Audio Recording Devices

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by NiKeZz, Sep 19, 2012.

  1. NiKeZz macrumors 6502


    May 28, 2010
    Topeka, Kansas
    I'm looking for a new audio recording device as I currently use my iPhone paired with my Canon 60D. It gets the job done, but I'm working on a project that will be seen on a mass scale and I would like to have much higher quality audio in the interviews of these people. I will be needing two mics as well. Whether they are wireless or wired isn't a huge concern as long as it fits the budget and will hold it's resell value when I'm done with this project. I can rent from as well as long as I know what I'm looking for.

    Budget: $400 :eek:
  2. handsome pete macrumors 68000

    Aug 15, 2008
    There are a bunch of options out there, but the Zoom offering seems to be very popular:

    It's worked well for me.

    I'd rent the mics if you can, since you'll be able to use better than you can afford to outright buy.
  3. mBox macrumors 68020

    Jun 26, 2002
    Due to my recent pre-order of the Black Magic Cinema Camera, I had to learn fast on field recorders.
    My only experience in the past is analog with the Shure.
    We use the M-Audio but they dont pass SMPTE, so you have to use the clapper as sync.
    Ive read about the Zoom and almost bought one but read some bad reviews.
    So its back to the expensive ones for me :(
    Even the camera has great audio, I dont risk shooting with out an actual field recorder.
  4. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007
    I've never used a Zoom H4N, but it can't be quality that explains its popularity. I think the rise of DSLR video left a lot of people used to plugging mics straight into their camcorder in a unfamiliar territory and looking for the simplest answer to "what do I record sound on now?", and the Zoom just happened to be the one that got caught in the early word-of-mouth wind.

    The Tascam DR100 mkII has better-sounding preamps and seems more robust. Same goes for the Olympus LS-100.

    But it's frustrating how poor the preamps in these devices are. Computer audio interfaces costing half the price have much better preamps. Sound Devices put excellent preamps in their USBPre and Mix Pre-D, but they haven't dared put a recorder in anything below their $2000 SD702.

    Companies who make these devices, what we want is:

    • two preamps as good as you'd find in an entry-level Presonus/M-Audio/Focusrite audio interface
    • robust build quality and good battery life
    • an interface that balances tactility with the iOS simplicity that has become second nature to all of us, keeping the core functionality at the fore and dumping the anachronistic stuff.

    The above will make you $400 many many times over.
  5. floh macrumors 6502

    Nov 28, 2011
    Stuttgart, Germany
    Well... while I have to agree that the Zoom devices have mediocre preamps and are not built very sturdy, they do offer a lot of options for the money. Don't forget that, other than the computer interfaces you mentioned, they have 4 internal microphones, are battery powered and most importantly can be used standalone (card reader/writer, level display and audio compression all need to be built in).

    I agree that for the price tag, they could at least use some better preamps, but one would need a very clear shotgun microphone to find the preamp noise higher than the mic noise. You are looking at way more than 400 bucks here, too.

    Personally, I did not like the Tascam's preamps. They have less noise, but seemed highly nonlinear to me (amplifying the lower frequencies too much). And there have been some reports of the DR100 recording strange non-existing (helicopter-like) noise on occasions.

    Oh boy, that would be great. I own a Zoom H2 for quick and dirty ambient recordings and I use a Zoom H4n for simple concert recordings.

    But for a movie field recorder, I actually liked the Fostex FR-2 LE. The preamps are notably better than the cheap Zoom or Tascam ones, it is very tough in build quality and very practical to manage in the field if you have a dedicated boom operator. If you buy it new, it will set you back $600, but I got a used one from eBay for less than 200 bucks. And it was totally worth it.

    So, if you can find a cheap one or can afford it, I would go with the Fostex. If not, go for either the Zoom H4n or the Tascam DR100. I guess they both have pros and cons and it comes down to a matter of taste.

    If you are looking for a shotgun mic, not just a recorder for ambient noise, I tried out two of the cheaper ones and put it on youtube.

    Good luck, and did I mention: Great idea to upgrade your sound gear! It helps sooo much for films.
  6. monokakata, Sep 19, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2012

    monokakata macrumors 68000


    May 8, 2008
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    I've been using one of these since March, and I like it.

    I've often ended up working in less-than-ideal circumstances, and what I like about the Marantz is that after I spend a little time setting up my parameters, then all I need to deal with are the large REC PAUSE STOP buttons. It's hard to get it wrong, even when you can hardly see where the damn thing is.

    I usually use ALC because I'm recording dual mono, and if the ALC lets one channel get too hot, the other is always at -20 db so it's OK.

    What I'm saying is that if your situation is that you can't hover over the recorder (or don't have somebody else to do it) then you can look after the video and audio both, if necessary.

    These guys mod the Marantz:

    EDIT: I missed the $400 budget requirement. Sorry. Floh's suggestions are good ones.
  7. floh macrumors 6502

    Nov 28, 2011
    Stuttgart, Germany
    Sorry for my earlier post, I guess this was for something different, I got carried away reading the other posts...

    So you have three main conditions:
    - $400
    - 2 mics + recorder for interviews
    - resell value

    That's a tough one, especially the first and last points are hard to combine. Sadly, the cheaper the gear the faster the resell value goes down the drain...

    Under these circumstances, I would recommend you to get a Zoom H4n ($250) and a Lavalier microphone set ($90). For the remaining $60, try to get a pair of closed headphones and an SD card for your recorder.

    I recommend this for the following reasons:

    1. The Zoom H4n is resellable at a reasonable price since it is very popular. It also gives you the option to record both microphones and in addition the room sound in case something with the mics fails. The latter will still be way better than the on camera sound of your DSLR.

    2. Lavalier mics are the only way to go if you want good interview sound in this price range. I have worked with the linked double pack and while there's better, this is pretty convincing at this price point. They are also very sturdy and might give a good resale value.

    3. Have someone with headphones constantly check the sound. It can not be distorted or missing, since this will ruin your project. Just ask a friend to tag along and do nothing but pay attention to the sound.

    Finally: Before you go to the shoot, try out your gear. A lot. Listen to how the two mics sound (they have different characteristics) when spoken into and when moved on different kinds of cloth. That way, you can quickly decide which mic will be clipped to which person on set. Know your recorder. Always double-check that it is actually recording.

    The recorder and mics I linked here will give you decent sound. They are all buying suggestions though. If you want to keep some of the gear (might be a good idea), it's definitely worth it, but if you really only need it for this one project, I would rent. You will get much better quality and won't have to worry about resell value. Just saying...

    That's all I have for today. :)

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