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Is the PCM D50 really woth twice the price compared with the M10? I want them for recording ambiences, birds, waterfalls, animals...

Is there such a big diference with the internal mics or not (noise floor) ? I don't really want the digital input on the D50 so...

Anybody ever tryed to compare them?

Thank you very much.

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I purchased the M10. But when I was comparing the differences between the M10 and the D50, I was looking at them as solid-state 2-track recorders, not as microphones. In my mind the M10 was the winner. I saved $200 that went towards more gear in my rig that was better designed and more practical for the situations I was hoping to capture.

The M10's a good pocket recorder that's convenient to have with you every day in case you hear something awesome in your travels that you have to record right then. However, you are looking to specifically go out and record "ambiences, birds, waterfalls, animals..." in stereo, and I wouldn't trust either the M10 or the D50 to handle those tasks on their own.

For those kinds of planned recording trips I went out and purchased a SD MixPre. This provides phantom power and XLR inputs allowing you to use any microphones you desire / can afford in a proper stereo configuration. The difference is substantial. Connection between the two is via the MixPre's 1/8" Tape send /rtn and the M10's line in / headphone out.

Now I have the best of both worlds, a convenient pocket recorder, and a well-engineered field mic-pre that allows me to use professional microphones in a proper setup.

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WingfieldAudio.com has extensive reviews of several handheld sound recorders, including the D50 and the M10. Most interestingly, they have side by side recording sample tests that you can use for comparison.

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I haven't used the D50, but I had a M10 and realized what makes the price difference between those.

In terms of circuits, the M10 sounds good/balanced and clean. It (and the Sony range) must be the best sounding and cleanest in portable recorders, until you spend a lot more money.

However, the more important difference is in how the microphones are implemented. The M10 has two omnis in a fixed angle. This is not a "known standard" for stereo micing (I think M10 is the only portable recorder with this kind of configuration) and you can hear it, the sound field in stereo is narrow and the sound is unfocused and blurry (because of the omni patterns). I sold the M10, because I thought it was unusable for recording stereo that sounds "correct" and focused.

The D50 has two cardioids in adjustable "XY". I guess it would solve the problems the M10 has in its stereofield, which are very obvious when recording ambiences.

I think the M10 internal mics aren't for the pro audio market (the D50 mics "could" be), but rather for reporting and taking notes.

  • That is simply not true. M10 have both pip mic input and a good line input. The D50 otoh does NOT have support for external microphones. But yes the D50 internal mics are more useful in a stereo recording, but then the M10 internal omni mics are THE built in mics with the lowest noise floor of all hand holds as far as I know, so you can cully record low level sounds with the M10 without excessive noise. For a two channel recorder in my opinion getting one (or two) M10 is a no-brainer IMHO. Just add a good set of pip mics for improved stereo recording. Or add a SD preamp and a MS setup. – ErikG Jan 16 '13 at 21:08
  • Me and my memory... Above statement that d50 doesn't have external inputs is incorrect. I mixed it up with the older PCM D1 – ErikG Jan 16 '13 at 21:15
  • Umm, yeah they both do have mic inputs. But they are of some low-power Sony-exclusive type, so "PIP" I guess. Anyways, it doesn't carry standard phantom power. I thought it would work with battery-powered mics, but strangely it didn't work with Rode NTG-2. So one needs an external phantom power box at a minimum. And a custom 3,5mm->XLR adapter for mono recording, if you want the device to record on both channels rather than just Left or Right (because it only records stereo files and the input is a stereo input). Removed the notion regarding the mic input from my message. – Internet Human Jan 16 '13 at 23:47
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Stereo effect is highly dependent on placement of microphones. Even a great microphone can have poor stereo if it is not in the right spot.

If you experiment, you might be surprised.

To me, the great problem with most stereo microphones is the difficulty in going to mono.

MS stereo solves this (I use an ECM-989 or 999).

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"Head to head" internal mic recording test of Sony M-10 vs. D-50.

I have owned a D-50 for about 8 years, purchased the moment it came out and used about twice a week. I did have a period of non-use but stored it with fresh batteries and did not get the "dead" problem I've read about. I've owned an M-10 for about 2 years and used it occasionally.

I'm considering buying another Sony as backup, so I tested the two recorders yesterday. I set them side by side almost touching on a pad on a raised surface - hard to get two tripods close enough. I spent awhile adjusting the recording levels to hit "over" at the same volume.

I then stood in front of them and talked and played a bit on a high end Martin guitar.

I downloaded the recordings to my computer so I could compare through the same electronics. I listened to the M-10 first, since that is the one I wanted to buy. Sounded very good. Then I listened to the D-50 and at the first spoken words I heard I was amazed how much more natural I sounded. Wow, I guess I need to fork over for another D-50.

Unfortunately, Sony stopped making the D-50. I remain unconvinced that the D-100 adds anything I need at it's higher price. Well, perhaps the mics might be better, but I don't have one to try. So I'm afraid I need to look at the used market, always a gamble and no warranty.

By the way, as a side thing I tested with two identical low quality external "T" mics from a couple of M-Audio Microtrack recorders. Both Sony's asked about PIP (mic power) and I chose to use it (needed with those mics). Then I repeated the test after switching mics just in case the mics were not identical.

I found that the recording levels had to be turned up quite a bit. The two recordings on the D-50 sounded the same - muffled and noisy, poor quality. For some reason the recordings on the M-10 would not play. Perhaps I made some error (twice). Just tried a quick talk recording and it played this time, so inconclusive.

Other comments: I particularly noticed that the D-50 offered a switch for both limiter and low filter, no menu scrolling needed. Importantly, the record level knob had contrasting color numbers that could be easily read from a distance, looking down. The M-10 had the record level numbers on the side, stamped, very hard to see, and the limiter etc. were buried in the menus. I record our own performance and other's, when I need to tweak the record level I want to see if I'm going the right way. Hate the M-10 stamped/cast dial numbers.

The D-50 track marks are really there, with no noise or pauses, and when downloaded they show as separate files.

The M-10 track marks are flag markers that only show on the recorder unless you go through the menu and upgrade them. This to me is a minus but for some it could be a plus - you can adjust the track marks later but it requires editing on the machine. I'm sure I remember in the past being disappointed that the track marks had a skip in the sound, vs. the D-50 sonically invisible track marks.

Minor thing but the D-50 headphone volume control has a rotary dial (I prefer it), vs. the rocker on the M-10. A minor negative on the D-50 is the mini USB inserts upside down, with the wide side towards the screen instead of away from the screen. Both models use the mini USB format, which in my experience (not theory) is much stronger than the micro.

Somewhere on a recording I made yesterday on the M-10 there was a digital fluke, some waver in the recorded sound. I don't like that. I do like that it will record for an incredibly long time with a 16GB card, I ran it all night once outdoors recording coyotes while I slept, still going strong in the morning with battery power still available.

Edit: After posting this I ordered a "buy it now" used D-50 from eBay, I noticed Amazon had some as well, but mine had a lower price. Hope it's a good one.

I'll also mention that I tossed a valuable recording on the M-10 because I used the automatic recording level - it sets way too low of a level, giving a terrible signal to noise level. I'll never use the auto level "feature" again, set your level manually and rely on the limiter for spikes.

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I have used external PIP mics to overcome the dull stereo performance of the internals. Primo EM172 omni electrets in AB config (I suspect many others here use these) helps a lot. Supposedly, this is the same brand and type as the M10's internals actually - very quiet (good enough for even rather quiet outdoor ambiences). And very cheap...

  • Sorry I don't know what these PIP mics are. Can you tell me a bit more how you work with them and if the results were good? Everybody seems to agree that M10 omni mics are not good for foucus stereo recordings... and is what I would like to get so... – Ian Jan 17 '13 at 9:14
  • PIP stand for Plug In Power, and is basically a sort of "poor-man's-phantom power" seen on a lot of (consumer) portable recorders. Anywhere between 1 to 5 volts are supplied to any external electret mics connected to the recorder (on the M10, when you insert a minijack into the external mic socket, you are prompted as to whether you want to turn it on). Quality of mics vary, but the Primo EM172 omnis I use, seem pretty good and quiet. Those came as a DIY solution, but there would be plenty of ready-made ones out there too - often sold as binaural mics, so google that. – christiancoriolis Jan 21 '13 at 21:47
  • Oh, and I don't know what you mean by "focused stereo recordings"? But anyway, with my mics, I have enough cable on them to put them a few feet apart, which certainly makes for richer and wider stereo recordings - perhaps as truthful a perspective as other stereo techniques? It depends on the application I guess. But for the money, DIY PIP mics can't be beat. I got mine from FEL Communications in the UK. – christiancoriolis Jan 21 '13 at 21:50
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Even the SONY Mics are not that great for ambience. I just did a test using the SONY internal and external mics (Roland CS10EM) and you can listen to the results and download 96KHz/24bit files from my blog.

http://hybridsoundworks.com/?p=1977

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