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Old October 7th, 2009, 12:25 AM   #1
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Looking for a portable digital recorder and would like some recommendations.

Budget: $500 or less
Features required:
-XLR inputs with phantom power- minimum 2x (stereo)
-battery and AC power capabilities
-ability to record at least 4hrs at high-quality
-independent channel (input) level controls with metering

Objective: Transitioning to Blu-ray delivery and want to record compatible high quality audio that will sync well with HDV footage without wordclock or TC in (since cams are not sync capable.)

Primary usage: To record supplemental audio from board feeds or external microphones or wireless receiver.

Example of usage: Cams record ambient via shotgun, recorder captures direct feed from wireless lavs or 2 (or more) channels from soundboard with mics on one channel, music on the other, etc.

Background: I have been doing more stage and dance recording lately and have in the past always rented a Marantz PMD-660 and have had good experience with it so far. However, I have reached the point where it makes more sense to purchase than rent and I want to make sure I am not overlooking a better recorder before I move forward. B&H is currently offering the 660 for $469.99. What are your opinions of the 660 vs other recorders in this price range? Thanks!
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Last edited by Bryan Daugherty; October 7th, 2009 at 09:01 AM.
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Old October 7th, 2009, 06:24 AM   #2
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Hi Bryan ...

Don't know if you've seen the new Zoom R16 which is causing a bit of a stir- I'm considering getting one to record shows.

Samson - Zoom - R16

It records up to 8 channels simultaneously - ideal for recording soundboard feeds as well as your own mics. It has 8 XLR/line inputs (2 phantom), can run on batteries (not sure if it will do 4 hours) and as a bonus will connect to your PC to act as an audio workstation and controller - can't wait to get my hands on one !

Tony
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Old October 7th, 2009, 06:37 AM   #3
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The Samson R16 only records 44.1kHz when portable, not good enough for professional use. I bought the Zoom H4n recently, it's a great recorder when coupled with a mixer.
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Old October 7th, 2009, 08:59 AM   #4
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Tony,
Great to hear from you. That Samson does look like a nice piece of kit but the 44.1kHz limitation would be a problem. It is too bad that they don't offer a 48kHz (or better) option...

Nicholas,
I am hoping to use a recorder without a mixer. With the 660, I would monitor the level while recording but do all of my mixdown in post. Would you still recommend the H4n when used without a mixer? How do you feel it compares to the Marantz 660?

Thanks!
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Old October 7th, 2009, 09:09 AM   #5
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'The Samson R16 only records 44.1kHz when portable, not good enough for professional use. '

When you're recording a stage show, two or even four channels is never enough. You need to grab as many channels of audio as you can and do a proper mix-down in post.

So eight channels at CD quality is much more useful to me than 2/4 channels at studio quality with something missing - its a personal preference.
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Old October 7th, 2009, 09:20 AM   #6
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Tony,
I see where you are coming from but since I can't sync (TC, genlock, blackburst, etc not supported on cam) then wouldn't there be a greater risk of recording drift at 44.1 kHz? I really like the layout of the recorder though. In the past, for stage events, I capture 2 shotguns stereo to tape (on camera) the orchestra pit on one channel of the recorder, and the house lavs on the other channel of the recorder then in post I mix

LF-left channel shotgun
Center-lav mics
RF-right channel shotgun
LR-orchestra
RR-orchestra
LFE-extracted from all audio

I do have some other events where the additional tracks could come in handy, though. What has been your experience with this?
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Last edited by Bryan Daugherty; October 7th, 2009 at 11:32 PM.
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Old October 7th, 2009, 10:01 AM   #7
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After thinking about it some more, the r16 also doesn't seem very portable. It still presumes you are mixing/recording from a table-top environment vs the 660 which can fit in a mixing bag or on a shoulder sling.
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Old October 7th, 2009, 10:18 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryan Daugherty View Post
Would you still recommend the H4n when used without a mixer? How do you feel it compares to the Marantz 660?
Bryan I'm not sure how it compares to the Marantz 660. I do not recommend the H4n without a mixer, the two XLR ports gain is linked you cannot adjust the level on both channels independently you have one recording level for both mics. The H4n is not much of a 4CH recorder either the on board mics are useless so it's basically a 2CH recorder with one gain level for both channels.
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Old October 7th, 2009, 04:02 PM   #9
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Nicholas-Thanks for the follow-up. Those issues make the H4n out of the running but at that price point it probably was too much to hope for the extra features. Thanks!
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Old October 7th, 2009, 04:10 PM   #10
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I just got my H4n and haven't even had a chance to test it out, so can't really comment from personal experience... but you should know Nick is the only one I've heard who is unhappy with either the mics or the 4ch recording on this unit. The reviews at B&H are pretty glowing.

But the complaints that the manual is the worst one ever written? Take those seriously.

Again, take with a grain of salt ....
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Old October 7th, 2009, 08:40 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryan Daugherty View Post
Features required:
...
-independent channel (input) level controls with metering...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicholas de Kock View Post
...the two XLR ports gain is linked you cannot adjust the level on both channels independently...
Adam, Thanks for your input. My main issue with the H4n that would rule it out would be that the inputs cannot be separately controlled. In my experience, it is not uncommon to have your board feeds fluctuate in level and require adjustment independently.
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Old October 7th, 2009, 08:57 PM   #12
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Again, haven't used it yet, but looking at p24 of the manual, seems to imply that while the onboard mics cannot be adjusted independently of each other, the two XLR inputs can:

Quote:
"Target setting:
Press INPUT [MIC], [1]
and [2] buttons and
select the input source
which you want to
adjust the recording
level.
0 _ 100
+ : Increase Volume
− : Decrease Volume."
And yes, that gives you an idea of the quality of the manual.

Last edited by Adam Gold; October 7th, 2009 at 09:43 PM.
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Old October 7th, 2009, 09:50 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Gold View Post
Again, haven't used it yet, but looking at p24 of the manual, seems to imply that while the onboard mics cannot be adjusted independently of each other, the two XLR inputs can:



And yes, that gives you an idea of the quality of the manual.
It'd be great if we can get a definitive answer on this, can't go by the manual since it was written by a moron.
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Old October 7th, 2009, 11:30 PM   #14
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I went hunting in the boards looking for an answer and have found quite a bit of confusion on level control with the H4n and also asked for help on a few threads where the conversation is already in the same vein. But here are some of the posts/threads I found so far:

http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/1397705-post15.html
Using the Zoom H4N - Recording Levels?
http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/1026192-post1.html
http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/1026245-post2.html
http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/1028108-post21.html
http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/1028174-post25.html

As best as I can tell, the consensus is that there is no consensus. Most seem to say that you cannot adjust levels independently except when in multi-track mode using all four inputs and recording at lower quality...

All of that aside though, I don't really see the H4n as a great option against the PMD-660.

I really appreciate everyone's input so far. Keep the info flowing! Thanks again.
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Old October 8th, 2009, 05:09 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Gold View Post
Again, haven't used it yet, but looking at p24 of the manual, seems to imply that while the onboard mics cannot be adjusted independently of each other, the two XLR inputs can:
Adam turn ON the unit and see for yourself, you are only creating doubt on an established fact, make sure you have tried something first before posting it on a forum, these forums are information hubs we rely on. The XLR's are linked and once you use the H4n you will understand what the manual is refering to.
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