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Old May 2nd, 2010, 08:13 AM   #1
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Best consumer cam for audio?

Hi,

I'm looking to buy a new camcorder (1000 max) and am keen to get as good audio quality as possible. I've done a lot of research re external mics etc but my interest here is in the inherent quality of the recording medium itself. AC3 which seems to be used on AVCHD cameras has a 'max bit rate' of 640 kbit/s whilst the MPEG1 Layer 2 of HDV is 384 kbit/s (at least that's what my research has told me!). This seems to suggest that the ac3 of AVCHD is better quality? Am I right - do the numbers translate in practice? My problem is that my computer system and NLE can't really handle AVCH so I'm still drawn to HDV (HV-40 though reports on audio quality from tis ca are very mixed).

Thank You.
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 09:29 AM   #2
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If you really want the best quality audio then don't (or don't just) record it on the camera. There's a whole range of digital audio recorders ranging from the likes of the Zoom H2 right up to the Sound Devices pro stuff. It's generally pretty easy to synch up externally recorded audio with a reference track recorded on the camera.You can even use the camera's built in mic for this, or you can run a cable to the camera from your external recorder - sounds complicated but actually quite easy to do with a Zoom and a simple mini jack cable or more sophisticated recorder and XLR cable(s).

I have a Zoom H2 and I find it works fine with its own built-in mics and also with a line level input, though it is not particularly good with a direct connection to external mics.

It seems a bit drastic to saddle yourself with problems using AVCHD just because the audio spec looks a bit better on paper.

I use HV-30s but almost never with the built in mic for main audio. For most purposes I need, the audio is fine with Senny radionics or Rode NTG-3 shotgun plugged in to the camera. For anything where audio is critical I record it separately (Zoom or ProTools).

Sometimes I record to Standard def widescreen for better audio if the final video is for web use or DVD but that may not be giving me the best image quality.
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 09:44 AM   #3
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Thanks Colin. Yes I get the point about using a separate recorder and I do have a Zoom H4n. Never synched it to the camera though so will investigate how to do this - it just dawned on me how thick I'm being - I can simply plug in an output from the Zoom to the camera mic input?! Then have the Zoom recording plus the same on tape - is it that simple?

Good to know that an external mic on on the HV-30 gives OK results too as sometimes that's all one can get.
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 10:28 AM   #4
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...I can simply plug in an output from the Zoom to the camera mic input?! Then have the Zoom recording plus the same on tape - is it that simple?
Yes and no - the Zoom H2 headphone/line output is quite noisy (hiss/hum) when plugged straight in to the HV-30 but it does fine for a reference track for sync purposes. By tweaking the camera audio gain and optimising the Zoom output settings the noise can be minimised. Won't be wonderful though - could use a pad to correct impedance but it will still be noisier than the Zoom recording which is surprisingly good on internal mics. Can't speak for the H4, never used one.
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Old May 3rd, 2010, 09:41 AM   #5
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I haven't seen any reports of camcorders with outstanding audio recording capability. Even broadcast-grade camcorders have rather ordinary audio sections. And really high-end cameras (used for electronic cinematography of feature films, etc.) tend to assume that you are recording audio on a separate recorder so they have only the basics (if they even have audio at all).

The RED camera that is all the rage these days for high-end videography has had endless problems with the audio section. Nobody who makes video cameras thinks that the audio section is very important.

I don't think that there IS a "best consumer cam for audio". And if there WERE, why would you compromise on the video performance of a camcorder in order to get good audio? The primary purpose of a camcorder is to capture moving images and that is what would be the primary determining factor. At least IMHO.
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Old May 4th, 2010, 02:12 PM   #6
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Geoffrey - one note, and you'll find posts in here on this topic is that the time clock on the separate recorders can vary from the camcorder time clock, so you'll need to shrink / stretch your imported audio to match the video track (not a big deal in some editors). generally the more you spend on the audio recorder, the more 'accurate' time clock you are likely to get (in addition to better pre-amps, etc etc). So, it's a tradeoff, but if you really do want nice audio, a separate recorder will help. Depends on what you are after, how quiet of a recording, etc. and how much you value the tradoffs between better video / video camera and better audio, and what is 'good enough' for each. hope this helps!
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Old May 5th, 2010, 12:36 PM   #7
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Any HDV camera is basically recording MP3 audio. Before HD all cameras were recording uncompressed 16bit 48k audio. Now it's all compressed with HDV. My Sony EX1 records uncompressed audio, which is great. If you have an HDV camera, and audio is very important you need to invest in a better recorder than the H4N. The best bang for your buck is an Edirol R-44, modified by the Oade Brothers. They sell them modified for 1,045.00, and they are 4 track with stellar preamps. H4n is only "OK", and the preamps are somewhat noisy. Also syncing is a cinch with Plural Eyes.

Here's a comparison of how noisy all the 2 channel recorders are. The Zooms didn't do too well:

Portable Recorder Noise: The Sounds of Silence

Here's a video about Plural Eyes: Singular Software

Oade Brothers R-44: Ordering for Oade Brothers Audio: Edirol R44 Super

And here's the B&H R-44 (posted only for reading the specs):
Edirol / Roland | R-44 Solid-State Four-Channel Portable | R-44
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Old May 7th, 2010, 01:51 PM   #8
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Thanks everyone for the useful comments and I take the point totally about a separate recorder which I'm now veering towards - maybe upgrading from my Zoom H4. Chad the audio noise floor link is very useful indeed so many thanks for that. The Edirol is too pricey for me and also I really wanted a handheld model - the Sony PCM-D50 looks rather good and more my price range. Of course the Edirol looks great but at $995 one would rather expect it to be a lot better than the Zoom H4n at $299!
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Old May 7th, 2010, 03:14 PM   #9
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Tha Oade Brothers R-44 is a lot better than all of the 2 channel models. But as 2 channels go, the Sony is sweet, except no XLR inputs, and by the time you pay for a Juicedlink you may have well have bought the R-44. The thing is once you buy this you don't have to do it again. But if you cheap out you will have to be annoyed by bad sound until you end up buying the right tool down the road. I understand - easier said than done.
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Last edited by Chad Johnson; May 8th, 2010 at 12:44 PM.
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Old May 8th, 2010, 07:57 AM   #10
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Chad, you more or less persuaded me to fork out for the the Oade Brothers R-44 but sadly they don't ship outside the US!
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Old May 8th, 2010, 12:47 PM   #11
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They do mods to gear you send to them as well. Perhaps if you bought the unit, then sent it to them in a box with a pre-paid return box, they could help you. Or of you have a friend in the US they could help facilitate by having the unit sent to your US buddy, then the buddy sends you the package.

Just a thought.
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