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Old March 24th, 2010, 07:54 PM   #1
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Best production sound upgrade for $2,500?

I'm helping a friend and colleague plan an upgrade to his location sound gear, and wanted your opinions. He currently has:

Sony HVR-Z7U
Audio Technica AT815b
4 Shure PGX1 with WL93 leads.
Boom, shockmount


Using them to make ~6 short films a year, low budget location-heavy indie stuff.

The budget is roughly $2,500, which makes the $2500-question be... what's the best use for the money?

My idea so far:
1. PSC DV Promix3 ($500)
2. Tascam HD-P2 ($750)
3. Sennheiser MKH416 ($1200)

I'll still have to squeeze in a bag, windshield, cables...

1. The Promix3 is a bit cruder and the VU meters are slower than a 702, but I think recording 24bit on the Tascam will still get him plenty of clear sound.

2. I've also heard that anything short of a real TC recorder doesn't quite cut it. Would you pick a used DAT over the above options? How would you ride 3+ inputs and stay under budget?

3. Based on my limited experience, I hate the AT815b and swear by the 416. Others are not as resolute, and recommend a Rode NTG3 or a microphone that's more proportional to the other components` quality. Wouldn't you prefer a great mike with a decent mixer & recorder than the other way around?

Any ideas are welcome. Thanks!
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Old March 24th, 2010, 09:16 PM   #2
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Wouldn't you prefer a great mike with a decent mixer & recorder than the other way around?
The Mic is setting the quality. You can't recover it downstream. The 416 in skilled hands is still the standard.
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Old March 24th, 2010, 09:45 PM   #3
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Might I suggest stretching you dollar by shopping for higher quality used gear rather than new low end gear like the DV Promix3.
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Old March 24th, 2010, 11:16 PM   #4
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I own the AT815b. Yeah, it's pretty weak.

From what I've heard and from the specs, the NTG-3 is very similar to the 416. The 416 isn't quite as narrow. Both have nice, well-controlled off axis rolloff. And both can get great recordings in the right hands.

IMHO, if your friend is charging for his services, he should get the 416. He'll never be second guessed with it. It's a keeper.

On the other hand, if your friend is recording his own projects, the NTG-3 is a heck of a bargain.

IMHO, the difference is price is more for status than sound quality. But status can have solid value in a competitive market.
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Old March 25th, 2010, 01:46 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by David W. Jones View Post
Might I suggest stretching you dollar by shopping for higher quality used gear rather than new low end gear like the DV Promix3.
Very good suggestion.

Used SD302s go for $1000. Better sound, more features, good resale value.
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Old March 25th, 2010, 02:31 AM   #6
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If used is an option, Sennheiser 416s and even 816s have been selling very reasonably on eBay for 6 months or more. You can buy a used 416T for less than a used ME66 in some cases. I think that more people are familiar with the more run-of-the-mill 66 than the MKH models.

A fairly inexpensive 48v Phantom>12v T Power adapter gets you power from a less expensive mixer which only has 48v phantom (the Sound Devices gear typically has 12v T on board from what I've seen).

The only other thing I might suggest that is a little off the beaten path...if you or your friend aren't gaffer/grip types with heavy C stands and grip gear... buy a C stand with a grip head and a Cardellini (Matthews calls theirs a Mathellini or some such thing) to hard mount the boom to a stand if you have a situation where there is no room for a boom op in the optimum boom placement, or maybe the audio op doesn't need to chase cast for a shot, but needs to manage levels across mics furiously... It just adds an option, particularly with a really small indie sort of crew.
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Old March 25th, 2010, 11:37 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Kirk Candlish View Post
Very good suggestion.

Used SD302s go for $1000. Better sound, more features, good resale value.
Thanks for all the input!
But this exactly an example of my point... any better mixer is almost 3 times as expensive new... and twice as expensive used! A used mike might be a good idea and invest the money somewhere else ...but I'm not sure if a better 3-channel mixer is worth the price jump.

I was actually wondering about the recorder... but I guess no one had any complaints :)
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Old March 26th, 2010, 03:58 AM   #8
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...but I'm not sure if a better 3-channel mixer is worth the price jump.
A higher quality mixer gives you far greater control over your recording and a greater dynamic range.

In other words useable audio with a greater safety margin. You have headroom for unexpected high levels and quiet when it is quiet and your gain is set too low.

Nothing worse than noisy cheap op amps that also clip when you unexpectedly hit them hard with gain, like those in entry level mixers. Try to fix that in post.

Once you're past the mic and mixer the quality has been determined. Most any modern recorder will deliver what you're shooting.
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Old March 26th, 2010, 04:50 AM   #9
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Here is a start.

A professional quality used mixer like a 302, or X4 can be had for under $700.
A used Sennheiser 416T can be had for under $500.
New Oktava MK012 $250
New boom pole holder $30
New C-Stand w/grip head $150

All the Best!
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Old March 26th, 2010, 06:49 PM   #10
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If it were me, for $2500, I'd go:

$699 RODE NTG-3 Shotgun RODE NTG-3 Shotgun Mic at DVcreators.net
$549 SignVideo ENG44 4 channel mixer SignVideo ENG-44 Portable Mixer at DVcreators.net
--------
$1248


$1199 Sennheiser 8040 cardioid mic for indoors
--------
$2447
-122.35 Less 5% DVinfo.net discount at DVeStore (basically, Guy buys you sushi)
--------
$2324.65


$240 Breakaway cable Remote Audio ENG Breakaway Cable at DVcreators.net
--------
$2564.65

Don't like sushi? Guy throws in remote audio breakaway cable or RODE Blimp at the full $2500

What does it all sound like? Well, below is a sound sample in our studio of the Sennheiser 8040 cardioid and the 416 shotgun. As you may know, the NTG-3 sounds very close to the 416. These two examples are SD302 mixer into Panasonic HPX500:



And it case you're wondering how transparent the ENG44 mixer sounds:


I own a Z7U and a Tascam. There is no TC out of that camera, so I'd skip the recorder and go LINE level out of the mixer straight to camera. With the breakaway cable and the ENG44, you'll be able to flip a switch to monitor the return from the cam to make sure you're hearing what the camera is hearing.
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Old March 26th, 2010, 09:41 PM   #11
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$xxx Sound Deversions-X004a 99-track idiot proof mixer/TC recorder

Last edited by Rick Reineke; March 27th, 2010 at 11:18 AM.
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Old April 4th, 2010, 05:09 PM   #12
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mix ITB and track with a multitracker like the new Tascam DR-680 (and then come tell us how you like the mic pre's and converters, LOL)...
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Old April 5th, 2010, 04:20 PM   #13
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You insist on a premium everything but want to send the sound into an HDV camera? These are known to have the worst audio recording of all camcorders.

I liked the Tascam P2 because it can grow with their gear a bit, or if they rent a Red or similar. I'd also risk guessing that its built-in clock is better than a $300 recorder. It also has the nifty feature to sync to a video signal, so running Composite out of the Z7 (or any camera) can be a way to maintain perfect sync for long runs.

I liked the idea of the Oktava cardioid, as well as the ENG44... same price range as the PSC, with more features (slate mike; tone!) and 4 inputs. I did suggest the options of a used 416 and SD302. Although it seems like many are closing shop these days, it's not easy to find these in the market, especially at these prices; they do maintain a high resale value.

Thanks for all the input.
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Old April 6th, 2010, 08:05 PM   #14
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You insist on a premium everything but want to send the sound into an HDV camera? These are known to have the worst audio recording of all camcorders.
Umm.... not really. HDV is a video format, and has NOTHING to do with how a camera records sound. Honestly, people are suggesting professional gear that'll last for a career. A SD 302 is a pro level, small mixer that'll last nearly forever in professional use. A ProMix, not so much. IMHO, it's much better to buy stuff once and then add to it, instead of having to re-buy gear when you realized it's not high enough quality.

The biggest issue with recording to camera comes in that cameras have low quality preamps, but with a mixer you run line-level signal and bypass the camera's preamp so that's not an issue.

And honestly, unless you have a specific need for timecode right now (and not just assuming it'll be needed), I would wait until you can get at least a 4 track timecode recorder. For the moment, you're MUCH better off getting good mics, a good mixer, and a backup recorder.

Used 302 - $1000
Location Sound Package 4 - $1000
RODE NTG-3 Shotgun Mic at DVcreators.net
Zoom H4n - $300
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Old April 6th, 2010, 09:29 PM   #15
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I recently got a Rode NTG-3 shotgun (and the $1 blimp/furry during the special deal) and I got a Sign Video ENG44 mixer. I am quite pleased with both of them.
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