You are here

Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

For everything after the recording stage: hardware/software and how you use it.

Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby Jode Steele » Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:58 pm

Howdy,

I'm looking at buying a handheld digital stereo recorder. Something like the "Zoom H4n" perhaps and just wanted some opinion from anyone who has knowledge and experience of using these bits of kit. Which is the best basically.

In respect of what I'll be using it for, I'll mainly be gathering foley/sound fx for a game project I'm working on and also recording some random source material for mangling on Trailer Tools projects.

Any help welcome
User avatar
Jode Steele
Poster
Posts: 30
Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2012 12:00 am

Re: Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby The Elf » Thu Jan 31, 2013 5:09 pm

I have a Zoom H4N that I use for random audio gathering, and occasionally as an audio interface for my laptop. It works very nicely, and I can vouch for its ability to stand some rough, watery treatment ('nuff said!).

Big plusses for me are the ability to use my own mic's, 4-channel recording, 24-bit resolution and that it runs on standard batteries. I added a dead cat and a Rycote lyre-type mount for external location recording - well worth the extra outlay if you want to do the job properly.

I can't say it's 'the best', because I have don't have experience of other models, and 'best' will depend on your specific needs and budget, but if the H4N seems to fit the bill I doubt you'll be disappointed.
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 9938
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2001 11:00 pm
Location: Sheffield, UK

An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.


Re: Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby John Willett » Thu Jan 31, 2013 7:07 pm

Personally I would say no to the Zoom.

There are three schools of thought:-

1) Analogue only
Nagra SD (very high quality and very flexible with a selection of plug-on mics and cables)
Nagra LINO (cheaper version of above with fixed mics)
Olympus LS-100 (good quality, very long battery life)


2) Analogue with phantom power for external mics.
Olympus LS-100 (good quality, very long battery life)
Tascam DR100-II (good unit and popular with professionals)
Roland R-26
Marantz PMD661-II (nice review in the latest "Resolution"- but battery life is short - 5h)


3) with digital input so it can also act as a "bit bucket"
Tascam DR100-II (digital on Tascam 2.5mm jack)
Marantz PMD661-II (digital - S-PDIF on phono connector)
Sony PCM-D50 (but now discontinued) (Digital is optical)
User avatar
John Willett
Jedi Poster
Posts: 4016
Joined: Tue Mar 07, 2000 12:00 am
Location: Oxfordshire UK

John
Sound-Link ProAudio
Circle Sound Services
President - Federation Internationale des Chasseurs de Sons


Re: Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby Trevor Johnson » Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:42 am

The above list from John is excellent.

For a very portable device, I use an Olympus LS5 which is essentially the LS11 but without the remote control and with smaller internal memory, 2Gb against 8gb, although its also has an SD / SDHC card slot.

Their is a Rycote Portable Recorder Audio Kit, with combined windshield and suspension that will fit the LS5.

Trevor
Trevor Johnson
Regular
Posts: 157
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 11:00 pm

Re: Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby Mixedup » Fri Feb 01, 2013 12:44 pm

In John's first category, if you don't need the XLR input/phantom power, I'd much rather go for one of the smaller (and less confusing) models than the LS100. The LS5, 10, 11, 12 and 14 all do the job very nicely. The Zoom H4N is best on function for the budget IMO, and is much improved over the earlier H4. However, like many Zoom devices the output line level signal isn't great. If that's important to you then probably look at the Olympus stuff. the Tascam ones are pretty decent too. All really depends what you want to be able to do with your recorder.

And then there's the option of an iPod Touch (or iPhone, or iPad) + suitable mic attachment. Which isn't anywhere near as crazy as it sounds.
User avatar
Mixedup
Frequent Poster
Posts: 3893
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2003 11:00 pm
Location: Laputa

Re: Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby Jode Steele » Fri Feb 01, 2013 2:22 pm

Thanks for the thoughts fellas. A real plethora of info and recommendations for me to investigate.

Much appreciated!
User avatar
Jode Steele
Poster
Posts: 30
Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2012 12:00 am

Re: Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby Dave B » Fri Feb 01, 2013 3:10 pm

Mixedup wrote:However, like many Zoom devices the output line level signal isn't great.

Question : surely the point of all these devices is purely to be a data capture device and the resulting audio uploaded/taken and inserted into a workstation for review/editing? Is the output line level really a critical thing?
User avatar
Dave B
Frequent Poster
Posts: 2939
Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2003 11:00 pm
Location: Maidenhead

Veni, Vidi, Aesculi

(I came, I saw, I conkered)


Re: Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby Mr Gareth » Fri Feb 01, 2013 4:42 pm

The Zoom H4N is a great piece of kick, very flexible. It is, however, not the most user friendly device. I have downloaded the PDF countless times to find out to use the functions. There is a lot of scope for user error. The microphones are a little tinny at the top. Being able to record with them inaddition to the XLR's makes it a very practical little recorder.

The Roland R26 is a much superior device - user friendly, records 6 channels and has L/R & M/S microphones inbuilt - great stereo imagery. The touch-screen is great. My only issue is with surface noise from the plastic casing. Its not very forgiving there. Also it only acts are a 2In 2Out usb device.
Mr Gareth
New here
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2011 12:00 am

Re: Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby Skerrick » Fri Feb 01, 2013 11:20 pm

i bought myself one of these recently: http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/New-Olympus-WS-500M-WS500-Voice-Recorder-2GB-Tax-Invoice-on-Request-/120970917877?pt=AU_Gadgets&hash=item1c2a6db7f5&_uhb=1#ht_2573wt_1139

i got mine for about $60 and it sounds quite legit.
worth looking into, super cheap, HD stereo recording, usb file transfer.
User avatar
Skerrick
Regular
Posts: 248
Joined: Thu Jan 10, 2013 12:00 am

Re: Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby Mike Stranks » Fri Feb 01, 2013 11:53 pm

Skerrick wrote:i bought myself one of these recently: http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/New-Olympus-WS-500M-WS500-Voice-R...

i got mine for about $60 and it sounds quite legit.
worth looking into, super cheap, HD stereo recording, usb file transfer.

Doesn't seem to record in any uncompressed format...
User avatar
Mike Stranks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 4227
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Cirencester, UK

 


Re: Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby Skerrick » Sat Feb 02, 2013 12:42 am

^ im not sure quite how it works in terms of file compression, but the audio quality is more than acceptable for field recordings and such. i was under the impression it was recording in 320kbps wav, either way its got tons of storage room and has a built in usb slider thing, its just a great device for the price, and you could always get a separate electret microphone for a few $$ off ebay? theyre super cheap...
User avatar
Skerrick
Regular
Posts: 248
Joined: Thu Jan 10, 2013 12:00 am

Re: Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby Jode Steele » Sat Feb 02, 2013 12:42 am

More stellar suggestions to check out guys, thanks.

It's interesting going through some of these recorders and seeing all the additional functions added in the newer models. Things such as tuners, metronomes and the ability to use as recorders. For my work most of these will be superfluous as I'm just after a good quality portable field recorder but it's cool to see how these things have evolved.

The Olympus LS-14 is looking like a good option at the moment but am gonna spend some time checking out comparison tests.

If anyone knows of some good youtube review/comparison videos of any recorders, link us up!
User avatar
Jode Steele
Poster
Posts: 30
Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2012 12:00 am

Re: Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby The Elf » Sat Feb 02, 2013 8:15 am

Skerrick wrote:^ im not sure quite how it works in terms of file compression, but the audio quality is more than acceptable for field recordings and such. i was under the impression it was recording in 320kbps wav,
320kbps would be MP3. Wav files aren't defined in kbps terms. I wouldn't want ANY recordings rendered as MP3.
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 9938
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2001 11:00 pm
Location: Sheffield, UK

An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.


Re: Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby John Willett » Sat Feb 02, 2013 8:37 am

Skerrick wrote:i bought myself one of these recently: http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/New-Olympus-WS-500M-WS500-Voice-R...

i got mine for about $60 and it sounds quite legit.
worth looking into, super cheap, HD stereo recording, usb file transfer.

But it's a voice recorder that only records compressed sound.

Totally unsuitable for music.
User avatar
John Willett
Jedi Poster
Posts: 4016
Joined: Tue Mar 07, 2000 12:00 am
Location: Oxfordshire UK

John
Sound-Link ProAudio
Circle Sound Services
President - Federation Internationale des Chasseurs de Sons


Re: Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby hollowsun » Sat Feb 02, 2013 9:28 am

I have a Tascam DR40 which is excellent in that it has built in mics plus chunky balanced XLRs, 1/4" jacks and very easy to use. - pretty much one-button operation. I've recorded classical and also line level DI'd sampling with excellent results.

FWIW
User avatar
hollowsun
Frequent Poster
Posts: 2122
Joined: Thu Jan 20, 2005 12:00 am

Re: Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby Mike Stranks » Sat Feb 02, 2013 9:52 am

Jode Steele wrote:More stellar suggestions to check out guys, thanks.

It's interesting going through some of these recorders and seeing all the additional functions added in the newer models. Things such as tuners, metronomes and the ability to use as recorders. For my work most of these will be superfluous as I'm just after a good quality portable field recorder but it's cool to see how these things have evolved.

The Olympus LS-14 is looking like a good option at the moment but am gonna spend some time checking out comparison tests.

If anyone knows of some good youtube review/comparison videos of any recorders, link us up!

Don't know if you've come across THIS site, but it's a good place to find many recorders shown next to each other with the ability to compare prices - which seem pretty competitive. I have no connection with the company...
User avatar
Mike Stranks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 4227
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Cirencester, UK

 


Re: Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby Jode Steele » Sun Feb 03, 2013 12:17 am

This looks like a great site. Thanks Mike.

I must say one of the 'added bonuses' to some of the newer recorders is the ability to use them as an audio interface (for a laptop, perhaps). That is one feature that I would possibly find useful.
User avatar
Jode Steele
Poster
Posts: 30
Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2012 12:00 am

Re: Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby Jode Steele » Sun Feb 03, 2013 12:22 am

hollowsun wrote:I have a Tascam DR40 which is excellent in that it has built in mics plus chunky balanced XLRs, 1/4" jacks and very easy to use. - pretty much one-button operation. I've recorded classical and also line level DI'd sampling with excellent results.

FWIW

The Tascam does look a good proposition. Quality over, number of functions is what I'm after and this seems to follow that ethos. Who needs bells and whistles; I just want quality sound capture
User avatar
Jode Steele
Poster
Posts: 30
Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2012 12:00 am

Re: Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby The Elf » Sun Feb 03, 2013 10:01 am

hollowsun wrote:I have a Tascam DR40 which is excellent in that it has built in mics plus chunky balanced XLRs, 1/4" jacks and very easy to use. - pretty much one-button operation. I've recorded classical and also line level DI'd sampling with excellent results.
I can't help the feeling that this and the Zoom H4N are so similar you have to wonder if there's some technology sharing going on between those companies!
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 9938
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2001 11:00 pm
Location: Sheffield, UK

An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.


Re: Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby robin746 » Mon Feb 04, 2013 1:37 am

Trevor Johnson wrote:For a very portable device, I use an Olympus LS5 which is essentially the LS11 but without the remote control and with smaller internal memory, 2Gb against 8gb, although its also has an SD / SDHC card slot.

This. Best value for money and much lower self-noise than Zooms. Built very well and very portable. Built-in mics more than usable. Not many wiz-bang extra features - get the LS-100 if you need those.

I have tons of articles on this topic on my blog. Like this one.
User avatar
robin746
Poster
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Mar 07, 2006 12:00 am
"The Drones" now available on BandCamp through Stolen Mirror.

Re: Which Handheld Digital Recorder should I buy?

Postby Jode Steele » Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:43 am

Thanks for the link Robin

Looks like a wicked blog. I'll be giving that a good reading today and checking out your audio examples. Nice touch.

I am considering the Olympus LS 12 or 14. The price is extremely low for what appears to be a top quality recorder. I like the idea of the LS 14's "Tresmic" low frequency mic. Think this would be good for capturing the many bangs, thwacks and crashes I'll be recording.
User avatar
Jode Steele
Poster
Posts: 30
Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2012 12:00 am


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Hugh Robjohns, Jack Ruston and 3 guests