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Old May 8th, 2006, 11:42 PM   #1
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Help picking out a digital audio recorder!

Okay, I've been reading threads the last week or so about what you guys have been saying about certain digital recorders. Namely these:

Marantz PMD660
Marantz PMD670
Marantz PMD671
M-Audio Microtrack 24/96
Tascam HD-P2

First let me tell you about my needs. I mostly shoot plays and musical performances with 2 Canon GL2s, rarely hooked up to the sound board because of both a lack of knowledge and equipment. I hook one GL2 up to a Sennhieser ME66 and let one GL2 capture audio from the internal mic on the camera. This really isn't the best method of capturing audio but, like i said, I'm just a beginner. That's why I'm here.

Anyway, last month I shot something where i happened to stumble upon a Marantz PMD670 that someone happened to have with them. I used it for my video and it was leaps and bounds better than anything i've ever heard. So here I am. Researching my options. I could just go with the 670, knowing that it worked well. But it was hooked up to a sound board, and I heard Marantz 660 and 670 have problems with condenser mics (something I intend on using).

Here are my thoughts of each one. I might be right or I might be wrong...
Don't judge me, for I am very new in this field.

PMD660: A decent device whose biggest problem lies in the poor preamps that make recording with condenser microphones difficult. PRICE: $599.95 ( http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...ughType=search )
(*** I cannot find the price on the Oade Brothers web site. They have one mod for $559.00 but I cannot find a price for no mods.***)

PMD660 (Oade Bros. Mod): Fixes the poor preamps which make this a winning ticket, which put this product in the forefront on my rating scale. But is the increased price worth the fixes? PRICE: $749.00 ( http://www.oade.com/digital_recorder...D-660MODS.html )

PMD670: A step above the 660 in terms of features but on par with it in terms of audio quality, still with the forementioned pre-amp problems. PRICE: $ 699.95 ( http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...ughType=search )

PMD670 (Oade Bros. Mod): Likewise, fixes the pre-amp problem. However, I cannot find these mods on the oade bros website. I have only heard of these mods from previous threads. PRICE: UNKNOWN

PMD671: As far as I know, Marantz fixed the pre-amp problem and is now up to par with the Oade bros. fixes. PRICE: $999.00 ( http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...ughType=search )

PMD671 (Oade Bros. Mod): Okay, maybe Marantz didn't fix everything, for those damn Oade brothers have modified this one, too. I don't know what these mods do but maybe its a good idea to get them. PRICE: $1299 (http://www.oade.com/digital_recorder...D-671MODS.html )

M-Audio Microtrack 24/96: I have all but ruled this one out. I have gotten mixed reviews of it, and the good reviews aren't really that good. If you're reading this and the MT24/96 blew you away, let me know. The only positive is the price, as far as I'm concerned. PRICE: $399.00 ( http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...ughType=search )

Tascam HD-P2: Okay, here's the dark horse. This baby has gotten nothing but good reviews and seems to be a great unit. As far as I know, it records great audio and can handle any task with its extensive features and GOOD PRE-AMPS! This might be up there with the Oade Bros. Mod of the 660. PRICE $999.99 ( http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...ughType=search )

Well, there you have it. Those are, as far as I see it, my options my new digital audio recorder. Most of what I posted is just my opinion so if you see something that i have above that is just plain wrong, by all means, correct me. This is what I have come here for. Also, if you know where I can get some of these items for less money, please tell me.

Right now, I'm leaning towards the Marantz PMD660 Oade Bros. Mod while part of me is thinking i should just get the HD-P2. What should I do??
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Old May 9th, 2006, 05:10 AM   #2
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My $0.02 worth is to go with the Tascam. Haven't used it myself but I too have seen the good reviews on it. The biggest factor in its favour for our uses is that it has timecode and also can sync its clock rate to incoming video blackburst. Those two features will make a real difference in your post production workflow.

BTW, I see you're in Nashville. You have a local dealer that's first-rate in Trew Audio. Look at their website and then go pay 'em a visit.
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Old May 9th, 2006, 05:58 AM   #3
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Got an Edirol R-4 here and well, I'm quite haapy with it, it's survived some serious work in central Australia and the recordings sound fine. Much longer recording times than the CF recorders although hungry on batteries, also you get 4 channels and that can come in very handy.
The mic pres are fine for high output mics however I plan to get a Sound Devices preamp for the times when it needs the extra gain, lowe noise.
One unmentioned unit I saw at NAB was the recorder from Nagra, cheaper than the Sound Devices gear, very simple to use so pretty goof proof.
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Old May 9th, 2006, 10:04 AM   #4
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Hey man-- not sure on this but the wording of your post suggests you still plan to use microphones only and bypass the soundboard?

I'd really advise you to rethink that; having a soundboard feed AND a live mic or two (for the ambient reverb of the room and audience repsonses) which you can mix together in post would likely give you far superior sound.

Most boards have several output options that the soundman could help you with. You'd most likely need a bag of a few cables & adapters.

Also, for your actual recorder, you might look into a used portable DAT? I have a Teac with phantom power, good pres, and 2 XLR ins which is pretty sweet. If you're laptop-savvy, there are plenty of firewire and USB based multitrack solutions as well, designed for portability. Check out sweetwater.com, they have a good overview and they're a great audio resource.
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Old May 9th, 2006, 02:04 PM   #5
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no...

ideally, i'd like to get a track from the soundboard, a track from my sennhieser 66, and even a track from my internal omi-directional internal mic on my GL2. But right now I don't get anything from the soundboard because my equipment is non-existant. The one time i used anything from the soundboard is when i used somebody else's Marantz PMD670. That is what provoked me to get my own. So, yes, I'd like to get a soundboard feed, but whenever i go from the soundboard to my GL2, it sounds like crapola.

I apprecaite your suggestion of a used DAT but if i'm gonna get one, i would prefer flash recording.
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Old May 9th, 2006, 03:04 PM   #6
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John ... I know it's a little over your budget but you might take a look at the new recorders from Sound Devices - the 702 and 702T. (The difference is timecode.) Very nice fully professional units. They basically the 722 without the internal hard drive, going straight to CF card instead.
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Old May 9th, 2006, 04:03 PM   #7
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John,

I think Michael hit on a very important point in his post above. It's not the Marantz by itself that gave you the great sound you heard. If you take a little time to figure out how to send a feed to your GL2, you will get sound that is comparable to the sound you heard on the Marantz, and you won't have to sync it in post! I suspect when you got bad sound from the board it was because they sent you a LINE LEVEL output (which is standard from a board) and you input it into a MIC LEVEL input on the GL2. If the GL2 doesn't have LINE LEVEL inputs, then you could get a small portable mixer, or something like the Beachtek units to convert the line level to mic level, then feed it to your camera.

Not trying to say the Marantz, or Edirol, or Tascam units aren't great - they are. But you really don't need to spend the money on one in your situation.

Have fun!

Rob
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Old May 9th, 2006, 10:27 PM   #8
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thanks rob

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Neidig
John,

Not trying to say the Marantz, or Edirol, or Tascam units aren't great - they are. But you really don't need to spend the money on one in your situation.

Have fun!

Rob
thanks for the help rob, but let me ask you this question. How much different would the quality be if I, like you said, found a way to feed my GL2 the the soundboard line, rather than purchase an expensive recording unit like the ones mentioned above? I always thought that the camera, by definition, couldn't really capture professional quality audio the way an expensive field recorder could. If all i need is one of those $200 beachtek units to achieve high quality audio, then I'm a happy camper.

I would feel pretty foolish, however I would imagine its not that easy.

Set me straight, please.
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Old May 10th, 2006, 04:59 AM   #9
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You could also consider a used HHB MD500 which sell in the $700 -850 range. I've been using them for two years with good results.
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Old May 10th, 2006, 08:05 AM   #10
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I own a M-Audio Microtrack 24/96 and have been very happy with it. The sound is great and it is small enough to conceal. It was the size and price that led me to it over the others.

Reviews of the Marantz 660 units have said that they produce an audible hiss, which was apparent on a website that had sound files from several units. Search this forum for the webiste.

The main problems reported with the MT 24/96 are related to its size. The TRS 1/4 inch inputs require that microphoes be plugged in with phantom power off, and preferably with the unit off. Also it has an internal battery pack that cannot be replaced by the user. It also does not have an auto mode or limiter.

I record a lot of theatrical performances and, although I don't use it for that, it should work perfectly.

Buddy
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Old May 10th, 2006, 11:42 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Hartney
You could also consider a used HHB MD500 which sell in the $700 -850 range. I've been using them for two years with good results.
I have both the HHB 500 and the Marantz 670. They are both good, but the HHB is much easier to use. The Marantz 670, with its 40 or so recording modes takes a bit longer to dial in. CF recording still scares me. It is so easy to wipe out a couple days of takes. I have also had problems with bad CF media causing the Marantz to lock up during record.

I use the 670 as a back-up to the HHB.
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Old May 11th, 2006, 11:00 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Ferguson
PMD660: A decent device whose biggest problem lies in the poor preamps that make recording with condenser microphones difficult.
You have that backwards. The preamps are only noisy when using dynamic mics because you have to boost the gain fairly high. I have a Marantz PMD660 and it has no problems at all with condenser mics. So if you are using a condenser mic you will be very happy with this unit. I use it with either my Audio-Technica AT897 shotgun or AT4053a cardioid on a boom and it gives the boom operator complete freedom to move about without a tether to the camera.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Ferguson
How much different would the quality be if I, like you said, found a way to feed my GL2 the the soundboard line, rather than purchase an expensive recording unit like the ones mentioned above? I always thought that the camera, by definition, couldn't really capture professional quality audio the way an expensive field recorder could.
Your camera captures PCM uncompressed 16-bit/48Khz sample rate audio which is exactly what the PMD660 will capture. Some recorders capture 24-bit audio at 48-96KHz which is even better quality but your camera does a fine job.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Ferguson
If all i need is one of those $200 beachtek units to achieve high quality audio, then I'm a happy camper.
Oh yea. This will work just fine. The only limitation is that you are tethered to the mixer. If the mixer isn’t close to where you want to shoot from, this won’t work; that’s why having a field recorder gives you the ultimate flexibility. The mixer can be way in the back of the room and you can be right up front.

I use my PMD660 to shoot plays all the time. The local venue has the mixer to the left of the stage so I just keep the PMD660 there while I’m out in the center of the audience. No muss, no fuss, no wires hanging from the camera, and above all no room noise!

I don’t have the Oade mod but I would be careful because one of those modes removes the line in which makes it useless for recording from a mixer! I’m happy with my PMD660 just the way it is. Using the line-in or good condense mic yields great results.

~jr
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Old May 11th, 2006, 11:52 PM   #13
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thanks jr

your advice has been very helpful.

i think i'll just buy a beachtek unit for now, and maybe get a marantz unit in the future.
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Old May 12th, 2006, 04:30 AM   #14
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I'm not familiar with the GS400 but many consummer cameras don't let you disable the AGC which is makes for a problem getting good recordings. If the GS400 lets you disable AGC and gives you manual record level adjustment and true line level inputs then you're sweet.

Problem is a lot of designs simply pad the input to achieve line inputs and then apply the same amount of gain, so in line in mode you achieve nothing in terms of S/N.

Certainly the 16/48K encoding used in DV is capable of fine sound, it's better than CD quality. The issues are the quality of the A/D converters and the preamps. The 24bit/48K mode combined with good mic preamps in most field recorders gives you way more headroom to work with. You can for example record at -10dB FS and dial in 10dB of gain in post with no worries. That leaves you planty of room for unexpected loud sounds etc. That can be a real blessing with live events.
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