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I'm stuck deciding between a Zoom H2n and a Sony PCM-M10 for doing recordings on the go at random if an interesting sound comes up. This will be for building a portfolio for sound design, not for a professional studio so I don't need the best of the best. I don't need any inputs because if I need higher quality mics, I would just bring my duet 2 and a mic. Anyone with experience with one or the other, or both?

Also, I know that these are stereo mics (M10 being omni), and for sound design if I'm recording any sort of one shots that are going to be mono, won't there be phase issues if I take the stereo file recorded on the Zoom or Sony and sum it to mono? I want to be able to use interesting sounds I find in both stereo and mono depending on the source I catch, but I'm afraid that the summed to mono files will introduce phase =(

Thanks ahead of time for any help!

  • Sort of answered the phase issue myself, I guess XY wouldn't cause phase issues when summed to mono because their phase wouldn't be different, yet for a spaced pair that would obviously introduce issues. I could go for a Zoom H4n to record samples in XY and MS and have a mono and stereo version of each sample! Hmmmmm... – Andrew Aug 23 '13 at 1:13
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I was in the same boat a couple of months ago and after a lot of research I went with Sony PCM-M10, because it's a much quieter recorder than the Zoom so it works a lot better for ambience recordings, it's also sturdier which is a plus to carry it around everywhere you go. Plus it has true line input as opposed to the High-Z input from the Zoom incase you ever want to plug a preamp to it.

As far as mono compatibility what I do is I point one of the two mics to the source I want to record and then I just use that channel and discard the other, no need to sum.

  • @Gus Makes sense about the mono, so you basically take the stereo wav and take the "mono" side that you pointed at the source into a mono track? Also, I'v heard the M10 has a much worse stereo image than others due to the omni mics. I'm a little worried about that =( – Andrew Aug 23 '13 at 22:28
  • yes exactly, just split the stereo into two mono files and use the one closest to the source... I think the stereo image is fine on the M10, but the biggest selling point for me was the low noise floor. On this link you can hear samples of both recorders wingfieldaudio.com/portable-recorder-sound-samples.html And below there's a button for "Noise floor samples". Check it out! – Gus B Aug 24 '13 at 21:25
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Plenty of good opinions here! I'm just going to pitch in that to my ears, it doesn't matter what features or mic configurations the Zoom H2n offers – because the quality of the microphones is poor. I've heard plenty of speech recordings rendered unusable by its harsh high frequencies and high mids. On paper, it looks amazing, but in practice I just don't know if I'd really be able to use it that often.

And on the other hand, I haven't used the Sony PCM-M10 for very much with its onboard microphones. I have, however, used it to record from a field mixer and it's absolutely perfect for it; far more handy than my old Marantz PMD-620, my Zoom H4n or my Tascam DR-40. But the absolute killer feature of it (aside from quiet preamps) is its completely ridiculous battery life. I've owned it for maybe 3-4 months now, recorded for many hours (WAV, 48k/16-bit), and not had to replace the first set of batteries yet. Unbelievable.

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If you're willing to pay the price for an H4n, I totally recommend checking out the Roland R26. I haven't used the H2n or PCM-M10, but have used the H4n and I'm not a fan at all. The R26 served as one of our two recorders (using plug in DPAs and the onboard mics) for a guerrilla vehicle workup session and the performance was quite outstanding. However, the windshield is pretty weak, same sort of goes for the H4n's wind protection. Add the Rycote cover on top of it though and it does a pretty great job.

And the great thing is that the onboards come with a cardiod XY AND spaced omni's. With another 2 XLR ins - so 6 channels of 96k 24bit, and the quality of those 6 channels is no gimmick. I will say I was skeptical at first, but after working with it, I'm still shocked by how good it was, for its form factor and cost.

  • @Stavrosound I actually just found out that the H2n can also do XY, MS, and Blumlein. So maybe my best bet would be to get the H2n for quick on the go sampling of random sounds I find, and saving up for a really nice matched stereo pair or something like the Rode NT4 stereo mic for in the studio higher quality effects/foley? – Andrew Aug 23 '13 at 5:48
  • You're going to need to buy a new recorder with XLR inputs if you want to do that, so factor that into the cost. – Mark Durham Aug 23 '13 at 7:21
  • I wouldn't be using the H2n for anything other than quick on the go recording, the Rode NT4 would be more for longer outside sessions or in the studio using my Apogee Duet 2 @Mark – Andrew Aug 23 '13 at 7:33
  • I still vouch for the R26 :). The recordings will be considerably clean of noise (no trickery in the mastering process needed with EQ and noise suppression, and the XLR input preamps are pretty much on par with an FR2. I would be happy to plug good mics, like Senn MKH and DPA 4011, into an R26 any time. With the Zoom (who doesn't outwardly advertise they are a sub brand of Samson, which doesn't have a great track record for quality), not so much. Of course to each his own at the end of the day. My 2 cents are to check out the R26. – Stavrosound Aug 23 '13 at 18:43
  • Will definitely check out the R26, I'm about to score a Senn MKH 416 for very cheap locally, so that would be nice! – Andrew Aug 23 '13 at 22:25
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FWIW THe H2n can record the MS signal in 'raw' format which means you can elect to decode it to variable width stereo - or just use the mid component - according to your needs after the fact. Note: for some reason this option is only available when recording in 2 channel MS mode (not 4 channel surround).

Also: If you do go with the H2n I'd strongly recommend something like a custom windscreen from Redheadwindscreens.com (for example) and some arrangement for shock mounting if you are going to be doing any amount of handheld work with it. To that end my solution is to use an old rycote softie pistol grip (intended for a shotgun mic) into which is inserted the plastic dummy mic adapter that comes with the (optional) H2n accesory kit from zoom.

With that combination, the H2n can be a quick & handy & solution that you can keep assembled in a bag ready for any impromptu recording opportunities that may arise...

  • @Stelios the raw format sounds like a very nice option and I think I'll definitely use that! As for a windscreen, I've also been recommended the Rycote Mini Windjammer: rycote.com/products/mini_windjammer/… I'll look into the Rycote softie and that works out since I plan on getting the accessory kit. Thanks so much! – Andrew Aug 23 '13 at 7:43
  • btw: you can also change the stereo width after you recorded files by applying a M/S-plugin (or create the signal path manually with busses). M/S is actually not the only stereo-technique that gives you full mono capability, since you can also get a M-Signal out of a X/Y-recording (by using a M/S-plugin or signal path) – Michael Manzke Aug 23 '13 at 8:00
  • @Michael Good to know! For a mono signal out of the X/Y could I just sum the stereo track to mono? There shouldn't be any phase issues since they aren't sharing the same exact image right? – Andrew Aug 23 '13 at 8:07
  • @Michael and @Andrew: X/Y and M/S can be thought of as different representations of the same stereo signal, so you can convert back and forth between them without having to worry about phase issues. Here are the formulas: X + Y = M X - Y = S M + S = X M - S = Y (there's technically also a gain factor of -3dB). The "-" in this case can be simply thought of as addition with a phase-flipped signal. That's how all M/S plug-ins work. – Alex Aug 23 '13 at 19:51
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Go for the H2, because with its MS raw pattern you'll be able to tune your stereo field or just use the mono recording. And with good gain staging and clever eq'ing and noise reduction you'll end up with excellent recordings, considering how cheap this device is.

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