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I've been recording atmospheric sounds for a while now and I'm curious about what you guys prefer using as a recording device out in the fields. Mostly I've been using a Zoom h4n with it's internal pre amps (which are a bit noisy) together with 2x Line CM3.

I found a great page (link) with recorded samples of different portable recorders and by my surprise I don't hear that much noise coming out of the Marantz PMD620 (almost as quiet as the Sound Device 702). This site might be incorrect and maybe you have your own ideas and knowledge about different recorders, but lets say you have 1500$ and want a good portable recorder to use with an ORTF setup (2x Line CM3), what would you get and why?

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Fostex FR2-LE

or

Tascam DR-680

End of thread.

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I still don't have 50 experience to comment on an above post, but I'll second the Mix-pre. I'd buy used for around $600 or so and spend the rest on whatever new recorder you find to your liking.

You're going to get good, quiet preamps, and low noise phantom power, along with several other features.

You're going to want low noise equipment when recording ambience, as you probably know. I'm using a busman modded dr680 and find I can't really use it for quiet ambience. The phantom power is noisy and the preamps obviously become too noisy when cranked up high. Therefore, I'm purchasing a preamp to lower my noise floor.

I'm kicking myself now for not buying a good pre in the beginning (for ambient recordings).

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With 1500$ you can buy a Sound Devices Mix-Pre for your Zoom H4N. It's a good setup to start stereo recording :)

  • Granted, the "Line in" is just a Hi-Z which still runs through the preamp (bad design). So it's definitely had some success for people, but it does require some tinkering to get work - like doing a 20-30 dB inline pad. – Stavrosound Sep 2 '13 at 19:15
  • The Mix-Pre seems to be very expensive so I might go for a new portable recorder instead, thanks for the advice though :) Much appreciated – Markus Sep 2 '13 at 20:38
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My personal thought, either the FR-2 LE as @Internet said - or allow yourself an extra $400-$500 for the 702. FR2-LE is pretty much the next best thing, especially since you already have mics to work with so a handheld with onboard won't do much good. I also hear the Tascam HD-P2 is a good contender on the same level as the FR2-LE but have never work with it - have worked with the earlier Tascam DATs and they were alright. I don't know anything about the DR-680 though.

  • Yeah except that SD702 is/can be almost $1400 more than the FR2-LE. – Internet Human Sep 2 '13 at 19:47
  • Whereas DR-680 is even cheaper than the FR2-LE in the US it seems: bhphotovideo.com/c/product/673541-REG/… – Internet Human Sep 2 '13 at 19:48
  • Thank you for your answers! The FR-2 LE is very interesting, I assume I don't need any external pre amps for this. I've never heard of the HD-P2 but will check it out once I get back to my place again. Thanks again for all your good advices! – Markus Sep 2 '13 at 20:34
  • I own the HD-P2 and o far I'm satisfied with it. One disadvantage though is the lack of enough gain when compared to 702 or simular. – Michael Manzke Sep 2 '13 at 20:47
  • @Markus. of course! The FR2 does have its own preamps and they're quite good. It is worth noting that a caveat exists wjere the headphone amp is noisy. So the auditioning may not sound clean, but the recorded sound surely is. And additionally, the headphone amp is something Oade can't mod. Just something to be aware of. – Stavrosound Sep 2 '13 at 22:45
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I'm Using the Roland R-26, which so far is pretty good, its a bit sturdier built than a Zoom and less noisy. I still use it with a Preamp but the whole kit is light and portable and the the touch screen has its moments of real usefulness.I would say though that this was a compromise rig for me, as I wanted an HD-P2 but just could not get hold of a brand new one with a carry case. I tried at several different places and was willing to ship it from mainland Europe but alas there were none to be had :(

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I think the why is the most interesting question here - because it really comes down to the purpose for which you use your recorder. Does the recorder need to record at 192kHz or is 44.1kHz enough? Is weight an issue? What about having more than 2 inputs? Is timecode a requirement? Or do you need to have every feature in order to adapt to any scenario? Even taking budget out of the equation, there's so many variables.

For my own work (mainly field recording, boom swinging and interviews) I value weight/manueverability, require anywhere from 1 - 4 inputs and usually record at 48 - 96kHz. Plus I just send a wireless transmitter feed rather than deal with timecode. So a couple of Zoom H4ns are my recorders of choice at the moment.

  • Yes I agree! Right now I will not use any timecoding, I won't go above 96KHz/24bit but I might use more than 2 channels later on. It's so hard to chose between all the recorders, if I get a low budget one I might have to upgrade it soon again, it all depends on what movie productions I get into. – Markus Sep 3 '13 at 15:33

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