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Best of the current handy recorders? Recorders, Players & Tape Machines
Old 23rd June 2017
  #1
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wallyburger's Avatar
 

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Best of the current handy recorders?

Hi all, I need a small portable recorder for wildlife sound recording. I'm a bit out of touch with all this, and don't really know what the solution could be.
I'm looking at things like the small Zoom, Tascam, and Sony recorders, I don't know if it's best to go with onboard XLR's with phantom, or use an external battery powered phantom supply? Would that be any better?
I intend to record in mono, using a shotgun mic, or would stereo be better? is it essential in wildlife recording?

Thnaks,

WB.
Old 26th June 2017
  #2
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boojum's Avatar
I would do stereo. You can always downmix it to mono later but you cannot go the other way. If you wish to stay with the shotgun getting a figure-8 to put under it would give you stereo when mixed. Phantom voltage would drain your batteries pretty quickly so give that some thought. Phantom is 48 volts and getting that out of 3.0 or 4.5 or 6 volts is going to cost some, your battery life will be short.

If you do want phantom pick up a used SD 702 or 722. A used SD 702 can be had for a pretty good price and they are pro quality because they are pro gear. They are at ~$1,000 here on eBay. These are rugged recorders.
Old 26th June 2017
  #3
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Sharp11's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by wallyburger View Post
Hi all, I need a small portable recorder for wildlife sound recording. I'm a bit out of touch with all this, and don't really know what the solution could be.
I'm looking at things like the small Zoom, Tascam, and Sony recorders, I don't know if it's best to go with onboard XLR's with phantom, or use an external battery powered phantom supply? Would that be any better?
I intend to record in mono, using a shotgun mic, or would stereo be better? is it essential in wildlife recording?

Thnaks,

WB.
Zoom H5 and call it a day - it uses two mic's attached in an xy configuration. You can mix that down to mono if you wish. The Zoom has four tracks, which is handy.
Old 26th June 2017
  #4
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Sony PCM D100 stereo hi resolution recorder, easy to use with a lot of killer features and sounds a lot better than any of the Zoom or Tascam recorder. The quality of the included stereo microphones are second to none and the unit will record in any format from MP3 to DSD and allow you to either up/down-sample your audio files.

You will not regret buying this box.
Old 26th June 2017
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Samc View Post
Sony PCM D100 stereo hi resolution recorder, easy to use with a lot of killer features and sounds a lot better than any of the Zoom or Tascam recorder. The quality of the included stereo microphones are second to none and the unit will record in any format from MP3 to DSD and allow you to either up/down-sample your audio files.

You will not regret buying this box.
I second this. For wildlife recording, you'll want something "handy" (as you stated in your question). I made excellent trumpeter swan recordings with my SONY D100 because it was so handy to pull out of my coat pocket in the depths of a Canadian January winter. As said above, the mics are terrific, making the D100 a true all-in-one.
Old 26th June 2017
  #6
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If you're considering the Sony, read this - the reviewer doesn't recommend it for hand-held recording - and at the price, it's three to four times more expensive than the Zoom.

Sony PCM-D100 |

From the review:

"The sound quality is good, then, but one thing to bear in mind is that the PCM-D100 is not really suitable for handheld recording, because the slightest finger touch on the case finds its way to the mics. Some products have better shielding, but mounting a recorder on a stand is really the only option for serious jobs."
Old 26th June 2017
  #7
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Once you reach the d100 price range, I'd be looking at the new sound devices mix pre at $649. Add mics as desired.
Old 26th June 2017
  #8
Gear Addict
Problem solved:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produ...r_kit_for.html

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sharp11 View Post
If you're considering the Sony, read this - the reviewer doesn't recommend it for hand-held recording - and at the price, it's three to four times more expensive than the Zoom.

Sony PCM-D100 |

From the review:

"The sound quality is good, then, but one thing to bear in mind is that the PCM-D100 is not really suitable for handheld recording, because the slightest finger touch on the case finds its way to the mics. Some products have better shielding, but mounting a recorder on a stand is really the only option for serious jobs."
Old 26th June 2017
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sharp11 View Post
If you're considering the Sony, read this - the reviewer doesn't recommend it for hand-held recording - and at the price, it's three to four times more expensive than the Zoom.

Sony PCM-D100 |

From the review:

"The sound quality is good, then, but one thing to bear in mind is that the PCM-D100 is not really suitable for handheld recording, because the slightest finger touch on the case finds its way to the mics. Some products have better shielding, but mounting a recorder on a stand is really the only option for serious jobs."
Maybe you should check this video:

Old 27th June 2017
  #10
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I think the OP needs to reflect a bit on what he wants to record and what he really needs in light of the distance from the source of the sound.

I'm no wildlife recording expert, but from what I read people have tried a variety of microphones and recorders. I tried recording a purple martin colony attached to the underside of a bridge about 100' in the air with a homebrew parabolic mic setup and still had to contend with noise from a farm tractor, a pickup truck and an ATV.

So one thing he needs to consider is what kind of external mics can be used with any recorder he's considering.
Old 27th June 2017
  #11
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sharp11 View Post
the slightest finger touch on the case finds its way to the mics.
I can say from experience that this is somewhat exaggerated.

But you do need wind protection and SONY includes a good one.
Old 27th June 2017
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Samc View Post
Maybe you should check this video:

Not me, I'm not in the market, link it for the OP.
Old 27th June 2017
  #13
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John Willett's Avatar
 

Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by wallyburger View Post
Hi all, I need a small portable recorder for wildlife sound recording. I'm a bit out of touch with all this, and don't really know what the solution could be.
I'm looking at things like the small Zoom, Tascam, and Sony recorders, I don't know if it's best to go with onboard XLR's with phantom, or use an external battery powered phantom supply? Would that be any better?
I intend to record in mono, using a shotgun mic, or would stereo be better? is it essential in wildlife recording?

Thnaks,

WB.
The Wildlife Sound Recording Society have their AGM and members day on the 1st July at Rutland Water.

May be a good idea to go along and have a chat with wildlife recordists and find the best option.
Old 27th June 2017
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
Once you reach the d100 price range, I'd be looking at the new sound devices mix pre at $649. Add mics as desired.
do you know where they are available, can't find a reseller anywhere that has them in stock.
Old 27th June 2017
  #15
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by wallyburger View Post
I don't know if it's best to go with onboard XLR's with phantom, or use an external battery powered phantom supply? Would that be any better?
I intend to record in mono, using a shotgun mic, or would stereo be better? is it essential in wildlife recording?

Thnaks,

WB.
Given the fact that you are already talking external mics (and, incidentally, some sounds will favour a mono recording with a shotgun mic, others will favour stereo), and that wind-protection is so vital in this type of use (windjammers for recorders with in-built mics fall a long way short of baby ball gags or, preferably, full blimps), I would second the suggestion of one of the new SD Mixpre recorders - most obviously the Mixpre-3.

Cheers,

Roland
Old 27th June 2017
  #16
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samc View Post
do you know where they are available, can't find a reseller anywhere that has them in stock.
Have you tried Pinknoise? I got mine from them a few weeks ago and the website says 6 are in stock at the moment.

Cheers,

Roland
Old 27th June 2017
  #17
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Finding one in stock seems to a hit or miss situation at the moment. I've read more are expected to ship in July.
Old 27th June 2017
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
The Wildlife Sound Recording Society have their AGM and members day on the 1st July at Rutland Water.

May be a good idea to go along and have a chat with wildlife recordists and find the best option.
I clicked on the link and feel Mr. Willett may be on to something here...
Old 28th June 2017
  #19
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Plush's Avatar
Investigate the Tascam DR-100 MKIII.

A major sound. MAJOR set up.

Endorsed.
Old 28th June 2017
  #20
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Old 28th June 2017
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
Investigate the Tascam DR-100 MKIII.

A major sound. MAJOR set up.

Endorsed.
I have the TASCAM DR-100 MKIII and really like it, but it doesn't seem to get noticed much. It's great to hear your endorsement but I don't understand what "MAJOR set up" refers to.
Old 7th July 2017
  #22
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Given To Fly View Post
I clicked on the link and feel Mr. Willett may be on to something here...
Ha Ha ! Yes, Mr Willett is always a source of great wisdom...
Unfortunately I couldn't get to that meeting.

A question about the Sony D100, are the built in mic's noisy in any way? at typical levels with ambient sounds.
I basically want to record the wildlife in my girlfriends garden, and maybe the od thunderstorm, I love thunder and rain.
I'm not averse to using a stand to avoid vibration, I'd like to use in-built mic's if I could, but not sure about the quality? I'm using an Audio Technica 4071a at the mo, I also have an M&S pair, but the AT would be less hassle to use.

Thanks for all your advice!

WB.
Old 7th July 2017
  #23
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Thread Starter
Decision made, it's the SD Mix Pre 3. Just checked it out, it has everything I need, plus built in M&S decoding, should I go down that road. The metering is very clear, and it's amazingly compact for what it is.

Old 7th July 2017
  #24
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John Willett's Avatar
 

Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by wallyburger View Post
Ha Ha ! Yes, Mr Willett is always a source of great wisdom...
Unfortunately I couldn't get to that meeting.
There is another meeting tomorrow

This one is a South-East local one near Tring, Herts.

Info HERE

Send me a PM or e-mail if you want to go and I'll let you have the details.

I'm going.
Old 7th July 2017
  #25
Gear Addict
 

I'm currently stuck in analysis-paralysis and can't make a decision, but here's my little breakdown of what I think are the top current contenders. Listened to a lot of samples from each and read about all there is to read on them.

SD MixPre-3 / MixPre-6
+ Among the highest quality sound
+ Lowest noise
+ Higher input / channel counts
+ Great UI
+ Good features, including the ability to use as a computer audio interface simultaneously.
- Among the most expensive
- Although small/light for what they are, they are still the largest and heaviest of this bunch
- Probably inconvenient if you don't happen to have it slung in a bag all the time.
- Battery life with the AA sled sucks (<1 hr). So you really have to increase your weight and bulk with some other solution. USB power, while interesting, means more gack to connect and wires running around, not so great for just quickly grabbing the recorder out of your bag to capture something on a whim. This is the main thing holding me back from it. If someone made a slick 18650 battery sled I'd probably be all over it.
- No internal mics at all

Tascam DR-100MKIII
+ Very low preamp noise
+ Good size/weight
+ Great built-in LiIon battery makes it very handy to just not think about powering at all while out and about
+ Built-in mics for just getting something quickly
+ Decent price.
- Preamp sound quality I find to be the harshest of the bunch, despite the low noise floor. Might not be a huge concern for nature recording, but music/voice is not as smooth or warm sounding as any of the other options.
- Built in mics are not really acceptable for any kind of finished product. Really lacking body and warmth.
- Can't replace the built-in battery, so the recorder might be considered semi-disposable after 5 years or so.

Sony PCM-D100
+ Great built in mics means it's the handiest for recording at a whim.
+ It does have plugin power for electret mics, like DPA 4060's.
+ Decent preamps, though they have a slightly (noticeably) higher noise floor than the Tascam, they sound smoother to me.
- No XLRs. Ugh.
- Higher noise floor than the Tascam
- The internal mics, while great, still don't match good externals.
- Expensive for what it is (nearly a one-trick pony).

DPA d:vice
+ Smallest/lightest of all
+ Records directly to an iPhone
+ Sounds nice
+ Can use any DPA mics
- Unknown maximum gain. Looks like maybe only 30dB
- Difficult/impossble to use non-DPA mics?
- Preamps seem a bit noisy, likely more so than any other option here
- Requires an iOS device, and I'm currently on Android.

Sonosax Minir82
+ Extraordinarily small and light. Kind of a freak device in this respect. Very appealing in this respect.
+ Sound quality and noise extremely good, on the same level as the Sound Devices, possibly even better
+ Good battery life just on 4 AA's (>3.5hrs)
+ 8 channels! In such a small device!
- No idea where to buy this or if it's even still manufactured
- Many unknowns about possible issues or how the interface is etc.
- Extraordinarily expensive. Probably disqualified on this alone.

Last edited by dasbin; 7th July 2017 at 07:31 PM..
Old 7th July 2017
  #26
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Did you actually use and hear the SD boxes yourself, and did you do a direct comparison with the Sony? I ask because I own the Sony and have not found a comparable box that sounds better...not even the Nagra SD recorder.

The Tascam is nice but does not sound as good in my opinion and I can't get my hands on any of the SD boxes.
Old 7th July 2017
  #27
Gear Addict
 

For comparative samples between the Tascam and Sony, this guy made some recordings:

Tascam DR -100MKIII - Transom

http://transom.org/2014/sony-pcm-d100/

Although only one of the mics used was the same between the tests (I relied on that particular sample the most when evaluating their differences).

Definitely not a perfect test but still, the following things were very evident to me:
1) Yes, the sound quality of the Sony preamps was definitely better overall.
2) However, the noise floor on the Sony was noticeably higher than that of the Tascam, which already has a slightly higher noise floor than the Sound Devices.

The Nagra SD isn't really a good comparison I don't think; I think it's below their usual standard. The specs aren't great, indicating lesser-quality components through the signal chain than what SD is using.

Lack of 48v on both the Sony and Nagra are a big issue for me personally. I think if the Sony had phantom I would pull the trigger on it.
You could add an external phantom power box but at that point you might as well just get a MixPre-3 instead for lower overall cost, lower bulk/annoyance, and lower noise floor.

Last edited by dasbin; 7th July 2017 at 09:46 PM..
Old 7th July 2017
  #28
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celticrogues's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dasbin View Post
- Battery life with the AA sled sucks (<1 hr).
FYI, battery life on the MixPres is only that bad if you use alkaline batteries with it, which are not recommended. If you use NiMH AA's, battery life with the 4-AA sled is about 2.5 hours, and about double that with the 8-AA sled.

-Mike
Old 7th July 2017
  #29
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Not sure why SD designed the new mixpres to use AAs as the primary batteries instead of sticking with the Sony L type used in the 7 series. and then they have this unusual dual sided battery adapter to use not one but two L type batteries.

edit-I don't think DPA 4060s will run on plug in power. I think they require more voltage like from a battery box or phantom power that is stepped down to the correct voltage.

Last edited by 2manyrocks; 7th July 2017 at 11:52 PM..
Old 8th July 2017
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dasbin View Post
For comparative samples between the Tascam and Sony, this guy made some recordings:

Tascam DR -100MKIII - Transom

Sony PCM-D100 - Transom

Although only one of the mics used was the same between the tests (I relied on that particular sample the most when evaluating their differences).

Definitely not a perfect test but still, the following things were very evident to me:
1) Yes, the sound quality of the Sony preamps was definitely better overall.
2) However, the noise floor on the Sony was noticeably higher than that of the Tascam, which already has a slightly higher noise floor than the Sound Devices.
I understand that the D100’s lack of XLR inputs will probably be a deal-breaker for some people, but the sound quality of this box is exceptional by any standard, and I don't know how you can evaluate the noise performance of the unit based on the recording of sheep and fireworks with a noisy background, over the internet...

I've used my Sony for months now and have never had a problem with noise preamps, every review of the unit speaks about the low noise and high quality sound. You know the SD boxes are quieter how, have you heard the SD boxes?
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