Sound Devices 702 by Arthur Stone
The SD702 is a fully-featured digital field-recorder designed to capture high-fidelity audio in hostile environments - deserts, tundra, rainforest, mountains, wet beaches in Wales, etc. so it should be OK in my home studio where it's mainly used as a preamp and digital converter. Sound Devices was founded in 1998 with the aim of making 'field-production audio products that improve our customers work life.' The 702 is the most basic of the 7-series range which include 4- and 8-track recorders with timecode facilities. Since the 702's release in 2006 the company have continued to excel in cutting-edge product development and support for existing products.
Initially I figured the 702 was out of my price range but the market for quality portable recorders was, at that time, quite limited; what's a Gearslut to do? Even now with a glut of good-quality portable recorders on the market I'm not feeling envious or missing out on any features. Sound Devices products are equipped for the future and robust enough to make it there.
The unit is the size of a thick paperback and roughly the same weight as a bag of sugar. It's constructed of stainless-steel and aluminium with 11 rubberised push buttons, 2 pop-out metal gain pots, an LCD display screen and 64 indicator LED's on the front panel. The front panel butttons and display are backlit and the brightness can be adjusted; the LED's can also be adjusted and this is handy for use in bright sunlight or a dark studio. The rear panel has a slot for a Compact Flash card for the operating system settings and (audio) file storage, also a secure slot for the battery. The unit can be powered from mains by the supplied adapter and this will also charge the battery.
The side panels offer the connections in and out. On the left panel 2 high-quality XLR input connectors offer dual-function input: an active-balanced mic/or line input, or a two-channel transformer-balanced AES3 input. An analogue TA3 output with selectable source and attenuation, (-10dBv) tape out; and headphone out with level dial, complete the left panel.
The right panel offeres a menu select rotary switch; AES3id or S/PDIF in and out on BNC connectors; word clock in and out; C:link ethernet in and out; firewire port and a power in socket.
Each of the components is of the best quality and the unit has excellent design and ergonomics making it a pleasure to operate.
The 702's onboard firmware is upgradeable; just hook up to a computer via firewire and drop the new file into the 702's folder...couple of button presses and your done. Sound Devices also offer Wave Agent File Utility software for playback, simple editing, metadata input, and file conversion. It took me a couple of weeks to get to grips with the menu but it's so easy to start recording from the word go; new features and fixes are added with software updates and the support gives the impression that the 702 is an evolving piece of technology. There is also a great website and forum.
It's a simple matter of connecting the necessary cables and switching the unit on then setting up via the display screen. The menu is easy to operate via the controls and there is ample feedback via the display, signal LED's and LED level meters. The menu has 87 options and some buttons and rotary switches are programmable. The level of customisation is impressive.
The preamps are astonishing - both clarity and headroom...the noise floor is really great for the studio but comes into it's own when recording quiet sounds/samples or for field recording e.g. insects and soft natural sounds. I'm just starting filmmaking so the extra gain will come in handy for location recording.
The preamps don't impart any tone or 'character' even when driven to the max - at least compared to any other preamp I've used which are mainly budget; anyway, they are in a league of their own. Currently I run the outputs of a BAE1073mpf into the line inputs of the SD702 and then via S/PDIF to the DAW; this gives me top-notch A/D conversion which captures the sound of the BAE perfectly. On some sources (e.g. samples, percussion, backing/fx vocals) I prefer to use the 702 preamps. The great advantage is that I can use these preamps anywhere; this is totally portable and doesn't need a mains power source. Great for gigs and field recording.
Spare parts can be expensive e.g. the power supply is around £100 in UK; the set-up presets are limited. That's it.
An outstanding piece of technology - useful, reliable, faithful, beautiful. What more could one want?
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702 Portable Audio Recorder | Sound Devices, LLC