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Old October 31st, 2009, 02:11 AM   #1
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Sound Devices 552 vs. 302 and Recorder

I need a quality mixer for sit down interviews, as well a flash recorder for recording live musical performances (and possibly for dual-system or audio backup of interviews).

The Sound Devices 552, while somewhat pricey and not available for another month, seems like the answer to my wishes.

As for now, I have access to a Shure FP-33 mixer, and can rent a recorder or try using my MX02 and my laptop, though this isn't obviously as rugged in the field.

Does anyone have an opinion on the following options:

1. Hold out for the 552 (@$2800), knock out my needs in a fail swoop; work with Shure mixer/laptop or rented recorder in meantime.
2. Go ahead and buy a SD 302 today, and possibly a flash recorder or modified flash recorder (Oade Bros. anyone?).
3. Buy a 302, use the laptop/rented recorder for a while, eventually spring for a second recorder if I feel it's necessary.
4. Keep getting by with leaning on my collaborators for equipment (but not learning as much as I would owning it).

Again, the benefits of the recorder would be the live music recording (I would use fairly frequently), and the SD mixer being a step up, I've heard, in low noise from the Shure.

Thanks for your time reading this over, JB
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Old October 31st, 2009, 06:05 AM   #2
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The recorder in the 552 is not really intended for production sound. It's there for backup, recording a stereo mix for dailies or a mix of the production sound to send for transcription. For serious music recording you'd still want an outboard recorder.
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Old November 1st, 2009, 12:38 PM   #3
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Thanks; recommended recorders?

Steve, thanks for the thoughts, but wanted to see if you could clarify the reasoning...

Sound Devices explains that the 552 lacks the exceptional dynamic range of their flagship recorders (http://www.sounddevices.com/notes/ge...or-7-series/); in short, the 552 is 103 dB Dynamic range vs. 114 dB for most of the 700 series and 128 dB for the 788T; they also cite lower noise for the outboard recorders. However, they also say that the 552's recorder is "sufficient for most applications."

Do you disagree (based on the specs, I guess, unless you've had a chance to check it out on a demo model or at NAB)? Or is your opinion simply that "most applications" doesn't really include capturing live music?

What outboard recorders would you generally recommend, and how would their performance be superior to that of the 552, for music and possibly also for dialogue/interview backup?

If anyone else has thoughts on this I'd welcome them as well. Again, Steve, appreciate your response.
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Old November 1st, 2009, 01:40 PM   #4
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I've been able to get my hands on the 552. It's a nice mixer/recorder. The voice on the mixer is a little hard to understand, but I'm sure it just takes getting some used to.

I still have my reservations of using the 552 as a primary recorder. Perhaps I'm not used to the fact that a recorder is built right into a mixer. I own a 7-series recorder so that may add to some of my paranoia about using a non-dedicated system.

My attitude is pretty much similar to Steve's. I would pretty much only use this as a backup for a wireless hop and for a dailies mix. I don't have any doubt that it could perform properly as a primary recorder, but would I do it? Nope, but that's just me.

Great overall mixer. I may pick one up in the future.
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Old November 1st, 2009, 01:49 PM   #5
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I think Sound Device's tech note on the 552 versus 7-series recorder pretty well covers it. Shooting single system with sound sent from the mixer to the camera it's a good idea to also have a backup recording. Recording 4 mics, each to their own iso track on a 744T, one should also record a stereo mix for the dailies. Those sorts of applications are where I see the built-in recorder of the 552 really coming into its own. And then there's the issue of timecode and wordclock/video sync - not features supported by the 552 (it can timestamp the start of recording if external timecode is fed to it but doesn't have an internal timecode generator).

I would absolutely use the 552's internal recorder in preference to using something like the popular Zooms and other sub-$1000 recorders as an external recorder. If you were comparing it to something like the Tascam HDP2 or the Edirol R4 then it gets a bit murkier. But for serious music I'd look at a 4 or more track like the 744 or 788, Nagra VI, etc if the budget could stand it

Haven't had a chance to play with one yet but I'm sorely tempted to upgrade my 442.
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Old November 1st, 2009, 02:42 PM   #6
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Mixer to i/o laptop, or mixer to recorder...

What about capturing live audio through FCP (soundtrack?) or using Protools? Not as robust a system, to be sure, but if I ran a live board stereo feed through a sound devices 442, and then perhaps a stereo mic setup through that mixer as well, into a MX02 I/O to my laptop, would that recording be equivalent or even superior to the same run to a compact flash recorder?

Thanks, I'm just a director/dp starting to run my own sound when my audio buddies are tied up at the studio. I've got a background in music and a passion for audio, but am new to recording technique in the field.

Trying to get the most out of what I have, and considering investing in a mixer (and possibly a recorder) of my own. Or just the mixer and working with my laptop, if that gives the best results for my dollar.

Thanks, JB
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Old November 1st, 2009, 04:05 PM   #7
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Live board feeds are not always the best for high-quality recording as the mic'ing and mix are often quite different for Front Of House PA versus recording. For example, a live sound mix might not even mic the drumkit because it's loud enough without going through the PA. If this was the case on your venue, the only drums you'd get in your recording would be via bleed into the stage mics. As for your other specific gear/software questions, I'll have to defer to others as I'm not a Mac, FCP, or Protools user. I do know that it's certainly possible to do high quality multi-track recording directly to a laptop if your hardware is up to the job, it's just not very portable for convenient use in the field.
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Old November 2nd, 2009, 12:55 AM   #8
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Summing Up

Steve, Jeffrey, thanks for the input, really appreciate it. A final query to you and anyone else out there with an educated opinion:

1. Buy sound Devices 302 now, and an Oade Bros. Modded Edirol R-44
-pros: can get it immediately
-cons: not able to preamp all 4 channels with the 302 (though could perhaps link up my DPs Shure FP-33), Sound Devices likely to upgrade the 302 like the 552 very soon.

2. Rent recorders until the Sound Devices 552 comes out; then buy the 552, consider buying a recorder.

3. Use the laptop as a recorder, either using a SD USBPre, or use the Shure FP33/Sound Devices 302 mix into my MX02Le I/0 breakout box. Use the production money elsewhere.

I'm also tempted to purchase a SD 442 immediately and pair it with a modded Edirol R-44; but the fact that the new price is still just hundreds less than the incoming 552, and that the 442 is being discontinued, I seriously hesitate.

I like Sound Devices a lot, but if I'm going to spring for a recorder, I feel like it should be four channels, and the SDs four channel recorders are a bit out of my league.

IN SUMMARY:
The SD preamps coupled with a more reasonable recorder, or maybe the SD 702 on two channels and the camera or laptop working the other 2, seem to be my best option for the money in the end. Thoughts?

Oh yeah, and definitely realize the live board feed's shortcomings, just usually like to get it as backup, to mix with the camera shotgun mic if I'm using just a bit of a song or something to give the ambience of a show. Ideally I'll be using that XY stereo recording instead.

Gracias for your time, JB
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Old November 2nd, 2009, 06:37 AM   #9
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Don't forget you might also get a new audio interface that supports more recording channels for your laptop. The MX02 I think only supports stereo in, at least it only has two audio inputs. I have an Echo Audiofire 8 8-channel and an AudioFire 12 12-channel firewire interfaces that work with both PC and Mac. The 8-channel has 2 mic/line and 6 line level inputs while the 12-channel is all line level. So with one of the those you could record as many iso tracks as your laptop's speed and the number of mixer output channels lets you feed it. (The Echos actually can be daisy-chained through their firewire ports so with my two I could theorectically record 20 channels at once.) Only drawback for film/video is they're AC mains power only.
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