Digital recorders

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Trevor Raggatt
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Postby Trevor Raggatt » Mon Dec 10, 2007 9:19 pm

Russ Gannicott wrote:If you want a 'straight out the can' recording then use two directional mics off-axis ie at 90 degrees to each other (pointing INWARDS) about three feet apart just below ceiling level or a fott or so above head height.


As I recall, one of the minirecorders that Sue mentioned is set up with the stereo mics (elecret condensers) out front as a 90 degre crosed pair - which seems like a great idea for off the cuff field recordings. It's the Zoom H4

Image

...which probably makes it a much better bet than the H2

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...which has a very basic mic array.

I don't know the Edirol but it looks much like the H2.

Mind you, mic placement might be a pain (literally). Sue, d'you think you'll be able to keep your arm up above your head for a whole GG concert? It's bound to ache by the middle of the seond half! :wink:

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Mike Stranks
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Postby Mike Stranks » Wed Dec 12, 2007 9:02 pm

Why is it I always get to these topics so late - I know, I don't visit the site often enough!

I have had the Zoom H2 for a couple of months now and am very pleased with it. I've used it for radio interviews - with and without an external mic and for recording music - using the internal mics and through a professional mixer.

A few thoughts:
- The mics in the H2 and H4 are identical.
- The H4 has XLR external mic inputs - the professional jobbies - whereas the H2 only has a 3.5mm stereo jack.
- The H4 will give you true phantom power for condenser mics - the H2 will only give you about 1.5 volts for some of teh Sony etc mics that need an external power source.
- You get 4 mics in the H2 as opposed to 2 in the H4. With the H2, you can record in 4 different ways:
- Front mics stereo with 90 deg angle
- Rear mics stereo with 120 deg angle
- Front and rear mics combined in stereo
- Front and rear mics combined in 4 track which you can mix down to surround sound using a computer.
- Unlike the H4 you can adjust the recording level manually during recording. With the H4 you have to go into a menu.
- For musical note-taking the various auto level controls are good. In fact they're better and far less audible than a digital Nagra as used by the BBC and costing 5 or 6 times as much.
- I use rechargeable batteries - no problems.
- the H2 comes with a neat screw in handle affair (as well as its dinky tripod effort) which is shaped like a microphone so it's easy to put into a mic clip and stand.
- As with all digital recorders - including minidisc - you have to watch recording level when in manual mode, but the record red light flashes if you're overdriving so that you get a warning that you should reduce level.
- I've switched from minidisc; wouldn't switch back. Using wav format recording means no digital compression. However good your minidisc machine there will be digital compression - that's the way the format works.
- I'm using mine for recordings of voice and music which is broadcast - no complaints thus far from broadcast engineers or listeners.
- You do need a decent computer programme to make the best of these. Simple transfer via a USB and the computer 'sees' the device just like a datastick. I use the 'Goldwave' audio programme which is shareware for about £25. Others use Audacity which is free. I prefer Goldwave - maybe 'cos I'm more familiar with it than Audacity.

And to complicate things even more, in addition to all the machines mentioned there's a new one out from Marantz! Of course if you want to go £300+ then there are many more machines available. The new Fostex - about the size of a paper-back and with a professional spec - comes in at about £400 I think.

Anything else anyone wants to know then ask here or PM me.

Mike

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Sue
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Postby Sue » Wed Dec 12, 2007 10:24 pm

Hi Mike,

many thanks for all that info. We have just decided that we will go for the H2, which seems to do everything we need and is good value for money, especially if like us, you are on a restricted budget - we won't use it enough to justify spending £300 or so.

Great to find someone who has experience of using one.

The next thing is, can you tell me which memory cards you use ? We are thinking of trying recording at 96Khz /24 bit if possible ( if the sound card on our PC can cope with that ). We've seen the 4GB Sandisk Extreme III SDHC Class 6 cards for about £35. Do you think it is worth getting those rather than the Class 2 at about £18 in order to avoid sound drop out errors?

Crikey - I almost sound like I know what I'm talking about !! :shock:
Sue

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Mike Stranks
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Postby Mike Stranks » Wed Dec 12, 2007 10:48 pm

Hi Sue

I'm using a Sandisk 4.0GB SDHC Card. Don't know if it's Class 6 or not. I bought it on EBay for about £17.

I've experienced no dropouts or other funnies, although I never go above 44.1KHz/16 Bit.

I've just tweaked the H2 and at 96KHz/24Bit this card would give me a shade under two hours of recording time. The card that comes with the H2 is 512 MB. Can't remember whether its the Zoom site ot samsontech, but at least one of them gives a list of recommended cards. However, I've read on various forums that people have used other cards up to 4.0 GB with no problems.

Unless you're going to do really serious recording with your recorder I'm not sure you need to record at such a high resolution. After all, CD is only 44.1KHz/16 Bit. I'd imagine that 48Khz/24Bit would be ample. That would give you a theoretical frequency response up to 24KHz - not much happening up there apart from stuff to interest dogs and bats! Also a 24 bit word should be ample to capture the subtlest of transients and nuances.

If you're using the machine to capture sound for later heavy duty processing and creation of CDs etc then do go for a higher sampling frequency and word-length. However, in those territories you're probably beyong the capabilities of the internal mics and of anything but professional (and needing phantom power which you won't get with the H2) mics. Even if you're using an external mixer, unless it's of true professional quality then its inherent noise would take away the advantages of high sampling rates and word-lengths.

Of course, other contributors might disagree..... :-)

Mike

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Sue
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Postby Sue » Fri Dec 14, 2007 10:17 pm

So, we finally made up our minds, and went for the Zoom H2 at £135 from

http://www.musicstreet.co.uk

next day delivery, so it arrived this afternoon. 2x4gb SD cards on their way.

That's our Christmas presents to each other sorted ! :lol:

Thanks for all the very useful advice from everyone - knew you would help us decide. I'll report back later when we've had a chance to try it out, and let you know what we think of it.

Cheers,
Sue

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Mike Stranks
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Postby Mike Stranks » Sat Mar 22, 2008 9:53 pm

I know this topic has been quiet for about 3 months now, but I thought an update following six months of varied and fairly continuous use of the Zoom H2 might help some who are considering one of these recorders.

I still think it's a great machine and I wouldn't go back to minidisc which I used for about 8 years. BUT further use in professional contexts has highlighted the following:

Plus points:
1) Despite what the manual says you can adjust the recording level on the machine when using the line-in facility. I needed to connect to something with a fixed line-level output so thought I'd try adjusting levels - even though the H2 manual says you can't, you can!

2) Using all four mics in 2-channel mode and using the mono-mix setting means that you can get broadcast quality interviews very easily. (I know most people here are more interested in the music capture capabilities, but I just thought I'd throw that in.)

Minus points:
1) The external mic input is very noisy and very poor quality. I quickly discovered that even with the best of mics its unusable for broadcast quality stuff. However, the internal mics are so good that I haven't had to worry about the effective lack of an external mic facility.

2) It's very easy to overload and clip the line input - even when the meters are showing you that all is well and you still have about 3db of headroom to play with. The effect is like a brick-wall limiter and with a couple of large-ish outside broadcasts I've got away with it by the skin of my teeth. Not something I want to risk again so I'm now allowing even more headroom when connected to a mixer and then applying gain make-up when the recording is loaded into the computer for editing and other sweetening.

In summary; I still like the H2 hugely. For the price, it's incredible value for money, but if you want to do semi-pro or pro recordings then this probably isn't the machine for you.

There are new machines of this type coming onto the market all the time. Yamaha, Olympus and Tascam now have recorders in this niche. The new one from Sony - only just coming into the UK - is getting some excellent reviews - specifically for the quality of construction and the performance of its external mic inputs. The Fostex FR2-LE still seems to be the favourite in the semi-pro and pro community though - about £360 from various sources.

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Sue
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Postby Sue » Sat Mar 22, 2008 11:15 pm

Hi folks,

a friend of mine and fellow Zoom owner sent me this message today - haven't done it myself yet, but he said it was only a 5 minute job:

"Zoom have issued a System Update file for the H2. Simply download from -

http://www.zoom.co.jp/english/download/software/h2.php

Unzip the .BIN file to your SD card using a card reader. Then put card in H2, and turn on whilst holding down the PLAY/PAUSE button. Then follow onscreen prompts. Once updated, it will be version 1.30. Its really just a bit of a bugfix and adds some minor new features. Always best to keep software up to date....just like Windoze ! One point to note...only use the SD card that came with it to update, it won't work using a bigger SDHC card such as a 4gb card."

Hope this helps
Sue


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