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Please recommend a great audio recorder for the field...

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Re: Please recommend a great audio recorder for the field...

Postby stubbsonic » Sat Feb 10, 2018 8:42 pm

One more plug for M/S. X/Y mics are ok, but remember that neither mic is actually pointing at the object of your desire. With MS, you get a nice center that you don't with X/Y. It is a subtle difference, and X/Y recordings can sound good & wide, but since you're already a fan of M/S, I'll just say that for me, that is the MAIN thing I love about the H2n.
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Re: Please recommend a great audio recorder for the field...

Postby monkey man » Mon Feb 12, 2018 6:25 pm

I wanted to chime in earlier with this but haven't had an opportunity 'til now, when a 2-hour power outage meant there's a window available before I fire up the VPN again.

When researching this a few years ago I stumbled upon an assessment / comparison of the then-available (2 years ago) Zoom and Tascam units.

The Zooms where feature-rich and easy-to-use, but when it came to the quality of the noise they generated the Tascams won hands-down. Turns out the Zoom models' noise was harsh across the range and the Tascam units' smooth.

Just sharing this 'cause for some this stuff matters, even 'though the noise floors are very-low.

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Re: Please recommend a great audio recorder for the field...

Postby stubbsonic » Mon Feb 12, 2018 6:45 pm

One thing about the H2n is that you HAVE to make sure the backlight for the display is off when recording something important. It does add a little noise-- but when the backlight is off, it's clean. I'm guessing the testers may not have known this.

I usually set it to go off after a few seconds (to give me time to set levels).
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Re: Please recommend a great audio recorder for the field...

Postby mikehalloran » Mon Feb 12, 2018 8:05 pm

I have no horse in this race as I am happy with the various choices I own and have no need to find another.

I suppose that, if I was in the market, it would be for the H2n because of the various pickup patterns and that is weighs under 5oz.

I was noticing that most portable recorder comparisons left out the H2n. Then I found this.
https://itemvsitem.com/tascam-dr-40-vs- ... -you-pick/

If you scroll to the bottom, it links to a number of other A/B reviews of various portable recorders.


It is clear that most multi recorder reviews aren't. They're just compilations of what someone finds on the internet and no actual testing is being done. Instead, it's just feature and spec comparison. That has some value but not as much as the authors think. My favorite was the one going on about the H4n portability then listing it as 10.5 Lb (my friend's feels more like 1.5 Lb.).
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Re: Please recommend a great audio recorder for the field...

Postby mhschmieder » Thu Feb 15, 2018 2:49 pm

Sound-On-Sound does an updated review every 3 years or thereabouts, and did one recently -- not sure if it's opened up for non-subscribers yet as I haven't checked, but a couple of new models came along since NOV and definitely won't be in that review.

I am pretty settled for many years now on the brands that I consider to be worth having on the list, even if some of their lowest-end models aren't:

Olympus
Roland/Edirol
Korg
Zoom
Sound Devices

Reliability matters to me the most, and is why Tascam and a few others don't make the cut. The worst cost/quality ratio is unsurprisingly Roland/Edirol, but they also were the only ones up until recently to offer four channel playback, which I used to need on stage (but don't anymore). Sound Devices is the cream of the crop and now have a $700 USB model that is sort of a mixer as well. Worth a look; their higher-end gear is as pro as it gets.

The main caveat with Korg is that their bitstream approach isn't compatible with anything else, and the apps are quirky that get you from there to consumer formats of audio.

Olympus and maybe Zoom, also now have bitstream models. Not sure if the accompanying software is "easier to use" (a subjective statement) than Korg's. SOS does a thorough job of covering every angle though.

So, other than reliability, intermediary software for editing or converting files, number of simultaneous output channels, and similarly for input channels, the main things are then which file formats are supported, whether uncompressed audio (or at least lossless) is available, and perhaps most importantly once the playing field is level (which by now it likely is), what mic configurations (Mid-Side and ORTF are more flexible downstream than X/Y, which can have uncorrectable phase issues).

For field use, other factors also come into play, such as weather-proof casings, which Sound Devices ship with but maybe the others too, or at least after-market casings might be available. Sensitivity to vibrations is probably also a big factor in field work, and whether it can be mounted on a tripod. If collecting ambient data, multiple mics might be an absolute.

I'm not up-to-date on current models so can't make outright recommendations, but the trends have not changed, except that Zoom went from being an entry-level maker to one that produces some truly professional gear.

I have experience with a LOT of the models out there; I just haven't owned any myself as I keep putting it off. The higher-end Zoom models have impressed me with their audio quality and mic flexibility. Many models can accept external mics via XLR (and not just Zoom's models).

The main problem I see with recordings that others do (and which I then have to deal with), is super-hot signals that is bleeding and clipping like crazy. Running any of these recorders in default mode usually leads to overly hot levels.

As field work usually requires attention on the subject more on the gear, it's worth downloading some user manuals and reading SOS reviews and others, to see which ones are the easiest to set up for auto-detecting or pre-compensating for large dynamic range.

Especially if you need what you capture to be a keeper vs. a rough take or demo for deeper recordings (even in field work, this is sometimes the case), give some lead time on the recording and deliberately produce some wild transients, to "train" the recorder to expect a large dynamic range, as otherwise the first loud noise may suddenly (but not quickly enough) shift the recording level, leaving you with an "interesting" engineering problem.
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Re: Please recommend a great audio recorder for the field...

Postby mhschmieder » Thu Feb 15, 2018 2:50 pm

BTW I am too busy to really look anything up today (or until next week), but Yamaha had some nice recorders a number of years ago, with great form factors, reliability, flexible miking options, and good audio quality, but I think they might have exited the market or shifted to focus only on the low-end?
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Re: Please recommend a great audio recorder for the field...

Postby FMiguelez » Thu Feb 15, 2018 5:36 pm

Mark, it's always a pleasure to read your reviews.
Also, thank you for the SOS tip. I used to be a subscriber. It's an excelent magazine, so I might kill 2 birds with one shot and re-suscribe while I'm there checking the reviews.
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Re: Please recommend a great audio recorder for the field...

Postby FMiguelez » Thu Feb 15, 2018 5:42 pm

stubbsonic wrote:One more plug for M/S. X/Y mics are ok, but remember that neither mic is actually pointing at the object of your desire. With MS, you get a nice center that you don't with X/Y. It is a subtle difference, and X/Y recordings can sound good & wide, but since you're already a fan of M/S, I'll just say that for me, that is the MAIN thing I love about the H2n.

Agreed. The more I read about it, the more I see how I would benefit from that stereo format.

My sister will visit from NY next month. She will bring my new recorder, so I don't have to feed our gluton government parasites with outreagous import taxes (which they steal anyway) :smash:
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