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Old February 7th, 2014, 06:43 AM   #1
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Which portable recorder for pro line level use?

I will be recording stuff from various mixers for use in recording talks & conferences and would like to know if there's a portable recorder that can handle recording from the normally "hot" RCA tape outs, without any extra adapters - just a good quality 2x RCA to 3.5mm cable directly into the recorder? I like to use the RCA tape outs as they're often free and don't require any tweaking on the audio guy's end.

I've heard that the Zooms have a low line level input and the high level of the tape outs on a mixer are too much for it and create distortion. Is there a good portable flash recorder that can handle pro line level input?
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Old February 7th, 2014, 06:56 AM   #2
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Re: Which portable recorder for pro line level use?

The Zoom H4n suffers from distortion on the RCA Tape/Rec Out on most mixing desks, it's a problem. I usually try to go through the Booth or Monitor which has it's own volume control but in some cases they aren't available then I go through the Phones.
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Old February 7th, 2014, 09:15 AM   #3
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Re: Which portable recorder for pro line level use?

Surely a simple cable with inline pads would solve the problem.
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Old February 7th, 2014, 09:34 AM   #4
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Re: Which portable recorder for pro line level use?

ANY recorder can handle line level (consumer -10dB, or professional +4dB) when connected with the proper cable and attenuator where necessary.
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Old February 7th, 2014, 10:07 AM   #5
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Re: Which portable recorder for pro line level use?

Keep in mind on the Zoom H4n, the 1/8-inch input is mic level only.

You would need a "2xRCA to 2xTS 1/4-inch cable" to connect the stereo tape out of a mixer to the line inputs of the H4n.

I've never had a distortion problem when connecting between the tape out of a variety of mixers to my H4n.

I have seen on some block diagrams of some inexpensive mixers that the RCA tape out is at a higher level than -10db.

Last edited by Jay Massengill; February 7th, 2014 at 12:12 PM.
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Old February 7th, 2014, 12:01 PM   #6
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Re: Which portable recorder for pro line level use?

The 'Tape out' RCA outputs on (most) mixers are -10dB (or there about) and should work with the H4n line input.
The 1/4" outputs on most console type mixers are +4dB (nominal). This would occasionally clip the H4n line input stage...(lowering the record level won't help). A direct input box (DI) with switchable or variable attenuation is good to have on hand. The transformer isolation and ground lift are a huge bonus. The Rolls DB25 passive DI is rugged, affordable and works good.
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Old February 7th, 2014, 12:19 PM   #7
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Re: Which portable recorder for pro line level use?

An added benefit to Rick's method is that balanced cables can be used for the majority of the cable run if the recorder must be placed a great distance from the house mixer, say to allow the your operator constant access or monitoring of the recorder.

It adds more equipment than a simple cable, but can certainly solve many problems.
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Old February 7th, 2014, 12:50 PM   #8
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Re: Which portable recorder for pro line level use?

The Rolls DB25b is my favorite solution for this....

Rolls Corporation - Real Sound - Products DB25b
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Old February 7th, 2014, 04:52 PM   #9
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Re: Which portable recorder for pro line level use?

That the H4n has become a standard in the low-end pro line of audio recorders is great. It's a capable little recorder. I owned its predecessor H4, and have had the H4n since it came out.

It is *NOT* a good recorder for bouncing around between different line level sources. Some posts above imply that it has at least -10db consumer-level line level inputs. It doesn't. (the old H4 did, but had some other problems).

Yes, it has combo XLR-F / 1/4" inputs. Those 1/4" are instrument level, no where near to handling even -10db from consumer-level RCAs.

In later firmware, Zoom added fractional recording level adjustments, that is, it came originally with a recording level from 1 to 100, and the later firmware allows values less than 1.

However, this is after the input stage, and it's just not set up to handle line level. Once you overmodulate at the input stage any amount of recording level control isn't going to help.

Yes, in-line attenuators can be used to advantage. But then you'll be forever juggling between XLR, 1/4", and RCA, wishing you had a 10db att when all you have is a 30db, etc. More headache, more potential for mistakes, more likely you won't have what you need to get a good recording.

I highly recommend that you look at Zoom's competition for a similar recorder that has line-level in, available on both the XLR and the 1/4" inputs. The Tascam DR40 comes to mind. I've not used one, but I know maybe a half-dozen people who've bought one instead of the H4n and like it. It also has XLR / 1/4 combo jacks, but adds line-level settings for either.

Neither of these are great state of the art pro recorders. But what you get for the money is really quite good.
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Old February 7th, 2014, 07:49 PM   #10
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Re: Which portable recorder for pro line level use?

Thanks for all the advice!

I was hoping to buy a recorder that would be able to handle all the various levels, without the need for an attenuator or a pad in the middle.

I've heard that the Olympus LS-12 would be able to handle -10dBV and +4dbu?
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Old February 7th, 2014, 08:55 PM   #11
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Re: Which portable recorder for pro line level use?

An Ampex 351-2 will handle any line level from well below 1/10 volt to +8dBm or higher. It may even have switchable input termination, but I'd have to check. Of course it's just a bit bulkier than a DR-40, even if you add a direct box to your kit along with the Tascam. ;-)
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Old February 7th, 2014, 09:07 PM   #12
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Re: Which portable recorder for pro line level use?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Agius View Post
I was hoping to buy a recorder that would be able to handle all the various levels, without the need for an attenuator or a pad in the middle.
This question is asked at least once a month. What is the abhorrence of attenuators? I just don't get it at all.

The answer to the question is: What you are asking for does not exist. Dream on.
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Old February 7th, 2014, 09:27 PM   #13
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Re: Which portable recorder for pro line level use?

Agreed, Mr. Crowley. Some day, somewhere, you will run into something that should be balanced, but isn't. Or something that should not be balanced, but is. Or ground loops. Or a ridiculous "non standard" level. Some of those problems can be solved with $1.00 worth of resistors and a little know-how. Most of those problems can be solved with a direct box. If a 12-year old Boy Scout can "be prepared," why shouldn't audio people have the same goal? Sorry if I sound harsh, I don't mean to be a grouch... but it seems so very basic.
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Old February 7th, 2014, 09:44 PM   #14
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Re: Which portable recorder for pro line level use?

Looks like a Tascam DR-40 (which says it has a max of +20dBu Line Input), a Behringer ULTRA-DI DI20 DI box and my usual grab bag of cables should cover all the bases :)
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Old February 7th, 2014, 11:26 PM   #15
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Re: Which portable recorder for pro line level use?

Selecting a recorder on the basis of the line-levels accommodated is like buying a car because you like the gear-shift knob. It wouldn't even make my top-10 buying decision list.
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