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Aaton Cantar or Nagra VI? Recorders, Players & Tape Machines
Old 17th July 2012
  #1
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Oliver's Avatar
Aaton Cantar or Nagra VI?

Hello,
I've been involved in music production and recording on and off for the last 30 years, mostly on the lighter side of the spectrum - pop, rock, some jazz. Last year I sold my Manley+ProTools based "home-recording" setup for lack of an exciting enough "victim" to produce. Anyway ...

Recently we have gotten involved with a classical music association which will create live recording opportunities of mostly classical, but some jazz and latin performances. There is also an affiliation with a large university in town, so it seems interesting enough to get the itch to go out and waste some 'tape', so to speak.

We do not have any recording gear left, so I am prepared to write some checks and get a nice little setup that is high quality and as future proof as possible. We pretty much ruled out the laptop/interface route in light of our experiences with soft/hardware in our studio.

Now here are my questions:
1. Recorder:
From what I read here and on other web sources the 2 recorders that should deliver highest audio fidelity and reliability seem to be the Aaton Cantar and the Nagra VI. The Cantar seems to have a few features more than the Nagra - 5 mic pres instead of 4, overdub capability, DVDR onboard, endless battery life - but it costs a bit more than the Nagra and there is little to no info out there for it in music recording applications. The Nagra has a strong following on this board and it might be easier to deal with Swiss product support than with French - language-wise.

So, the question is - which would you prefer and why?
How would you extend the portable mic pre count to 8 on each of the devices?

2. Microphones:
We are thinking of getting 4 omnis first for main pair plus outriggers and supplement with cards, figure-8 etc. as we go along (if we decide for the Cantar we'll probably get 5 mics to start). We are thinking of Schoeps MK2 (there will be a lot of piano music), Josephson C617, DPA 4006TL, sE RN17. Suggestions?

Your thoughts are very much appreciated. You could also talk me out of it and save me 25k and a lot of headache

Btw, just in case you were wondering, I'm into it because of the thrill of recording exciting music - always have been ... and the odd chance of stumbling onto a gold mine, of course.

Thanks and cheers,
Oliver
Old 17th July 2012
  #2
Lives for gear
Cantar ,if you have deep pockets, for the overdub facility alone its worth it
How long has that been available ?
5 mic pres is plenty to start with.
Old 17th July 2012
  #3
I can't speak for the Cantar, since I never used it, but I can tell you that it is quite simple to record 8 mics on the Nagra VI with the right hardware. It has 4 mic/line inputs and 2 line/AES inputs. You simply have to have 4 channels of A/D conversion to AES and the ability to accept word clock sync from the Nagra if you wish to retain it as the master clock. WC facilities are a bit odd in that they are only available on a DB-9 connector, which you'll have to make a cable harness for yourself.
Old 17th July 2012
  #4
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John Willett's Avatar
 

Cool

The Cantar is excellent - but very French and very expensive.

I use the Nagra VI - with the larger battery option you get a full day recording (15 hours) and can re-charge overnight.

With the Nagra VI and EMP you get 6 channels of identical mic. pres.

With the Nagra VI + two Neumann DMI-2P you get 8 mic. channels - 4 in the Nagra VI + 4 digital mics.

Alternatively get two pairs of mic. pres with AES3 outputs.

The Nagra VI is very high quality and ergonomically excellent - I love it.

Picture is my Nagra VI with the two Neumann DMI-2Portable units.
Attached Thumbnails
Aaton Cantar or Nagra VI?-nagra-vi.jpg  
Old 17th July 2012
  #5
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Oliver's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
Cantar ,if you have deep pockets, for the overdub facility alone its worth it
How long has that been available ?
5 mic pres is plenty to start with.
It's been around for a few years. Most often seen on movie and TV sets.

Curious why it doesn't get much love from the music recording crowd. Supposed to sound fantastic. Looks very cool
Old 17th July 2012
  #6
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jnorman's Avatar
as fine as the nagra is, i would also consider a SD 788 for field work like this.

i tend to prefer a main ORTF pair of cards with omni flanks, to preserve a nice stereo image placement, rather than all omnis.

hard to go wrong with 4006s. the schoeps mk2 will do well as piano spots, but are perhaps a bit flat for mains or flanks. tlm50 might be worth a look - fabulous mics both as mains and spots. likewise for tlm170s - switchable patterns offer mucho versatility. dpa 4011s make an exceptionally nice ORTF main pair and also excellent spots for almost anything. likewise for neumann km140s. km130s or senn mkh 8020s are nice flanks.
Old 17th July 2012
  #7
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Oliver's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
The Cantar is excellent - but very French and very expensive.

I use the Nagra VI - with the larger battery option you get a full day recording (15 hours) and can re-charge overnight.

With the Nagra VI and EMP you get 6 channels of identical mic. pres.

With the Nagra VI + two Neumann DMI-2P you get 8 mic. channels - 4 in the Nagra VI + 4 digital mics.

Alternatively get two pairs of mic. pres with AES3 outputs.

The Nagra VI is very high quality and ergonomically excellent - I love it.
Awesome, thanks John! That is a VERRRY nice setup you have there. I do like the 'laboratory' aura of the Nagra.

Which mics are you using with the DMI-2Ps?

I noticed the "very French and very expensive" side of the Cantar but the additional expense to get the Nagra to 8 mic in almost makes up for the difference. (4 channels of A/D converters and 1 channel of mic pre more than on the Cantar)

Did you have some hands-on time with the Cantar as well?
Old 17th July 2012
  #8
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Larry Elliott's Avatar
Like John I use the Nagra VI with an EMP to give six channels. I have decided to limit to 6 channels for classical concert recordings. If I need more I use a console with AES out.
Old 17th July 2012
  #9
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John Willett's Avatar
 

Smile

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oliver View Post
Which mics are you using with the DMI-2Ps?
I have a pair of Neumann KM-D with a choice of a pair of KK183-D diffuse field omni heads or a pair of KK131-D nearfield omni heads.

I also have a Sennheiser MZD 8000 with a choice of MKH 8020 omnis or MKH 8040 cardioids.
Old 17th July 2012
  #10
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Oliver's Avatar
Excellent information! Thanks bunches everyone!

Still no Cantar users - maybe I should get the drift ...
Old 17th July 2012
  #11
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Plush's Avatar
Greetings Oliver,

Your quest is certainly laudable. Do it for the fun and to spread the word of good music performance.

Cantar is a movie set recording apparatus of formidable complexity and features. It is fun to read about it. However, it is vast overkill for music recording, its features break (faders and dvd drive) and as you look at it's features you can see the market it is oriented towards. I would never buy it for music recording because there are better music recording centered machines commonly available. Nagra has a USA office in Gallatin ,TN near Nashville. Cantar has some movie gear dealers in LA/CA who are handling the machine. None of the Aaton dealers know anything about music recording.

I have been an Absolute Nagrist for over 30 years and used to work for Kudelski S.A. The Nagra VI is the machine to get. The Nagra makes two recordings of your program material at once. One on a hard disk or solid state disk and another separate (the same) recording on a built in flash memory CF card.

The Nagra VI is a 6 channel recorder with 4 built in mic pre-amps. You need an outboard mic amp for channels 5+6. You use 5+6 on a "line in" mode. I never use the NVI as an eight channel machine because I am unwilling to complicate my on-location set-up with a/d converters to feed two channels. Like others, the way you work with more than 6 channels on the Nagra is you use a console.

There is no better recorder and there is no better conversion on the a/d and d/a side than the Nagra VI.

Mics are a preference item and 6 mics will do all but the largest ensemble + soloists.

A friend of mine came over last week with the new 60th Anniversary Nagra VI. It is carved out of a solid block of aluminum and is super cool. My NVI is red. They come in blue and grey too.

Buy it today.
Old 17th July 2012
  #12
Gear Maniac
 
Oliver's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
Greetings Oliver,

...

The Nagra VI is the machine to get.

...

Buy it today.
Wow, what an honor - it takes the mighty Plush to seal the deal.

The Nagra VI it is then.

May I ask which microphones you would buy as the first 4 in a collection?

Also, what is the best place to buy the Nagra VI at? Are the usual equipment discounts attainable or do they move for MSRP?

Thanks everyone for all the answers - I'll be back with more questions as we move further into the project.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
Do it for the fun and to spread the word of good music performance.
I couldn't have said it any better.

Best, Oliver
Old 18th July 2012
  #13
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boojum's Avatar
There was a shootout between the NVI and the 788T. I do not think it changed any minds. But it was very professionally done by Michael Patrick of this board and no one, NO ONE, faulted him for his approach. The differences can be described as a matter of taste. I thought they were minimal at best.

The results can be found here: https://www.gearslutz.com/board/remot...-shootout.html


One test is worth a thousand opinions.
Old 18th July 2012
  #14
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Plush's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oliver View Post
Wow, what an honor - it takes the mighty Plush to seal the deal.

The Nagra VI it is then.

May I ask which microphones you would buy as the first 4 in a collection?

Also, what is the best place to buy the Nagra VI at? Are the usual equipment discounts attainable or do they move for MSRP?

Thanks everyone for all the answers - I'll be back with more questions as we move further into the project.


I couldn't have said it any better.

Best, Oliver


Hello Oliver,

I always buy my machines direct from Nagra USA (now called Audio Technology Switzerland USA). I buy from Nancy Belt who is the general manager there. They are in Gallatin, TN, near Nashville.

Please tell Nancy that I sent you and she will give you a good price. Her tel # is: (615) 451-4168.

Here I run a house of Schoeps. So I am always recommending these mics first. I like the Schoeps CMC62H and CMC62 omni mics and I also like the
Schoeps MSTC 64 French Radio ORTF mic for main pair.

For spots it is hard to go wrong with the CMC621. For a more focused spot sound, use the CMC622.

For saving a little money still with outstanding sound, consider the Sennheiser MKH 8020 omni mics.

For real sound freaks seeking the best there is in omni mics check out the Sonodore range of omni mics. These Dutch made wonders run on 60 volts and offer a holographic omni pick up, a better dynamic range and improved stereo picture over regular 48 volt offerings.

The difference between Nagra and all other recorders is the ergonomics in use. They are simple and always reliable. One pays for reliability and one pays for it being Swiss. Always worth it.

Cordially,

Hudson Fair
Atelier HudSonic, Chicago
Old 18th July 2012
  #15
Gear Guru
 
John Willett's Avatar
 

Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oliver View Post
May I ask which microphones you would buy as the first 4 in a collection?
My top 5 are (alphabetically):- DPA, Gefell, Neumann, Sennheiser and Schoeps.

All pretty equal in quality and reliability - they just come from slightly different design angles.

I tend to use Sennheiser, Neumann and Gefell, though the others are just as good, just different.

You would be happy with mics from any of these.
Old 18th July 2012
  #16
Lives for gear
 
tourtelot's Avatar
+1 for the Sound Devices 788T! Eight great preamps, world class converters, small footprint and robust construction. It would be all the machine you would ever need and it's price would allow more of your budget for mics which are, to my mind, the more important piece of the puzzle.

FWIW, I use Schoeps, Sennheiser, Neumann and other mics, depending. These plus DPA mics are all excellent choices and you will love the way your recordings sound.

D
Old 18th July 2012
  #17
Gear Maniac
 
Oliver's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
Hello Oliver,

I always buy my machines direct from Nagra USA (now called Audio Technology Switzerland USA). I buy from Nancy Belt who is the general manager there. They are in Gallatin, TN, near Nashville.

Please tell Nancy that I sent you and she will give you a good price. Her tel # is: (615) 451-4168.
Hello Hudson,

Thank you for the hook-up with Nagra USA. I will call Nancy as soon as we are ready to pull the trigger.
(Still haven't decided which color to order - red or the shiny new 60th Anniv.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
For real sound freaks seeking the best there is in omni mics check out the Sonodore range of omni mics. These Dutch made wonders run on 60 volts and offer a holographic omni pick up, a better dynamic range and improved stereo picture over regular 48 volt offerings.
Would you use these on solo piano? There was a set of 4 Sonodores for sale recently, with the matching power supplies and pres. I think it could be had for a reasonable price. Might be a start to something good.

Thank you again for your wisdom.

Best, Oliver
Old 18th July 2012
  #18
Gear Maniac
 
Oliver's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by boojum View Post
There was a shootout between the NVI and the 788T. I do not think it changed any minds. But it was very professionally done by Michael Patrick of this board and no one, NO ONE, faulted him for his approach. The differences can be described as a matter of taste. I thought they were minimal at best.

The results can be found here: https://www.gearslutz.com/board/remot...-shootout.html


One test is worth a thousand opinions.
Thank you for posting the link - I came away with much appreciation for the wonders of determined modern technology - and for the skills of the recordists and performers involved.

Best, Oliver
Old 18th July 2012
  #19
Gear Guru
 
John Willett's Avatar
 

Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oliver View Post
(Still haven't decided which color to order - red or the shiny new 60th Anniv.)
Just remember that the 60th Anniversary edition is £1,000 / $1,600 more expensive for that lovely solid aluminium front.
Old 18th July 2012
  #20
Gear Maniac
 
Oliver's Avatar
surround for classical?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
Here I run a house of Schoeps.
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
My top 5 are (alphabetically):- DPA, Gefell, Neumann, Sennheiser and Schoeps.
Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot View Post
FWIW, I use Schoeps, Sennheiser, Neumann and other mics, depending. These plus DPA mics are all excellent choices and you will love the way your recordings sound.
D
Thanks for making my head spin ....

I was browsing the respective manufacturer websites for the appropriate pickup patterns when I stumbled over this ...

DPA - 5006-11A Surround Kit with 4006A omnis and 4011A cardioids

and

DPA - S5 Surround Mount

... and almost fell off my chair because it looks so exciting and cool.

So my question: Would it be a completely lunatic idea to start out with a dedicated surround setup for recording classical music? It seems to me that I'd get a Decca Tree up-front and the ambience from the rear mics - in theory this should sound awesome.

How would this work with the Nagra VI?

Thanks again for the guidance - I can't stress enough how much I value and appreciated it.

Best, Oliver
Old 18th July 2012
  #21
Gear Maniac
 
Oliver's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
Just remember that the 60th Anniversary edition is £1,000 / $1,600 more expensive for that lovely solid aluminium front.
It seems to be more like $1,100 more - but still

It's so purty though:

Nagra VI 60th anniversary edition
Old 18th July 2012
  #22
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boojum's Avatar
Here is the easiest and most compact SS solution at DPA: DPA Microphones :: Products
Old 18th July 2012
  #23
Gear Guru
 
John Willett's Avatar
 

Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oliver View Post
It seems to be more like $1,100 more - but still

It's so purty though:

Nagra VI 60th anniversary edition
It's £1,000 more in the UK (actually £1,200 more if you include VAT) and I just did the conversion to US$ - so it seems like a bargain in the US.
Old 18th July 2012
  #24
Gear Guru
 
John Willett's Avatar
 

Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oliver View Post
Thanks for making my head spin ....

I was browsing the respective manufacturer websites for the appropriate pickup patterns when I stumbled over this ...

DPA - 5006-11A Surround Kit with 4006A omnis and 4011A cardioids

and

DPA - S5 Surround Mount

... and almost fell off my chair because it looks so exciting and cool.

So my question: Would it be a completely lunatic idea to start out with a dedicated surround setup for recording classical music? It seems to me that I'd get a Decca Tree up-front and the ambience from the rear mics - in theory this should sound awesome.

How would this work with the Nagra VI?

Thanks again for the guidance - I can't stress enough how much I value and appreciated it.

Best, Oliver
For Surround I use the Soundfield SPS200 into the four channels of the Nagra VI which can all be ganged to a single control. Several other Nagra VI owners here have the same mic.

There is also THIS of course
Attached Thumbnails
Aaton Cantar or Nagra VI?-ina5dem.jpg  
Old 19th July 2012
  #25
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oliver View Post
Thanks for making my head spin ....

I was browsing the respective manufacturer websites for the appropriate pickup patterns when I stumbled over this ...

DPA - 5006-11A Surround Kit with 4006A omnis and 4011A cardioids

and

DPA - S5 Surround Mount

... and almost fell off my chair because it looks so exciting and cool.

So my question: Would it be a completely lunatic idea to start out with a dedicated surround setup for recording classical music? It seems to me that I'd get a Decca Tree up-front and the ambience from the rear mics - in theory this should sound awesome.

How would this work with the Nagra VI?

Thanks again for the guidance - I can't stress enough how much I value and appreciated it.

Best, Oliver
For starters you will have to buy more mic-pres because the Nagra doesn't have enough mic ins to record that rig.
Old 19th July 2012
  #26
Gear Maniac
 
Oliver's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by apple-q View Post
For starters you will have to buy more mic-pres because the Nagra doesn't have enough mic ins to record that rig.
Thanks apple-q, we are planning on either getting the Nagra EMP or, if we end up with Sonodore mics, use their battery powered pres.

Cheers, Oliver
Old 19th July 2012
  #27
Gear Guru
 
John Willett's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oliver View Post
Thanks apple-q, we are planning on either getting the Nagra EMP or, if we end up with Sonodore mics, use their battery powered pres.

Cheers, Oliver
The Nagra EMP has exactly the same mic. pre-amps as are in the Nagra VI and is therefore a perfect match.

The EMP can be powered by internal batteries or from the Nagra VI with a Hirose cable.

I use the EMP withy Nagra VI.
Old 19th July 2012
  #28
Lives for gear
 

Quite pointless to argue which is better, Cantar or Nagra VI, when the right answer is Sound Devices 788. 8 great preamps, great converters, solid and compact build. Much cheaper than Cantar, about the same price as Nagra. No need for clumsy add-ons like with Nagra VI.

Mics: do not forget Microtech Gefell. My M950 wide cardioid pair is my favorite stereo pair on almost everything. One interesting mic I also have is the Soundfield SPS200 which was already mentioned, but you have to read the lengthy thread about it and are prepared to do some EQ. Sennheiser MKH80X0 series (mostly 8020 omni and 8040 cardioid) is also worth considering as the main workhorses, slightly cheaper than DPA and Schoeps, but they put up a good fight against any studio SDC.
Old 19th July 2012
  #29
Gear Guru
 
John Willett's Avatar
 

Talking

Quote:
Originally Posted by Petrus View Post
Quite pointless to argue which is better, Cantar or Nagra VI, when the right answer is Sound Devices 788. 8 great preamps, great converters, solid and compact build. Much cheaper than Cantar, about the same price as Nagra. No need for clumsy add-ons like with Nagra VI.
Yes, the 788T is a great film recorder - small, runs hot, and is good.

But for music, I would use a Nagra over the 788T any day.

Horses for courses - 788T for film, but people who record music do tend to go for the Nagra VI over the 788T - and the ergonomics of the Nagra are much better.
Old 19th July 2012
  #30
Lives for gear
Not convinced John
However the new overdub facility with the Cantar really is a plus.
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