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Why in the world do all portable handheld recorders STILL use AA batteries!?!? Recorders, Players & Tape Machines
Old 5 days ago
  #1
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Why in the world do all portable handheld recorders STILL use AA batteries!?!?

OK - semi-serious question. If this belongs in the Moan Zone that's fine, but I'm also genuinely asking and not just complaining here. Why do seemingly ALL decent handheld portable recorders (all of Zoom, Tascam, etc) still use exclusively AA and AAA batteries!?

Most of my work is done in the studio but I have a Tascam DR40 that I use for location stuff, dialog, external audio feed for system capture, etc. I only use the internal mics, never Phantom. I'm lucky to get 6 hours out of 3 AA batteries. I've been doing a lot of content for YouTube that requires me to record my master outs, and it's easiest to just run a pair of TRS patch cables from my monitor controller into the DR40. In 6 months I've gone through an entire case (something like 36) of AAs. Unrecyclable, can't throw them away. Now I now have an giant plastic box of dead batteries sitting under my aux rack, and my only option is to drive 30 minutes to a recycling center to pay to have them disposed of.

On the flip side, we can keep an iPhone XS with a multicore processor, BlueTooth, WiFi, an HD screen and a 4k camera running for 12+ hours, no problem. All it takes is a single USB cable (and Apple not intentionally crippling their own products).

What am I missing here??

With the advent of portable battery banks that can charge phones 5+ times, USB outlets everywhere... what is the point?? Is there some reason that *every* decent handheld is still built this way? Rechargeable AAs are a thing, sure, but they're expensive, prone to leakage, notoriously unreliable, and capacity goes down every time they're recharged. Plus now you're adding another charging dock plus a bunch of tiny little batteries rolling around to keep track of.

If I'm being a total idiot here and have missed the fact that there's a USB charge option for any handheld recorder with decent internal mics and A/D, please let me know and I will happily buy it and delete this thread. But as near as I can tell, within the pro audio space this doesn't exist. Can someone please fill me in as to why?

EDIT: The TASCAM DR100mkIII has an internal battery chargeable by USB. Point still stands though!

Last edited by alexbassguy; 5 days ago at 02:36 AM.. Reason: additional info
Old 5 days ago
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alexbassguy View Post
What am I missing here????
Imagining who uses these devices?

When you are in the highlands of the Sepik river in PNG, you can only buy AA and D cells.
Old 5 days ago
  #3
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bgood's Avatar
Cheap... available everywhere... liquor store in Compton.... gas station in Mosul

It’s brilliant, actually... completely independent from the electric grid. USB and all that relies on something in the being plugged into a wall at some point
Old 5 days ago
  #4
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I mean, I get that to a certain extent. But I don't think many basic users of units like these are spending much time in the remote hills of distant underdeveloped countries. I think the vast majority are recording band practices, interviews, song ideas, live shows, and other basic content that needs a quick and easy solution.

And second, even when you are in a remote location, how does one charge laptops, tablets, phones, cameras, or anything else you need for general field work? I was just in Morocco last September doing a camel trek through the northern tip of the Sahara. At all of the camps we stopped at to sleep, there were a few outlets available by way of generators so that people could do their thing. Shockingly, though, the Berbers we met were fresh out of Duracell packs.
Old 5 days ago
  #5
I'm using a MixPre 3 with a rechargeable USB C battery pack to power it. Works great, and I can get a full day out of it.
Old 5 days ago
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by conleec View Post
I'm using a MixPre 3 with a rechargeable USB C battery pack to power it. Works great, and I can get a full day out of it.
Excellent quality product for sure, I've seen those. But that then requires external mics, cables, stands, etc. which isn't ideal for true run n gun situations. Also quite a bit more expensive than the $100-$200 range of most all-in-one boxes. The thing I love about the Zooms and Tascams is that they're insanely versatile - if you want to use external mics, go ahead. If you don't, use onboard. Switchable line/DI in, headphone out, 1/8" aux in, blah blah blah.

I just don't get why it's not at least an option, or a particular model. If you love the ones that run on AAs/AAAs that's totally fine, there's a million of them out there. I'm just surprised that not one of the major players has at least one model that has a lipo on board.
Old 5 days ago
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexbassguy View Post
But that then requires external mics, cables, stands, etc. which isn't ideal for true run n gun situations. Also quite a bit more expensive than the $100-$200 range of most all-in-one boxes.
Definitely a fair point.
Old 5 days ago
  #8
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s wave's Avatar
I had a Belieau movie camera... with decent batteries... but I modded the battery container with the best of the best batteries tripling up... and I could go on filming for up to 24 hours to 48 hours with breaks... Why don't you go do something like that. If its important I think it would be easy fix...?
Old 5 days ago
  #9
Gear Nut
The Tascam dr100 does

Pertinent quote- "Dual battery structure allows the built-in high-capacity lithium-ion battery to be used along with 2 AA batteries"

DR-100MKIII | FEATURES | TASCAM - United States
Old 5 days ago
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VillageOp View Post
The Tascam dr100 does
HOHO! It does exist!! I cannot express my excitement. Thanks so much for posting that. I figured it had to exist somewhere. I'm usually pretty good about finding what I need but that particular model escaped me. A bit pricey but checks all my boxes - definitely at the top of my purchase list now. Thank you!!!

I do say my point stands though - from my perspective, this should be a much more common feature in these types of units. I know dozens of musicians and producers who use handhelds like this, and almost none of them ever take them out for real proper 'field work'. It's usually to record shows, ideas, etc. So having this feature in some more accessible units would be a good thing, methinks.

In any case, unless anyone chimes in saying it's a bad unit, it's a DR100mkIII for me!
Old 5 days ago
  #11
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why don‘t you simply use aa akkus like the eneloop ones? high quality. like many others i have dozens of them always laying around for mouses, remotes, keyboards, my wireless receiver etc. i don‘t need proprietary throw away akkus. the zooms run on usb power too. so you can use cheap powerbanks just in case. my zoom h6 without phantom power runs much longer than 6 hours with the black eneloops. i have so many devices using aa batteries. can‘t remember the last time i bought non-rechargeable ones. the eneloop ones run much longer than throw away alkalis. excuse my little rage but i just looked at my camera board with 4 different charging units, 4 different akku types and additional akkus going for astronomic prices...

Last edited by DirkP; 5 days ago at 11:33 AM..
Old 5 days ago
  #12
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springer's Avatar
 

I use my DR40 with BUS power usb. You don't need AA batteries...
Old 5 days ago
  #13
Because rechargeable lithium batteries like used in DSLR cameras are expensive.
Old 5 days ago
  #14
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Universally available
When I was a BBC staff recordist we went all over the world and the D cell was universal, now its the AA Cell
Then we were on 16mm, every remote village we went to, some Kid would have cores from Kodak 16 MM film cans and every beach had plastic bottles washed up.
Now Cornwall has no plastic on its rigorous beaches, but everybody can get AAs.
Old 5 days ago
  #15
Gear Addict
 

DR100mk3 is a good recorder for that kind of device. Even the mk2 had dual batteries. The mk3 has a normal 2AA compartment, but the LiIon is an internal flat pack. IIRC the manual even gives instructions for changing the LiIon pack, which I would expect to do in maybe 5 years.

Also IIRC, you can set the mk3 to start on either AA then switch to LiIon, or vice versa. LiIon will charge when a power adapter is connected, but not the AAs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alexbassguy View Post
HOHO! It does exist!! I cannot express my excitement. Thanks so much for posting that. I figured it had to exist somewhere. I'm usually pretty good about finding what I need but that particular model escaped me. A bit pricey but checks all my boxes - definitely at the top of my purchase list now. Thank you!!!

I do say my point stands though - from my perspective, this should be a much more common feature in these types of units. I know dozens of musicians and producers who use handhelds like this, and almost none of them ever take them out for real proper 'field work'. It's usually to record shows, ideas, etc. So having this feature in some more accessible units would be a good thing, methinks.

In any case, unless anyone chimes in saying it's a bad unit, it's a DR100mkIII for me!
Old 5 days ago
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by springer View Post
I use my DR40 with BUS power usb. You don't need AA batteries...
I swear I tried this once and it didn't work, hence this post, haha. My unit is quite old at this point (I got it when it very first came out) so maybe they added this in more recent units, or maybe mine is bunk. In any case, I will try again - if it works, that solves my problem when using it as a capture device in studio or on a gig. I will also feel like a proper idiot for this entire conversation, haha. Could also use a power bank with it in the field, but I still think it's dumb that they don't just build a lipo in. They really aren't that expensive these days.

I totally get that normal batteries were a great solution in years past for remote work. I just think that with the advent of cheap lipos, more companies would be moving to that as a solution, and units that use AA/AAAs would be in the minority. I get that they may still a good option for some people. But most of the guys I know who own these aren't using them outside of practice rooms, venues, etc. The aforementioned DR100 from Tascam has both options, which I think is great - use AAs if you want, if not, a lipo is onboard. Best of both worlds.

Thanks very much to everyone for contributing to the conversation - lots of good info.
Old 5 days ago
  #17
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Try the USB solution. When connected and turned on you should see a message asking if you want storage or USB power. Choose Usb power.

Using a cable with a right angle connector will be more resistant to being pulled out.
Old 5 days ago
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
Try the USB solution. When connected and turned on you should see a message asking if you want storage or USB power. Choose Usb power.

Using a cable with a right angle connector will be more resistant to being pulled out.
THIS. You have to choose between USB and storage- one is to get USB power, the other to transfer files.

You can also buy an AC adapter for Tascam units- I have one for my DR-70 that I use for indoor shoots.
Old 4 days ago
  #19
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JCBigler's Avatar
These small hand held recorders should start using Lithium CR123 or 18650 rechargable lithium batteries. They are becoming almost ubiquitous for anybody that works in live production or theatre, who use them in their tiny ultra bright flashlights.
Old 4 days ago
  #20
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Please, stop using disposable batteries. That’s crazy and it’s sh*t for the environment.
Get yourself some rechargeables. As already mentioned, Eneloops work great (as do other brands).
Old 4 days ago
  #21
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DirkP's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by nd33 View Post
Please, stop using disposable batteries. That’s crazy and it’s sh*t for the environment.
Get yourself some rechargeables. As already mentioned, Eneloops work great (as do other brands).
and they have nearly the capacity of lithium. they only can‘t compete with lithium in very low temperatures.
Old 4 days ago
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nd33 View Post
Please, stop using disposable batteries. That’s crazy and it’s sh*t for the environment.
I know - that's a big part of my point! I feel absolutely terrible every time I buy more of them. I will probably switch to rechargeables if I can't get the DR100 soon. They're certainly a better option than disposables. I only haven't gotten any because the rechargeable AAs I remember lose capacity every time you charge them, are more prone to corrosion and leakage, etc. The Eneloops may have gotten better by now, I hope they have. But I vividly recall trying to use some rechargeable AAs in high school and one of them popped, destroyed the charger, the other batteries and our dining room table. They were crazy expensive back then as well - $30+ for four and a charger. Ever since then I've been skeptical.

I really like the aforementioned idea of using CR123s in these, and having the unit charge the batteries over USB so you don't have to take them out and carry around a charging dock, but can swap from other gear/buy extras for when you're in the field. That's a great solution.

In other news, now I can't find the USB cable for my DR40, and no one stocks USB Mini B cables anymore. Time for Amazon... will report back if I can get USB power to work on mine. Thanks again to everyone for a good discussion here.
Old 3 days ago
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alexbassguy View Post
I know - that's a big part of my point! I feel absolutely terrible every time I buy more of them. I will probably switch to rechargeables if I can't get the DR100 soon. They're certainly a better option than disposables. I only haven't gotten any because the rechargeable AAs I remember lose capacity every time you charge them, are more prone to corrosion and leakage, etc. The Eneloops may have gotten better by now, I hope they have. But I vividly recall trying to use some rechargeable AAs in high school and one of them popped, destroyed the charger, the other batteries and our dining room table. They were crazy expensive back then as well - $30+ for four and a charger. Ever since then I've been skeptical.

I really like the aforementioned idea of using CR123s in these, and having the unit charge the batteries over USB so you don't have to take them out and carry around a charging dock, but can swap from other gear/buy extras for when you're in the field. That's a great solution.

In other news, now I can't find the USB cable for my DR40, and no one stocks USB Mini B cables anymore. Time for Amazon... will report back if I can get USB power to work on mine. Thanks again to everyone for a good discussion here.
I’ve been using rechargeables for wireless systems on all gigs for the last 10 years and haven’t had any problems with durability or capacity.
Go for it.
Old 3 days ago
  #24
Gear Guru
 
Muser's Avatar
most USB powerbanks contain 18650's. so may as well use those is my view. different USB power banks have different behaviors though. so getting ones that don't just switch off after a certain amount of time, or don't need holding a button so it knows to keep outputting, can be a different problem.
Old 3 days ago
  #25
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18650s are used in many powertool battery packs. would be great to see an audio recorder use them. It is puzzling why that hasn't happened?
Old 3 days ago
  #26
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John Willett's Avatar
 

Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by alexbassguy View Post
OK - semi-serious question. If this belongs in the Moan Zone that's fine, but I'm also genuinely asking and not just complaining here. Why do seemingly ALL decent handheld portable recorders (all of Zoom, Tascam, etc) still use exclusively AA and AAA batteries!?
Because AA batteries can be purchased anywhere - even in areas of darkest Africa or South America you can purchase an AA battery - so you can never really be shafted because you can't find a battery.

Also - R&D by battery companies is concentrated on the AA battery size - just compare the battery capacity compared to a few years ago.

So the AA size is the best to design a product around, with the AAA size as second best if you have to reduce the product size so that it's too small for an AA size.
Old 3 days ago
  #27
Gear Maniac
 

Besides the worldwide availability of "AA" and "AAA" cells...

from an design perspective, it's easier, simpler, and cheaper to design a product to use standard, disposable (or externally-recharged) "AA" or "AAA" cells, rather than implementing PROPER charge management for lithium-chemistry cells (that is to say, not just charging the cells safely, but also accurately tracking their state-of-charge so you can give the user enough warning of low charge before the battery's self-protection circuit kicks in and cuts power completely. Because of the discharge characteristics of lithium-chemistry cells, simply measuring the voltage of a cell doesn't reveal much about its SOC).

In principle, I agree with the idea of using 123 or 18650 cells -- but I would want to see manufacturers design equipment to hold two cells, charge both simultaneously when plugged into power, and allow hot-swapping of one while running on the other. I'd also want a backup option to use "AA"s. (And while we're talking about power sources... any coin cell used to maintain a real-time clock should be accessible for replacement without dismantling the recorder).
Old 3 days ago
  #28
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Muser's Avatar
if you have a recorder with a DC input which runs around 4.5V it can tend to work from a USB powerbank. you just need a USB to DC cable. I have quite a few different kinds and I run a 3rd of my gear from USB. even my lighting is mostly USB. but you can also get 1.6V rechargeable AA & AAA these days. but I'd rather use USB than 1.6V or AA and AAA if I can get away with it. which I mostly can.
Old 2 days ago
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WorldPowerLabs View Post
Bbut I would want to see manufacturers design equipment to hold two cells, charge both simultaneously when plugged into power, and allow hot-swapping of one while running on the other. I'd also want a backup option to use "AA"s. (And while we're talking about power sources... any coin cell used to maintain a real-time clock should be accessible for replacement without dismantling the recorder).
Sounds like the Sound Devices 633 is what you need:

from

633 >> Sound Devices

"Quad Power

Powered by a unique Quad Power supply with PowerSafe™ technology, the unit is operational from any of four power sources. Sources can include external DC (12-18 V), two removable 7.2 V L-type lithium ion cells, and six internal AA batteries. The 633 automatically switches from one power supply to the next when power is exhausted or removed. With its combination of power sources, the 633 can operate for a full production day on batteries alone.


PowerSafe™ Technology

When all power sources are removed or depleted, the unit’s PowerSafe™ circuitry is activated. PowerSafe™ keeps the 633 operating for up to 10 seconds and ensures that all file operations are fully closed and the unit gracefully shuts down."
Old 2 days ago
  #30
Gear Maniac
 

That is a magnificent-looking machine, and the power options (and other features) seem very well designed. It's beyond my budget at the moment, but if the price drops a bit in the future as they introduce new models... I might be able to reconsider.

Quote:
Originally Posted by apple-q View Post
Sounds like the Sound Devices 633 is what you need:

from

633 >> Sound Devices

"Quad Power

Powered by a unique Quad Power supply with PowerSafe™ technology, the unit is operational from any of four power sources. Sources can include external DC (12-18 V), two removable 7.2 V L-type lithium ion cells, and six internal AA batteries. The 633 automatically switches from one power supply to the next when power is exhausted or removed. With its combination of power sources, the 633 can operate for a full production day on batteries alone.


PowerSafe™ Technology

When all power sources are removed or depleted, the unit’s PowerSafe™ circuitry is activated. PowerSafe™ keeps the 633 operating for up to 10 seconds and ensures that all file operations are fully closed and the unit gracefully shuts down."
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