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Sound Devices field recorders and mixers for location music?
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spiderman
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4th November 2012
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Sound Devices field recorders and mixers for location music?

Curious... Sound Devices are one of the standards for Production Sound and they have the reputation for making great products.

Anyone here use SD recorders or mixers like the 702 or 552 for music location recording? Why or why not?
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Originally Posted by spiderman View Post
Curious... Sound Devices are one of the standards for Production Sound and they have the reputation for making great products.

Anyone here use SD recorders or mixers like the 702 or 552 for music location recording? Why or why not?
I use a SD 788T for on-location classical recording often as an alternate to a larger laptop and small rack based ADC/DAC DAW system with outboard mic pres.

The SD is reliable, has clean, low noise mic pres and can be fully battery powered. I use it when I need less than (8) tracks, set-up time is limited, or if there is not an appropriate space to install a half-rack of gear on-location. For larger or more complicated dedicated recording-only (no audience present) projects where I'm using both spot mics, ensemble/singer mics, piano mics I use the larger system.

For most live performances (with audience) I use the SD, usually with a pre-assembled wide mic bar on a single Shure S-15 or 12 ft. Manfrotto stand, with a center ORTF pair, a couple of AB outriggers and sometimes a single center mic. I record those (5) independent tracks plus a panned L/R mix/monitor track pair.

With the SD 788T, a pre-assembled mic array, and one mic stand, I can carry in the complete system myself and set it up or take it down in 10 to 15 minutes. Using battery power eliminates the need for finding an AC outlet, worrying about possible line noise and carrying and running long extension cords through public spaces. The 788T is small enough that I can sit in an audience chair or church pew out of the way and usually use much shorter mic cables (easier to carry) than when using a larger system with a laptop that might be distracting to an audience so should be positioned out of their sight-line.
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The SD are excellent - however, I use the Nagra VI and AETA 4MinX for music recording.

I rate the Aaton Cantar, Nagra VI and 4MinX about equal on quality at the top of the tree - but the 4MinX is the cheapest of the three and the only one that has both A-format / B-format monitoring *and* AES42 digital microphone inputs if needed.

IMHO, SD is a little behind these three.
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Ignore John ,he's plugging his product,as you do.
SD is not behind,they are in front...
They are fabulous recorders and mixers
That new 664 mixer solid state recorder is a cracker.
You must use top, high out put sdcs,then you have ultra compact multi record (with proper P48 and low frequency attenuation so essential on location) that can travel with ease.
I use the SD 702,the best recorder I have ever owned (I have had 3 Nagras and 3 Fostex PD4)
I use mine with a Sonnosax mixer for bigger jobs,but can go direct to the 702 for ultra portability.
Im saving for a 664.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
Ignore John ,he's plugging his product,as you do.
Not quite correct.

What I said was absolutely correct.

When it comes down to absolute sound quality, Aaton, Nagra and AETA are at the top with SD following behind.

But they are all good.

When it comes down to over-the-shoulder work, then SD comes 1st and AETA second (as the AETA is slightly larger) and SD tends to be 1st for broadcast work as it has been optimised for that use.

But when it comes to music recording with no compromise, I would choose the Nagra or AETA over the SD.

I would still rate SD as No.4 in sound quality.
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You cant win........
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
The SD are excellent - however, I use the Nagra VI and AETA 4MinX for music recording.

I rate the Aaton Cantar, Nagra VI and 4MinX about equal on quality at the top of the tree - but the 4MinX is the cheapest of the three and the only one that has both A-format / B-format monitoring *and* AES42 digital microphone inputs if needed.

IMHO, SD is a little behind these three.
Have you heard anything recorded on the 788T or done any blind comparisons?

It would be like me saying that the Nagra was inferior for recording classical music without ever listening to anything recorded on it, let alone a complete study. At 96k, I believe that even you golden ears would be unable to rank four machines in order. Oh and by the way, the 788T has B-format monitoring. Oh, and AES mic inputs as well.

John, it's getting so that no one here can take you seriously; your biases are overwhelming.

D.
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I could basically have written post #2 by Lotus 7 above.

Love the 788T-SSD.


/Peter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Audiop View Post
I could basically have written post #2 by Lotus 7 above.

Love the 788T-SSD.


/Peter
Hi Peter,

Glad to hear that some of us think alike. For me the 788T SSD, a pair of 8020s and either another pair of 8040s or CMC64's is hard to beat for size, weight, ease of use, speed and audio performance. Just recorded a large percussion ensemble performance with the composer present. Lot's of metal instruments played with hard mallets, so extremely fast attacks and sometimes very subtle timbre differences between the different bells, chimes, gongs, etc. . The composer was delighted with the recording and said she could hear more instrumental detail on the recording than she heard in the live performance.

Works for me!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot View Post
Oh and by the way, the 788T has B-format monitoring. Oh, and AES mic inputs as well.

John, it's getting so that no one here can take you seriously; your biases are overwhelming.
I don't think so.

I know the SD has AES42 and B-format, but it does not have A-format.

I have never been against SD - just trying to put it all in perspective.

Some people seem to be so OTT on SD that they won't hear anything said against it.

For over the shoulder stuff and highly portable stuff, the SD is excellent - it was designed to do a job that it does very well.

The 788T has 8 mic. pres., the Nagra and AETA have only 4. As I see it, SD made their mic. pres. as good as they needed to be for the work it was designed to do and why add 1 or 2k to the price to get that extra small bit of quality. Nagra and AETA went the other way and put the extra into the audio quality at the expense of fewer mic. channels.

Aaton, Nagra and AETA put more into the analogue quality of the recorder and the price reflects that.

All these recorders are top line, and I have never said anything different.

I have never said that you won't get great results with a 788T - just that for the ultimate quality for classical music recording I would choose an Aaton, Nagra or AETA over the SD - that's all.

You choose the recorder that does the job that you want to do.

The OP asked the best for classical music recording and I would put the Aaton, Nagra and AETA a little ahead of the SD for thsi purpose - that's all.


But I have been consistent in what I have said for ages and have tried to post in an unbiased way as possible - always.
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John, it's getting so that no one here can take you seriously; your biases are overwhelming.
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Originally Posted by spiderman View Post
Curious... Sound Devices are one of the standards for Production Sound and they have the reputation for making great products.

Anyone here use SD recorders or mixers like the 702 or 552 for music location recording? Why or why not?
I come from production sound, so I have a SD702+302, and I find them fabulous. I'd get a 788t if I had the cash for it, but only to drive more mics and for redundancy, otherwise everything in the SD range sounds exactly alike, which actually makes the $1900 702 quite a steal if you only need 2ch.

None of these recorders sound as good as the difference of proper mic choice/placement, get one of those wrong and it's all moot. I recommend whatever fits your comfort zone and wallet, and then your skill will be your only limit for a long long while.
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I used two, synced 744T for classical piano recording (surround + stereo, only Solution-D). And for recording musical performances of all sorts I rely on my 744T. For me it is THE recording tool when not in my studio, no matter if it is field recording, sampling, location recording, transfer of tapes, whatever. It plain works, sounds very good (Preamp/AD) and is ergonomic. I have only one wish left sometimes ... a second 744T.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spiderman View Post
...Anyone here use SD recorders or mixers like the 702 or 552 for music location recording? Why or why not?
I'm not working professionally; I use a 702 in my home studio (as A>D, sometimes preamps) also for location recording (film and music). I mainly record guitar and vocal (often performing as well); the 702 is great for ease of use and being unobtrusive...I can set up and forget it, just checking levels. Outdoors I have a lot of confidence in it's build and operation...I can record anywhere in any weather.

Sonically the 702 is a great addition to my studio - I've nothing except budget converters as comparison, but I only lust after more channels not different ones. Usually I run a Neve-style preamp into the 702 but I'm happy using the onboard pre's on location. My experience is that the 702 is quite microphone-specific in that it doesn't impart a noticeable sound character of it's own; I have to set-up carefully, with the right mics, if I want to keep a recording pristine rather than clinical.

Perhaps John is onto something?
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My experience is that the 702 is quite microphone-specific in that it doesn't impart a noticeable sound character of it's own; I have to set-up carefully, with the right mics, if I want to keep a recording pristine rather than clinical.
Totally. The SD recorders are rather clinical-sounding on their own, which means that it's possible to make the recording way too clinical by pairing them up with something like DPA's... Gotta make sure the pre or mic has a character of some sort.
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Totally. The SD recorders are rather clinical-sounding on their own, which means that it's possible to make the recording way too clinical by pairing them up with something like DPA's... Gotta make sure the pre or mic has a character of some sort.
I find this last sentence puzzling. My experience with classical recording has been "clean pre" approach. True Systems, Grace, Millennia.... etc. I don't see many pros dragging out some Neve 72s or API for tracking string quartets.

Same is true with mics.... people mention DPA, Schoeps, Earthworks... never highly colored mics.

Why would one want a colorful recording deck? If I need something warm couldn't I just master to tape or process the clean tracks to the desired color instead of printing it on the location?

Curious about this... Why not a neutral recorder?
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Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
Aaton, Nagra and AETA put more into the analogue quality of the recorder and the price reflects that.

All these recorders are top line, and I have never said anything different.

I have never said that you won't get great results with a 788T - just that for the ultimate quality for classical music recording I would choose an Aaton, Nagra or AETA over the SD - that's all.

The OP asked the best for classical music recording and I would put the Aaton, Nagra and AETA a little ahead of the SD for thsi purpose - that's all.

But I have been consistent in what I have said for ages and have tried to post in an unbiased way as possible - always.
John, you never answered my question about ever hearing a recording produced by the 788T or, more importantly, doing a legitimate comparison between the 788T and any of the other machines including the Nagra. "Orange juice tastes terrible but I have never really tasted it." I think the rest of the world believes that the 788T has world class preamps and converters just as does the Nagra.

I can't talk about the quality of the others; I have never heard recordings made by any of them. I do know that I and my clients have never said "You know? That recording would have sounded better on the Nagra."

D.
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Totally. The SD recorders are rather clinical-sounding on their own, which means that it's possible to make the recording way too clinical by pairing them up with something like DPA's... Gotta make sure the pre or mic has a character of some sort.
I totally disagree and don't know what 'too clinical' is meant to say. DPAs simply sound great with my 744T. I have a very nice Djembe recording for example with a 4041SP and I'm always delighted to listen to the raw material (I use this as sampling material). Nothing but the full, round sound coming from the Djembe with great attacks.
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I find this last sentence puzzling. My experience with classical recording has been "clean pre" approach. True Systems, Grace, Millennia.... etc. I don't see many pros dragging out some Neve 72s or API for tracking string quartets.

Same is true with mics.... people mention DPA, Schoeps, Earthworks... never highly colored mics.

Why would one want a colorful recording deck? If I need something warm couldn't I just master to tape or process the clean tracks to the desired color instead of printing it on the location?

Curious about this... Why not a neutral recorder?
Well, I didn't mean color so much as smoothness, with DPAs you can hear the instruments but also everything else; breathing, creaky chairs, handling noise, etc. Schoeps are also clean, but are less guilty of this, and some Audio-Technicas that I've used smooth the sound more.
That said, I love the sound of DPA's and will most likely settle on a pair of 4011's when I stop borrowing from the local studio lol.
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Comparisons between the SD 788T and the Nagra VI: Michael Patrick ran several well constructed tests between the two. The differences? Well, it is a matter or taste/bias. They are virtually indistinguishable and I challenge anyone to do a double blind test and differentiate the two. Until they do that it is just BS and poppycock.

I have a 788T I use as an amateur. I love it. I think they probably outsell the Nagra VI by a comfortable margin. Maybe Michael Patrick will put up the files again if the test cannot be found by a search. It silenced the critics then and hopefully it will this third time.

And John, you are giving the appearance of someone who is quite biased. Whether you are or not is up to others to judge.

As for colored electronics, I agree with Schoeps who opt for as little coloring as possible as their philosophy. The coloration can be added in post if wanted. It is hard to take out. It's like adding salt to a stew: you can always add more but it is the devil's own job to take it out.
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Both samples in the test sounded good but different. However, both devices had a transformer in front of them, which meant that the SD effectively had two input transformers. My memory could easily be faulty, so perhaps someone could offer confirmation or correction.

(I would love either device, but for my own pragmatic reasons would lean toward the SD.)

The well done test was telling, transformers or not.
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Both samples in the test sounded good but different. However, both devices had a transformer in front of them, which meant that the SD effectively had two input transformers. My memory could easily be faulty, so perhaps someone could offer confirmation or correction.
JEGG, the 788T does not have transformers in the signal path. Only the preamps in the SD field mixers have. There is some good information from SD about their preamps on this page: 7-Series Recorder Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and on this one: http://www.sounddevices.com/notes/re...788t-mic-pres/

I have run blind comparison tests with those files from Michael Patrick at the time. I could hear very slight differences, but it was impossible for me to say which sounded "better", not even from a pure taste point of view.
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To the OP: I use a 788T-SSD for classical recordings. It is an extremely flexible recorder, so I can also use it with outboard preamps, AD-conversion and external clocking, which allows me to use it as a pure bit bucket if I feel a need for that. I can even use the machine as a downscaler for mastering 96kHz/24bit mixes to 44.1kHz/16bit for CD as it employs a superb proprietary hardware dithering algorithm. The 788T is always at the heart of my recording chain, whichever way the signals run. There is a picture of the extended setup (with external preamps and AD/clocking) in this post: First organ recordings with DPA 2006C
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Well... I glad to see so many strong supporters for the SD products. My plan was to purchase a solid field bag that could handle the tasks of music, field recording, and production audio.

I feel that it's unanimous that Sound Devices will not fail me when placed in a critical music location recording.
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Doing both, similar to Lotus 7.
In a nutshell: The 788T to me is an acquisition device, the laptop/interface/backup kit is a full-blown production device.

That said, I'll use the 788T for stuff with up to eight mics, quick setup, and little or no editing. This is mostly live recording (with audience), and maybe rolling at dress rehearsal, providing a "second take" in case something goes badly wrong in the show.
I'll use the large kit, based on a 4U rack of pre/interface and another 4U rack for a Mackie MDR backup recorder, for anything with more than 8 inputs, and for anything involving editing multiple takes or a final-ish mix (with reverbs, exact pans, EQ, and so on) for clients during recording.
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Originally Posted by John Willett View Post

Aaton, Nagra and AETA put more into the analogue quality of the recorder and the price reflects that.
Can you point out in what way SD didn't put as much effort into the mic pres? You can tell that by the lower price? Or by looking at the unit and meditating over the specs sheet or how does that work?


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I use both Nagra VI and SD 702
I dont like coloured mic pre amps and neither of these machines have them imho
They are recording machines,not tone controls.
Both are very precise,I cant choose between the two for fidelity.
But I can for portability.
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Can you point out in what way SD didn't put as much effort into the mic pres? You can tell that by the lower price? Or by looking at the unit and meditating over the specs sheet or how does that work?
You are asking this in the tone that suggests I'm trying to knock the SD down - I'm not.

There was a thread here a while ago comparing the SD to the Nagra VI and those with the ears put the Nagra VI on top - though several could not hear a difference.

I am coming at this from someone who records classical music and strives for the best without compromise - from the assumption that the engineer would be striving for Millenia or PaintPot mic. pre. quality.

I'm not saying that SD did not put effort into the mic. pres. - they made the very best they could given what the recorder was designed to do at the price point they wanted to sell it at.

You will get very good results from the SD, it's a great recorder - it's just that wanting the very best without compromise I would go for the Nagra VI, Aaton Cantar or AETA 4MinX over the 788T for that ultimate quality.

Actually, whether I can hear it is immaterial - it's whether a young 20-year old with good ears can hear the difference that is more important.

All the recorders are compromised in some way in their design - none is perfect in everything - you just decide what you want to use it for, the facilities you want, and the compromises you are prepared to accept.

Don't get so "in love" with something that you are blind to the compromises.

I bought my Nagra VI, despite wishing it had some more of what the 788T had because I was prepared to accept those compromises because of what it does well - I have a 4MinX on order as a second machine for the same reason.
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Don't get so "in love" with something that you are blind to the compromises.
Don't get so in love with something that you denigrate it's competition without ever listening to it especially on a public forum. You are doing the readers and yourself a disservice.

D.
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