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28th December 2012
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Looking for high end handheld field recorder

Hi folks!

I´m using a Tascam DR-100 (MK1) wich I borrowed and I really don´t like it. Handling noise is crazy loud, the omnis are unusable (high pitched weired noise)

and the uni´s are noisy too, usable though. It might be broken, also there is te MK2 version now.

I´m mainly recording ambiences for movie stuff with it. I want quiet, good sounding internal mic´s. I can live without XLR although it would be nice.

There´s a lot of new products, and any recomendation is highly appreciated. So far the candidates in my price range are:

-Tascam DR-100 MKII (how much better is it?)
-Marantz PMD 620 MK II (really new, can´t find out much)
-Roland R-26
-Olympus LS-100
-Sony PCM-D50 CED

Cheers
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28th December 2012
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Just found this very good comparison with an orchestral recording where in my opinion the Roland sounds much better than the Tascam and the Sony. It actually sounds

pretty great compared to anything. Leaning towards this now.

It also has great features, (audio interface, etc). Still don´t know about noise floor and handling noise.

audiotranskription.de - Vergleichstest Update 2012
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28th December 2012
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The Olympus LS-100 is a great little unit.

My high end handheld is the Nagra SD with the optional high quality "green ring" stereo mic. (There are about 4 different plug-in mic. options, plus several mono and stereo mic. and line cable options).

I also have a stereo line-in cable with my SD so I can use it with the plug-in mic. or swap and use it with a high quality external battery unit like the Nagra EMP or AETA MIXY.

There are a very few recorders that also have a digital input and the Sony PCM-D50 is the best of these.

It's a great top-end handheld recorder in its own right, but you can use it with a small digital battery powered mixer like the AETA MIXY and use it as a bit-bucket for extremely high recording quality (the Tascam DR100II and Marantz 661 also have digital inputs for this use).

I hope this helps.
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28th December 2012
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Thanks for the Nagra tip. Didn´t know they are making a handheld. Great concept with the different mic options! Really thinking about getting this, although out of my price range.

Would still be great to hear opinions on the Roland r-26 and the Marantz, anyone?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KarmaPolice View Post
Thanks for the Nagra tip. Didn´t know they are making a handheld. Great concept with the different mic options! Really thinking about getting this, although out of my price range.
The new Nagra LINO is the same basic recorder as the SD, by the looks of it, but with fixed microphones and much cheaper - well wort a look at.


Quote:
Originally Posted by KarmaPolice View Post
Would still be great to hear opinions on the Roland r-26 and the Marantz, anyone?
Not so high end as the Nagra SD, but I have heard good of both. The Marantz 661 does have the bit-bucket option, though I hear that battery life is short compared to others.

I would still put the Olympus LS-100 high on the list, though, the specs and battery life are excellent. I am happy with my old Olympus LS-10 and the LS-100 is very much better.
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28th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
I would still put the Olympus LS-100 high on the list, though, the specs and battery life are excellent. I am happy with my old Olympus LS-10 and the LS-100 is very much better.
Is the LS-100 better than the Sony PCM-D50?

BTW, does the LS-100 allow simultaneously 4-track recording?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by polytope View Post
Is the LS-100 better than the Sony PCM-D50?
Ooh - not sure, I'll have to check the specs. But they are quite different machines - the Sony is an excellent stereo unit that can use its own mics or be used as a bit-bucket with the optical digital input.

The LS-100 is a 4-track which also has XLR inputs and several extras specially for the recording musician.



Quote:
Originally Posted by polytope View Post
BTW, does the LS-100 allow simultaneously 4-track recording?
I don't think so - only two at a time I think. Read the manual, it *may* be able to record with its own mics plus two external at the same time, but I don't think so.
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28th December 2012
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Hand held is not what I see as a priority - there is no way to avoid handling noise when the controls and mics are mounted in the same case. But then, I have a Sound Devicess 744 and find it perfect - I can place mics where needed and see the controls at the same time. I use a Zoom H2n when needing all in one, and very happy with it.

I do music, not film SFX, but find the allinone a mixed blessing. YMMV.
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28th December 2012
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I would still put the Olympus LS-100 high on the list, though, the specs and battery life are excellent. I am happy with my old Olympus LS-10 and the LS-100 is very much better.
Well it´s strange, I heard lots of samples of the Olympus recorders (not the 100) on the net, and I don´t seem to like their sound. They must be good though, lots of people are very happy with them. I´ll definately check it out, and the LINO as well. It seems Nagra doesn´t have proper distribution in Germany, can´t find that stuff anywhere

Quote:
Hand held is not what I see as a priority - there is no way to avoid handling noise when the controls and mics are mounted in the same case.
I have a Rycote suspension kit with a handle, that works great, even on my inferior Tascam:

Portable Recorder Audio Kit
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I dont think that there are any high end units. That's because they sound OK until you compare to something real. Then they sound awful. I do playbacks from the Nagra SD. It sounds great and costs 7 times the cost of the typical Chinese unit.
In recording, cheap is never where it's at.
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28th December 2012
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You are right, when I plugged in a decent SDC into the Tascams XLR, I was a bit shocked how much better it sounded to the build in mics, and I was still

using the da and pre of the Tascam .

I´m definately interested in the Nagra, I can´t find prices for the additional mics. Can somebody point me to it. Thanks
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A very picky friend of mine loves his H4n - the mics are good and the inputs allow external mics. I don't liek the futzy controls so I never got one. But he likes it and is a critical listener...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KarmaPolice View Post
You are right, when I plugged in a decent SDC into the Tascams XLR, I was a bit shocked how much better it sounded to the build in mics, and I was still

using the da and pre of the Tascam .

I´m definately interested in the Nagra, I can´t find prices for the additional mics. Can somebody point me to it. Thanks
For a really top end flexible kit I would get a Sony PCM-D50 and an AETA MIXY. Cost around. £2k.

Use the D-50 on its own or as a bit-bucket with good mics via the MIXY using the digital output of the MIXY.

The mic. pre-amps on the MIXY are top end and in the same ball-park as the Nagra VI.

This gives you the best of both worlds - a good hand-held and, with the MIXY, recording quality equal or better than the Nagra VI or top Sound Devices units.

Next down is the Nagra SD and the Nagra EMP or AETY MIXY - but this time you would go into the SD using Nagra's analogue line-ins. But these are better than pretty well any other hand-held's line-ins.

I hope this helps.
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I love my Zoom H4n. Sounds great.
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28th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steveswisher View Post
I love my Zoom H4n. Sounds great.
Comparing to what, my friend?
I wrote it once and twice, and I'll write it again: a hand held recorders is a COMPROMISE. You can't fit great mics, great pres, great A to D converters in one body. And I don't talk about the handling noise.
At IBC 2012 I was officialy told by sony reps that they discontinioued their high end pcm d1 and pcm d50, and not planning anything to develope in a same category.
They said it was too expensive to produce them and to service...
And IMHO they are soooooo far from to be perfect sound wise.
I own my pcm d50 and happy to carry it with me in my backpack for some moments to catch. They are ok for that and better than other trash around.
But for the serious work - my sd788 , dpa, schoeps and Senns is the way to go along as several proper Rycote suspensions and windshilds.

Sent from my XT910
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mgoorevich View Post
Comparing to what, my friend?

Sent from my XT910
Compared to any other field recorder that can be held in one hand. You're absolutely right that if you bring a bunch of equipment into the field you can achieve a higher quality recording then you can with an all-in-one. What the H4n may sacrifice in sound quality it makes up for in portability and ease of use. I can have it out and recording in a matter of seconds. No cables or heavy battery packs. For the type of field recording I do simplicity and functionality always win.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steveswisher View Post
Compared to any other field recorder that can be held in one hand. You're absolutely right that if you bring a bunch of equipment into the field you can achieve a higher quality recording then you can with an all-in-one. What the H4n may sacrifice in sound quality it makes up for in portability and ease of use. I can have it out and recording in a matter of seconds. No cables or heavy battery packs. For the type of field recording I do simplicity and functionality always win.
Yes, but the H4n is near the bottom of my list of hand-helds.

The D-50 and Nagra SD are at the top, the Nagra LINO, Olympus lS-100 come next and then the Marantz 661, Roland and Tascam all before the H4n.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
Yes, but the H4n is near the bottom of my list of hand-helds.

The D-50 and Nagra SD are at the top, the Nagra LINO, Olympus lS-100 come next and then the Marantz 661, Roland and Tascam all before the H4n.
Agree
I also have Olympus LS11 and this tiny baby is surprisingly good. And I love its switch on idle time - 2 sec!
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29th December 2012
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Quote:
Agree
I also have Olympus LS11 and this tiny baby is surprisingly good. And I love its switch on idle time - 2 sec!
Here they compare the Ls3 and ls5 to the new Ls 14 coming in January.
Really another step up imo sounds very good.

It´s in german, if you want to check it out just scroll down to the audio files:

audiotranskription.de - Testbericht Olympus LS-12/14

FWIW:

I ruled out the SD, as much as I would like to have it, it´s just to expensive for me. Assuming that the "high quality stereo" addon mic is at least another 300 € or probably much more.

I think I´ll wait for the new Olympus models and then check them out at a local Store together with the LS-100, Roland R-26, and the PCM-50.

Can´t find the LINO anywhere, but it seems to be quite new, does anyone have experience with it? Seems to be much cheaper than the SD, what´s different besites the fixed mic?

Lots of good input! Really helping me narrow this down
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Quote:
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Can´t find the LINO anywhere, but it seems to be quite new, does anyone have experience with it? Seems to be much cheaper than the SD, what´s different besites the fixed mic?
Seen the LINO at a show, but not used it.

You can compare specs on the Nagra site.

Body is the same as the SD, but there are less option switches on the back.

I would guess same basic quality but with a fixed mic. rather than plug-in options.

Oh - I got my SD with the HQ mic instead of the standard one, so the price was not much different.
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B&H carries the LINO nagra lino| B&H Photo Video

Is there any decent hand-held 4-tracker with decent battery life? I tried the Zoom H4N and was deeply disappointed by its battery life and the lack of true line inputs.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by polytope View Post
B&H carries the LINO nagra lino| B&H Photo Video

Is there any decent hand-held 4-tracker with decent battery life? I tried the Zoom H4N and was deeply disappointed by its battery life and the lack of true line inputs.
The Olympus LS-100 has superb battery life.

Sorry - I am roaming abroad with an iPhone or I would point you at all the specs.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KarmaPolice View Post
-Tascam DR-100 MKII (how much better is it?)
I agree that the term 'Hi-end' should be reserved for the real hi-end i.e expensive stuff.

After a horrible experience with a Zoom whatever-it-was called (plastic knobs, cheap-digital sound, etc) I was looking for a replacement unit.

Goals:

- Recording 'found sounds' i.e a recorder that is small enough to be 'invisible' and ready to record anywhere. Recording gigs and rehearsals.

- Ability to use external mics i.e XLR connectors and phantom power for the purpose of good quality stereo recording when the location/acoustics/logistics allow to do so.

- Solid build quality, KNOBS that are easy to operate and even more importantly, knobs that directly access a specific function instead of fumbling through a sub-menu.


I ended up buying the Tascam DE-100 MK II and I've been very happy with it so far. I got a deal for $250 on e-bay for a new recorder and think that the MKII is a great value for the money. The only additional costs were $25 or so for a SD card with more memory.

I recorded a 3 set affair I played in a small club the other week and there were no problems at all with the Tascam running for hours on end.

I also got decent results recording a children's choir à la 'Another Brick in the wall' for a project I'm working on. I just used 2 KM 84s and got a pretty good sound even without any soundcheck at all.

But you can also record via S/PDIF which seems like a pretty cool thing and I certainly wouldn't hesitate bringing my studio converters/preamps for say recording a piano in a concert hall or the like.

There's no comparison to the Zoom IMO, the handling is SO much better and the build quality is WAY better.
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Thanks, good to hear the new Tascam is better. I´ll check it out if I get a chance

Working with the old Tascam, I just had a funny idea. If there was some XLR connection piece, I could just plug in any SDC directly to the recorder.

No need for an additional suspension and cables this way. Should be possible to build something from a male an female xlr connector...
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Using the Tascam DR100II with the digital input as a bit-bucket is also excellent.

The little AETA MIXY has great mic. pre-amps and a digital out - so using this with the DR100II makes an excellent very high quality stereo recorder with the quality of a top end machine like the Nagra VI.

Now the Sony PCM-D50 is discontinued, the only small machines that I know of with a digital i/p are the DR100II and the Marantz 661.
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The battery in my LS11 lives "forever"...if I think of it I even don't remember how many AA cells it takes! And I do remember that my PCM-D1 takes 4, although it's also working for a long time with it. I remember always bringing with me another 4-8 batteries when I had Sony PCM-D1. Two reasons I sold it: size and horrible battery life and well...it wasn't 3 times better($/sound) of D50.
The LS14 looks interesting but it's petty the aluminium body of LS11 has gone.

John, I am looking for the Mixy for some time...but my intuition is saying: wait! A Sound Devices should come out with a "new 302 mixer" with integrated recorder.
I have really no source and its my speculation. But is it not logical?
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30th December 2012
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Quote:
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The battery in my LS11 lives "forever"...if I think A Sound Devices should come out with a "new 302 mixer" with integrated recorder.
I have really no source and its my speculation. But is it not logical?
Now there's an idea, I've been speculating that a Sound Devices 302-D would arrive down the line but it hasn't happened yet.

Speaking of SD and looking at their new 664 mixer/recorder has me wondering about a refresh for the 7xx series of recorders.

It's kind of a bummer that they recently announced significant price hikes across their product line.
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It's kind of a bummer that they recently announced significant price hikes across their product line.
Indeed! Good that I got my MixPre-D at $749. It's now $899!

I wonder what is going on.
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Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by DigiGal View Post
Now there's an idea, I've been speculating that a Sound Devices 302-D would arrive down the line but it hasn't happened yet.
The AETA MIXY is a bit like what an SD 302-D would be.
  • 3 Mic/Line inputs
  • 1 stereo line input
  • Highly readable graphic OLED display
  • Adjustable M/S sound field
  • Mono / Stereo / M/S modes
  • AES/SPDIF and USB interfaces
  • Microphone powering: phantom 12V/48V, T12

Use the digital out to turn a hand-held with a digital input (optical, AES os S-PDIF) into a bit bucket.



Quote:
Originally Posted by DigiGal View Post
Speaking of SD and looking at their new 664 mixer/recorder has me wondering about a refresh for the 7xx series of recorders.

It's kind of a bummer that they recently announced significant price hikes across their product line.
Costs have risen for everyone recently and, if you are in the US, SD is still at a very good price.
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Use the digital out tou turn a hand-held with a digital input (optical, AES os S-PDIF) into a bit bucket.
Are there any bit buckets with digital in (other than a laptop with an interface) that can do 4 tracks? Would getting two 2-track bit buckets (and not worrying so much about sync) be more cost-effective?
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