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Author Topic: Smallest high-quality sound recorder ?  (Read 6774 times)
luong
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« on: May 02, 2010, 02:10:17 PM »
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I am looking for a small, high quality, digital sound recorder to go together with 5D2 videos. The recorder needs to be good enough to record sounds of nature, which appears more demanding than interviews or concerts. I'd like the unit to be as portable as possible. Ideally I'd like to use built-in microphones, but I realize this might not work. I have never owned a digital sound recorder before.

What is the smallest/lightest hardware that will record sounds of nature with a good quality ?

1 tiny units such as the Sony PCM M 10, Tascam DR 07, Yamaha Pocketrack CX using built-in microphones
2 small/medium units such as Sony PCM D50,  Zoom H4n,  Tascam DR-100 using built-in microphones
3 tiny units using external microphone
4 small/medium units using external microphone

Does the step-up to a larger unit provide a significant gain in quality with built-in mics ? With external mics ?
« Last Edit: May 02, 2010, 03:30:31 PM by luong » Logged

Peter McLennan
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« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2010, 03:01:21 PM »
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Wind is the killer.  Whatever your choice, make sure the microphones have effective wind socks, otherwise your recordings will be totally useless.  Most of the tiny recorders are designed for interior use.
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Nill Toulme
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« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2010, 03:30:29 PM »
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Do you necessarily want a separate sound recorder?  Have you considered just mounting a decent external mic (like the Rode Stereo Videomic) on your 5D2?

Nill
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k bennett
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« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2010, 08:01:38 PM »
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The downside of using an external mic on the 5D2 is overriding the auto gain control. Though it can be done.

My own personal sweet spot, having tried larger and smaller units, is the Zoom H4n. This is a palm-size unit that costs about US$300. The built in mics did a very nice job recording live music (a clarinet quartet) in a concert hall last month, but I suspect you'll want an external condenser shotgun mic for recording nature. A good one costs as much as a good lens.

If possible you'll want to record the sound with the built-in mic in the 5D2, as well, so you can sync the external audio. (I have not tried it, but several of my colleagues swear by Pluraleyes for syncing external audio tracks or multiple video tracks. It works with Final Cut Pro.)

While you are learning how to capture high quality audio, it helps to remember that audio is a profession, just like photography, and takes years to master. At least, it helps me to remember this when I am totally screwing it up every day.
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LKaven
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« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2010, 12:46:42 AM »
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If you're doing critical work involving very low noise specs, the Schoeps (mk41) or the DPA mics (or possibly the Sennheiser MKH 50) are the answer.  Beyond that, it's all a matter of what you can put up with.   Many of the small diaphragm condenser mics are very good at high level signals, but have a noise floor that is too high for real critical work.  

It is possible to take a $5 capsule and engineer an excellent tuned body and use good electronics, and achieve very high quality in the studio, but the noise floor is inherently high and critical work at very low levels will suffer.  Whatever you use, be sure that your preamps put out clean phantom power at 48V.  You'd be surprised at how many put out low voltage as "good enough" when it isn't.

If practical concerns about weight "weigh" on you, DPA puts out some extremely small high quality capsules about as large as the fingernail on your pinkie.  All of the options mentioned above are suitable for high quality film work as well in any area.  The best mics may seem expensive, but they carry very high equity value.  My Schoeps are worth close to what I paid for them, 8 years later.
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Rhossydd
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« Reply #5 on: May 03, 2010, 01:30:52 AM »
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Quote from: k bennett
The downside of using an external mic on the 5D2 is overriding the auto gain control.
Not an issue any more since the last firmware upgrade 2.0.4. The 5Dii has manual sound levels now.

As Peter says, good wind shielding is vital out of doors. Using a Rycote or Redhead on a Zoom H4n works well for ambient sound recording and the XLRs on the Zoom also offer possibilities for a wider choice of high quality direction mics too. The mics on most little field recorders are pretty wide field, so OK for ambient sounds, but not so much use if you want to record a particular animal or bird.


Paul
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luong
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« Reply #6 on: May 03, 2010, 07:25:42 PM »
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Thanks for the replies and ideas. I assumed that a separate sound unit would provide better quality (even with new firmware, am I wrong ?) plus I thought it would be more versatile: one could record sound for multi-media and not just for a particular video.

On the cinema5d.com forum, a person mentioned that he obtained good results with the Sony PCM M10 built-in mics (which are omnidirectional) and a good windshield. Although I understand that the Zoom H4n is vastly more versatile, research seem to indicate that the Sony has better preamps and floor noise levels. I'll probably try this route first, since I like the compact size of the unit.
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Rhossydd
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« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2010, 01:07:09 AM »
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Quote from: luong
I assumed that a separate sound unit would provide better quality (even with new firmware, am I wrong ?) plus I thought it would be more versatile: one could record sound for multi-media and not just for a particular video.
All correct.
Quote
On the cinema5d.com forum,
There's some real rubbish written there by the fanbois who really haven't much of a clue about video production.

Paul
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LKaven
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« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2010, 04:48:59 AM »
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Dig in here for some expert advice.  The Sound Devices field recorders have a superb reputation, even among professional engineers.  They have a useful information sheet on the 5DII audio performance here:

http://www.sounddevices.com/notes/cameras/...io-performance/

Note the links therein.  

It all depends upon how much you need your work to be /actually good/, and that's obviously a complicated question.  But I will say that recording nature sounds is demanding for high performance of very low level signals at high gain.  Get what you need in the end, but do study up on the range of options.  

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usathyan
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« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2010, 08:52:11 AM »
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Quote from: luong
I am looking for a small, high quality, digital sound recorder to go together with 5D2 videos. The recorder needs to be good enough to record sounds of nature, which appears more demanding than interviews or concerts. I'd like the unit to be as portable as possible. Ideally I'd like to use built-in microphones, but I realize this might not work. I have never owned a digital sound recorder before.

What is the smallest/lightest hardware that will record sounds of nature with a good quality ?

1 tiny units such as the Sony PCM M 10, Tascam DR 07, Yamaha Pocketrack CX using built-in microphones
2 small/medium units such as Sony PCM D50,  Zoom H4n,  Tascam DR-100 using built-in microphones
3 tiny units using external microphone
4 small/medium units using external microphone

Does the step-up to a larger unit provide a significant gain in quality with built-in mics ? With external mics ?


Zoom recorders have very good name in the audio quality...Check out H2 and/or H4

http://www.samsontech.com/products/brandPage.cfm?brandID=4
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Umesh Bhatt
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tomasjensen
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« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2010, 06:13:09 PM »
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Quote from: luong
I am looking for a small, high quality, digital sound recorder to go together with 5D2 videos. The recorder needs to be good enough to record sounds of nature, which appears more demanding than interviews or concerts. I'd like the unit to be as portable as possible. Ideally I'd like to use built-in microphones, but I realize this might not work. I have never owned a digital sound recorder before.

What is the smallest/lightest hardware that will record sounds of nature with a good quality ?

1 tiny units such as the Sony PCM M 10, Tascam DR 07, Yamaha Pocketrack CX using built-in microphones
2 small/medium units such as Sony PCM D50,  Zoom H4n,  Tascam DR-100 using built-in microphones
3 tiny units using external microphone
4 small/medium units using external microphone

Does the step-up to a larger unit provide a significant gain in quality with built-in mics ? With external mics ?
Just a couple of observations:  

You should decide what features are important to you.  If you need 24bit capability, 4 tracks, and xlr connectors, the Pocketrax for example would be eliminated from consideration ( I own the Pocketrax and  love it, but it doesn't have all the bells and whistles the Zoom H4n has.)

If you are going to get a digital recorder, I recommend that you get one with a remote control unit available as  this will cut down/eliminate potential noise from turning recorder on and off.  
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K.C.
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« Reply #11 on: May 24, 2010, 10:41:17 PM »
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This thread is like a recurring dream. One night it's on dvinfo.net, the next night it's on cinema5d.com, now here, tomorrow it will be repeated countless times on forums around the world.

Use Google, read, subjective opinions abound on the net. For every one you read there will be twenty more that disagree.

The original question is so broad and unqualified it's pointless to try and answer.

Define small and high-quality, just the terms, not the solutions that fit. That alone will have a different definition for every member on this forum.






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