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Old May 19th, 2010, 04:56 AM   #1
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Sound recorder recommendation wanted

So far I have only used external microphones attached to my Canon XH-A1 camera, but am now considering a stand alone recorder.

I have a Rode NTG-3, with blimp etc.

What I think I need (and I'm sure the more experienced persons among you will guide me) is:

A reasonably priced and not too fancy (ie suitable for a beginner) machine with XLR input, delivering phantom power, digital (preferably to CF card) recording with a 10 or 15 second cache. These might be standard but I don't know. Oh, and a reasonably light weight too.

Virtually all of my recording is done outdoors, and is wildlife oriented - so anything from birdsong to rustling in the grass.

Ambient sounds are usually recorded on my Edirol RH-09, but I can't use that with the NTG-3.

Your help will be appreciated. Thanks

I've been reading lots of posts, and picked up a lot of information, but so far not an answer to this specifc question. Your help will be appreciated. Thanks
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Old May 19th, 2010, 05:24 AM   #2
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I'm not sure about the 10-15 second cache. You mean like a pre-record cache?

As a beginner its hard to pass up the zoom h4n. At only $300 its a bargain and a lot of people have done quality work with it. It looks a bit like a futuristic tazer, though.

I have no idea about the cache, sorry. I've only used an h4n a few times and didn't really dig through the features. For dialog I found it a very capable recorder.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 05:32 AM   #3
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The Marantz PMD660 is easy to use, supplies 48v phantom and has nice "twist" knobs (you don't have to adjust gain with "up/down" buttons or in the menu). I've used it quite a lot for recording ambient sound and all sorts of recording fun. It's a bit "old" technology and, currently cheaper than a lot of current gear.

It records to CF cards and uses AA batteries.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 06:14 AM   #4
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Andrew

Yes, I do mean a pre-record cache. I've been using the Sony HVR MRC unit with my cameras, and have found the cache feature extremely useful for wildlife video. Certainly the ability to record something that happened before I had time to hit the record button - and wait for the tape drive to crank up - has given me a few shots I would otherwise have missed. It would be even more useful for sound recording, so I'd have that as a priority.

I don't think the Zoom H4N supplies phantom power - so it would only be an alternative to my edirol.

Robn

Thanks for the Marantx PMD660 suggestion. I looked it up, and it seems to have been superceded by the 661. So far as I can see, it doesn't have the cache feature, but if I can't find anything else, I may look for a second-hand one to get me started.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 07:08 AM   #5
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You don't give a budget at all ???


1st choice - Nagra VI

2nd choice - Sound Devices 788T

3rd choice - Sound Devices 744T

4th choice - Nagra LB

5th choice - Sound Devices 722

6th choice - Sound Devices 702T

7th choice - Sound Devices 702

8th choice - Fostex FR-2

9th choice - Tascam HD-P2

10th choice - Fostex FR-2LE

That's my list of pro and semi-pro recorders - best first.

The more you pay the better quality you get - much better mic. pre-amps, better resolution, lower noise, etc...


I have ignored the little pocket thingies as I do not consider them as main recording machines and more for back-up and grab-it recordings when you don't have the main stuff handy.

Good back-ups are the new Zoom H4N, the Edirol R-09HR (the R-09HR includes recovery software for recovering lost files and is popular with professionals as a back-up machine) and Sony PCM D-50 - the Olympus LS-10 and the new and improved LS-11 are excellent pocketable "grab-it" recorders.

Personally, I have the Nagra VI (an upgrade from the Fostex FR-2) and the Olympus LS-10 (bought before the LS-11 came out).

I have included url links to the product information of all the recorders listed - just click on the names.

I hope this helps.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 08:13 AM   #6
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You don't give a budget at all ??? - No, because I have no reference point as to what this sort of thing costs. If all recommendations come at a price I can't afford, then I'll have to wait before buying. If I suggest something too low, I expect to berated for having too high hopes of what is possible.


1st choice - Nagra VI - looks impressive but far too complex for my needs - not that that couldn't change in the future.

2nd choice - Sound Devices 788T - same as above, but I don't see any reference to a pre-recording cashe/buffer

3rd choice - Sound Devices 744T - same as 788T

4th choice - Nagra LB - put this one down for a second look

5th choice - Sound Devices 722 - same as 788

6th choice - Sound Devices 702T - ah, found reference to a pre-record buffer in the user guide, so I suppose it's mentioned in the same place for the other Sound Devices machines. This is what I meant in my original post about not knowing if something would be considered standard and therefore not mentioned in the highlighted features.

7th choice - Sound Devices 702 - as for 702T

8th choice - Fostex FR-2 - needs a second look

9th choice - Tascam HD-P2 - don't see any mention of a pre-record buffer

10th choice - Fostex FR-2LE - needs a second look, but the buffer is only 2 secs

Now, a quick look at prices puts the Nagra LB at $3000 and the Fostex FR-2LE at £400. I'm not in the market for the former (certainly not at the moment) but I'd be happy with something at £400-£500, until I can justify more.

Although I'm not in the market for a pocketable unit (I already have the Edirol 09RH), I did take a look at the Zoom H4N and saw that it does provide phantom power, so I stand corrected on that.

Thanks for taking the time to compile that list for me, it has been a help and an education.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 11:46 AM   #7
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For a fairly light weght set up, I paired my Sign Eng44 (xlr and phantom) with a Tascam DR-07. I don't think the DR-07 amps are good enough on their own, and there is no phantom power, The DR-07 is not xlr, but I mate it with the ENG-44 with a 6 inch mini cable. I use velcro on physically join the two units.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 12:11 PM   #8
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I've got the Tascam HD-P2 and it does have a prerecord buffer. The length of prerecord depends on the quality settings. Overall it's a very good little field recorder right at the entry level of pro higher level serious hobbiest range. Tascam does also make a higher end professional recorder and they just introduced a 6 channel recorder on level with the HD-P2.

I'm a fan of the Sound Devices mixers and recorders for field work and on most projects where we have a dedicated production sound crew they usually use those.

I had the Sony PCM-D50 which I thought gave the best overall sound for hand held digital recorders but it does not have built in XLR and Phantom.

Edirol also makes a couple of good field recorders.

Garrett
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Old May 19th, 2010, 12:35 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Annie Haycock View Post
I don't think the Zoom H4N supplies phantom power.
In fact, it does.

EDIT: Oops, sorry, you aready noted this above. Missed it earlier.
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Last edited by Adam Gold; May 19th, 2010 at 05:30 PM.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 12:38 PM   #10
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For outdoor type nature recording, the 4/8 trk. machines like the SD 744/788 would most likely NOT be the best choice unless you planning on recording surround. (an expensive proposition)
At the least, for low SPL nature recording, if your budget does not allow a Nagra or SD, I would look into one of the machines in the $1k range like the Fostex or Marantz with the Ode brothers preamp mods.

BTW: The Marantz 660 is still in production, or a least available. It does have a 2 sec. pre-record buffer. The internal pre-amps are 'a little noisy' and it eats batteries.. 4-AAs at a time. the internal mics are useless for anything other than verbal notes.
The 661 is a little smaller and better, but I have no first hand experience. They are well built and reliable though for the price.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 01:55 PM   #11
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Hi folks

Thanks for all your contributions.

Chris - sounds like you've got a setup that works for you, but I'd really like something to just plug in and go.

Garrett - I'm beginning to think that buffer might be standard on most higher range recorders, so I'll add the Tascom to the list of possibilities.

Adam - I did mention that I'd discovered my error in a later post.

Rick - I was coming to the conclusion that I don't need anything more than 2XLR inputs - I have only one XLR mic at present, and two inputs would allow for later expansion. If I later want more, that will be the time for the very expensive recorder/mixer.

I've just been out filming in the garden, and I think I ought to add to my list of requirements something that automatically cuts out the sound of plane engines - they are 15,000- 20,000 feet overhead on the way from London to the Americas, but the Rode picks them up like they were next door - as well as all the noises from next door! And no, I haven't got the gain turned anywhere near half way, never mind full.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 05:06 PM   #12
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I think I ought to add to my list of requirements something that automatically cuts out the sound of plane engines

Sorry Annie, only the stop button does that, despite any claims you may have heard or what's portrayed on fictional TV shows.
However some noise reduction software can attenuate it in post production .. to a certain degree.. a lot depends on the characteristics of the objectionable noise...no way to totally eliminate it. Record in-between the aircraft fly-overs. ( and tell the noisy neighbors to 'shut-the f___ up)

If I had a dollar for ever time I halted an interview or production for aircraft, vehicles, lawnmowers, weed-wackers, dogs, people, ect, ect, ect. ect., I'd be freak'in rich.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 11:43 PM   #13
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The Sony PCM-D50 is damned good! As mentioned it doesn't have XLR inputs (unless you buy the $499 adapter!) BUT the built in mics are way better than you might expect at this price point. I am always pleasantly surprised at how good a job it does in side by side tests against my Schoeps.

Is it as good as the Schoeps/SD combo. No! Is at a heck of a lot better then you'd expect considering it costs less than 10% as much as the Schoeps/SD setup. Absolutely! Would most ordinary (ie non audio) people be able to tell the difference? Probably not really!

Maybe something like a Beachtek or Juicedlink adapter with the D50 should work well and be in budget or pretty close.

By the way, it does have a 5 second pre-record cache and one of the cleverer limiters around - it has an attenuated signal cache and when the signal clips it intelligently replaces the clipped audio with the attenuated version. Works quite nicely

Do I sound like I really like the unit??? Right!

What doesn't it do? Well it doesn't automatically cut out planes and dogs and ambulances etc.

Last edited by Jim Andrada; May 20th, 2010 at 02:32 AM.
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Old May 20th, 2010, 01:49 AM   #14
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Hey Rick, I wasn't serious about something to cut out the plane noise!

Jim - if the Sony PCM-D50 doesn't have XLR inputs, presumably it can't supply phantom power either? Have just looked further on the Sony site, and they list the XLR adapter (with two XLR sockets) for it that does supply phantom power. OK, that can go on the list for further scrutiny. Thanks.
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Old May 20th, 2010, 02:12 AM   #15
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Annie,

I'll second Jim's comments regarding the D50's limiter function. It is actually one of the best I've ever used. It is actually one of the few limiters I am willing to use. It is almost unnoticeable when it kicks in. The thing I can't understand is how they can put that good of a limiter in a $500 recorder but the limiter in my Sony EX3 SUCKS!

One other thing to note about the D50 also is that the drift is very small. I use to use mine to pick up board feeds for long stage shows and found that it would drift a very predictable 5 frames per hour from my Canon cameras. The predictability of it made sinking very easy.

Garrett

Last edited by Garrett Low; May 20th, 2010 at 02:59 AM.
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