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High quality affordable audio... computer audio interface.
  • I have been turning left and right and every direction possible for a high quality but affordable solution. My problem is the Sound-devices PIX220, which I think is for now the ultimate recorder. A hdmi prores/dnxhd video and audio recorder/monitor combo. If you sum up each and every component of this device it is incredible value even for $ 1600. Unfortunately it is still not available and no test reviews to see if it will hold it sound-devices pedigree. With some experience you learn to buy at a certain quality level, so as not to buy again and again.

    So back to your subject. Looking around I can't find any quality audio recorder below $ 500. I have seen the hype on the zoom H4n and Tascam dr100 but only from non sound guys. Any people with some sound experience will tell you about the low quality preamps, adequate for music but bad for dialogues. Now if you open your eyes toward the music/sound recording field, there is the computer audio interface world where you can get some very good hardware for around $ 200. You have for example the Mackie Onyx Blackjack. For $ 149 you have two super quality preamps. You just need to type Mackie Blackjack reviews on google to get the universal praise of the quality of this little device.

    Now you will have to couple it with a laptop and not a run and gun solution. But for $ 149 at this quality level, it make you really think for the kind of shooter than I am, that is more planned and narrative work. It don't know if anyone has any experience or thoughts on the subject to share if it is a good solution or not. In a ideal world Mackie would take this device, add a screen, battery and SD recorder and sell it for $ 400.
  • 21 Replies sorted by
  • I think you'll be pretty unhappy recording to a computer on location. At the very least, the mouse/trackpad clicking and laptop fan can be pretty loud - possibly loud enough to be heard with your mic.

    I've done loads of research on audio recorders recently and decided that the best price/performance ratio is the Fostex FR2-LE. It has very quiet Mic Pres and relatively good interface for monitoring and adjusting levels. I picked up a used one for just over the price of a H4N and I'm pretty happy with it so far. I haven't used it a lot yet, though.
  • @danyyyel "Any people with some sound experience will tell you about the low quality preamps, adequate for music but bad for dialogues."

    As an audio engineer, I'd say the opposite about the Zoom H4n. It's perfectly adequate for shotgun-mic dialog, but the noise floor is a little too high for studio-quality music recording. The H4n is at its worst supplying +48v phantom power to low-output condenser mics - doing so raises the preamp noise level and drains the AA batteries very quickly. It works much better with self-powered, high-output shotguns. I recommend running the H4n at 48k/24-bit with peak levels at around -9db. Outside a soundproofed studio, ambient environment noise will drown out the preamp noise.
  • Would it be possible to sync start and stop on Lumix & Sony?
  • I like the design of this one, because is a mixer and also a midi controller, but most likely the quality is the same as the zoom we all know, because it is a zoom after all, but is aall in one solution, for a crew of 2 probably...
  • ??? it has 8 tracks but can only record 2 at a time? Fail. So does it mix them into L/R stereo? I'll keep my sights on an H4n, thanks.
  • You'd be amazed at the shyte we get for broadcast, daily - noise floor lol - where's me dialogue! Even if by some miracle it's been captured, the in house editor strips what he finds non essential from the AAF before he give it to the sound dept. charmin! Sorry to rant but after 5 years swinging pole on drama, Fisher boom in studio and recording whatever, then track laying mixing and giving in lol, and as a dubbing mixer now - I've never even seen a sheet of NG, good take etc from location for 10 years. Never seen wild tracks, alt takes or well anything from location, most of it gets stripeed in the conform or by the picture editor - hey ho! Sadly those days are gone! Also as a boom swinger for my formative years when we had 2 tracks - and subsequently the AAF /OMF I get with 8 unmixed tracks - I prefer the professionally mixed 2 track, when the client wants it at 5:30 !
  • If you do go Mac or PC bound, you won't go wrong with RME - uber interfaces, clean, clear and v easy to use Really dont go too mental -, the Digi 192 x 10 which sat in the back room of DeLaneLea mixing Harry Potter really ain't all that, if we going to break it down, but hey made several hundreds of millions :)
  • Like LPowell I am an audio person and continue to be impressed by my H4n. I haven't needed to crank the gain to the point of self noise so I can't comment. Before purchasing the H4n I did on occasion use a computer to capture audio.

    What the H4n offers in size and simplicity far outweighs any s/n ratio, dynamic range, or frequency response shortcomings it may have....

    The h4n can record 4 channels at once...

    The H4n has long battery life and uses AA batteries...

    What mics are you using? An audio signal chain is not the sum of it's parts. It's the weakest link, including engineer's skill.

    I'll give a "ditto" on RME. I've had a Hammerfall DSP in 3 computers over a decade with zero problems. I don't know anyone with any platform who can even come close to that statement.

  • @B3Guy haah my apologies, i actually didn´t read that, i just read the upper specifications, greetings!
  • Ok the best you can get at the moment around 500€ is RME babyface really good sound quality and stability, if you are on mac the duet 2 is little bit superior in mic preamp.
    I tested RME and Apogee last week for recension purpose and trust me you can't make wrong.
  • The RME FF 400 has high end pres, the Mackie Blackbird has onyx mutitracking--there are many more but I would start there.
    For silent recording, I like the Dell X1--available on eBay for ~$150. Fit it with an SSD and a 2gb dimm for fanless, silent firewire recording.
    I myself am planning to buy the RME Fireface UFX, but it is a bit more pricey. You can think of it as computer recording without the computer--just plug in a USB drive and hit the record button.
  • The main question is, do you need something for the field or at home? These are two different beasts.
    For home use there are a lot of pretty good usb/firewire devices you can get.
    I do a lot of music registration. There a laptop with a good soundcard can come in handy. Depending on the situation I bring my homestudio to the location and have somebody operate it while I film.

    However in the field you want mobility, wich means not being wired to the mains or any non-mobile powersource. Devices like the zoom H4n and similar devices offer this. (
    I've also achieved pretty good results in combining them to a sound devices fieldmixer and using the zoom's as a recorder.
    The pro about the field mixers is that they are easy to operate on the spot, wich is not always the case with the portable recorders. If you prepare everything well you can just push record on the SD recorder and then adjust the rest with the fieldmixer. I'm not sure how easy this is on the PIX recorders...

    A sound devices Mixpre-D is an interesting device as it can function as field recorder as well as a soundcard.

    Good luck in finding your way in the jungle of choices.
  • for field (ZOOM H4N):

    -> using as a GH2 & 5D support - plenty of functions and flexibility for that price.

    for field with laptop / home (MOTU ULTRALITE):

    -> i'm mainly working as a musician & techno producer and using the ultralite since a couple of years for my liveacts (and almost all of my colleagues, too). no problems at all, superb sound quality in general AND for the money. my advice.

    ps: forget mackie unless you like noise-generators ;)
  • I have tested the Mackie Onyx pres and they are both excellent and silent.
  • @LPowell , I am no audio guy and I am not really qualified to discuss at a pro level. But I saw a lot of post from dvxuser, dvinfo etc where the audio guys had the same analysis of the h4n but completely different conclusion. The concept was (a bit the same than in image capture) get the best low noise preamps you can have, more so for dialogues( movies) because the level are much lower than for music and mic distance and placements. There conclusion was that the noise floor was a bit high if need be to boost the volume etc. This is why sound devices preamps are well regarded in the film industry for their extremely low noise. Again I am not a sound guy so that is what I understood.

    I saw another potential budget solution that could fit the non computer portable field recorder that many are advising. I don't know if anyone has seen the $ 230 Naiant littlebox preamps. On the article below it compares very favorably with a $ 1500 Lunatec V3. Coupled with a $ 230 Sony PCM 10, it could be a very affordable and yet high quality combo.
  • I bought a Tascam DR-680 which I have yet to use (because I've yet to do any video / filming!). I too was looking for a good recording option and looked up tons of reviews.

    The DR-680 was pretty awesome except for battery life and crap headphone jack. There's also no built-in mic. Besides that it's great and affordable (~$400 used).

    I'd also say consider using a juicedlink if you're running around. I regret selling mine... it's so convenient!

    For audio interfaces, the last one I got was the ProFire 610 by M-audio. Decent preamps but for me the key was: Good drivers - low latency!

    //edit I meant DR-680 and not the new DR-60D

  • @scotchtape

    You mean that you use DR-60d as computer interface?

  • No, I was suggesting DR-680 for use with camera (dual audio setup) as other people suggested H4N or DR-100 etc. (I said DR-60D initially by mistake)

    I was just recommending it as another option in OP's situation. It gets pretty decent reviews and has some pretty good pre-amps compared to anything else in that class and price range.

  • The preamps in the DR 680 are better than the ones in either the Juiced Link or the ProFire. I'm also not a big fan of M-Audio drivers, and I'm not the only one. Also I think it is amazing that you can tell that the HP jack and battery life are bad if you have not yet used it.