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Zoom F8 Multitrack Field Recorder

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Aaron, Feb 5, 2016.

  1. Aaron

    Aaron Active Member

    Zoom released this last year and want to know if anyone's made any recordings using it for music or video, and if so any thoughts on quality, functionability, pros and cons. Some of the reviews I've read are saying the pres are nearly if not "just as clean" as the Sound Devices 744T, and more than 4x less expensive than the SD.



    link removed

    I would consider and save $ for other units to record in studio or live stationary situations, but for run and gun this seems like a very promising option.

  2. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I haven't tried any of the zoom or sound device units, but you seem to compare very different quality units. 1k vs 4k

    If you are to gear up for live and studio recording, why not buy something that does both ?
    The RME UFX can be the center of a computer based DAW recording in the studio and can record as stand alone on a usb drive :
  3. Aaron

    Aaron Active Member

    I don't mean to compare the two recorders. If I had an extra $4,000 for a recorder I probably wouldn't lean toward the zoom, but maybe I would depending on needs. I guess I was thinking in terms of being able to record location/studio music but also more to be able to record audio for video while being able to walk around freely with a camera, tripod, and recorder bag slung over my shoulder without 100+ feet of xlr cables. One of the nice things about the zoom is that the user can screw a HD DSLR camera onto it too. And hey sure we'd all like to own equipment that's 4x more expensive than others but for us who can't yet, a thousand dollar unit that's nearly as quiet as a four thousand dollar one, for whatever those needs are, sounds good to me.
    quality of voice recording of the Zoom vs the 688 at $6,000. Noticeable difference but still very nice for that price.

    I still like that Antelope zen you linked to before for a portable audio interface and the RME and ability to record as a stand-alone seems like a great option too for that. Making a note
    pcrecord likes this.
  4. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    There is so many factor to get a great sound, I would never say the zoom can't record but there is greater units out there (going with reputations and reads) The good question is, is it going to make 3k worth of difference to go with a greater unit ? probably not.
    The best thing you could do is rent a zoom, if available anywhere, and try it for yourself. Or at least make a recording in a store with the zoom to hear if it's good enough for you.
    Because that's where it gets personnal, good for you and your needs ain't gonna be the same as others.

    About RME, since I bought a used FF800, I really dig this company. Greatest drivers, good converters...
    If I would be in a market for onsite and in studio unit, the UFX would be my first choice.
    The Zen is a good one too, but you need a computer to record
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Have you tried simply recording with the built-n camera mics, if your camera has them... some of those mics sound pretty damned good. In fact, my ex wife has a Sony Hi Def digital cam that has a built in XY pair of condensers, (switchable to mono), and the audio quality on that thing was amazing. It also had separate XLR ins for external mics but there wasn't ever a need to use them, because the built in mics sounded so good.

    Zoom is like any other product - you'll find budget to pricey models. I've had an older model zoom for years, capable of XY, Bin-aural and mono, and I always thought it sounded very good. I recorded a dixieland band with it once, using just the internal mics, and I was very happy with the results... and that's with an older model, too, like ten years old now. I'm sure they've made improvements since then.

    Tascam has a 4 channel field recorder that is popular with many eco/wildlife audio recorders ... I think it's the 680 model... I think.
    But you'd need to use external mics, as I don't believe it has any built in.

    Here's one I found on eBay
  6. Aaron

    Aaron Active Member

    I'm photographing and video recording with the 5DMarkIII from Canon, and although it creates technically superior visual images, the microphones in cameras like that are frowned upon and simply not used for audio in the production. Part of the discussion amongst film(video)makers is why they haven't added XLR inputs to these units yet, at that price point, and much of the research and technology in these cameras goes toward the visual side of things. I think some of their cinema-level models have XLR inputs but those are over $10,000. Even then, I think most professional filmmakers are capturing audio externally using professional audio gear.
    Regarding the smaller recorders that Tascam and Zoom make, one of the musicians I've recorded has also recorded an orchestra she plays in using her Zoom recorder with the on-board mics and got a surprisingly good sound from those alone. Of course she also said they were performing in a wonderful sounding hall too.
  7. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    One common mistake of recording audio with a DSLR is to leave the record volume to auto. If you deactivate auto, the unit won't boost the volume to try to capture faint sounds..
    This of course doesn't make it as good as a lavalier or a handheld mic or a good mic and preamp combo...
  8. jondreyer

    jondreyer Active Member

    I bought an F8 a few months ago and for the most part, I'm amazed by it. It's tinier than I expected, very solid, and sounds amazing. Unfortunately it's exposing the limitations of some of my mics! I'm a jazz musician and I've been using it to record my live performances. This is really difficult because my focus must be on the music, and I usually don't have time to do much with setting levels, so I just "set it and forget it." That, and I don't really know what I'm doing.

    The iOS app is really helpful in that regard; I can walk around to the drums or piano, bang on them, and set levels from there. Though the gain knob is tough to control from the app. I wish the app had a slider for that, or if there were a way to switch the gain and fader controls.

    The combo connectors are locking Neutriks. I know that's a good brand, but one of my XLR cables just got stuck. They were very willing to do a warranty repair/replacement but I'm concerned that it'll happen again after the warranty runs out. I asked if they'd be willing to remove the locks on the replacement but no dice. Does anybody have any suggestions about how to make that not happen again?

    If you want to listen, the May 2016 performance here (and any newer recordings that might appear later) was made with the F8 and mixed with Audacity. You'll notice some noise, especially on the quieter tunes; I'm confident that's mostly from the mics based on the fact that I only heard it on some channels when I mixed it. I would really appreciate some feedback about the recording/mix since I'm in the "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" category.
    HoosierGuy likes this.
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    The two recordings I listened to sounded remarkably good for someone who claims to know little about recording. I have little to offer in engineering advice... It's warm, organic, encompassing.

    I don't really know what to suggest about the XLR getting stuck - beyond having it repaired, which the manufacturer has offered to do under warranty.
    Have you made sure that the jacks you are plugging into the device aren't skewed or bent, or further wizzled in any way? You might have a pin that's slightly bent, or maybe some oxidation on the jack that was interfering with releasing the locking mechanism? Just throwing ideas out there...
    jondreyer likes this.
  10. jondreyer

    jondreyer Active Member

    Thanks for your kind words. I guess I have some advantages, having a musical ear and a near lifetime of messing with computers, but most of what I know about recording, past what my dad taught me about splicing audiotape, I learned by messing around.

    Regarding possible "wizzling" of the male XLR plug, I'll never know because it's locked inside, but I will look much more carefully in the future. I notice some male XLR plugs seem to be designed to be locked, with a little rectangular opening for the lock, and others don't have that. I'm wondering if it makes sense to stay with the ones that don't. I'm assuming that would defeat the lock on the female jack without breaking it.
  11. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    The Neutrik locks can be removed on their standard XLR connectors. They explain how to do that HERE, if you're handy enough to do the F8 disassembly.

    My concern being, they've got a lot of recorder crammed into a pretty small box, so disassembling it might be very tricky and run the risk of damaging it far worse. When you've got thin ribbon cables and fine wiring, that are the shortest possible length to fit inside the enclosure, it makes for a very delicate puzzle.
    jondreyer likes this.
  12. jondreyer

    jondreyer Active Member

    I got in touch with Len Moskowitz of Core Sound, the maker of the mics that I blamed for being noisy. Amazingly, within 1/2 hour of my first email, he diagnosed my operator error and gave me a solution. My mics have an 1/8" plug, which I'd adapted to 1/4" plugs, which I had plugged into the combo sockets of the F8. But the 1/4" sockets expect line level. He suggested that I plug the mics into an XLR adapter and plug that into the F8, which then expects mic level. Voila, no more noise! Looking forward to my next recording! Thanks to Len for really amazing customer support.

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