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 Flash Recorders: The Final Round-up
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Mark
Ha`aha`a

USA
1628 Posts

Posted - 01/20/2009 :  09:54:32 AM  Show Profile  Visit Mark's Homepage
After a couple weeks of testing, I'd set aside this past Sunday to start writing up a review of the new Yamaha Pocketrak CX-- my 13th recorder review for O'Reilly Digital Media. However, when I checked my mail I learned that I'd lost my gig due to a "reorganization."

Well, my loss is your gain, cuz at last I'm going to spill the beans and tell ya what I really think you should buy. (Apologies to any of you that already bought something else*-- I'm sure it is a dandy little recorder.)

First, if you have not done so, check out the recorder comparison chart here while it is still up: http://digitalmedia.oreilly.com/audio/portable-recorder-comparison/

Next, here's a short review of the Pocketrak CX-- It's better for music than its sibling the Pocketrak 2G. Records up to 48k WAVs and most MP3 resolutions. Fairly EZ to use, though the switches feel flimsy. The mics are slightly better than the 2G-- and it has a tripod adaptor. But you can do a lot better.

OK, so here are my top three. If you own one of these, congratulations.:

  • #3: The Olympus LS 10. It is small, but solid. It does a great job recording music, it comes with (admittedly weak) windscreens, it has terrific ergonomics, and it fits in your `ukulele case. Great battery life, and records to both internal and removable memory. It woulda been #2, except Edirol rolled out the updated version of the R-09.

  • #2: The Edirol R-09 HR. Somebody listened, and fixed all the problems with the original. This is a terrific little field recorder. The tiny remote is just the thing-- stick the recorder next to your teacher, then start recording when he finally stops talking and starts playing something interesting.

  • 1) The Sony PCM D50. This is everything a field recorder should be: rugged, easy to use and it makes terrific recordings. The limiter is so good you never have to worry about losing a critical recording. If you ever record outdoors, spring for the fluffy windscreen-- it's the only one on the market that actually works.

    Yes, it is bigger than most, costs more and it doesn't record MP3s. But if you care about making great field recordings-- and you don't want to drop a couple grand on a Sound Devices 7 Series, or similar pro-unit, there is simply nothing else close. Like my old Sony Walkman cassette (which still works, by the way) this is a recorder that's built to last.


The Microtrack? Lot's of pro's love 'em, but they are too quirky for me to recommend to most casual users. The Korg? Amazing, incredible, stunning audio. I am tempted to buy one as an archiving device, particularly since the price dropped, but I wouldn't like to use it as a field recorder.

OK, so where are the Zooms? I'd put both of 'em well down the list. Sure, they are inexpensive... but also cheap. They make OK recordings, and they each have some fun features, but they just do not inspire confidence. I expect few H2s will still be working in four years. As for the H4--I'd give it three, tops.

It's funny, almost every week a friend asks me which recorder to buy. Invariably I give them exactly the list I just gave you... and in almost every case they buy an *H2. And they are very happy with it.

Good thing I'm not ego-involved here.

So-- happy recording!

Edited by - Mark on 01/20/2009 1:43:24 PM

Lawrence
Ha`aha`a

USA
1597 Posts

Posted - 01/20/2009 :  11:31:44 AM  Show Profile
Another thing the H2 has going for it (besides being pretty cheap), is that it is one of the only recorders you reviewd, Mark, that can record 4 SIMUTANEOUS tracks. This is very useful for field recording where FOH output and ambient channels are desired (at a minimum)

There are already lots of "Modders" (including the justifiably famous Justin Frankel) who had modified these units into 4-channel line and/or mic level recorders. But the little buggers are still quirky to use with that little screen and less than ideal buttons.

In any case, thanks for all of your careful and well written reviews of these devices, I have enjoyed reading each and every word. Wish you the best of luck in getting some more similar contracts.


Mahope Kākou...
...El Lorenzo de Ondas Sonoras
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cpatch
Ahonui

USA
2187 Posts

Posted - 01/20/2009 :  2:43:54 PM  Show Profile  Visit cpatch's Homepage  Send cpatch an AOL message
One huge advantage the H4 has over the others (unless I'm missing something) is its ability to handle studio-quality external mics directly with both XLR inputs and phantom power. I've used it with mics that cost more than the H4 itself with great success.

Having said that, I do lust after the Sony!

Craig
My goal is to be able to play as well as people think I can.

Edited by - cpatch on 01/20/2009 2:53:28 PM
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Fran Guidry
Ha`aha`a

USA
1505 Posts

Posted - 01/21/2009 :  08:23:13 AM  Show Profile  Visit Fran Guidry's Homepage
And that new H4n looks pretty darned snazzy too.

Just remember, Sony created the "install a root kit virus without your permission" CD and the "you recorded it but we own it" minidisc. If you feel like boycotting some big international company, they're a good candidate.

Fran

E ho`okani pila kakou ma Kaleponi
Slack Key Guitar in California - www.kaleponi.com
Slack Key on YouTube
Homebrewed Music Blog
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slipry1
Ha`aha`a

USA
1501 Posts

Posted - 01/21/2009 :  09:11:18 AM  Show Profile
So THAT's why I don't like my Zoom!

keaka
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cpatch
Ahonui

USA
2187 Posts

Posted - 01/21/2009 :  09:31:30 AM  Show Profile  Visit cpatch's Homepage  Send cpatch an AOL message
quote:
Originally posted by Fran Guidry

And that new H4n looks pretty darned snazzy too.

Wow, that does look nice...I hadn't seen that before. Looks like it addresses a lot of your concerns, Mark.

Craig
My goal is to be able to play as well as people think I can.

Edited by - cpatch on 01/21/2009 09:32:15 AM
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sm80808
Lokahi

347 Posts

Posted - 01/22/2009 :  11:25:15 AM  Show Profile
Any chance that you will do a review of pocket camcorders in the future? (Flid Mino, Kodak zi6 etc.)
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Mark
Ha`aha`a

USA
1628 Posts

Posted - 01/22/2009 :  12:54:58 PM  Show Profile  Visit Mark's Homepage
quote:
Any chance that you will do a review of pocket camcorders in the future? (Flid Mino, Kodak zi6 etc.)


Unlikely, given the reason I wrote this this post in the first place. Like millions of mah fellow Amurricuns, I'm out of a job.


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Russell Letson
Lokahi

USA
498 Posts

Posted - 01/23/2009 :  06:36:54 AM  Show Profile  Visit Russell Letson's Homepage
Sorry to hear about the, um, layoff--I found your reviews enjoyable and useful even after I bought my LS-10. (Which is really is a very, very good unit.) I'm way overdue to check in with an editor I haven't worked with in several years, and I fear what I'll find when I do, since the paper version of the magazine has been absorbed into the parent publisher's website system. I wonder whether they're even paying their writers any more. I have this nightmare vision of journalism turning into nothing but amateur-written blogoids overseen by a handful of code-wranglers whose only concern is to make screen space for the ads and write pop-up-blocker-blockers.
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sm80808
Lokahi

347 Posts

Posted - 01/23/2009 :  07:48:53 AM  Show Profile
quote:
Originally posted by Mark

quote:
Any chance that you will do a review of pocket camcorders in the future? (Flid Mino, Kodak zi6 etc.)


Unlikely, given the reason I wrote this this post in the first place. Like millions of mah fellow Amurricuns, I'm out of a job.






Geez Mark.. i'm sorry to hear that. For some reason I skimmed right past that sentence. (oops )
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cpatch
Ahonui

USA
2187 Posts

Posted - 06/05/2009 :  08:32:30 AM  Show Profile  Visit cpatch's Homepage  Send cpatch an AOL message
For those of you shopping for a recorder, this site has some excellent comparison resources to add to Mark's (including battery tests and sound samples):

http://www.wingfieldaudio.com/portable-recorder-reviews.html

Craig
My goal is to be able to play as well as people think I can.
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Mark
Ha`aha`a

USA
1628 Posts

Posted - 06/06/2009 :  12:35:03 PM  Show Profile  Visit Mark's Homepage
Thanks for that link, Craig.

I was initially concerned about the objectivity of the reviewer, giver that the site sells all the products mentioned. However, I agree with Craig that they are excellent reviews for comparison purposes and will help with your shopping decisions.

I suggest you pay particular attention to the audio samples here: http://www.wingfieldaudio.com/portable-recorder-sound-samples.html

I A/B'ed several different recorders and the results are edifying, even with the files compressed to MP3! The cello samples are the most useful, as they are the same program for each recorder. The piano is also very helpful-- listen for the "life" in each recording.

BTW: I used a very modest (ie, cheap) set of monitors for listening.

Nothing I heard changed my mind, I still stand with what I said at the top of this topic. But your mileage may vary.

Oh, & I notice Guitar Center/Musician's Fiend is advertising a $99 recorder. It is great to have so much choice, innit?

Happy recording!

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cpatch
Ahonui

USA
2187 Posts

Posted - 06/07/2009 :  10:32:03 AM  Show Profile  Visit cpatch's Homepage  Send cpatch an AOL message
One thing to note with the LS-10, that I picked up from another forum, is that it has a built-in bass roll-off that you'll hear in the sound samples Mark links to (especially if you're doing a comparison with another recorder). This roll-off is applied to both internal and external mics but not the line-in and can be compensated for in post. Whether or not it's a pro or a con depends on what you're recording (and what you're recording with) and whether or not you want to deal with tweaking the EQ after the fact.

Craig
My goal is to be able to play as well as people think I can.
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hwnmusiclives
`Olu`olu

USA
580 Posts

Posted - 06/12/2009 :  06:03:46 AM  Show Profile  Visit hwnmusiclives's Homepage
I think these experiences are all relative and personal. What works for one person doesn't work as well for another. Or someone buys a brand that lasts them forever, and someone else buys the same brand and gets a series of lemons.

I used to like Sony products. For field recording, I first used a Sony MD recorder. It died within two years. I then upgraded to a Sony Hi-MD recorder. It died within two years. Don't ask why I bought the second after the experience with the first.

I have been in the market for a field recorder to replace the Sony Hi-MD. I would definitely try the Zoom. Why? My favorite multi-effects box is a vintage 1989 Zoom 8000. 20 years later, the Zoom 8000 is still my favorite multi-effects box. I have never replaced it and I have never needed to repair it.

When I think Sony now, I think "disposable." By contrast, despite the price (really, really inexpensive), when I think Zoom, I think "forever."


Join me for the history of Hawaiian music and its musicians at Ho`olohe Hou at www.hoolohehou.org.
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Fran Guidry
Ha`aha`a

USA
1505 Posts

Posted - 06/12/2009 :  06:14:51 AM  Show Profile  Visit Fran Guidry's Homepage
This is what I think of when I think Sony:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_Sony_BMG_CD_copy_protection_scandal

http://www.boingboing.net/2005/11/14/sony-anticustomer-te.html

http://www.wired.com/politics/security/commentary/securitymatters/2005/11/69601

Fran

E ho`okani pila kakou ma Kaleponi
Slack Key Guitar in California - www.kaleponi.com
Slack Key on YouTube
Homebrewed Music Blog
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Mark
Ha`aha`a

USA
1628 Posts

Posted - 06/12/2009 :  07:51:13 AM  Show Profile  Visit Mark's Homepage
quote:
Good thing I'm not ego-involved here.


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