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Old June 24th, 2010, 01:49 PM   #1
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audio quality of sony pcm-m10 audio recorder

I bought a Sony PCM-M10 audio recorder to use with my Canon 550D (T2i). This was based on very positive reviews and sound samples I heard on the net. I bought it instead of the Zoom H4n because I have a beachtek DXA-6 and therefore didn't require xlr. The sound samples I heard also sounded cleaner than the Zoom H4n.

I have connected a Rode NT3 to the Sony PCM-M10 using both a simple xlr to mini jack adaptor as well as the Beachtek. I also did the same but connected to my Canon HV20 camcorder. Both setups used the exact same source and distance from the mic to the source (a track playing off my laptop). I then imported into Sony Vegas and made sure the sound level from the track was the same from the PCM-M10 and the Canon HV20.

I was hoping to see that the noise floor level of the Sony PCM-M10 was considerably lower than the Canon HV20. I mean aren't camcorder preamps supposed to be poor whereas the Sony PCM-M10 is supposed to be good. Well, there was absolutley no difference in the noise floor level between the two, to my ears, when listening to the room tone.

Is this expected? because if it is, I might as well have just used my Canon HV20 to record audio. Would I see much improvement if I used a juicedlink. I hear the preamps are good but then I also read that about the PCM-M10.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated as I'm confused and disappointed.
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Old June 24th, 2010, 03:01 PM   #2
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Is it possible the ambient noise level in your recording space is slightly above the noise floor of both recorders? Especially with your laptop running even if it's some distance away. Do you have a dead-silent playback source like an mp3-player with a very good amp and speaker attached?
Even my treated and isolated studio with no air conditioning running has some noticeable ambient tone when recording with very quiet mics and very quiet equipment IF you're searching specifically for it.
How are you powering the NT3? Known good 9v battery? Also the DXA-6, especially early ones had some problems with fast battery drain with phantom. In addition some were also wired with inverse polarity between the two channels (mine is) due to an error on the printed circuit board.
Lastly both sets of channel controls can affect (attenuate) the opposite channel on the BeachTek depending on how you have the Stereo/Mono switch set.
The NT3 is a quiet (low noise) mic, but it also doesn't put out a lot of signal. Perhaps even with the Sony it needs a higher output mic. I haven't used either of the Sony models, but certainly my H4n needs a very strong mic signal to avoid noise.
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Old June 25th, 2010, 04:03 PM   #3
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Thank you for the reply. I don't expect to get no noise. It is the level relative to a camcorder that concerns me. It really isn't what I expected.

I've done some more tests comparing the audio quality of the Sony PCM-M10 and the Canon HV20 with a Rode NT3 and a Rode Videomic connected. This time I used a good mp3 player and sound sytem. The results again showed that there is hardy any difference in the noise floor to my ear. This was confirmed in a rough and ready exercise where I calculated a s/n ratio by comparing the volume of the same peak to the noise floor volume, for each set up, using the mixer in Sony Vegas. The ratios were almost identical. The audio quality is also very similar.

The audio quality from the built in mic on the Sony PCM-M10 far surpasses the Canon HV20's and because it's 24 bit I suppose it will hold up better to editing. However, I bought the Sony PCM-M10 to record dialogue with an external mic and the fact that the quality seems almost identical to that recorded with the Canon Hv20 camcorder is both disappointing and shocking.

I don't know enough about audio to understand why this is the case or whether it should be expected. Maybe one of the sound experts could offer some guidance. I sure would appreciate it. I'd also welcome advice on how to improve matters with the Sony. Would a Juicedlink help?
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Old June 27th, 2010, 06:06 AM   #4
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"...used a good MP3 player..." Does that mean you're recording in MP3 format on the Sony? Never do that ... mp3 is inherently lossy, hence noisy. It's a distribution format, not a mastering format. I can't be sure that would be the source of the noise you're hearing but it wouldn't surprise me. By recording mp3 you're likely cancelling out any advantage the Sony might have over the camera. Record your test on the Sony in 48kHz 16-bit or 24-bit wav format - that's what you should use to record video production sound - and compare that file to the in- camera recording for a proper test. Be sure your playback system is not introducing its own noise to the mix as well.
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Old June 27th, 2010, 03:05 PM   #5
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Hi Steve,

No, I didn't record on mp3 on the Sony. I just played back a song from an iphone attached to a speaker docking station. This ensured I had the same source and volume to record from a mic placed a few feet away.

The audio was recorded on the Sony PCM-M10 in it's maximum quality, 96 KHz, 24 bit. I believe the Canon HV20 records to MP3. I just can't believe that with the exact same set up, equalising the song volume in Sony Vegas, the level of noise in the silence before and after the track, is pretty much the same for the Sony PCM-M10 and the Canon HV20. The recording levels were set manually in both cases to ensure a peak at about -12db, with no AGC. I bought the Sony because I read that the preamps were decent.
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