PCM-D50 with external condenser mics at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > All Things Audio

All Things Audio
Everything Audio, from acquisition to postproduction.


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old February 9th, 2010, 06:17 PM   #1
Major Player
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: London, UK
Posts: 277
PCM-D50 with external condenser mics

Hi all.

I'm looking to replace my old mini disk with a solid-state field recorder.
I have spend many days reading through this forum and elsewhere, and have narrowed it down to the Sony PCM-D50 and the Zoom H4n.

I'm almost set on the Sony. While the Zoom is tempting for obvious reasons, ultimately the Sony's cleaner sound (as far as I can tell from reviews and samples I've come across) seems to me of more value, and it's still within my price range.

My main intended use for the recorder would be for environmental, voice and sound effects recordings. I would like to be able to use external mics in addition to the built in ones. I have heard quite a few samples of dynamic external mics, and it seems that the D50 actually sounds better than the Zoom, despite having an unbalanced mini mic plug.

However, I have not really come across enough examples of the D50 coupled with a battery-operated condenser. I have an audio technica 33a condenser (bought for recording guitar) which can operate on battery power. Also planning to buy a rode NTG-2 in the near future...

Can someone confirm if the D50 will sound as good (if not better) with a battery powered condenser compared with the Zoom H4n?
It will really help me finalize my decision.

Also, is there a benefit in using a "Low to High Impedance Matching Transformer" cable over a regular XLR-to-mini cable with the D50?
(like this one Pearstone | LMT100 - Low to High Impedance Matching | 8111240)

Many thanks in advance,
Jon.
Jon Shohet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 10th, 2010, 01:15 PM   #2
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Karlsruhe, Germany
Posts: 80
Jon,
I have used the H4n for some time and was pretty unhappy with the noisy preamps, the obvious inability to record line-level signals plus some pretty heavy distortions when feeding unbalanced signals through the TRS inputs.
A few weeks ago I have switched to the Sony PCM-D50 and couldn't be happier. This unit is in a completely different class.

You were asking about condenser mics. I have been using the PCM-D50 with my Rode NT4 with very good results. See here for a sample: Aufnahmetechniken
Please scroll to the end of the page and load the video. You can hear the PCM-D50 whenever it switches to the NT4 microphone (XY).

But phantom powered mics also work nicely with the Sony. You will just need an external phantom power supply unit and an adapter cable (2xXLR to 1/8" TSR). These can be obtained pretty cheap from a number of makers (for example Rolls PB224) - no need to buy the pricey XL1 unit.
A very good alternative is the CX231 juicedlink amplifier. Just yesterday I was recording my Neumann TLM102 condenser mic on the PCM-D50 using this unit as preamp and power supply with very nice results. I can send you a copy if you leave me a personal message.
__________________
Best regards, Martin
<<< Visit my homepage: http://www.Martin-Doppelbauer.de >>>
Martin Doppelbauer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 10th, 2010, 05:03 PM   #3
Major Player
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Melbourne Australia
Posts: 604
I purchased a PCM-D50 to record ambient sounds and animal calls. It has a lot of nice features but I found that if I was recording in a VERY QUIET ENVIRONMEN with a gain control setting above 4 and a bit (the knob goes up to 10) that the amplifier noise became unacceptable. If there was a bit of noise in the background, as there usually is, and you can get close enough to the source the amplifier noise was MUCH LESS NOTICEABLE. I tried a borrowed Senheiser ME 66 which seemed to be a slight improvement. I very seriously considered purchasing a Sound Devices MM1 phantom power supply with preamp but at decided at the last minute that handling an MM1, a PCM-D50 and external microphone often in the dark might be too awkward. Instead I have ordered a Sound Devices 702. I hope it is a good choice.

I posted my concerns about the pre amplifier noise on this forum. The verdict seemed to be that most people were happy but two others were not. Some private emails followed and our final feeling was that all the recorders in this price bracket seemed to suffer from preamp noise. If all goes well with the 702 I will try to sell my PCM-D50.

Good luck
Alastair Traill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 10th, 2010, 06:14 PM   #4
Major Player
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: London, UK
Posts: 277
Thanks guys.

Alastair, the 702 is overkill for me. (at least for now). I hope you will be happy with it, though :)
If the preamps and line-in on the H4n are even worse than on the D50, it's enough to sway me towards the Sony.

Martin, your post is very helpful. Beautiful recordings, although I must admit the NT4 is my least favorite of the three. It sounds to me harsher (but I'm really not experienced enough in audio recording). What preamps/recorders were used for the other two?
I will send you a PM, I would love to hear the juicedlink sample, many thanks.

What about the impedance matching transformer cable, is there any need for it with the D50, or would any regular XLR to 1/8" TSR do?

Cheers,
Jon.
Jon Shohet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 10th, 2010, 06:38 PM   #5
Trustee
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Novato, CA
Posts: 1,770
I have a Sony PCM-D50 that I use as a field recorder and as a dual audio system. I've never used it with anything but phantom powered mics which are powered by either a field mixer such as a SD 442 or similar. I've also used it to record feeds from large studio boards. The sound in those situations are quite good. I am however selling it so that I can use something that allows TC input for easier synching to video.

So Jon, if you're interested I don't know what shipping to you would be. I did first purchase the H4 but was very dissapointed with the sound quality. I've used the Sony for about two years now and never had a problem. The limiter on the Sony is one of the best I've used which is one of the big reasons why I went for that one over some of the other choices in compact field recorders.

If you're interested in buying my Sony shoot me a pm.

-Garrett
Garrett Low is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 11th, 2010, 01:31 PM   #6
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Karlsruhe, Germany
Posts: 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Shohet View Post
Thanks guys.

Martin, your post is very helpful. Beautiful recordings, although I must admit the NT4 is my least favorite of the three. It sounds to me harsher (but I'm really not experienced enough in audio recording). What preamps/recorders were used for the other two?
The other recordings were done on an Edirol R4. But the difference between the three is just the mics, not the recorder.

To Alastair and regarding the Sound Devices 702: This is one of the best field recorders available and certainly much better than the Sony PCM-D50. But it's also several times as expensive... If you didn't like the preamp noise of the Sony be sure never to test the H4n - that will be horrible in comparison ;-) BTW, the Sony becomes much quieter with external mics.
__________________
Best regards, Martin
<<< Visit my homepage: http://www.Martin-Doppelbauer.de >>>
Martin Doppelbauer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 11th, 2010, 05:46 PM   #7
Trustee
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Burlington
Posts: 1,961
Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Doppelbauer View Post
Jon,
I have used the H4n for some time and was pretty unhappy with the noisy preamps, the obvious inability to record line-level signals plus some pretty heavy distortions when feeding unbalanced signals through the TRS inputs.
I agree the H4n mic preamps aren't great, but I don't understand your meaning about not being able to record line-level signals. The H4n records line-level signals very well using the 1/4-inch portion of the combo XLR/1/4-inch connectors.
I've also never noted any problem with distortion sending in an unbalanced 1/4-inch TS connector attached to the combo connectors. Or were you referring to using the 1/8-inch TRS connector for unbalanced signals? I haven't used the 1/8-inch connector yet.
Jay Massengill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 11th, 2010, 06:18 PM   #8
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Tucson AZ
Posts: 2,205
Martin

By the way, thank you very much for the comparison. I thought the NT2-A's sounded best to my ears as you had them configured. I've been using an NT2-A for VO and really like it - maybe I'll pick up a second and do a side by side with my normal Schoeps/SD 702 set up (Usually M/S but with an omni instead of a cardioid) - I was already planning to mount my Sony PCM-D50 on the same bar as the Schoeps for a side by side and it wouldn't be any big deal to hang a pair of the NT2-A's up there as well. My wife (piano) and a violinist will be doing the Mozart 304 e minor and Beethoven "Spring" sonatas on the 21st so it will be a great opportunity to try them all.

I did a side by side of the Schoeps and Sony (w built in mics) mounted on the same stand a couple of years back for a concert band recording and while the Schoeps/702 was clearly better sounding, the Sony was quite acceptable. Great little price performer.

Sorry if the was a bit OT - I'll post the results in a new thread after the concert.
Jim Andrada is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 12th, 2010, 11:50 AM   #9
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Karlsruhe, Germany
Posts: 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Massengill View Post
The H4n records line-level signals very well using the 1/4-inch portion of the combo XLR/1/4-inch connectors.
No, it doesn't. The inputs are much too sensitive (read:mic-level) and are overloaded by line-level signals. That is a well known complaint and a google search should reveal many hits. Or see here: Field recorder harmonics. That page will also show you how "well" the H4n handles unbalanced signals. But we've had this before in another thread.
__________________
Best regards, Martin
<<< Visit my homepage: http://www.Martin-Doppelbauer.de >>>
Martin Doppelbauer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 12th, 2010, 01:31 PM   #10
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Posts: 5,742
Martin, you keep saying the 1/4 inputs are too sensitive for "line-level" inputs. I'll bet you're thinking line-level refers to the professional line level of +4dBu or even the older standard of +8dBu. Don't forget that the Zoom recorder is a consumer device, not truly in the professional camp, and consumer line-level is a nominal -10dBv, fully 12dB lower than pro line-level. Zoom's specs are clear that the maximum rated level for the 1/4 unbalanced inputs is +2dBm (dBu). If that's the maximum, it seems logical to me that the nominal would be much lower. If you're sending it a +4dBu "line-level" signal it's no wonder it's overloading. I've seen your other posts and I don't recall seeing that you were aware there were two quite different definitions of "line-level" or which one you were testing it with.
__________________
Good news, Cousins! This week's chocolate ration is 15 grams!
Steve House is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 12th, 2010, 02:11 PM   #11
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Karlsruhe, Germany
Posts: 80
Steve, I have tested the Zoom with a consumer CD-player and the output was much too hot for it.
The output voltage of the player was about 1 volts which computes to 2.2 dBu - not far from the datasheet value of 2 dBm. But the input was very much overloaded - not just barely. I really don't care if this is pro level or consumer level: It is just not working with the H4n but it should.
BTW, I didn't have similar problems with any other recorder and there are many complaints about the Zoom's inputs being too hot all over the net. The competitor products which I am aware of do not have such problems either.
__________________
Best regards, Martin
<<< Visit my homepage: http://www.Martin-Doppelbauer.de >>>

Last edited by Martin Doppelbauer; February 12th, 2010 at 03:01 PM.
Martin Doppelbauer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 12th, 2010, 02:33 PM   #12
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Karlsruhe, Germany
Posts: 80
... message deleted ...
Martin Doppelbauer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 12th, 2010, 03:15 PM   #13
Trustee
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Burlington
Posts: 1,961
I haven't noticed on my particular H4n either of the problems you've documented on the H4n you had. I'll pay strict attention this week as I use it for several more projects, but so far it has been totally satisfactory with line-level signals both balanced and unbalanced.
Jay Massengill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 12th, 2010, 03:50 PM   #14
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Karlsruhe, Germany
Posts: 80
I have retested the CD-player just now with my Edirol R4. Although this unit has a rated max input of 4 dBu there was still 6 dBFS of headroom left. And with the PCM-D50 I could get more than 40 dBFS of headroom with the input level knob turned down all the way while the Zoom H4n would heavily overload even at the lowest rec-level setting.
To Jay: I found no difference in the sensitivity of the 1/8" and the 1/4" inputs of the H4n.
But this is really getting off topic now...
__________________
Best regards, Martin
<<< Visit my homepage: http://www.Martin-Doppelbauer.de >>>
Martin Doppelbauer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 12th, 2010, 08:16 PM   #15
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Boston MA
Posts: 167
Recently, I have been converting my analog cassette recordings to digital files using a H4n via RCA to XLR connector and I had no problems with the input levels.

P.
Pedanes Bol is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > All Things Audio

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 06:34 PM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network