the FR2-LE is your best choice paired with Schoeps mics or whatever. If the FR2-LE was available when I bought the FR2, I'm sure I would have bought the FR2-LE instead. I stepped up to the 702T for it's TC capability (note that 702 does not have TC) and superior limiting when compared to the FR2 (you just don't know when you'll need good limiters, esp. on run-and-gun indie shoots)

I've heard stories about the Tascam being an ergonomic nightmare, but no first hand experience. I think it has TC of some description, but not as flexible/standard as the 702T.
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Old May 4th, 2009, 10:46 AM   #3
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Stuart you should also seriously consider adding the Edirol R44 to this list.
Great 4 channel XLR recorder, with real nice quite pre amps.

Edirol / Roland | R-44 Solid-State Four-Channel Portable | R-44
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Old May 4th, 2009, 01:01 PM   #4
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Thanks for the info guys

Mike Peter Read: Is there much difference between the Fostex FR-2 and the FR-2 LE?

I read in one thread that the FR-2 LE has lower noise, but in another someone said the FR-2 had better preamps, I don't know which to believe.

Michael Liebergot: The Edirol R-44 looks like a nice unit, very reasonably priced, do you have one?

Sound Devices 702 - 1800
Tascam HD-P2 - about 900
Fostex Fr-2 - about 900
Fostex Fr-2 LE - about 500
Edirol R-44 - about 600

So it's now a choice between the above 5 recorders, but which is the best bang for buck?
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Old May 4th, 2009, 01:14 PM   #5
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I recently purchased the Edirol R-44.

The preamps seem to be very quiet. It has phantom power and will run about 3.3 hours using 2100 mAh NiMh batteries and one of the channels powering a 48-volt phantom-powered mic. I have it set to embed time-of-day timecode in a BWF file.

Volume knobs are very easy to get at. The LCD readout seems very clear. The build quality seems to be solid enough.

Again, I just got this the other week and haven't used it in the field yet. I'm building a weatherproof box to allow me to use it on small boats in salt water.
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Old May 4th, 2009, 01:25 PM   #6
 
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It may be more expensive, but, for my $$$ I LOVE my Sound Devices 702.
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Old May 4th, 2009, 01:27 PM   #7
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No contest:

Sound Devices is the best recorder on your list. You get what you pay for and the pros use the SD for the most part. All of the others work fine but the Sound Devices is built better, operates more logically and sounds slightly better than any of the others.

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Old May 4th, 2009, 02:51 PM   #8
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Thanks for all your input guys. The Sound Devices 702 is obviously the best choice. But if I can only afford to get one of the cheaper sound recorders (this depends if I get any grant money for my next film) which of the other 4 should I get?

Tascam HD-P2 - about 900
Fostex Fr-2 - about 900
Fostex Fr-2 LE - about 500
Edirol R-44 - about 600
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Old May 4th, 2009, 03:07 PM   #9
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The SD 702 is a great recorder for sure. But if your only mic is a AT 815, I would re-consider money allocation.
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Old May 4th, 2009, 03:29 PM   #10
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Do you think a cheaper recorder and a new mic would be a better investment Rick?
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Old May 4th, 2009, 04:24 PM   #11
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Stuart, It would be far better investment if you spend more for a new better mic than recorder.
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Old May 4th, 2009, 05:41 PM   #12
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Does the R-44 record 4 seperate channels or are they mixed on the SD card?
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Old May 5th, 2009, 03:44 AM   #13
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Thanks Jun Na, I think you are probably right. I'll look at the shotgun microphone threads.

Good point Ben. It's not easy to tell which of these sound recorders record on seperate tracks, I'd much rather record seperate tracks if possible. Do any of them record separate files/channels?
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Old May 5th, 2009, 03:48 AM   #14
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The R-44 records four discrete channels. It looks like it'll record about 11 hours of 4-track audio at 48 kHz at 16-bit depth.
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Old May 5th, 2009, 05:53 AM   #15
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Hi Stuart,

I have the Tascam recorder. Albeit I'm with the majority when they put SD on top of the list, I've also had the same problem as you choosing a solid state recorder: Price vs Performance!

If the SD recorder is the best here (no doubt), I'm certain that it isn't 900 pounds better than the Tascam recorder. I've tested several recorders in the same conditions with the best sound recorder we have in the country (he's all over the major Portuguese projects, many of them for Manoel de Oliveira which is a renown international director).

He uses SD but he has the money for it. Nonetheless, when comparing SD, Fostex, Edirol, and Tascam, we came to these findings:

- SD: Best preamps, best construction, TC in/Gen capabilities but the most expensive here by a large amount.
- Fostex FR2: Good preamps, very good construction. TC capabilities will cost you an additional 500 pounds!!! It will make Fostex receive and Generate TC though.
- Tascam: Good preamps (even slightly better than Fostex's), but inferior constrution. You have TC capabilities out of the box but no Gen facilities. It will Jam to any device though.
- Edirol: The worst preamps of the lot! But it compensates that with the 4 inputs if you need them.
Fostex FR2 LE: A good prosumer model but in another league. It doesn't and can't have TC. For the budget, good preamps compared with, say, Zoom H4. If you consider buying it, you definitely will need a mixer in front. A decent one (mixpre for instance), will cost you another 500 Pounds.

Resuming: I'm very very happy with my Tascam. It already has digital in/outs so it will be prepared for future digital mixers for instance.
It's preamps really shine at 16bit, a bit less at 24 (where the SD shines). It Jams easily to any camera with TC out or GenLock, or any digital slate.
It records internal generated TC even when you don't Jam it and I can say it's crystal internal clock is very accurate.

Hope that helps
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