Zoom R16 vs. R-44 vs. R-4 Pro vs. SD 744T at DVinfo.net

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Old October 25th, 2010, 06:12 PM   #1
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Zoom R16 vs. R-44 vs. R-4 Pro vs. SD 744T

I have a Zoom H4n that I'd like to upgrade from. The recorder will be used for recording interviews, music videos, indie films, ads, and anything else I can think of and get my hands on. I have a few different mics (NTG-3, Sennheiser G2 lav, NT899 lav, and NT2-A), and an Azden FMX-42 mixer (which I'd like to know if I still need with some/all of the recorders).

A friend and mentor of sorts suggested a Zoom R16, while I've been looking at an Edirol (with or without the Oade mods) R-44, R-4 Pro, and Sound Devices 744T. With a price range of $400 to $4000, and probably recorders I haven't even thought of, what would give me the best bang for the buck? Which would be the best long-term investment? It's easy to say "buy the 744T", but is that really my best move, or should I be looking at something else, not even listed here?

Thank you in advance for your input/advice.
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Old October 25th, 2010, 07:48 PM   #2
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Hi Michael,

The SD 744T is indeed the best of the bunch you listed. It may be overkill depending on your projects. That and the R-4 Pro have timecode which is good if you use it. I haven't used the Zoom R-16 but I'm not a big fan of their other recorders. Another recorder to look at is the Tascam DR-680. It is suppose to be a really nice unit. I've got the HD-P2 and if it is anything like that it will be a pretty good jump over the Zoom units.

You could do that and upgrade your mixer to something like and SD 552 and end up with a good recording unit and a very good mixer.

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Old October 26th, 2010, 01:03 AM   #3
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I use the SD 702 - great if you don't need 4 mics and or timecode' It's a really nice unit.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 01:14 AM   #4
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Another backing for the Sound Devices units - I have a 7 series unit and the difference between it and the Zoom is night and day...

I bought an H4n for backup - I'm no audiophile but the one time I used it I realised how spoilt I'd been with the SD unit and sold the Zoom right away.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 01:43 AM   #5
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Hi Josh.

A bunch of years ago I was working out of Tokyo and traveled to to Wellington on occasion. Great place except for the 30 hours or so that it took door to door!

I have a Sony PCM-D50 that I use for backup as you may have been using the Zoom. The Sony is quite nice and I like it. Nowhere near the Schoeps/Sound Devices combo but quite respectable.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 05:53 AM   #6
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i'm pretty happy with my dr-680. If you record audio for a living, just get the 744. The dr680 is a hell of a lot of bang for the buck, but its clearly not built for day-in day-out work.

However, 6 preamped phantom powered channels? Thats pretty freakin awesome. Its like having a sweet leatherman or swiss army knife. It can't replace a toolbox full of tools if you are doing a huge building project, but for the occasional specialty need? its really sweet to have the ability to record and isolate a handful of mics.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 06:56 AM   #7
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I've had the original Edirol R-4 for years and just added the R-44 to my personal kit. For the money the R-44 is looking very sweet. Where I work we've got a number of Sound Devices mixers and whilst they're the bottom rung of the true pro kit they are more suited to the hard core field recordist. I find if you're not familiar with them they are a tad daunting to use compared to the prosummer Edirol offering.
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Old October 27th, 2010, 01:27 PM   #8
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+ 1 on the DR-680!

I just got one, pre modded from Busman Audio. They are not on his site yet, but he offers them. Evven without the mod, they sound better than the R-44, and they are only 800.00 new. With the 300.00 to have 6 channels modded it was 1,100.00 for a brand new, beautifully modded recording wonder.

Write Chris Johnson at BUSMAN AUDIO and tell him Chad sent you. There is a lot of talk at taperssection.com about the DR-680 too if you want to get all nerdly about the particulars.
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Last edited by Chad Johnson; October 27th, 2010 at 08:13 PM.
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Old October 27th, 2010, 06:25 PM   #9
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Sd702 / pcm d50

...and another vote for the SD702. If you don't require timecode, to my mind, this is real value for money. I also have a Sony PCM-D50 which is pleasantly compact and the mics are pretty good. I use this for 'on the fly recordings' or when our band is practicing and I want to get a feel for what we sound like. I put the D50 on a Gorillapod which is then suitably mounted on anything available. Quality is surprisingly good. But if time allows and the recording is 'serious', then I'd always use the SD702 / SD302 mixer..
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Old October 27th, 2010, 06:52 PM   #10
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Thank you for all the suggestions so far. So no votes for the R16?

I don't need TC yet, and who knows, maybe never will, but I was thinking in terms of future proofing, and being able to show up to shoots as a recordist, if TC is a prerequisite for the gig.



Showing my ignorance, what are major benefits of having, say, a four channel mixer (such as my Azden) in front of a four channel recorder? Doesn't more gear + more wires = more noise + more signal loss + more things that can go wrong?
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Old October 27th, 2010, 06:54 PM   #11
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Hi Ross

You have exactly the same setup as I do - 302 -> 702 with PCM-D50 as a backup. I've been very happy with all three of them.
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Old October 27th, 2010, 07:05 PM   #12
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Generally with pro gear not much to go wrong once the cables are connected as long as you set mic vs line levels etc correctly. If you set things up right you never have to twiddle any dials on the recorder, just the mixer.

I have no idea about the Azden units specifically but Azden as a brand doesn't get much respect on these forums.
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Old October 28th, 2010, 01:22 PM   #13
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I had considered the R16 when it came out as a field production recorder, but had only looked at one in the store until a few days ago. I was handed one on Tuesday by a producer I am doing a project for over the next couple weeks who wanted me to consider using it on his project. Here are my impressions.

Ergonomically it sucks. I cant figure out any way to make it fit into a bag or other case that can move around with me how I would normally work out of a bag.

The control logic is all set up around recording music. It is not intuitive as a production recorder at all. If you hit record and then play you start recording all your armed tracks. If you hit record and play again you start appending audio to the previously recorded tracks. If you somehow back up the counter to a point you have already recored you will overwrite that portion of the previous track. Here is an example

Take ONE press record roll for 10 seconds on 4 tracks
(result is track1-4.wav each 10 seconds long)
Take TWO press record and roll for another 10 seconds on 4 tracks
(you still have track1-4.wav but now they are 20 seconds long)

The solution is to make a new project for each take. On the R16 this requires about six button presses and a few seconds of read / write time. It dose remember what tracks you were previously recording to and arms them for recording again.

Another annoyance I can't seem to figure out is the default numbering of tracks. On the r16 only tracks 5-6 have phantom power.*On occasions where I am only booming I think it calls the only track something liek track1.wav. If I start using multiple Lav's I think whatever is on 1 will be come 1 and 2 will be 2 and so on. This will make keeping tabs on what is recorded to which track more difficult.

Right now I also have a MOTU Traveler / Boom Recorder setup which is much more intuitive as a film recorder. Aside from requiring my MacBook and power (for extended usage past an hour or two) its similar to deal with ergonomically and much better suited for film recording.

I have also been using my Zoom H4 in my bag with the SD302 which is a pretty good combo for two channels. I get the high performance monitoring and pre-amps of the SD302 with the inexpensive and portable recording of the zoom.

Right now I am mainly booming on larger features where I am not the sound mixer and getting hired to mix and boom smaller projects. I would ultimately like to end up with a SD744T or SD788T, but until I can justify that I might try out the new six channel Tascam which seems to be set up more like a real production recording. Even the Zoom H4 is a pain in the ass because the controls are in the wrong place for a bag. At least with the Tascam I can hit record and stop from the top of the device when its in the bag.

I would love to see the R16 hardware in a bag friendly SD744T shaped box with knobs in lieu of sliders and a few changes to the software. If they could offer it for sale for less then $500 I think they would sell a lot to the DSLR production crowd.
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Old October 28th, 2010, 01:34 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Kadlubkiewicz View Post
Thank you for all the suggestions so far. So no votes for the R16?

I don't need TC yet, and who knows, maybe never will, but I was thinking in terms of future proofing, and being able to show up to shoots as a recordist, if TC is a prerequisite for the gig.



Showing my ignorance, what are major benefits of having, say, a four channel mixer (such as my Azden) in front of a four channel recorder? Doesn't more gear + more wires = more noise + more signal loss + more things that can go wrong?
In a standard SD442 / SD744T type configuration you are really only mixing the levels to the IFB or perhaps confidence recording feed to the camera (if its coming from the mixer). When you have the mixer connected to the recorder the pre-fade (preamp gain) level is sent via the direct out's to the recorder. Moving the big knob on the mixer has no effect on the levels you are recording to the recorder.

If you are recording 4 channels to 1 or 2 camera channels (which you are feeding from the mixer) then you are using the mixer to adjust the levels in real time to the camera.

The mixer may give you additional functionally like higher quality preamps, return monitoring input, IFB output, better level monitoring, talkback / slate mic which make it viable in your setup.
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Old October 28th, 2010, 03:01 PM   #15
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Yeah the R16 is just sort of a toy for bedroom musicians to pretend they are making an album. The DR-680 that I just bought is really nice. You can arm whatever tracks you need, all recording mono files. You can tell it to make a new "take" whenever you hit pause, or you can have it continue recording on the take you were working on, only creating a new take when you hit stop. It's got 4 XLR connections + 2 phono TRS jacks, that you can just get an adapter for, with all providing Phantom power, and recording at 24 bit 44.1/48/96 k. You can even, while recording 6 independent channels, record an additional stereo mix of all 6. With a 2 ch mixer with digital outputs you can connect that to the DR-680's S/PDIF input for 8 tracks recorded at once. It's an actual field recorder, so there will be no overdubbing like the R16 is trying to do. Yes it's plastic, but not cheap feeling. To get that much functionality in an SD unit you will be spending 5 times as much.

I've also had the H4, and found that the audio recordings had major drift, and would get out of sync with the video clips rather quickly.

Here's a good lok at the 680:
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