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-   -   Audio mixer/recorder (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/all-things-audio/482204-audio-mixer-recorder.html)

Sjoerd Banga July 21st, 2010 09:57 AM

Audio mixer/recorder
Hi there,
we are about to record a short documentary. Because some of the people we interview are not allowed to be filmed I am looking for a good audio solution for this situation, but also for the moments when we are allowed to film.

At this moment I try to decide between these options:
1) SD 302 mixer with a cheap recorder (Sony PCM-D50)
2) a Recorder like Tascam 680 or Edirol R44

What would be your opinion. Will the SD 302 mixer give a much better quality compared to the Tascam/Edirol-route?

We are using wireless laveliers, Audio Technica AT4053b and AT897 mics.



Jim Andrada July 21st, 2010 11:17 AM

I have the 302 and the Sony although I've never tried to run the 302 into the Sony - the 302 feeds a Sound Devices 702 and I usually use the Sony on its own with its own mics - which are quite a bit better than you might expect at its price point.

I'm very satisfied with both products, but I'm not sure that they make a great combination.

To start with the S302/Sony lashup would be close to twice the price of either of the others you mention and I rather doubt that you'd see much if any quality improvement.

I think the SD 302 has the best pre-amps of anything in your list, but not sure what would happen when you plugged it into the Sony - I wouldn't be suprised if the Sony line-in padded the signal down and then ran it through its own pre-amps - so no net advantage of using the (pricey) SD 302. But let me admit right up front that I'm totally guessing about the Sony line-in process. Hopefully someone who knows better than me will chime in.

The SD 302 is one of the best products out there, but for what you're doing it might be overkill and it's expensive.

Anyhow, much as I like the Sony and the SD 302 I would probably not try to lash them together.

By the way - I interpret your objective as wanting a solution for recording audio (voice???) when you aren't allowed to use your camera, but normally recording to camera. If this is true, since the camera probably has worse audio than anything you've listed, and the camera audio would probably eventually be intercut with the separate recordings, the overall audio quaity of the finished profuct would be dictated by the quality of the camera audio, so probably not worth spending a lot of money on the alternative to your camera.

Just my thoughts - hope they help.

Sjoerd Banga July 21st, 2010 01:40 PM

Hi Jim,

thanks for your input.
The audio I was talking about is indeed voice.
I see this project also as a good point in time to upgrade quality of the audio I record. Until now I record it on my Canon XH-A1. I know about the limitations of the compressed audio that comes with HDV. Sometimes it is hard to make it sound better in post.

So on one hand I want better control of the sound I record and at the other hand want it be recorded in a higher quality. Also, the flexibility of having more then 2 channels could be very welcome in some situations.

Here in The Netherlands an Edirol R44 or Tascam DR-680 cost about €900,00. The SD 302 and Sony I can buy second-hand for about €1.000,00 and €300,00.

The last point you make is a very good one. It means that I should make all the recordings with one of the options I mentioned. For the interviews that we are allowed to film I could bypass the Sony and feed the audio from the SD 302 directly to the camera. Or record it with the Edirol/Tascam and feed that also to the camera for sync-purposes.



Jim Andrada July 21st, 2010 03:45 PM

Well, mostly I do classical music recording - and often no video, just the music! So I think the requirements are different.

The problem with camera audio is not only the HDV compression, but also the usually poor quality of the audio path in the camera itself - think of it as rather mediocre to poor audio being compressed and further degraded!

Alsthough, typically voice is not very stressful on the hardware.

Anyow, the SD302 is really excellent, but limited to three mic inputs. I think it is a very good piece of equipment to have, but my concern is how good the Sony will be as a back end to the 302. If you have a plan to upgrade the recording as well and eventually go to a 302 - 702 or something, and just using the Sony as a temporary solution, then it might make sense. Of course, the 702 is only a two track recorder and the Sound Devices 4 track - 8 track recorders are much much more expensive.

And the Sony by itself is great - I use it as backup quite often with its own mics, so it will always be a useful piece of equipment I think.

Also, how would you connect the 302 to the Sony - the only 3.5mm output on the 302 is to the headphone jack, all the other outputs are XLR or a "mini" XLR tape out. Of course there are always adapter cables, but I think every step on this path risks degrading the sound quality from the 302.

I could make some tests of the 302 - Sony combination for you. I'm not sure how my setup would compare to yours and how relevant it would be. But I'd be happy to do it in the next day or two. Too bad we aren't a little closer so you could try the setup before deciding to buy it:<)

By the way, what microphones will you be using?

Richard Crowley July 21st, 2010 04:46 PM

What does "not allowed to be filmed" mean exactly? We have seen several different methods of obscuring the identify of a person who is speaking on-camera. You could also just use your camcorder aimed at the interviewER. That would maintain the same audio quality and character as the other stuff you shot with sync video.

Sjoerd Banga July 22nd, 2010 04:11 AM

Jim: here and there I read about people who are using the 302/Sony setup and like it. I can try to find the webpages and give you the links.
After reading a lot about audio mixers I was thinking that even if the videocamera is the recorder, a SD 302 between the mics and the camera would give you a better soundquality.
But for me it would be ideal when I found a recorder that would be sufficient for me without a mixer. So at this moment I am leaning towards the recorder and do the mixing on it as well. That would also mean 1 device less.

The mics I own and plan take with me are:
Audio Technica AT897 shotgun (for outside)
Audio Technica 4053b hyper (for inside)
Sennheisser wireless lav omni
DPA 4061 wired lav

Richard: (bear with me, english is not my mother language, so hopefully I write it the way I mean it).
This is a topic we are still discussing about with our client. It concerns, for instance, women who have immigrated to Europe thinking they would work as waitresses, au-pairs, etc. but ended up in prostitution. They are living in a place away from the criminals who got them here and who are still looking for them. There are also boys who ended up here in a similar way and have to be protected against similar criminals who want them in their gangs.
We are considering all possible options, including the ones you mention (thanks for thinking with us), but although I wrote about interviews it is only their voice that we will hear in the short movies. Obscuring people (using video effects) is a sollution we don't like visually/artistically and we are affraid they would endup looking like criminals that way.
One option we will try is photography (close-ups, silhouettes, etc.).

Jim Andrada July 23rd, 2010 02:07 PM

Hi Sjoerd

I have a couple of the DPA 4061's, one of which is sort of permanently mounted under the lid of my wife's grand piano as a "close mic" supplement when recording with regular stereo pair. Nice mic! Works great on guitar as well as other instruments.

Anyhow, re Sony etc, I would expect that hooking it up behind the SD 302 would yield - about the same result as hooking it directly to a mic. Nothing wrong with it at all for most situations However, if I were to give a 1 rating to most camera audio and a 5 to the SD - maybe the Sony would be a 2 . Not bad, probably still better than the camera, but if you're going to pay the price for the great preamps etc in the 302 running out of the 302 to the Sony will ( I think) erase a lot of the advantage you're paying for. Might make more economic sense to front end the Sony with a Beachtek or Juicedlink box to plug in an XLR mic, provide Phantom power etc..

And voice isn't so terribly demanding and in camera with the lens cap on to avoid filming the folks might be OK.

Anyhow, if it were me in your situation I'd go with one of the other options you listed unless you had more "strategic" reasons for the SD - like totally upgrading your sound gear and starting with the 302.

Just my opinion for what it's worth.

Steve House July 23rd, 2010 03:49 PM

Just a couple of thoughts....

The 302 does have a -10dBv stereo unbalanced 'tape out' output on a mini XLR-M connector and a cable for mini XLR-F to stereo 3.5mm TRS can be easily bought or made so interfacing the 302 to the Sony PCM-D50 is not a difficulty. The Sony's line input is for -10dBv nominal so the levels work out right.

Some advantages of using the 302 ahead of the recorder, in addition to allowing for 3 mics, is that you can route each mic to whichever stereo channel is desired and you have more easily accessable gain controls for each mic, an advantage in an interview session where 'riding gain' as you record might be desirable. The 302's gain controls also would allow you to adjust the levels of each mic independently, something that doesn't appear to be possible with just the recorder by itself. You also have the advantage of the 302's outstanding limiters.

Jimmy Tuffrey July 23rd, 2010 05:18 PM

Jim, you are being unduly harsh about the Sony.
It is in fact an excellent quality recorder and all you need is a 2 x XLR female to stereo mini jack cable to interface the 302 to it.
I have made such a cable by taking a stereo mini jack to rca phono's cable and cutting of the rca's and soldering on 2 xlr females. Easy and the quality of the recording is more like 4 on your scale. In fact I don;t buy the SD pre-amps = God opinion that seems so prevalent. Fact is there are better sounding mixers.
Don't be put of by the un-balanced nature of the sony input as it is such a short cable.

Anyway my experience leads me to believe that the 302 into the sony is a great sounding solution.


Jim Andrada July 23rd, 2010 10:46 PM

Hi Jimmy (and Steve)

Glad you jumped in.

Of course I don't think there's anything wrong with the 302 - after all I use one and I really like it! Even if it isn't as you say the "God" of mixers it has a lot of really good features and is I think fairly priced for what ir is.. Ditto for the Sony I think for its price it is an extraordinarily good buy. I even admit to having talked several people into getting one! And they're still talking to me so they can't be so unhappy with it!

And I was sort of thinking that maybe the combination would be a 3 instead of a 2 on the camera to SD302 scale of 5. Not sure about 4, though, but in any case better than the camera.

OK - let me ask you though where on my infamous scale of 5 you'd put the other choices that the OP was considering? Seriously, I'd like to know. Just from a quality and utility point of view first for recording speech, not considering price, then on an overall scale including price.

Just for arguments sake, let's say the scale was

1 ... Camera

3 ... 302 ->Sony

5 ... 302 -> 702.

Where in this kind of picture would you slot the Tascam and or Edirol?

By the way, do you know whether the Sony just pads the line level down to mic level or bypasses it's own pre-amps for line level? I don't know for sure but I'd like to.

Jimmy Tuffrey July 24th, 2010 02:12 AM

Hi on your scale i'd put the Tascam at 4 then. It is very good.
The question of padding down the pre-amps seemed relevant with the old pd series cameras etc, I'm not sure it happens across the board anymire. My hunch is with the Sony this does not happen. It has it's own line in and the quality of recording with it is very good. Maybe the manual has something on it. I would expect the line in and mic in to have differemt impedance if they where electronically seperate and the same if padding down.

~Can't comment on Ediro.

Jim Andrada July 24th, 2010 03:12 AM

Thanks Jimmy.

I appreciate the answer. I'll stare at the manual and fool around with the Sony and maybe I can answer my own question. Come to think of it, the occasional criticisms I hear of the Sony seem to relate mainly to using other mics directly into the mic input - although I've used it with a couple of different lavs and have been quite satisfied overall.

Anyone care to say how the Edirol would stack up?

Steve House July 24th, 2010 05:47 AM


Originally Posted by Jim Andrada (Post 1551588)
OK - let me ask you though where on my infamous scale of 5 you'd put the other choices that the OP was considering? Seriously, I'd like to know. Just from a quality and utility point of view first for recording speech, not considering price, then on an overall scale including price.

Just for arguments sake, let's say the scale was

1 ... Camera

3 ... 302 ->Sony

5 ... 302 -> 702.

Where in this kind of picture would you slot the Tascam and or Edirol?

By the way, do you know whether the Sony just pads the line level down to mic level or bypasses it's own pre-amps for line level? I don't know for sure but I'd like to.

Haven't a lot of experience with either the Tascam or the Edirol so I don't know where I'd put them. I'm not a big fan of the mini recorders such as the Sony for production sound, though I would expect the Sony to be a better choice than the various Zooms, so i'd put the Tascam and Edirol at number 4 on your scale. Which would be 4a and which would be 4b is hard to say. I'm a big believer in buying things just once - it's far cheaper in the long run than the buying lower level and later upgrading treadmill - so if it were me I'd bite the bullet for the 702, or even a 744, along with a 552 or a gently used 442 combination and be done with it for the forseeable future. I do like the idea of having more than 2 recording tracks avail for production dialog work since you may need to have multiple mics on iso channels. For music such as you're doing, 2 channels would be sufficient for stereo recording and 4 channels wouldn't be enough for mic'ing each instrument or section in a full band for multitrack recording so your 702 hits the sweet spot in the function versus cost spectrum.

I wish recorder and camera manufacturers would be more forthcoming on just exactly how their devices are put together, My Mackie and SD mixers both came with block diagrams in the manual with enough detail to tell me exactly what goes where. There's no reason a camera or recorder manufacturer couldn't do the same - if they did, a glance would answer the question of whether line is padded down or bypasses the mic preamps. It shows the difference between a company aiming at a professional market versus a consumer market.

Jim Andrada July 24th, 2010 02:40 PM

Thanks Steve

Couldn't agree more that more detailed product info would be helpful!

Sjoerd Banga July 25th, 2010 04:10 AM

Jim, Jimmy, Steve,

useful stuff, I really appreciate your input.

My feeling in the beginning was leaning towards the Tascam 680 and more and more I think that will be the best option for me. Very flexible and when it gets a 4 on that nice scale you made the decision is even easier for me.

For projects where sound has to be absolutely perfect I would hire one or two soundguy's with their own (expensive) equipment. My knowledge about audio is probably insufficient to get the best out of the most professional gear. And if I would invest more money in soundgear, I probably spend it on better mics.

(Gadget-envy as I am) I really look forward to test the recorder with all the mics and compare it to my camera. Next I have to look for a good bag for the Tascam(+ accessories) and find out what the best option will be to get the audio in sync with video in the easiest possible way.



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