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Old May 25th, 2010, 08:37 PM   #1
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Laptop field recording?

I was looking for a field recorder such as Zoom H4n. However instead of spending money on it, I've thought about record on a laptop. I'm looking for a laptop as well... (If I have a laptop, i can download video files to laptop whenver the memory is full and also record the sound while I'm watching the sound bar on vegas)

So if I get a good quality built in soundcard or even external USB sound cards, would it be good combination? what external sound card would you guys recommend? probably with xlr input card...

I have Azden sgm-2x shotgun mic. and Azdan 200UPR wireless mics (but i'm trying to sell this one! and no longer use of it)

thanx~!
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Old May 25th, 2010, 08:47 PM   #2
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I use my laptop for portable recording sometimes. None of this would be considered "high-end", but I use one of two approaches. One method is to bring my Mackie VLZ 1202 mixer. I can run 4 mics into it at a time, then take an RCA cable from the tape outputs, put an RCA to 1/8th inch miniplug on the other end of the cable, and put that into my laptop's mic input. The other method is to use my Zoom H4n as a USB interface, if I only need a pair of mics. I only do this if I'm recording my band rehearsals or gigs. Neither of these methods is ideal, but they do pretty well.
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Old May 26th, 2010, 08:18 AM   #3
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Personally I never use a laptop for original recording - too many things can go wrong.

I use a portable recorder (Nagra VI in my case) for all origination recording and only use the laptop for editing.
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Old May 26th, 2010, 11:29 AM   #4
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I won't say I never use a laptop for recording, I do sometimes if it's in the studio and an easily repeatable event, but I also try to avoid it for the same reason John mentions.
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Old May 26th, 2010, 01:51 PM   #5
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I seldom need more than a single stereo pair for small classical music groups (piano, string quartet, classical guitar, etc)

When I do need more I run my regular stereo pair into my SD 702 and then run the 702 and any additional mics into a firewire interface and then into Cubase 5 on my MacBook.

This way, worst case, I have my basic stereo recording in two places and only the "auxilliary" mics depend on the laptop (or desktop PC (not Mac)) with Cubase when I record here.

Yeah, a 4 or 8 track dedicated recorder would be really nice, but I can't justify it for the few times I'd need it, and I think this approach gives me enough "redundancy" for what I do (important distinction!)

(Oh by the way, I also usually run my Sony D-50 as additional backup to protect against REALLY worst case situations)
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Old May 26th, 2010, 02:07 PM   #6
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unless all you do is controlled setups, its not a great choice. if you work on a cart, maybe. I had a MOTU 896HD I'd use a couple of times for 5.1 recording. used a mac book + MOTU + external array to record to. pushed it around on a cart for 3 days. works for that, but its not very mobile. the setup is a hassle if you can't mount it all up and leave it together pretty much full time.

a netbook + USB interface is certainly possible, but when you look at the price compared to a tool designed for the job, you are out the same money for a less workable ( IMO ) setup.
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Old May 26th, 2010, 03:59 PM   #7
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I recall an incident when someone was recording an event on a computer and at the end, without warning, the computer crashed. It corrupted the entire audio file along the way. The whole day was lost.

As mentioned, computers crash. Recorders don't.

The inconvenience of a setup like that, plus the inability to make it readily portable, will limit its application.

A small four-channel recorder, wireless receivers, batteries and necessary accessories, can all fit into a bag that hangs off a harness that can be easily worn and operated by a soundman. That's not possible with a laptop. And a laptop will most likely be recording to a hard drive, which is notoriously risky. Dedicated audio recorders now put the data on solid state memory cards which have proven themselves as incredibly robust.

A recorder will give you much greater flexibility and assurance of reliability.
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Old May 26th, 2010, 04:22 PM   #8
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I couldn't agree more about the wisdom of using a dedicated recorder instead of a laptop. A laptop is just too risky. On top of everything else, laptops tend to have hibernate features that set their timers off when you last touched the keyboard or mouse. They couldn't care less about whether or not the CPU and hard drives are working away. Make sure you turn off these "features" if you do go with the laptop. I would use the dedicated recorder though.
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Old May 26th, 2010, 05:06 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Sensui View Post
I recall an incident when someone was recording an event on a computer and at the end, without warning, the computer crashed. It corrupted the entire audio file along the way. The whole day was lost.

As mentioned, computers crash. Recorders don't.
Been there, done that.

Over ten years ago I put together a computer for audio for my church.
Installed a Layla from Event Electronics & I believe I was using CoolEdit 2000 Pro.
I was recording multichannel from the Layla & the fatal flaw was running Windows98SE+FAT16.

When the audio file size hit 4GB, the whole thing crashed rather spectacularly. Reboot!
Syntrillium was very paranoid sharing any details about their multichannel audio file format.
I never was able to recover the audio file.

By the way, thank you for the Mackie VLZ 1202 reference Mr. Andy Balla.
I've been thinking about a small mixer I can run up to 4 mics into and that fits the bill.
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Old May 26th, 2010, 05:11 PM   #10
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And then one day someone fumble fingered something and the recording on my SD 702 was toast. NOTHING is perfect. Nothing! No matter how good the hardwaree and software is, the operator can always F--- it up!
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Old May 26th, 2010, 11:37 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Andrada View Post
And then one day someone fumble fingered something and the recording on my SD 702 was toast. NOTHING is perfect. Nothing! No matter how good the hardwaree and software is, the operator can always F--- it up!
Well there's no protecting against that. Perfectly good airplanes have been flown into the ground by careless pilots.

But at least with a recorder you eliminate a lot of the risks inherent in a Rube Goldberg arrangement. After that, it's all up to the people pressing the buttons.
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Old May 27th, 2010, 08:08 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Andrada View Post
And then one day someone fumble fingered something and the recording on my SD 702 was toast. NOTHING is perfect. Nothing! No matter how good the hardwaree and software is, the operator can always F--- it up!
On the Nagra VI it records to hard drive (or SSD if you put one in) and every time you start a new track it can be set to back-up the previous one to CF, so you always have a safety copy - and the safety copy carried separately when you return to base.

I also think the SD machines can be set up to do a simultaneous back-up recording on an external drive.
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Old May 27th, 2010, 09:40 AM   #13
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Metacorder or Boom Recorder. That is all.
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Old May 27th, 2010, 02:12 PM   #14
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Well, there is a way to protect agains fumble fingering - have two copies! You can still lose them both but it's a lot harder!
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Old May 30th, 2010, 07:44 PM   #15
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I use a Motu Traveler with my MacBookPro, running BoomRecorder for all my ISO's fed via, direct outs of my mixer. Along with this is my SD 702T as master TC clock. If you know what you're doing and not playing video games while you're tracking on your computer, you shouldn't have any problems. I have done 2 features now with this set up (in some very ruff terrain and weather conditions) and have not once come across a crash during recording. I have however come across some corrupted files on both recording systems...(it just happens). This is one of many reasons why I run two systems (back-up saves @$$es).
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