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Beginner field recording set up


Donald Kauffman
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Hi there. First time poster here. I have recently finished a masters in music tech but am relatively new to film sound/field recording etc. I have a real interest in field recording specifically and also post production and I want to buy a nice recording set up. Previously I have only owned a zoom h4n in terms of portable recording (I have a pretty high spec studio set up) but I'm looking to upgrade dramatically.

I have just bought a pair of dpa 4060s for stereo ambience recordings and plan to add another nice mic for spot recording/possibly dialogue (depending on what kind of jobs I get involved with).

So my main concern is a recorder that will suit my needs and provide me with pretty high quality preamps to match the quality of the mics (suitable for high gain situations). I don't have a huge budget for this, max €1100. I was pretty close to buying a second hand SD Mixpre-d (€775) and some sort of digital recorder to use as a bit bucket, but connecting the AES output to S/PDIF seems a little tricky. Obviously there would also be the option of using line in. I've also considered a second hand fostex fr2 for €400.

The thing is that I met with a guy who's been in the locations industry for years and he had a zoom f8 and he raves about it. He seemed to think I was a bit crazy to buy a 2 channel mixer and bit bucket for pretty much the same price as an f8. However I just can't see how 8 pres on the zoom could match the quality of the Mixpre. But perhaps I'm being overly critical in terms of sound for my first setup. I also feel that I don't really need 8 inputs but I may just be being short sighted here.

So really I'm wondering if anyone had advice on what I should go for. It seems like the options are either a basic 2 channel recorder that sounds great or something that seems to have all the bells and whistles for location recording but perhaps doesn't sound as good.

Sorry for the long ramble! Any advice much appreciated.

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I hate to admit it but the F8 really does sound like a good place to start as a first investment and for 8 channels too!!! It covers pretty much all of your needs for some time, I just hope it does not sound like the other Zooms.

However, your budget is still extremely tight for production sound since you are going to need a lot more than just an OK recorder. You need microphones and radios and booms and windshields and batteries and bags and endless amount of other accessories, 1100 euros will just not cut it. 

Like Constantin says, rental is a good option, you can start work without investment and also you get to try out gear and see for yourself. 

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No one can answer these questions for you. Although by searching this forum you should find your answer. This question has been asked and answered many times and not much new has surfaced. 

My advice in most of these cases: Try before you buy. Or in this case: rent. 

Thanks for the reply. I will search around some more

However, your budget is still extremely tight for production sound since you are going to need a lot more than just an OK recorder. You need microphones and radios and booms and windshields and batteries and bags and endless amount of other accessories, 1100 euros will just not cut it. 

Sorry no I meant my budget for the recorder alone is 1100. Still not a lot I know but surely enough to get started

 

Like Constantin says, rental is a good option, you can start work without investment and also you get to try out gear and see for yourself. 

I guess for the moment I'm looking to have a good setup simply for field recording by myself, building up a sound library. Really I'm more drawn towards post than locations and at the moment I can't afford to kit myself out to be a one man location recordist anyway. Not that I wouldn't be open to that kind of work but as you say, I can start out by renting if that kind of work comes along.

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I guess for the moment I'm looking to have a good setup simply for field recording by myself, building up a sound library. Really I'm more drawn towards post than locations and at the moment I can't afford to kit myself out to be a one man location recordist anyway. Not that I wouldn't be open to that kind of work but as you say, I can start out by renting if that kind of work comes along.

it wouldn't have hurt if you had divulged this info right from the beginning. 

Anyway, I'll stick to my original advice, extended with the advice to buy a used 744T, which will provide the quality and reliability you may be looking for. Do you really need 8 tracks for building up a sound library?

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it wouldn't have hurt if you had divulged this info right from the beginning. 

Anyway, I'll stick to my original advice, extended with the advice to buy a used 744T, which will provide the quality and reliability you may be looking for. Do you really need 8 tracks for building up a sound library?

Yes sorry I wasn't clear. This is how I want to start out and see where it goes from there. And no at this moment I don't need 8 tracks at all but I was wondering if it would be useful to have further down the line. I think even a used 744T might be out of my budget for the moment but it's something I'd certainly consider. Cheers

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If you want good pramps to be able to even record music, a modular device that you can add more tracks later on, I would consider the SX-R4+ from Sonosax. I know it's 4x as expensive but this is a one time UPgrade that will last you years. Why invest in good mics and working in post if your pream and recorder arn't at the same level as the rest of your work?

My 2cents.

Pat

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F8 does seem like the best value for 8 channel recording, but for production sound, it may not be the best first mixer/recorder.  Unlike the music industry, where 8 channels can easily get gobbled up by multi-mic'd bands, whereas production sound is going to have $1000 - $2000 boom mics and $1000 - $3000 per channel radio mics.  4, 6, or 8 channels at $10K to $30K worth of mics... doesn't make sense to limit oneself to a $1000 recorder, unless it happens to be the best unit for the job.  In this case, the wiser investment might be something like a 302 or 442 + couple of lectros if your foot in the door is the ENG route (where mixer absolutely isn't optional), or 552 / Maxx / 633 if your looking for more of an EFP / television career track.  I have a somewhat bipolar first impression of the F8.  I think it is hands down the worst mixer available yet simultaneously being one of the best recorders (all without real world hands on experience - after which, may temper my uneducated opinion either way).  I wouldn't recommend the Sonosax to anyone as a first unit.  In fact I would unilaterally dissuade people from going Sonosax, although I do in fact have much respect for the company and their products.  I'm the guy that tells everyone who ever comes to me for relationship advice to break up - if they are so easily convinced, it wasn't meant to be - but if there are reasons to go counter to my advice, those reasons must be good, and I think this logic, for me, also applies to all things Sonosax.

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If your goal is stereo sound gathering, a used Sound Devices 7xx series is your probably your best sound quality per dollar purchases right now.  The preamps are topnotch with slightly better noise floor and slightly less harmonic distortion than the SD 633. And there's lots for sale right now.

The SD 633's advantage is that it's a lot more intuitive when playing in the menus, and has way better metadata entry.  Also has a lot more tracks and flexible bus routing and all kinds of modern stuff that makes it awesome.

I have both.  My 633 is my daily driver, and the 744 is the 633's backup and also dedicated sound effects recorder.  It's funny, usually when you get a newer recorder, you resent using an older one for anything- In my case, I though I now generally dislike using the 744t for production recording, I still prefer it for pure sound capture when getting ambiences or FX.

Cheers,

Brent Calkin

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Many of our renowned field recording (for ambiance & effects) friends use Sound Devices two channel recorders. The 722, 702 and 702T are all very fine, rock solid machines that should suite your needs well. A used one could certainly be found for your budget. Even if you decide to go into production sound down the line, any one of these would be a fine and useful investment. In the event that you need more channels, you may try simply putting a mixer in front of your two channel machine and get good at mixing before spending the money on a multi-track machine. 

I wouldnt be surprised if the F8 is an ok machine, but I couldnt imagine mixing on it. It is really not well designed and thought out for anyone doing our job in the bag or on the cart. I would consider it probably an ok backup recorder, but the one thing I would never do is use it simply because I would never want people associating that brand with professional high end gear. You won't see low end gear on my cart and I intend to keep it that way. Just my humble opinion. 

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  In fact I would unilaterally dissuade people from going Sonosax, although I do in fact have much respect for the company and their products.  I'm the guy that tells everyone who ever comes to me for relationship advice to break up - if they are so easily convinced, it wasn't meant to be - but if there are reasons to go counter to my advice, those reasons must be good

So you are playing a character? ;-)

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"Beginner field recorder setup"

"sonosax"

ok class, let's try to put those two words / phrases into a sentence.  I should have been more clear previously, as I would in fact NOT dissuade everyone from Sonosax, just the people asking for advice as a beggining recordist.  They make excellent lustworthy gear and certainly the cream of the crop.

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Get a used 702T, these are available at very good prices, are very reliable, high quality machines that will, should you ever feel the need for an upgrade, sell for pretty much the same price as you pay for it now, as opposed to a Zoom F8 which will likely lose a lot of its value. Also you won't have to deal with some of the downsides of the F8 (meta data etc. see reviews on here and elsewhere).

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Thank you everyone for your input. Certainly the advice on getting a 702/702T/722 is good but unfortunately any I've seen for sale are out of my budget. 1100 Euro is my max right now and the cheapest I've come across is 1100 GBP for a 702 (about 1500 euro). Seems in the States they can be found cheaper but then you run into import taxes.

Perhaps I'm not looking in the right places but if I can find one that is pretty close to 1100 euro then I will be jumping on it immediately

Get a used 702T, these are available at very good prices, are very reliable, high quality machines that will, should you ever feel the need for an upgrade, sell for pretty much the same price as you pay for it now, as opposed to a Zoom F8 which will likely lose a lot of its value. Also you won't have to deal with some of the downsides of the F8 (meta data etc. see reviews on here and elsewhere).

I believe you are completely right. Have you seen 702Ts for close to 1100 euro? Please point me in the direction if you have! Cheers

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