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Please help me complete my portable recording rig.
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Lorenzop
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#1
9th May 2013
Old 9th May 2013
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Please help me complete my portable recording rig.

Hi Slutz,

I need help with recorders!
So I've recently gotten opportunity to venture out of my home studio to do some recording. I've never done this but I feel comfortable enough with my audio skills that I'd like to experiment recording directly elsewhere, friends etc. At the moment it's smaller classical music sessions but also occasional drum session or whatever (singer-songwriter etc).

As I never set out to build a portable rig, at the moment my options are just as follows, basically taking stuff from my home studio + mics:

So far my setup/signsl chain is:

Mics:
Vintage ribbon mic, 2 Line Audio CM3s, AKG C414, plus any other mics I can borrow / rent.

Pres:
DAV BG1 and FMR RNP - the easiest to carry I have. I can also borrow vintage Telefunken pres if necessary ( for my ribbon esp).


Now, here come my questions:

I'm basically stuck with what to record. I don't want a laptop option, because I dont have an audio laptop. But I have no idea what other recorders exist that will fit my budget.
I figure that I'd need about 8channels for maximum flexibility.

I figure I just need a recorder at least with sample rate at 44.1 but actually for classical I'd like 88.2 or 96 option really.

So my burning question: how am I going to capture between 2 to 8 channels at high quality with say less than $1000 budget??

I have a RME ADI8 ds I could unrack to use as an AD converter...

Or will I get away with the average laptop if i just use it as a hard disk recorder, with an audio interface (say a Focustite 8i16) ?
I'm dead scared average laptops will "glitch" my rather slim but respectable mic&pre selection...

Also a nice recorder, even with pres, seems just much more streamlined to me which is what I'm after...

Any advice is greatly welcome!
Thank you
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#2
9th May 2013
Old 9th May 2013
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Look into a Tascam DR-680. Way under budget, money left for another pre or mic.
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9th May 2013
Old 9th May 2013
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Off the top of my head:

2-channel:
Marantz PMD661
Sony D50 (discontinued)
Tascam DR100ii (can do 4 tracks, but I believe 2 have to be from internals)
Sony PCM M-10

4+ channel:
Tascam DR-680 (some claim reliability issues, finicky with DC power) 8 ch.
Roland R-44 (Best rep of this group, probably) 4 ch.
Roland R-26 (supposedly can do 6 tracks, but must use 1-2 pairs from internals) 6 ch.

Not a lot of options for sub-$1000 multitrack machines.

Last edited by thunderbolt; 10th May 2013 at 02:12 AM.. Reason: clarity
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9th May 2013
Old 9th May 2013
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Vintage ribbon and a sub $1000 recorder do not equate.
Why not hire ?
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9th May 2013
Old 9th May 2013
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Sound devices USB pre spdif into 680 is very good and reasonable for a high quality rig.
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9th May 2013
Old 9th May 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thunderbolt View Post
Off the top of my head:
4 channel:
Tascam DR-680 (some claim reliability issues, finicky with DC power)
Roland R-44 (Best rep of this group, probably)
Roland R-26 (supposedly can do 6 tracks, but must use 1-2 pairs from internals)

Not a lot of options for sub-$1000 multitrack machines.
Pretty sure Tascam DR-680 can do 8 tracks. The last 2 have to be digital SPDIF from one of your pres.

Product: DR-680 | TASCAM
"Record the six microphones along with a digital S/PDIF source for 8 track recording."
Lorenzop
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9th May 2013
Old 9th May 2013
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Yes, the Tascam 680 is the one I had eyed! Unfortunately it's at €900 ($1400) here in Europe!

It would do 8 at 96khz. Only drawback no overdubbing but I could get round that.

Is there anything else? For used price (or say up to $2000 dollars new?)

Also, what about DAT such as Tascam DA98 ? Or stay clear of DAT machines? I've never used one except back in my university days...
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9th May 2013
Old 9th May 2013
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Can you have it shipped from USA?
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10th May 2013
Old 10th May 2013
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I just asked Sweetwater that but I doubt it.
Used, if I find it -anybody selling ?!


I am going to rephrase my problem also a bit: basically, if Im using several different pres with line level out, into what am I going to plug them into?

Wouldn't a cleaner solution be an AD into a Audio interface ?
Instead, plugging into the Tascam DR 680 would mean plugging my pres into a set of pres again. Ok so they are apparently clean but still ...
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10th May 2013
Old 10th May 2013
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Most of the available low cost options have already been listed above. The dr680 is probably the most applicable if you get one for a decent price. Price has come down to $485 or so over here. Some speculation that a new model may be in the offing.

Then there is something like this:

- Cymatic Audio

I've never used one but it looks interesting.
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10th May 2013
Old 10th May 2013
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Curious if anyone here has experience with A&H ICE-16? $1000 retail in the U.S.

As to the OP's initial question, it seems to me that looking for something with "2 to 8 channels" is way too vague, as mixing live to stereo is a different ball game than multi-tracking.

What do you actually need to be able to do with this unit (versus what would you like it to do), and how expandable/future proof would you like it to be?
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10th May 2013
Old 10th May 2013
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I don't want to mix live to stereo!!

I'll do that in the studio. I want to capture as faithfully and streamlined as possible up to 8 mics and respective selected preamps.

I guess the cheapest and most hifi option would be for me to use my RME converters ->adat into a sound card - into laptop.

As I have an average laptop I thought I could take it out of the equation "for cheap" but other than the Tascam Dr680 it seems that won't be the case!

Out of curiosity what is your opinion of older DAT multitrack recorders?
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10th May 2013
Old 10th May 2013
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DAT often = subpar conversion, 16-bit max, shoddy tape deck, and a lack of manufacturer support anymore.
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Quote:
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Eventually you should deploy the most expensive and best Mic you can get. It should be hideously expensive.
#14
10th May 2013
Old 10th May 2013
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No firsthand experience with the older ADATs; I've read some posts on GS where people dig the sound. I do know that maximum bit depth is 16 or 20, depending on the version, and I've heard second-hand that dealing with tape-based digital can be trying and unreliable. I love the idea of leveraging older, "obsolete" gear, but the process involves a lot of self-education and equipment maintenance. Basically, what you save in money you have to expect to repay with your time.

A unit you might want to look at is the HD24; they can be had used for around $700-900. 24 tracks @ 24/48, no mucking about with a computer. A little large to be truly "mobile," but....

Your laptop itself really shouldn't affect record quality. Ideally, it just collects zeroes and ones. If you don't have to monitor the live session from the computer, then it shouldn't hold you back. If you're able to interface via firewire or USB, then there are some fairly simple and cost effective solutions.

The DR-680 seems to meet your needs; I have also read about concerns with build and sound quality, but have no first-hand experience with the unit (I've veered away from Tascam in general, lately). For what it offers at the price point, it's sort of the only game in town, that I can think of, as far as stand-alone units go.
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11th May 2013
Old 11th May 2013
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So I will most probably be getting the DR680 !

Can you help me figure out how I will interface it with my mics so I can monitor each of them individually?

I've heard that the phones out on the DR kind of sucks, you don't hear the full quality of whats going in.
What other options will I have then to monitor? Putting a monitor controller on the stereo outs (but does the internal mixer then allow to monitor single tracks on the master bus?).

Thanks
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12th May 2013
Old 12th May 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorenzop View Post
So I will most probably be getting the DR680 !

Can you help me figure out how I will interface it with my mics so I can monitor each of them individually?

I've heard that the phones out on the DR kind of sucks, you don't hear the full quality of whats going in.
What other options will I have then to monitor? Putting a monitor controller on the stereo outs (but does the internal mixer then allow to monitor single tracks on the master bus?).

Thanks
The HP output on the 680 isn't great, or even particularly nice, but it is definitely usable, IMO. I use mine with the built in amp and it works fine.

If you want to avoid it, probably the best way is to set the 680 to output individual channels on its RCA jacks (so it will send channel 1 to output 1, 2 to 2, etc.) and then plug them into a line mixer to monitor with. That would give you the most control.

Cheers!
-Mike
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#17
12th May 2013
Old 12th May 2013
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You can solo any of the 6 tracks during recording on the DR680, but a separate mixer with all 6 direct outputs is the most flexible as Celticrogues says.
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12th May 2013
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12th May 2013
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Ok so it has 6 direct outs corresponding to the 6 analogue ins ?
What about the digital spdif in /out that is also there correct?
So getting a mixer with spdif in would be the perfect solution.

By the way out of curiosity, WHY do you guys use the DR 680 as opposed over a sound card option or a AD converter-sound card combo?
Do you think it is sonically head and shoulders say above some of the lower end sound cards such as Focusrite, M-Audio...? Would it compare to maybe RME sound cards?
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13th May 2013
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6 direct outs-yes.

spdif in/out-yes.

make sure mixer is compatible with 680. I think there's a thread here on that.

I believe the 680 is chosen because at one time or another, a laptop/interface combo will find a way to bite you at a remote recording. The 680 has everything in one convenient box that's actually pretty small. It does have a plastic feel to it, and IMO, had Tascam put it in a metal box, it would have been an even bigger hit with the remote recording crowd.
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13th May 2013
Old 13th May 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
make sure mixer is compatible with 680. I think there's a thread here on that. .
Huh? What do you mean exactly? Shouldn't any mixer be compatible, as long as it has 6 analogue line direct outs??
Cheers
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13th May 2013
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17th May 2013
Old 17th May 2013
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One more kind of dumb question :

If I get a Tascam DR680 from the USA, can I just substitute the power supply once here in Europe and run it with a European 220/50Hz power supply? Or do I need to use the original USA power supply with a step down converter?

Thanks.
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17th May 2013
Old 17th May 2013
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Our USA DR680 came with a USA plug on a universal power supply - 100-240 volt. You should only need a plug adapter anywhere in the world.

Sadly the B&H price is now back up to $700USD

edit: to clarify, the power pack takes an IEC C7 nonpolarized line cord. A simple power cord with the country appropriate plug and IEC C7 NP cord should do the trick, too.
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18th May 2013
Old 18th May 2013
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Yes, it's a bummer that the price went back up.

As far as voltage is concerned, the outside of the unit says "DC in 12v" and the power supply that came with mine says input 100-240v at 50-60HZ with the output as +12v.

From what I read elsewhere, there can be some problems from underpowering or overpowering the unit with external battery packs so you want to stay close to 12v dc.
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21st May 2013
Old 21st May 2013
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What are recomended mixers to put in front of the DR?

For less than 1000$ new or used (which might allow me to get "better" models) what mixers are you using?

8 channels great pres and direct outs would be great.

What do you think of a A&H Zed or Mixwizard?? Thanks
#27
22nd May 2013
Old 22nd May 2013
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I am all of a sudden a happy man, having bought it for 460 bucks!! woot woot
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22nd May 2013
Old 22nd May 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorenzop View Post
What are recomended mixers to put in front of the DR?

For less than 1000$ new or used (which might allow me to get "better" models) what mixers are you using?

8 channels great pres and direct outs would be great.

What do you think of a A&H Zed or Mixwizard?? Thanks
I use a mixwizard, though usually (almost almost always) with outboard pres. Not that the MW pres are bad, per se, but definitely not great. For the money, though, it's hard to find a better mixer. The Onyx by Mackie is a little more neutral pre-wise and in the same price range.
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23rd May 2013
Old 23rd May 2013
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Yeah, the question is, is there a mixer that has better pres than the tascam?? Otherwise the mixer OS only useful for monitoring and fader riding, then I'd still have to use outboard pres. I'm really looking to just have a mixer for the all in one convenience. But the pres gotta be good!! Any "vintage" suggestions maybe?
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29th May 2013
Old 29th May 2013
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I use a mixwizard 3 with an A&H ICE-16 to record and it works great. The only issue is the current version of the ICE-16 doesn't have balanced inputs. I use heavily shielded power supply cables with all of my electronics and I haven't picked up any background noise. The pres in the Mixwizard are nice enough; no color that I can detect. The direct outs on the channels are all pre-EQ so I get a nice, strong, uncolored signal to the recorder. You should be able to get both for about $1900 total.
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