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Backpack-sized portable recorder?

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Backpack-sized portable recorder?

Postby CS70 » Thu Nov 29, 2018 11:08 am

Lately I've been doing a bit of vocal recording, usually at a client location. I normally bring my old laptop and the Focusrite Forte, whose preamps are very good and gives me a relatively small package to carry.

The gig always goes with a pre-prepared base ready in a DAW project, and recording via the interface onto the computer. Sometimes, depending on where we are, we have some loudspeakers available and a L/R main outs come handy, but it's not that important. Depending on the singer, it's usually from three to ten takes.

However, in lots of these situations I need really only one input channel and a couple headphone outs for monitoring by the singer and myself (with the Forte I simply split the output with a Y cable and it works reasonably enough). So carrying up the laptop, rigging the components, starting it etc, is a little more cumbersome that it should.

An idea would be to ditch the PC and bring only mic, cable and a recording device where I have pre-loaded the base. Oftentimes the people there have already a mic stand, so that would allow me to travel super light and set up the recording gear quicker than the interface+pc combo.

Therefore, I wonder if there are any portable small recorders which:

- has one, max 2 inputs with phantom power
- has really good, low-noise, low distortion preamps (as for the Forte).
- has reasonable gain (I sometimes employ passive ribbon mics for backing vocals, and rappers love to see their SM7B)
- can do sound on sound, i.e. record while a base track is playing
- has one or two headphone outs
- records at 44.1/24bit
- allows for reasonably long recordings (a few takes - but I don't want to worry about memory or having to delete stuff)
- easy to operate (we are on location and lots of the singers aren't experienced so I'm talking with them while setting up the gear)
- easy transfer of recorded material to PC (so maybe a removable SD card)
- does not need mortgaging the house :-) (that excludes Sound Devices stuff I guess)

I have an old BOSS BR800 which would do but it records only at 16bit and the preamps are ok but not stellar. At the same idea the whole idea is not to have to carry and rig up different devices, so a separate preamp defeats the purpose.

Anything worth looking at on the market?

Thanks!
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Re: Backpack-sized portable recorder?

Postby Ramirez » Thu Nov 29, 2018 11:31 am

Would a Zoom F4 fit the bill? I haven’t used one but heard its very good. It has 4 preamps though.
Or maybe the cheaper H range. H5/H6 are also well regarder, but preamps don’t have as much gain as the F series I don’t think.
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Re: Backpack-sized portable recorder?

Postby CS70 » Thu Nov 29, 2018 11:45 am

Ramirez wrote:Would a Zoom F4 fit the bill? I haven’t used one but heard its very good. It has 4 preamps though.
Or maybe the cheaper H range. H5/H6 are also well regarder, but preamps don’t have as much gain as the F series I don’t think.

It might, wasnt sure if it did sound on sound
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Re: Backpack-sized portable recorder?

Postby Mike Stranks » Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:06 pm

One of the Sound Devices MixPre'n'M recorders should meet your needs completely.

Hugh's review of the biggest (smaller ones available): https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/sound-devices-mixpre-10m

The Zoom F8n might also suit as may the Zoom Livetrak L12.

The likes of the Zoom R16 etc are OK, but not for really 'serious' work... the preamps are average to good but hiss like snakes if you crank up the gain...
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Re: Backpack-sized portable recorder?

Postby blinddrew » Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:25 pm

I was thinking the MixPre 3M would fit the bill precisely no?
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Re: Backpack-sized portable recorder?

Postby John Willett » Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:32 pm

Mike Stranks wrote:One of the Sound Devices MixPre'n'M recorders should meet your needs completely.

Hugh's review of the biggest (smaller ones available): https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/sound-devices-mixpre-10m

I would agree with Mike on this - the best value for money at high quality. :thumbup:

Though you don't necessarily need the "M" version for location recording without overdubbing.

When I spoke to Sound Devices about this they recommended the standard version over the "M".
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Re: Backpack-sized portable recorder?

Postby CS70 » Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:36 pm

Thanks guys, that saved me days of roaming the internet for reviews.

On a completely different way of thinking, I'm looking at stuff like the Intel ComputStick. It annoys me a little to have such a great package as the Forte but missing the computing-cum-I/O-device on the other side. All I need is something with small form factor that can install ASIO drivers and has built in memory.

But it's just a fun exploration at the moment, the MixPre-3M seems just the ticket.
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Re: Backpack-sized portable recorder?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Nov 29, 2018 1:51 pm

blinddrew wrote:I was thinking the MixPre 3M would fit the bill precisely no?

I was going to suggest the same thing... Ticks all the boxes very nicely, won't break the bank, and the quality is sublime.

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Re: Backpack-sized portable recorder?

Postby Bob Bickerton » Thu Nov 29, 2018 6:56 pm

Another vote for the Sound Devices MixPre 3m - great piece of kit.

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Re: Backpack-sized portable recorder?

Postby Dan LB » Fri Nov 30, 2018 9:26 am

Yet another vote for the MixPre series. I have the 6 and it’s a fantastic device.

The 3M, 6M and 10M will do what you want straight out of the box. They also come with the mains power supply.

The 3, 6 and 10T are more expensive to begin with and will require you to install the musician app at an extra cost of $99 but they have more hardware features than their ‘M’ counterparts, although they don’t come with the mains power supply.

I know you said budget would rule out Sound Devices, but the MixPre 3M is definitely worth checking out.

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Re: Backpack-sized portable recorder?

Postby CS70 » Fri Nov 30, 2018 9:45 am

Thanks Dan (and others) I was hoping for something less expensive but the 3M ticks all the boxes and it’s really not that crazy costly either, so I’m sold.

It is mainly a simplification for me, rather than a necessity, as the current pc+Forte setup allows me good quality results; but it’s also driven by the aging laptop and the fact that the Forte is now sadly unsupported.

The resale value of Sound Devices ..devices seems also high, so that seals the deal. The only issue now is the timing, waiting for the laptop to finally go down in flames (it’s a model from 8 years ago) or not.

Should have checked Black Friday! :-D

Much appreciated!
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Re: Backpack-sized portable recorder?

Postby John Willett » Fri Nov 30, 2018 11:12 am

CS70 wrote:Thanks Dan (and others) I was hoping for something less expensive but the 3M ticks all the boxes and it’s really not that crazy costly either, so I’m sold.

It is mainly a simplification for me, rather than a necessity, as the current pc+Forte setup allows me good quality results; but it’s also driven by the aging laptop and the fact that the Forte is now sadly unsupported.

The resale value of Sound Devices ..devices seems also high, so that seals the deal. The only issue now is the timing, waiting for the laptop to finally go down in flames (it’s a model from 8 years ago) or not.

Should have checked Black Friday! :-D

Much appreciated!

Buy on Amazon UK - supplied by Sound Devices and it will arrive on Monday. :thumbup:
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Re: Backpack-sized portable recorder?

Postby CS70 » Fri Nov 30, 2018 11:15 am

John Willett wrote:
CS70 wrote:Thanks Dan (and others) I was hoping for something less expensive but the 3M ticks all the boxes and it’s really not that crazy costly either, so I’m sold.

It is mainly a simplification for me, rather than a necessity, as the current pc+Forte setup allows me good quality results; but it’s also driven by the aging laptop and the fact that the Forte is now sadly unsupported.

The resale value of Sound Devices ..devices seems also high, so that seals the deal. The only issue now is the timing, waiting for the laptop to finally go down in flames (it’s a model from 8 years ago) or not.

Should have checked Black Friday! :-D

Much appreciated!

Buy on Amazon UK - supplied by Sound Devices and it will arrive on Monday. :thumbup:

"This item does not ship to Norway" - alas

But there's a couple local dealers, it will cost around 650GBP here
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Re: Backpack-sized portable recorder?

Postby Dan LB » Sat Dec 01, 2018 3:52 am

The MixPre 3M comes with a mains power supply but I’d also budget for an alternative powering option for the inevitable outdoor use as the 4 x AA battery sled doesn’t last pi55ing time!

I use a 20100mAh USB C power bank which powers my MixPre 6 with 2 phantom powered mics for over 10 hours.

This is the one I have: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Cell-Phone-P ... bank+usb+c

Via this 15cm USB C to USB C cable: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01LONPUM4/ ... UTF8&psc=1

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Re: Backpack-sized portable recorder?

Postby Paul Isaacs » Mon Dec 03, 2018 5:59 pm

The 8xAA sled with NiMH AA rechargeables should give you around 4 hours.
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Re: Backpack-sized portable recorder?

Postby CS70 » Mon Dec 03, 2018 6:13 pm

Dan LB wrote:The MixPre 3M comes with a mains power supply but I’d also budget for an alternative powering option for the inevitable outdoor use as the 4 x AA battery sled doesn’t last pi55ing time!

I use a 20100mAh USB C power bank which powers my MixPre 6 with 2 phantom powered mics for over 10 hours.

This is the one I have: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Cell-Phone-P ... bank+usb+c

Via this 15cm USB C to USB C cable: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01LONPUM4/ ... UTF8&psc=1

Dan

Cheers. In general I use this kind of setup to record people on location - indoors - typically vocalists or songwriters - replicating a studio setting with appropriate makeshift room treatment. But good to know, appreciated! You never know when you're asked to record that jazz trio on the street :D
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Re: Backpack-sized portable recorder?

Postby Dan LB » Tue Dec 04, 2018 2:34 am

CS70 wrote:Cheers. In general I use this kind of setup to record people on location - indoors - typically vocalists or songwriters - replicating a studio setting with appropriate makeshift room treatment. But good to know, appreciated! You never know when you're asked to record that jazz trio on the street :D

Or when you get the urge to go and record wildlife :thumbup:
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Re: Backpack-sized portable recorder?

Postby Ariosto » Tue Dec 04, 2018 8:21 am

I've just ordered the Mix-pre 3 and looking forward to using it for narration and live chamber music recording.
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Re: Backpack-sized portable recorder?

Postby Bob Bickerton » Tue Dec 04, 2018 10:57 am

Dan LB wrote:Or when you get the urge to go and record wildlife :thumbup:

Excellent for for this. I've been using it for natural soundscapes and birdsong and, as it happens (because I also have the Mixpre 10m), I have the 8 battery sled as well as a couple of four battery sleds. Real easy to swap out a sled and carry on recording.

Bob
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Re: Backpack-sized portable recorder?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Dec 04, 2018 11:15 am

AA batteries are expensive and fiddly... I prefer to use external Lithium battery packs, and I was recently introduced to the Inspired Energy packs (and I note that Chris Watson also mentioned them in his article in this month's issue).

Image

In the UK the Inspired Energy packs are available from Raycom:

https://www.raycom.co.uk/product/inspir ... tery-49wh/

But the same thing is also marketed under the French Audioroot brand:

http://www.audioroot.fr/product/esmart-li-49wh/

Available in the UK from PinkNoise

https://www.pinknoise-systems.co.uk/aud ... ttery.html

Image

The 49wh version is a particularly convenient size, but there is also a 98wh version for £70 more:

https://www.raycom.co.uk/product/inspir ... tery-98wh/

https://www.pinknoise-systems.co.uk/aud ... ttery.html

Image

...of course, you'll need to budget for a charger and the appropriate connecting cables, but if you work on batteries a lot this is a very practical solution in my view.

H
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