October 19, 2014 at 9:18PM

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Best audio recorder - anything close to Sound Devices 702?

Hello everyone,
I'm a novice filmmaker (one full-length feature, soon to start on next), and I am looking for a very good audio recorder. I currently have the Tascam HD-P2, but it is very insensitive with the mics I use (Schoeps hyper and subcardioids, Sony and Sennheiser shotguns, Shure SM81s). I suppose I could add some preamps, but thinking that an all-in-one good, sturdy recorder would be better. Is there anything out there that's even close to the reported quality of the SD 702? I would also use this for the occasional classical concert.

5 Comments

As far as I know nothing cheaper comes close to the Sound Devices recorders, but you can get amazing quality by using a Sound Devices mixer with almost any good quality audio recorder.

I've been using a Sound Devices MixPre mixer for many years now ( which I since upgraded to the MixPre-D model ) by feeding the LINE level output to either a Tascam DR-40 or Sony PMC-M10 recorder. The weak link is the recorder, but you can still get very good quality from this combination.

I am thinking of buying one of the new Tascam DR-60D Mk2 DSLR recorders to use with my Sound Devices MixPre-D, as Tascam has reworked the audio circuitry which I am hoping has improved the noise-floor. ( Tascam recorders normally have a noise-floor around -75 to -80 dB RMS which is quite good, so I'm hoping this new recorder takes it down another 10 dB or more )

There's also a new Tascam DR-70 DSLR recorder with 4 XLR inputs and the same higher quality audio circuitry that is expected to sell around $300.

If you can't afford a Sound Devices recorder, then a SD mixer combined with a good quality recorder is the next best thing.

October 20, 2014 at 6:05PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32369

Thanks, Guy, that's a great suggestion. Might improve my current Tascam HD-P2.

Harry Goldhagen

October 20, 2014 at 8:59PM

Well, I have to differ with the idea of using a sounddevices mixer as only option, it is certainly I agree a good option. I am most definitely an audio guy and a video guy. Any notoriety I have is as an audio guy altho I am involved making movies every day. I think technique in audio trumps equipment every day. Noise floor doesn't mean that much when mixed in with music, dialog, sound efx. Most people also don't have pristine audio playblack to watch movies with. So most likely anything that you get that can record good sound will be fine. It is unlikely if you buy or rent a Sounddevices recorder that it will sound ANY better than buying a Tascam or Zoom recorder. I think in general any digital recorder will work for you given that you have an external microphone and many have built in microphones that work well for dialog. What concerns me more and I think way more important is ergonomics. I just gave away an m-audio digital recorder that is old, works basically just as good now, but at my age I cannot see the smaller lcd. I use a Tascam dr100mk2 and Tascam 680 in the field, but any of the commonly used digital recorders will do. What makes a difference is getting that microphone either built in or external close to the audio source, the farther away, the more room sound you get. This is true no matter how expensive the recorder is. The ergonomics are how does it fit your hand? or how easy is it to see your meters? if recording live music, does it have a limiter? how easy is it to change settings? Being a Man that was born in the early 50s with very large hands, my choices were based on these facts. I am more comfortable with buttons than menus. however if you have smaller hands and are much younger, you may find menus your forte. I would not be concerned with a more expensive recorder as likely there will be more benefit to you. When your experience dictates that you are not satisfied with what you are using and salivate after more expensive gear for specific reasons, then that is time to buy the expensive stuff. However in my work, no one knows how expensive the recorder is, it is impossible to tell.

November 25, 2014 at 1:05PM

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>>>I have to differ with the idea of using a sounddevices mixer as only option, it is certainly I agree a good option.

I've owned almost two dozen recorders and mixers over the past 10 years ( including the Tascam DR-100 Mk2 which I later sold because I just wasn't using it ), and I have to say that there IS a sound quality difference when comparing my Sound Devices mixer against any of my other gear. It's definitely more than the extremely low noise-floor. If I had to describe the difference, I would say that the Sound Devices preamps produce a fuller more natural sound. Even my Fostex DC-R302 mixer/recorder which sounds quite good all by itself, but when compared directly to the Sound Devices mixer, the SD mixer produces better and more "accurate" sound.

I agree that you can produce excellent audio with less expensive gear provided you know what you are doing, but if you've got the budget for a Sound Devices mixer or even a used Sound Devices MM-1 mic preamp ( as low as $300 on eBay ) they are a very good investment. SD mixers are built like a tank, they keep there resale value, and they produce outstanding sound when used properly.

...And lastly, low noise-floor can be a big issue when you accidentally record at too low a level and have to boost your audio by 20 dB or more in post, and suddenly you are hearing the actual noise-floor of the recorder. Where using a high performance preamp like the type the Sound Devices gear uses, to feed signal to your recorder, may completely save the day. For example the noise-floor difference between using a SD mixer with a Tascam DR-100 Mk2 recording LINE level and using the DR-100 Mk2 all by itself to amplify the mic signal can be as much as a 30 dB LOUDER noise-floor. ( i.e. -80 dB with the SD mixer versus -50 dB without the SD mixer )

December 7, 2014 at 7:23PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32369

Like most things, it really depends on your needs. I agree that there is little out there like a Sound Devices recorder/mixer - durability / sound quality / portability. If that is indeed in your price range but feel you're not getting enough for you money, the Tascam HS-P82 is a product that has been converting Sound Devices owners for the shear value of what you get for the money.

To come back to you original problem though, if your not getting good levels out of your recorder from your mics then I would consider two possibilities, A) there is something wrong with your HD-P2 pre-amps (since the gain and noise-floor is actually rated pretty good for that device) or B) your mics are simply not sensitive enough. I realize that suggesting your mics are simply not sensitive enough could sound rather silly, but a while ago I was testing out my own audio recorder solution for my Rode NTG-2 shotgun microphone. I was trying to decide between a Tascam DR-680 and a Fostex FR-2LE, both excellent budget recorders with powerful pre-amps, and what I ended up getting was the less expensive Tascam DR-40 and Rode NTG-3. I found the pairing of the slightly more sensitive pre-amp with a lower end shotgun did not even come close to the sensitivity and quality of an of the DR-40 paired with the amazing NTG-3. In the end, the cost ended up being very close between the two setups. Anyway, to be sure that your pre-amps are working, you should test you microphones with a different pre-amp like the ones in a regular "home studio" audio mixer. Perhaps a local music store? Check to see if you are getting the same amount of gain vs. noise floor.

December 14, 2014 at 7:09AM, Edited December 14, 7:09AM

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Stefaan Sorensen
CEO / Creative Director
86

I didn't really want to do audio I just sort of fell into for a while it because it paid better than free or scale acting gigs but I did too good of a job and got known as an audio guy more than an actor so I quit the audio... then somehow I started directing hip hop videos... which I really didn't want to do either but the pay was a lot better. Made money off Trumpet Dinopup youtube channel for a while till google screwed me but anyway I'm getting off point. Audio is the most important thing in the movie besides script and actors because the movie doesn't mean shit if you can't clearly hear everything - unless you're going back to title cards. The best combo I ever heard was a very high end sanken cs3e going directly into a sound devices 702. You could hear a feather on skin. The preamps and headphone amp going out to sony 7606s were just amazing. That being said my 702 got busted got busted and I have done movies on a Zoom h4n and no one but me knew the difference and it's x y stereo on board mics are great for capturing room tone and ambiance. I need more inputs than the 702 though and I'm not spending almost 6k for there 6 input mixer recorder so I think I am going to go with the new Most likely I will go with the new Tascam - DR-680MKII when it comes out. The regular 680 had great preamps so I can only imagine it will be better and your spending $600 rather than $6000 for something that only a miniscule audiophile would be able to detect - if he could. Remember Star Wars was shot on old noisy tape nagras. Dialogue is mostly the mic, the skill of the boom op, and then the skill of the editor in applying correct compression to bring it to the right point in the movie mix where it sounds like hollywood movies. Bejnjamin Button was shot almost all with the Sanken cs3e because brad pitt talks so low and the rejection on the mic is one of the best -it's almost magical and my go to mic.

April 6, 2015 at 8:10PM

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Michael Biggins aka Blackout
Actor / Writer / Director / DP / Sound Mixer & Editor
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