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Portable recorder with external converter
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#1
21st May 2010
Old 21st May 2010
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Talking Portable recorder with external converter

If I were to use an excellent external converter/preamp (Grace Lunatec V3) and first rate microphones with something like an M-Audio Microtrack II could I get pro quality recordings?
The Microtrack has a digital input

Any other suggestions for a lightweight recording rig that I could make useable stereo master recordings with. I already have the Grace and don't want to spend too much on the recorder if possible.


Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
#2
21st May 2010
Old 21st May 2010
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The short answer is yes - using the SPDIF input on the Microtrack with external converters, you are only limited by the quality of the rest of the signal chain.

However, the Microtrack has some serious reliability issues - I use mine as an emergency backup for a Tascam HD-P2. Admittedly, it has saved my a$$ on more occasions than I care to tell, but it has some very scary quirks:

Found when recording on 16-bit, the right channel just randomly stops recording. This is not indicated by the meters, or in the headphones if you are monitoring.

Random freezing up and crashing in the middle of recordings.

Strange "out-of-phase" issues between left and right channels if there is a clock hiccup on the SPDIF input leading up to said hiccup.

Random dropouts.

This is just a small sampling of the experiences I have had with the unit, and I own two - it is not limited to just one of these boxes. I have had identical experiences with both.
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#3
21st May 2010
Old 21st May 2010
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Same here. The microtrack sounded fine when it worked, but it was sufficiently unreliable that I had to bring a backup recorder, and that spoiled the whole point of its small size. Now I use an Edirol r44 instead, and while it's bigger than the microtrack, it's also a lot more versatile--and so far it's been completely dependable. And since it doesn't need an outboard pre and converter, the total package works out about the same as the microtrack and lunatec I used to use.
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22nd May 2010
Old 22nd May 2010
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I too, will echo the general consensus and agree that while it is possible to get it to work I've found the microtrack to be very touchy. In addition to what's already been mentioned, I'd add that the battery on mine has always be flakey.

--Phil
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22nd May 2010
Old 22nd May 2010
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Thank you

Thanks for your comments gents. Is there something not quite as elaborate (and expensive) as the Tascam HD-P2 or Edirol R44 that has a digital input and functions better than the Microtrack.
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22nd May 2010
Old 22nd May 2010
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What about Marantz PMD661? Does anybody have experience with that one?
#7
3rd June 2010
Old 3rd June 2010
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I am using Mytek adc converter with micro track

I am using 192 adc mytek converter with apogee mini mp and micro track II.
I am pleased with the results. 96khz 24 bit. And the converter makes the difference, I think. The Mytek is 12v powered or less, preferably. The sound can be heard in the Freesoundproject, username FREITOJOS. And, very inportant, the M Audio battery problem can be solved easily if you make one 5v battery with mini usb power cable. I have made one battery with five D cells and one mini usb cable with solder and iron. I transport the micro track with the battery and one battery for the mytek and other to the apogee. the battery on the micro track can record for 12-16 hours on one 4ah battery, 4/0,250ah=16h.The other two batteries must have at least 8ah for various hours of recording. I am one naturecordist.

Last edited by FREITOJOS; 3rd June 2010 at 12:10 AM.. Reason: The battery in the micro track
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3rd June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by molownia View Post
What about Marantz PMD661? Does anybody have experience with that one?
I had one and think the preamps are too noisy for nature and music recording. They're OK for news and interviews.
#9
3rd June 2010
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I used my Microtrack II with a Mytek ADStereo96 to make a "getto" Sound Devices. The Microtrack is also quite fragile. I try not to touch it or move it during recording. I haven't had any software/firmware issues yet, but the construction is not up to par for heavy "road use". BUT - for $250 it's a handy box that (like others have posted) has saved my butt.
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#10
3rd June 2010
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I use my Microtrack fed via S/PDIF as a backup system. I agree it is not a very sturdy box, but I never had a problem with it that I noticed. It saved my butt a couple of times.
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4th June 2010
Old 4th June 2010
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MicroTrack

I have used the MicroTrack as a bit bucket recorder with an Apogee MiniMe via S/PDIF. I never had a problem with mine. All recording was done in 24 bits @ 44.1Khz. I also use it for a safety back up routing the Apogee S/PDIF to an MBox 2 and the AES output of the Apogee through a transformer to the MicroTrack. This has saved me on two important occassions.

In my experience it has faithfully captured whatever digital stream I have given it without incident. It is fiddly and a pain to use, however. I now use an Edirol R-44 for this purpose and like it's functionality (especially file naming) better.
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8th June 2010
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Hey Dr Bob,
Could you tell any quality difference between the raw R44 and adding the external Lunatec pre and AD? I have an R44 and was wondering if it would make a noticeable diff...
Thanks
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8th June 2010
Old 8th June 2010
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Actually I use an Apogee Mini-me rather than a Lunatec. That said, I do hear a noticeable difference when using the external pre and A/D versus using the R-44 alone. The result is just generally higher quality all the way around. With the Apogee in the chain I notice a more refined sound: the pre's are quieter, and there is seems to be slightly better depth and dimensionality to the recordings. Mostly I use these set-ups for location recording of soloists with piano, or small chamber ensembles. Mics are either Schoeps, Sf-24 Royer, or AKG C426b depending on the performer and venue--so any rig I use is getting pretty pristine signal from the mics. I have used it both as a back up to PTLE and as a standalone recorder.

The R-44 (stock in my case--no mods) is an excellent package and I do use it on it's own and get acceptable results with it. With the Mini-me added it seems incrementally better in all regards, though.

I would certainly expect the same kinds of differences from the Grace Lunatec. I have not used one but it has an excellent reputation.
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8th June 2010
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In theory the mic, preamp and AD are the only stages that matter sonically. The "recorder" that catches bits should be a complete "slave" to the AD, having no effect whatsoever on the sound. I have a Lunatec V3 and wouldn't hesitate to use it with a Microtrack II if I trusted it, and I have no reason not to.
#15
12th June 2010
Old 12th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by molownia View Post
What about Marantz PMD661? Does anybody have experience with that one?
The Marantz PMD-661 is a solid and reliable deck. Using it with an external A/D (like a Lunatec V3 or Apogee MiniMe, for example) will produce wonderful results . And it's more reliable, in my experience than the M-Audio Microtrack II. While not as versatile as the Edirol R-44 (which also has a S/PDIF input), if you only need two channels, the PMD-661 is the way to go.
#16
11th October 2010
Old 11th October 2010
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Question

I just bought one and tried it with my Grace Lunatec. I might be going mad but I think that the sound is worse than if I hook the Lunatec into my audio interface (SPDIF or AES). In theory there should be no difference as I'm going from the Grace directly into the recorder digitally (or I'm wrong?) but I swear that everything sounds somehow plastic and not as good???
#17
11th October 2010
Old 11th October 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sheikyearbouti View Post
I just bought one and tried it with my Grace Lunatec. I might be going mad but I think that the sound is worse than if I hook the Lunatec into my audio interface (SPDIF or AES). In theory there should be no difference as I'm going from the Grace directly into the recorder digitally (or I'm wrong?) but I swear that everything sounds somehow plastic and not as good???
Do you monitor it out of the analog out of the microtrack or do you download the files in your DAW ?

Don't underestimate psychoacoustic....
#18
11th October 2010
Old 11th October 2010
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Downloaded the files and listened on my monitors. I will do an AB comparison as this is really making me crazy.
#19
28th October 2010
Old 28th October 2010
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New battery on microtrack ii

Hello,
What I was especting have just hapend. The micro treck II battery failed.
After some mounths of service, good services with the apogee mic pre amplifier mini mp and the 16 adc mytech converter. I have just now subsittute the battery for one with 2,3Ah please see the site for this substitution: M-Audio micro track battery replacement guide I have just now charge the battery during 12 hours and it don't heats and please make attention the microtrack II is different from the one in the site abore. You only need to cut the two wires red and black and ignore the wite wire in the battery for temperature.
After some experiences I will make notice here.
José
#20
2nd November 2010
Old 2nd November 2010
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1st test drive

Was able to try out my newly aquired MiniMe -> R44

First I took 2 nearly identical mics and split the signal path:
1) omni #1 ->r44
2) omni #2 -> MiniMe->SPDIF->r44

Matched up the levels and gave a record/listen... holy cow - ooodles of hiss in the raw r44 pre/AD signal path. Clean robust signal from the SPDIF track.
elegant, economical, just plain nice
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2nd November 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by springer View Post
Was able to try out my newly aquired MiniMe -> R44

First I took 2 nearly identical mics and split the signal path:
1) omni #1 ->r44
2) omni #2 -> MiniMe->SPDIF->r44

Matched up the levels and gave a record/listen... holy cow - ooodles of hiss in the raw r44 pre/AD signal path.

Other than the hiss, did you notice any difference in the sound quality?
Or were they near identical other than the hiss?
#22
10th January 2012
Old 10th January 2012
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jumpers

Have always been slightly miffed at the SPDIF tracks coming from my Lunatec. Can't quite put my finger on it - just not as stellar as it should be. (mic->lunatec->r44 digital in via SPDIF)
Found the jumpers in the manual ADJ7 over on the right side that switch between "consumer" grade SPDIF to "professional" grade and will test it tonight.

I did a test between Lunatec and Mini Me and the Lunatec's gain was cleaner with much less hiss.

I am also amazed at the amount of configuration jumpers available on the Lunatec - WOW! Just made my HPF -12db and they really suck out the floor rumble. Nice job Grace.
#23
10th January 2012
Old 10th January 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by springer View Post
Have always been slightly miffed at the SPDIF tracks coming from my Lunatec. Can't quite put my finger on it - just not as stellar as it should be. (mic->lunatec->r44 digital in via SPDIF)
Found the jumpers in the manual ADJ7 over on the right side that switch between "consumer" grade SPDIF to "professional" grade and will test it tonight.

I did a test between Lunatec and Mini Me and the Lunatec's gain was cleaner with much less hiss.

I am also amazed at the amount of configuration jumpers available on the Lunatec - WOW! Just made my HPF -12db and they really suck out the floor rumble. Nice job Grace.
The SPDIF settings will not change the audio quality, merely digital signal to the recorder. HPF is nice for field playback, but I like to change that in post.
#24
10th January 2012
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What's the difference between consumer- and pro-level SPDIF?
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10th January 2012
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#26
11th January 2012
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20 bit

There is more to the story than connectors. The Max Resolution is at 20 bits for some units using RCA. From Wiki...

"S/PDIF is meant to be used for transmitting 20-bit audio data streams plus other related information. To transmit sources with less than 20 bits of sample accuracy, the superfluous bits will be set to zero. S/PDIF can also transport 24-bit samples by way of four extra bits; however, not all equipment supports this, and these extra bits may be ignored."

Experiment cancelled... not worth it - moving on...
#27
12th April 2012
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Update

I have found that just using the Lunatec as external pre (and foregoing the SPDIF connection) sounds better than thru the SPDIF. I wonder if the clock signal slaved from the SPDIF has something to do with it??? I get best sound when using all internal AD on the R44 via 1/4" with the outer 'sensitivity' ring on the R44 all the way counter-clockwise.
Now I am wondering what better AD would do for me.... $$$
#28
12th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by springer View Post
I have found that just using the Lunatec as external pre (and foregoing the SPDIF connection) sounds better than thru the SPDIF.
That's not what I would expect. I would imagine that the quality of the Lunatec's clock would improve the performance of the the R44's converters on the remaining channels. Can you post samples? I'm assuming that you sent the analog out to the remaining 2 inputs and SPDif to the dig.
#29
13th April 2012
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Hi DonS
Yes it is a surprise to me too...
No - these are from different recordings done in the same space on similar instruments over a period of time. The R44 clock would slave to the SPDIF I think, so trying to compare on the fly like that is useless. The recordings I made using the R44 clock sound better to me than the ones I made using the Lunatec clock. HOWEVER the Lunatec analog outs provide better sound than the R44 pres.
I also compared RME UFX vs. R44 in a shootout and there was little to no improvement so I dumped the UFX - I do have samples of that and will post a shootout when I get time. I may have actually liked the R44 sound better in that instance...
more to come
#30
17th April 2012
Old 17th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by springer View Post
Have always been slightly miffed at the SPDIF tracks coming from my Lunatec. Can't quite put my finger on it - just not as stellar as it should be. (mic->lunatec->r44 digital in via SPDIF)
Found the jumpers in the manual ADJ7 over on the right side that switch between "consumer" grade SPDIF to "professional" grade and will test it tonight.

I did a test between Lunatec and Mini Me and the Lunatec's gain was cleaner with much less hiss.

I am also amazed at the amount of configuration jumpers available on the Lunatec - WOW! Just made my HPF -12db and they really suck out the floor rumble. Nice job Grace.
Damnit! Why didn't I know about that spdif jumper? Now I gotta crack open my lunatec again....

Kudos for the tip!

Edit. Ok reading deeper it appears not to make a big difference as the extra bits may be ignored anyway depending on your interface. I like having the option anyway. The lunatec is a powerful and flexible little beast.

Last edited by Boschen; 17th April 2012 at 04:26 PM.. Reason: Powerful beast
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