Portable Recorder / Mics

dave111

Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2020
Location
NY USA
Hi -

I'm trying to figure out the best option for purchasing a portable recorder and mics. I'm mainly looking to record solo piano right now, but I will probably also use it in other situations down the road, such as jazz combo.

I've been looking at the zoom H5 and H6, as well as the zoom F4 and F6 and the Sound Devices MixPre-3 II. For mics, I'm mainly looking at the zoom capsules, the Audio-Technica AT2022 X/Y Stereo Microphone, and 2 Rode NT5 mics with additional omni capsules. I've also considered the Tascam DR-100mkIII.

I'd like to keep the budget as low as possible, but at the max it's around $1,000 for recorder and mics.

I'm wondering how important 32-bit float and getting to 192 sample rate are. If I don't need these, it seems I can be ok with the zoom h 5 or 6 might be better off investing the rest in mics. On the other hand, it might be nice to have the option to use the the zoom f or mix pre as an interface with my laptop when I have it for more serious projects.

I definitely need 2 tracks, but I think I would probably need 3 tracks at the most. I'm trying to balance portability and ease of set up and take down with quality.

Any advice or other options I might consider?

Thanks -
 

bouldersound

Real guitars are for old people.
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Jan 23, 2010
Location
Boulder, Colorado
I have a Zoom H5 and it works well and sounds good. My use is recording live bands, with the "mic" inputs getting the line feed from the house mixer and the onboard stereo mic capturing either the whole room sound or up close capturing the stage sound. Recording at 48kHz is really quite good. I would think that 96kHz would be more than adequate and 192kHz would be overkill.

While many portable recorders can be used as interfaces, there are often compromises made. An actual dedicated interface will probably be easier to use.
 

Rudy Holland

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Dec 5, 2019
Location
Groningen,the Netherlands
The 32 bit float option is not a big plus if you can properly set the gain on a recorder. I've used the H6 a lot for recording bigbands. It's simple to operate and gives a pretty decent result if you hook up some external mics. However I found my Roland R26 has better inbuild mics.
 

dave111

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Joined
Jan 1, 2020
Location
NY USA
Thanks for the responses!

I guess I was wanting the higher sample rates for better sound quality and more editing flexibility, but I'm not really sure how much of a difference it would make in these areas.

I'm pretty new to this stuff, but I thought I read somewhere that higher sample rates are better for editing operations like stretching, e.g. making a note 2x or 3x as long. I don't know how much better 192 might be than 96 or 48 for stuff like this, though.
 

ronmac

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May 7, 2005
Location
Nova Sotia
From my experience, with a dash of opinion added....

The Zoom H5 and H6 mic preamps are going to be noisier than your other listed options. That may not be an important consideration for louder bands, but jazz combo recordings will definitely benefit from low noise preamps. The Zoom F4 and F6 win the price per channel contest. The Sound Devices MixPre wins the s/n, nicer sounding preamps and better headphone monitoring.

For your budget, I would suggest Line Audio mics. A Pair of omnis (OM1) if you are going to be recording in nice rooms, or a pair of cardioids (CM4) for more control over room reflections. If you can swing it to get a pair of each you will be set for most situations.

I would suggest moving to a Sound Devices MP-6, if your budget can stretch (or you may consider buying used). The lower channel count of the MP-3 will become a limitation at some point.
 

dave111

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Jan 1, 2020
Location
NY USA
Thanks for the input!

Where would you buy the line audio mics? I don't see them on the sites I normally check.
 

dave111

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Jan 1, 2020
Location
NY USA
Interesting - some new options to consider. thanks. How would you compare these to say the Rhode NT5s in terms of sound quality?
 

dave111

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Joined
Jan 1, 2020
Location
NY USA
i think i may try these cm4s. they seem like a great value. i don't see an option for matches pairs, though. I'll mainly be doing stereo recordings. Is it important to get a matched pair?
 

kmetal

Kyle P. Gushue
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Jul 21, 2009
Location
Boston, Massachusetts
i think i may try these cm4s. they seem like a great value. i don't see an option for matches pairs, though. I'll mainly be doing stereo recordings. Is it important to get a matched pair?

A matched pair can be an indicator of tight tolerance manufacturing and quality control.

I dont think its necessary to have. Stereo sources aren't the same on both sides, if they were it would be mono. Its the differences that we perceive as stereo.

Im not familiar with the cm4 but generally using two of the same model gets the job done adequately for stereo recording and wont have gross discrepancies in pickup and tone. If there are noticeable differences, use them to your favor so things are balanced.
 

bouldersound

Real guitars are for old people.
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Jan 23, 2010
Location
Boulder, Colorado
Stereo sources aren't the same on both sides, if they were it would be mono. Its the differences that we perceive as stereo.

But you want any difference in the signal to represent real acoustic difference rather than difference in the response of the mics.
 

paulears

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Feb 7, 2014
Location
Lowestoft - UK
You can get quite interesting results by taking two identical microphones and pointing them at a single loudspeaker, and then running a 20-20K sweep tome through it and viewing the result on a stereoscope. Little differences that pull the line left or right as the sweep goes through. I can see the differences in sensitivity of each 'identical' one, because my favourites are close but not identical - however listening in the room, by recording and replaying through speakers or headphones gives me no sense of image shift at all. Experimenting it's quite odd how far you have to move a pan control from centre before you can hear the difference, and then only when you pan quickly - if you gently move the pan one way or the other you just don't notice.
 

Boswell

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Apr 19, 2006
Location
UK
Genuine stereo relies on having strict phase coherence between the left and right signals, maintained over the frequency range.. This can really only be achieved by using nominally identical types of microphone for the capture of the L and R acoustic sound fields.

That's not to say that you must never use different microphones on the same sound source. When setting mics on a guitar cabinet, for example, I often deliberately use different microphones to capture different tones and also to create an effect at the mix. Two dissimilar microphones on one sound source create a "dual mono" pair of signals, as opposed to "stereo".

A separate set of circumstances arises when using Mid-Side recording (M-S). The S microphone is usually a velocity-sensitive type such as a Fig-8 ribbon, but dual opposed pressure-sensitive condenser types can be used. For the M microphone, it's important to use the same technology as the S microphone (ribbon for both or condenser for both), otherwise there will be an un-correctable 90 degree phase difference between M and S that wrecks the translation from M-S to L-R. Although standard M-S uses cardioid and Fig-8 patterns for M and S respectively, the identical pattern rule does not apply here, as is is largely taken care of in the matrix translation to L-R. Note that the M-S Blumlein configuration that uses Fig-8 mics for both M and S naturally obeys the rule, which may account for its superior results when used with very wide sound sources such as a full orchestra with choir.
 

kmetal

Kyle P. Gushue
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Jul 21, 2009
Location
Boston, Massachusetts
Is there a defined set of specs/tolerences that would identify mics being stereo capable vs dual mono? ie +/- 2 db in frequency response, a sensitivity tolerance ect?

Its interesting that alot of whats generally referred to as stereo mic'ing day day to day technically isn't. I wonder if the same rule applies for surround? Lol a matched penta-set?
 

Boswell

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Joined
Apr 19, 2006
Location
UK
A pair of mics of the same model can always be set up to give a stereo image, even if there are significant differences in their response curves. It then comes down to how good or realistic the image is.

I use the term "dual mono" when two channels carry intentionally different signals, such as in the example of two mics set up on a guitar cabinet at different distances from the cone.
 

dave111

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Jan 1, 2020
Location
NY USA
Thanks for info - I ended up ordering 2 CM4s from line audio. I think they will be close enough for stereo recordings. Excited to see how they sound!

I also picked up the zoom H6 to use for an easy portable solution. Still trying to decide on a real interface. I think I may skip the portable recorders and just go for a laptop + interface + mics setup for more serious projects. I think I may end up going with the apogee element or something similar.

I need to have some work done on my piano and also put up some foam or something in the room to absorb some sound before I can record my piano, though - it's sounding too bright and harsh at the moment. Recently moved.
 

kmetal

Kyle P. Gushue
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Joined
Jul 21, 2009
Location
Boston, Massachusetts
Thanks for info - I ended up ordering 2 CM4s from line audio. I think they will be close enough for stereo recordings. Excited to see how they sound!

I also picked up the zoom H6 to use for an easy portable solution. Still trying to decide on a real interface. I think I may skip the portable recorders and just go for a laptop + interface + mics setup for more serious projects. I think I may end up going with the apogee element or something similar.

I need to have some work done on my piano and also put up some foam or something in the room to absorb some sound before I can record my piano, though - it's sounding too bright and harsh at the moment. Recently moved.

Congrats on your purchase!

Your much better off with rigid fiberglass or rockwool panels than foam. Foam only really grabs mids and highs, leaving the room boxy sounding most often. 4" thick rockboard 40 or Owen Corning 703 are standard material for absorption panels.
 

dave111

Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2020
Location
NY USA
that's a nice triple zoom! i'm mostly going to be recording when i'm also playing so i like the idea of a simple and easy solution.

i need to research the sound absorption stuff more. thanks for the tips. somebody gave me some foam squares, so i figured i will throw them up and see what happens. where would u purchase sound absorption stuff from - is that like a home depot thing or do you need to order from a sound place?
 

kmetal

Kyle P. Gushue
Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 21, 2009
Location
Boston, Massachusetts
that's a nice triple zoom! i'm mostly going to be recording when i'm also playing so i like the idea of a simple and easy solution.

i need to research the sound absorption stuff more. thanks for the tips. somebody gave me some foam squares, so i figured i will throw them up and see what happens. where would u purchase sound absorption stuff from - is that like a home depot thing or do you need to order from a sound place?

The better option to foam is rigid fiberglass. Reason being foam only is effective for the mid and high frequencies in the room. This leaves an abundance of low mids and bass hanging around.

Rigid fiberglass attacks highs down to upper bass frequencies. Leaving just the bass to handle.

Owen Corning 703, and Rockboard 40 are two of the most useful rigid panels. 4" thickness is good, 8" is excellent, 2" minimum.

These are covered in a cloth like burlap thats easy to breath through if you put it against your mouth. Often the panelsnels are in a basic wooden frame and hung like a picture. They can be pre made or DIY.

The most important thing is trapping bass. Bass lingers around the room too long, and can be very un-even throughout the room. So a kick drum can be too loud in one spot and disappear in another. Bass trapping is critical.

A great diy bass trap is a closet stuffed with loosesly pack fluffy fiberglass (the pink stuff) you'd see in your attic or walls. An additional option is to stack triangles or squares of rigid fiberglass in the 4 cornes of the room, floor to ceiling. Combined with a stuffed closet, that would be a good start.

Bass response is the number 1 thing to get right. Mids and highs are fairly easy to treat.

There are other styles of bass traps that focus more narrowly on certain frequencies, and work in conjunction with the "broadband" traps and panels i mentioned.

Your expectations, room dimensions, and budget, all determine the best treatment options.

Foam won't get the job done satisfactorily. GIK acoustics, and ATS acoustics are good places to start digging, for both diy and pre made panels.
 
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