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Hi guys,

I've read through all the threads on the portable recorders on here, and some have seen revisions or are simply outdated. I'm looking for the best sounding hand-held recorder for easy stereo ambiances - don't need mic inputs. I know the Sony PCM-50 is prob the best sounding, but that is out of my budget. I'm wondering if anyone has any experience with the Tascam DR-07 MKII or the Zoom H2n? I'm sort of in-between these two but not sure of the quality (bear in mind I am an amateur). Both of these are relatively new and I can't find many (if any) samples on them. I'm off to Morocco soon and would like something small to hold and grab some noises.

EDIT: I've just ordered a Tascam DR-40. Was going to go with the Dr-07 and this seems the same with added combo jacks. Thanks for all the answers - will post a review of the uni when I get it as it is just released.

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The Tascam DR-40 is on sale for $200 here: soundprofessionals.com/cgi-bin/gold/category.cgi?category=9016 (and no, I don't work for them!) –  Utopia Sep 29 '11 at 4:07
    
@Julian - Do I get a commission if you bought it at Sound Professionals? XD –  Utopia Nov 17 '11 at 4:11
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7 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

How about looking at the Sony M10. It's built like the D50 (which I have and love), the battery life is awesome and the sound quality is fantastic (much better than the H2n!). It's only slightly larger than a pack of cards so will easily slip in your pocket. I would definitely get yourself a 'fluffy' wind cover (Rycote, Redhead etc, personally I stick with Rycote).

EDIT: I have found this good article comparing the M10 and the H4n http://bgilbertsound.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/the-sony-pcm-m10-vs-zoom-h4n/

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If you're just starting and are considering the D50 for quality and the H2n for size, I think SiAudio's got a great suggestion. The H2's quality is pretty so-so, especially for diffuse ambiences, and the D50 is pricey (worth it, though!) and great quality but larger and heavier. The M10 just might split that difference perfectly for you. –  NoiseJockey Sep 29 '11 at 13:51
    
You got something against redheads?!?! (I have red hair. hehe) –  Utopia Sep 29 '11 at 17:47
    
I have no hair!! hehe. –  Si Charles Sep 29 '11 at 20:38
    
What about your picture?! –  Utopia Sep 29 '11 at 21:53
    
Utopia, do I really need to answer that? hehe –  Si Charles Sep 30 '11 at 7:16
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Roland R-26 received and I've done some first very short tests in noisy surroundings, i.e. at home with kids playing and TV on in another room... I did simultaneous recordings with Sony M10 and Roland R-26

Important part first, SOUND:

The very first high gain recordings with the internal mics did not compare to well with the Sony M10 regarding noise. But I'll have to get better at setting the levels comparatively correct (otherwise the noise comparison will not be close to fair or even remotely usable as a comparison to make a real evaluation. And the SonyM10 is only beaten in noise floor by its larger and more expensive brother D50. All other recorders using the internal mics are noisier than those two models.

I had really high hopes for it, and I still think it sounds quite good, but I dont think it will really be the D50 killer I had hoped for. The omnis sound full and nice, they have a lot more high end and slightly less low end than the Sony, but I think they are noisier then the Sony ones. The XY mics have impressive stereo separation and a very narrow angle (incorrect english: they feel more like hyper cardioid then tomatoes...) but they are quite a bit noisier than the omni's at the high sens setting. They are also very sensitive to noise and physical handling of the unit.

But here's the interesting bit... When changing to mid or low sensitivity and actually recording at more "sensible levels" the difference is a lot less between the two units, the R-26 might even have less noise at those levels...

Realistically I would not use the internal mics to record really low level sounds anyway.

IN USE: Easy to use. After quickly browsing the manual online a few days ago I could quite easily find all the relevant menus and settings, I have yet needed to look at the manual. Moving and renaming files etc is quite easy, but feels a bit archaic and old school compared to modern tech like an iphone. OTOH it can do stuff that no other handheld portable recorder can. No manual setting of the individual level of the XY mics compared to the omni's. No big deal as they are physically close enough to give similar levels anyway. Additional drawback: its not possible to use the omnis and the plugin powered input at the same time as they share mic amps. When recording several channels there is a separate (software) monitor section allowing you to chose what tracks to listen to and how to mix them to the phones output. The round level "faders" are smooth and easy to adjust while recording without introducing any noise (but handling noise).

I didn't have any proper mics at home but will do some more tests at work tomorrow. Sennheiser mkh 40 should do as a pretty decent low noise reference mic.

This is a very first reflection and I'll try to write up something proper in a day or two.

I like it a lot but am yet to be totally convinced if its the best solution for my needs. It will very much depend on how the main mic amps sound with external microphones. The internal mics are good but perhaps not great.

Now, time for some outdoor night time ambience recording :-)

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OK, I recorded some pretty bland outdoor ambience, a light breeze and some distant traffic in my back yard. I recorded with both the Sony and XY and omnis. And I have to say that while the directional character of the XY's is strong the sound it makes isnt so. The M10 still had the best depth and charachter of the three alternatives at hand. The Roland omni's wasnt at all bad, just not quite as well defined somehow, it was a little easier to pick out the different way-distant elements on the M10 recording than on the R26 omnis. –  ErikG Oct 13 '11 at 21:28
    
The R26 XY mics really left a lot to wish for. Pretty poor definition only a little depth and to much noise. I so much want to like this recorder that I will give it a few more days of testing and I also need to test the other inputs tomorrow. But so far i'm not too impressed with the most important part: the sound of the mics and pre's. –  ErikG Oct 13 '11 at 21:28
    
that blows...I was hoping to pull the trigger on that one, but your review is holding me off –  GMatijas Oct 20 '11 at 18:50
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Get a D50 second hand, they often appear on ebay and it is a well built unit, so you should be fine with a 2nd hand one.

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@Daan none on ebay, unfortunately. –  Julian Sep 28 '11 at 21:45
    
@ Julian, put up a saved search with email reminder, they appear often –  Daan Hendriks Sep 28 '11 at 23:05
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Yeah, the D50 is great! I haven't used the Tascam, but I have had pleasant results with the Zoom H2n

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@danflosdorf You must have got the H2n fairly recently then? Any ambiance samples you could share? Any comments on the self noise? thanks! –  Julian Sep 28 '11 at 21:46
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I like my zoom h4n. I think it works great when you have the levels set right no surprise there. But the screen is a little small so getting the meters right takes a little bit more effort. You have the option of 90 degree stereo imaging and 120 degrees so thats a plus. I'm satisfied with everything that comes from it, but I have wanted to kick myself during playback for low leveling. Who hasnt'?

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I don't know if it's the same for the H4 but on my H2n, I can go up into the red on the H2n and in Pro Tools I've still got like 3 dB of headroom. It's like a car alarm to me - I don't take heed of the indicator that something bad might be happening. –  Utopia Sep 29 '11 at 4:10
    
Yeah, I guess it is like that then but since you can't really see how far into the red it goes its hard to set. At the end of the meter the peak indicator box goes from empty to black and if you peak once during a recording and stays black until you stop recording. –  Britt Sep 29 '11 at 17:06
    
I did have to get a dead kitten to block the wind –  Britt Sep 29 '11 at 21:53
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Sorry for marching in with another question, but did any of you have had any experience with either the Roland R-26 or the Korg MR-2? They look very promissing.

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I had the MR-1 and loved it until the battery died. But with the price of the MR-2 around the $699 mark, I would go with the Sony D50, which is approx the same price. In my opinion the 1Bit audio recording on the MR recorders is pointless and uses way to much space, you have to convert down to use it in any DAW anyway so I never saw the point in recording with the 1bit formats. Perhaps in the future IF DAW's support that format it will be useful, but I don't think they will ever support it. The fact that no other manufacturer is making 1bit recorders should tell you something!! –  Si Charles Oct 1 '11 at 9:12
    
Not yet, but after hearing some excerpts and chatting with a guy that tested it briefly it sounds like it COULD be a D50 killer. So I just ordered one. Not inexpensive, but if it is an equal to a D50 with six tracks, proper XLR's I think it will be awsome. If not, I have a 30 day return time with full refund :-) I ordered mine a www.thomann.de. Always decent prices (often lower than anyone else, but not this time, same price everywhere I looked in europe, give or take a few €) with 30 day return policy and three year warranty. –  ErikG Oct 10 '11 at 20:13
    
Are you talking about the Roland r-26? –  GMatijas Oct 18 '11 at 4:14
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Hi, I got a Roland R-26 and I've used it for two weeks. Well, I'm pretty happy about my choice, I think that fot that money it gives you more that you pay. I've used it in different occasions with different set-ups.

  • Internal mics: this configuration is very usefull and easy to use. I don't really understend what the two OMNI mics are there for, but the XY mics are well calibrated and works great. I'm telling that about the OMNIs because they are like an A-B rec but they are too cole for a real a-b recording. I'm afraid that you could have mono-compatibility problems. With XY you can be secure that you'll not have MONO problems.
  • External mics: I'tried to use the same microphones (Sennheiser MKH 416 and Neumann 81) passing through an "AUDIO" mixer and through the R-26 pre to have a comparative idea. Well...the internal Pre are noisy. More or less like the H4n pre. Maybe the Roland's are a little bit better, but they still remain low level pre. (In my opinion it's obvious, at that price!!). Passing through the external mixer and using the line input the recording is absolutely silent. So if you can, use an external mic.

What about rooting options, touch screen and knobs? Fantastic, everything can be used in a very simple and rapid way. About that I think that Roland has made the best entry level recorder.

So...my conclusions is: Roland R-26 is a good buy, but always remember how much you paid it, never ask him too much. Don't try to make a field recording with gain at maximum level and expect to do not hear the pre's noise. It's made very well and it has a very light weight. Buy it!

ps: I paid it 380 euros.

bye!

Francesco

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