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Old December 3rd, 2010, 02:10 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by David W. Jones View Post
As Steve points out, these are not pro level field recorders, and an SD 702 is a huge leap in cost for a pro level recorder from this level.
With that being said, I have used the the relatively inexpensive H4N effectively many times as a field recorder being fed from an SD 302.

All the Best!
And $2K for the SD702 is just about where the stable of professional recorders starts ... Edirol R-4, Fostex FR-2 are in the same ballpark and then Nagra, Zaxcom, Sonosax, Cantar etc skyrocket up from there. Some consumer gear is fine if used carefully and with due respect given to its limitations, but there're a number of good and valid reasons a recorder such as a Nagra will cost 10 times what a Zoom will run you.
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Old December 4th, 2010, 12:07 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Steve House View Post
And $2K for the SD702 is just about where the stable of professional recorders starts ... Edirol R-4, Fostex FR-2 are in the same ballpark and then Nagra, Zaxcom, Sonosax, Cantar etc skyrocket up from there. Some consumer gear is fine if used carefully and with due respect given to its limitations, but there're a number of good and valid reasons a recorder such as a Nagra will cost 10 times what a Zoom will run you.
Agreed!

And as Steve pointed out, knowing the limitations of the consumer gear you might choose to use for professional work is a very valid concern. But then again, I feel everyone should make the effort to learn to the best of their ability, the tools they choose to use. From amateur hobbyist to high end pros.
First step... read the hideously boring manual multiple times while going over each step with said piece of gear. Even if it's a feature you think you will never use, at least you will know where to avoid it on some sub-menu in the future. The next thing to realize is that an H4N or a DR-100 is never going to be a Zaxcom or a Sound Devices. What are they? A cost effective alternative at a lower price point.
Some of us that have been doing broadcast and film work long enough to remember back when we had hair, also remember what we used back then. From the Marantz cassette field recorders to the Nagra 1/4 ", the limiting factor was the technology of the day. Can you imagine what your $200 will buy when they surpass digital technology in our industry? Alright flash back the the here and now... With current digital technology where it's at today, professional results can be achieved at a lower price point and higher quality level than it could in the past. And while most of the consumer units mentioned earlier lack the much needed features of some of the higher end professional units, they still offer great bang for the buck on a lower budget. Even if you are at the level where you are required to use Top Shelf gear on gigs, owning something like the H4N is still a no brainer. They are a great low cost scratch pad, EZ SFX gathering tool at a low price point, and even make a great dictation tool for those of you that get great ideas and forget them later. They are also capable of delivering acceptable results in a professional work environment when used in the secondary, and lower budget primary use areas. So far with budgets shrinking I have used the H4N as an in bag backup to an SD702, as well as backup to the wireless camera feed when used. As a quick down and dirty stereo SFX/Ambiance field recorder, and have used it in the primary position as a field recorder for low budget TV commercials. It's generally fed from an SD mixer through a set of pads, so the built-in H4N mic-pres are bypassed, giving the Sound Devices mixer's great sounding output a clean signal path.
OK maybe just a little too much coffee this morning.
I wish you all good luck with your craft!

Dave
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Old December 5th, 2010, 11:02 PM   #18
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We have recently purchased both a ZOOM H4N and a TASCAM DR-100. I haven't spent a huge amount of time actually test driving the H4N on a proper shoot, but this weekend I recorded the audio for a short film using the DR-100. The H4N is currently on a shoot in Timor - so I'll let you know how that goes when the crew come back to Australia in a few weeks time.

One important thing that I think is messing from this discussion is that fact that with both the H4N and DR-100, you really need a mixer as well to achieve good results in the film world. This weekend I just used the DR-100 connected directly to the mics - and although I made it work, and the end result actually sounds pretty good, it was a horrible to work with. Juggling the DR-100 in a bag whilst also trying to swing a boom was a nightmare, and as the volume controls on the DR-100 are so noisy and hard to operate, you basically just had to set the levels prior to the shot, hope for the best, and then do another take if needed. There was no way you could ride the levels on the fly. Getting a bag that nicely fits the DR-100 so that you can see the levels while your swinging a boom is tricky - in the end I just ended up holding the boom with one hand, and holding the mixer in the other.

We also had issues with the DR-100 overheating (as it was a really hot day and we were filming in the sun) and shutting down. We never lost any time, but we did have to restart it a couple of times. The build quality isn't great - and already after the first shoot, the unit is looking a little worse for ware.

We have done tests with both the H4N and DR-100 and the quality between the two is both pretty similar. They both have pros and cons in terms of quality and it really depends on your workflow (i.e. if you run line level audio into both the DR-100 and H4N they should pretty much the same - but the preamps on H4N to my ear sound slightly better). However, if you're thinking about using a H4N or DR-100 in a no/low budget film environment - you really need to buy or hire a good field mixer (such as the 302 or MixPre). Connected to a 302, both these units are fantastic! The DR-100 is especially good, as you can just hire the DR-100 in your bag, and just use the remote (included) to start it recording.

One thing I really wish both Tascam and Zoom would do is add some better monitoring options, so that you can listen to both the left and right channels in both ears on your headphones.

As someone who does a lot of no and low budget short films and feature films, and also from someone who doesn't do audio for a living, I am now going to start saving for a 744T+552, and in the meantime, I'm just going to hire a 402 when needed. The price different is SUBSTANTIAL - but so is the build quality, and ease of use. I guess I was just spoilt having access to a 744T, Cantar and Diva whilst at film school!

I think the DR-100 and H4N are both going to be really handy things to have around - however I know, that once I take the massive leap, save up for months and months and purchase a 744T or 788T it will stick with me for a lifetime. As a young filmmaker, personally I feel much better about spending huge amounts of money on this kind of audio gear, than spending thousands of dollars on cameras, which are outdated within a few months. I just think it's funny that people get so shocked when you suggest buying an expensive piece of audio gear, and yet people have discussions about buying amazingly expensive cameras all the time without second thought.

Anyway - long story short. Both the DR-100 and H4N are good recording solutions, given their low costs - however if you're looking to do film work with either, invest or hire a good field mixer. Without one, it will make your life just that little bit harder (like shooting a film without a tripod).

Hope this helps!

Chris!
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Old December 6th, 2010, 11:24 AM   #19
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How about using the JuicedLink DT454 with the Tascam DR 100. Has anyone tried it? I find the use of Hi gain in DR 100 to be a real pain.
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Old December 6th, 2010, 07:57 PM   #20
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You could certainly connect the DT454 to the DR-100, and although the DT454 may (or may not - I've never actually played with one of these units, and judging from the production values - especially the audio quality- of their help videos, I'm not sure if I would trust these products, but anyway!) solve the pre-amp issue, it won't really solve the ease of use issue. For film/broadcast work at least, you need a mixer that can be easily controlled whilst you're swinging a boom around. The DT454+DR-100 setup would actually complicate matters further, and although it might sound a bit better, it would be even harder to manage on set. I think the cheapest option would be to get a Sound Devices MixPre. It's not super cheap - but the build quality is great, and it sounds pretty good as well.
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Old December 7th, 2010, 09:12 AM   #21
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Chris,
I am doing nature recording. I understand how cumbersome it would be using the juicedLink DT454 plus the Tascam DR 100. I am experimenting with these while taking baby steps in audio. When I am ready, I think I will go for the Sound Devices 552 which records to the SD card so that I get the desired quality levels. I don't think it would be a easier to carry one item rather than carry a mixer as well as a recorder.

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Old December 7th, 2010, 11:00 AM   #22
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IMO, you may be better off with a SD-702 or 722 recorder if you're planning on budgeting that kind of money. Although 552's internal recorder sounds 'good' it was built for back-up proposes. The 552's recorder section does not have the same premium high-end electronics and converters of the 700 series recorders.. which may be particularly important for nature recordings.
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Old December 8th, 2010, 01:29 AM   #23
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Thanks Rick!

I searched the Sound Devices site. This is what they say about the differences between the 552 and the 7 series recorder:

"While both the 552 and 7-Series recorders have excellent audio performance, when the lowest noise recording is required, the 7-Series recorders are the choice. The combination of the 7-Series’ extended bandwidth microphone preamplifiers and their high-dynamic range analog-to-digital converters provides increased dynamic range and sensitivity. This translates to lower noise recordings, especially when distant micing low level sound sources. If your microphones can take advantage of the low noise, the 7-Series will outperform them. The 702, 702T, 722, and 744T mic inputs have 114 dB of dynamic range, and the 788T microphone inputs have 123 dB of dynamic range. The figures on the 788T approach the theoretical limit of A-to-D performance.

The 552 is a capable performer, as well. It has 103 dB of dynamic range and is suitable for most applications. Its A-to-D performance is the biggest difference, with the 552 having a bias toward increased power efficiency and the 788T having a bias towards increased performance, especially noise performance. When the widest bandwidth and lowest noise recording is required, choose the 7-Series."

The link is here: 552 or 7-Series Recorder?|Sound Notes|Sound Devices, LLC

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Old December 9th, 2010, 02:14 PM   #24
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Yes I agree that a mixer like the Sond Devices MixPre (665.00US) is essential when recording dialogue for any type of production. You have full control of your signal with that, with all physical switches & dials. Menu driven features in the real world just slow you down, ans make you miss things, and that costs you money. With the MixPre you can calibrate it to your H4N/DR100 so you are virtually clip proof. Also you have sweet optical limters both at the input and output stage, 2 levels of low cut for wind, a "Tape Return" input that you can run back from the recorder so you hear what the recorder (or camera) hears while having your cans plugged into the mixer, You can make the signal of either channel go to the left/center/right channel of the recorder, You can ride the levels, SEE the levels, provide better Phantom, which extends the battery life on the recorder. AND you bypass the crappy pres on the recorders. Also your headphone volume is actually able to go louder than your ears can stand, so you won't be missing the subtleties that you miss when your cans are too quiet.

Yes it's 2x the cost of the recorder, but how much does it cost when you blow a day of recording due to bad monitoring on the recorder, and everything is distorted. Or you hold up production while struggling to get the right level etc, and you miss some scenes at the end of the day. Preventing that with a MixPre can save you enough to pay for the unit. And though the JuicedLink mixers sound decent, they are limited in functionality. No meters (on most) limiters, low cut...

You will never miss the money you spend getting the right tool for the job. A mixer is an essential tool for video production no matter what you use to record on.
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Old December 10th, 2010, 04:34 PM   #25
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Hi All,
Are the xlr outputs of MixPre line level only?
If so, it may be helpful to note that the xlr inputs on the H4n and DR-100 are mic level so some sort of attenuation/pads would be neccessary in order to match the levels between mixer and recorder. Regards, Neil
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Old December 10th, 2010, 05:33 PM   #26
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Yes the MixPre is line level out on the XLR, however you can take the "tape out" 3.5mm out of the MixPre and run that to the Line in on either the H4N or the DR100.
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Old February 22nd, 2011, 04:30 AM   #27
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Re: Zoom H4N vs. Tascam DR-100

Hi there.

i have read a lot about people using "tape out" 3.5mm out of the MixPre with the line in of the H4N, DR100 and other cheaper recorders.. because that ignores the cheaper preamps of these recorders. But isnt there a big risk of interference because you are not using the balanced xlr inputs?

If there is i have another question:
When using the Tascam Dr-100 for example would it be possible that i plug in the "tape out" 3.5mm out of the MixPre into the line in of the tascam, and one xlr output of the mixpre into one xrl input of the tascam and record both. So i have one signal that is "save"?

thanks!
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Old February 22nd, 2011, 07:05 AM   #28
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Re: Zoom H4N vs. Tascam DR-100

You are much more susceptible to noise pickup (a.) at low levels and/or (b.) with long connecting cables.

(a.) because low signal levels require more gain in the following (pre)amp, which means noise will also be amplified more.

(b.) because longer cables act like longer "antennas" which will be better at picking up noise signals through electromagnetic inductance or capacitive coupling.

In the real world of audio, this means that balanced lines are important at mic level, especially with cables more than a few feet long (let's say 5' just as a ballpark, but it really depends on how much electrical noise is in the environment where you're recording).

Once you get up to line level, which is easily 100 times, or more, greater voltage compared to mic level, balanced wiring is much less important, especially when your interconnect cables are only 2' or 3' long.

Of course you still need well-shielded cables, you need to observe proper connections, proper levels, etc. You need to be careful with balanced to unbalanced connections, because you will have some "extra" wires left over and you want to have the interface work correctly. If all these things are attended to correctly, it would take an exceptionally noisy environment for the line-level wiring to pick nearly as much noise as mic-level wiring would.

All in all, I think it would be a very strange situation where a mic-level output from a mixer, connected to a mic-level input on a recorder, ends up sounding better than a line-level to line-level connection. Of course this assumes that the mic inputs on the mixer are no more susceptible to noise than the mic inputs on the recorder itself.
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Old February 22nd, 2011, 07:10 AM   #29
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Re: Zoom H4N vs. Tascam DR-100

Quote:
Originally Posted by Neil Hurley View Post
Hi All,
Are the xlr outputs of MixPre line level only?
If so, it may be helpful to note that the xlr inputs on the H4n and DR-100 are mic level so some sort of attenuation/pads would be neccessary in order to match the levels between mixer and recorder. Regards, Neil
Yes, in that situation you would need pads.

And then you'd still be using the mic preamps in the recorder, which (a.) would be redundant because you've already used the pres in the mixer, and (b.) would add some finite amount of noise and distortion which you would not get if you used the line inputs on the recorder.
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Old February 22nd, 2011, 07:18 AM   #30
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Re: Zoom H4N vs. Tascam DR-100

One of the biggest advantages that the DR-100 has that not many people mention is the fact that it has true analog limiters on the front end. I love this feature and allow you to record a much hotter and dynamic signals as compared with the Zoom. As I understand it, the H4N does not have this feature. I have 2 of them and a DR-1 and am very pleased after using them for over a year.
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