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Sound Devices Scorpio or Cantar X3


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Hello everyone!
I want to upgrade my recorder and am looking for your opinion!
My current cart setup is: Sound Devices 788T + CL9 + CL8 + CL Wifi, Wisycom Wireless (6x MCR42 available, 1x MCR54 ordered) in PSC Sixpack (2 available). I mainly use the AES inputs of the recorder and sometimes some analogue inputs for an M/S ambience for example.

The main reason for an upgrade is the track-count. It just isn't enough for some jobs anymore.

I've been checking out the Scorpio and the X3 mostly. The DEVA24 seems like a great machine, but I think it only makes sense if I would change my whole gear to Zaxcom.

Since I think that there must have been quite a few of you who had to choose between these 2 recorders, I would like to know why you chose which machine.

Thank you in advance

Manuel

p.s.: Sorry, if there already is a thread about this, I couldn't find one.
 

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I would say that both are very capable recorders. You are hesitating between an Aston Martin and a Ferrari... matter of taste.

 

I'll put emphasis on the differences that could make the balance shift.

 

The Cantar X3 can store and recall Input and output grids (20 input maps, 26 headphone and output maps).

The inbuilt mixer plate

The playback facility

 

The Scorpio can have Cedar SDNX onboard

Its layout and ergonomics are closer to the 788 that you already know.

The Scorpio weight 1.5 kg less than the X3 wich can be decisive if you also work on the shoulder.

 

If I was you, I'll borrow one of each and make my own opinion. Features and specifications are one thing, but your feeling when working with the machine is another one.

 

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+1 on some test drives.  I still use 7xx and 6xx machines all the time.  6xx ergonomics are very similar to 8xx and Scorpio, but all those later machines operate pretty differently than 7xx, especially in how you "run the menus", routing etc..  So it really is important to see which system works with your brain.  I myself would not really consider either of these great machines for serious over the shoulder verite work that includes booming--too large and heavy.   The SD form factor works better in a "rack" sort of cart setup (controls all on the front, none on the top) if that is how your cart is already set up for your 788, but the JWSound "Gallery of Carts" has lots of great Cantar rigs to get ideas from.  All SD machines from 664 onward can store some number of full routing+I/O+sound report etc "scenes", with the number available increasing in the newer recorders.   Tough choice between these 2!

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One thing not mentioned here is that the PSC Six Pack has an optional upgrade to interact via the Cantar via USB.

 

Per PSC:

The Aaton Company of France has created a digital interface board for use inside the PSC RF Six Pack. This optional PCB can be factory installed by PSC in new units. It allows the PSC RF Six Pack to directly interface to the Aaton Cantar and Cantar Mini recorders. The interface option allows Cantar users to directly view information about their wireless on the Cantar screen. This information includes: RF Frequency Scanning, RF Receiver Frequency Selection, RF Signal Strength, Transmitter battery levels and more. The interface adds a USB connector to the right-hand side panel of the PSC RF Six Pack for use in connection to the Cantar and Cantar Mini recorders.

Please note that PSC is only installing this Aaton Interface as an option on new RF Six Packs. Existing PSC RF Six Packs (version 2 only) can be upgraded through participating Aaton Dealers world-wide.

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First of all thank you for all your answers!
I also own a 633, so I'm familiar with the ergonomics. They are definitely not made for over the shoulder work in my opinion, but it would be great to be able to get them out of the cart for some carscenes for example.

The choice is really difficult. The inbuilt mixer plate on the X3 is great, the noise-assist/cedar option on the scorpio also.
Both have great features!

For the hydra/PSC Option:
If I read it correctly, the hydra supports 4 receivers? So if I have 2 sixpacks with the hydra option would it only read 4 of the 6 receivers?
 

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The Hydra board for the PSC sixpack works for all the receivers in that sixpack - 2 six-packs with Hydra equals 12 channels of Hydra info. you can adjust all major parameters from the Cantar interface, and the display  is excellent. No more fiddling around with hard to read receiver displays and fussy little buttons. Definitely a big plus for ham fisted old codgers like me.

OK, that's all. I should not get into the other reasons some of us use the Cantar. Demo one, if you can, and give it a few days. Then you will be a little better prepared to make that decision. Same goes for the Scorpio - try before you buy.

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21 minutes ago, tonvogt said:

First of all thank you for all your answers!
I also own a 633, so I'm familiar with the ergonomics. They are definitely not made for over the shoulder work in my opinion, but it would be great to be able to get them out of the cart for some carscenes for example.

The choice is really difficult. The inbuilt mixer plate on the X3 is great, the noise-assist/cedar option on the scorpio also.
Both have great features!

For the hydra/PSC Option:
If I read it correctly, the hydra supports 4 receivers? So if I have 2 sixpacks with the hydra option would it only read 4 of the 6 receivers?
 

Hey Manuel,

in case you missed it, you may take a look at Zeigermann Audios Testcenter 20/21 offer. 

They'll also talk you through all the hydra details.

See you some time


 

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On a related point, I think the comparison of the Cantar Mini vs Sound Devices 888 is interesting too? As they're identically priced! (technically the Mini is cheaper)

 

 

14 hours ago, codyman said:

One thing not mentioned here is that the PSC Six Pack has an optional upgrade to interact via the Cantar via USB.

 

Per PSC:

The Aaton Company of France has created a digital interface board for use inside the PSC RF Six Pack. This optional PCB can be factory installed by PSC in new units. It allows the PSC RF Six Pack to directly interface to the Aaton Cantar and Cantar Mini recorders. The interface option allows Cantar users to directly view information about their wireless on the Cantar screen. This information includes: RF Frequency Scanning, RF Receiver Frequency Selection, RF Signal Strength, Transmitter battery levels and more. The interface adds a USB connector to the right-hand side panel of the PSC RF Six Pack for use in connection to the Cantar and Cantar Mini recorders.

Please note that PSC is only installing this Aaton Interface as an option on new RF Six Packs. Existing PSC RF Six Packs (version 2 only) can be upgraded through participating Aaton Dealers world-wide.



The integration upgrade is also available for the Lectrosonics Octopack as well. 

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I was faced by the same choice last year, so I tried both the X3 with Cantaress and the Scorpio with CL-16 for a few days each. 
There are many reasons to chose one or the other and both are definitely great recorders. I eventually settled on the Scorpio, but the X3 has features which I am missing now, such as play & record. From the price difference between the two recorders I bought a MicPre10 with which I can also facilitate play&record. 
 

Here are some other considerations, which tipped the scales for me. These are fairly personal and I‘m sure do not apply to everyone: 

 

Scorpio is significantly cheaper, especially on a per-channel-basis, with CL-16 the difference is a lot less, but with Scorpio you get twice as many preamps 

 

Scorpio alone is much lighter, but X3/Cantaress and Scorpio/CL-16 weigh nearly the same.
 

Post-roll

arm/disarm tracks mid-take

Scorpio is far easier to mount on a cart or in a bag

 

CL-16 isn’t required to get faders, you can use many third party controllers (more to come I‘m sure)

 

CL-16 is much closer to an analog board than Cantaress and the faders are amazing. 
 

plugin capability: this alone could be reason for me to get Scorpio, just pick what and when you need it, and I‘m sure more plug-ins will be forthcoming 

 

Scorpio isn’t as mature yet as the X3, but SD release firmware update freqently and they really listen to complaints and bug reports and try to solve them quickly. 
 

That’s pretty much all I can think of for the moment. 
I just want to add that my Scorpio has been running absolutely trouble free from day 1. As of Friday I‘ve had 99 on location days without a single hiccup

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Hydra will support 16 channels.  From a user of both products, I would say the SD products are more intuitive than the Cantar units.  When both systems are tricked out the price differential is not as great.  Each system has some pluses and minuses.  You have to decide what works best in your production world.

I went with the Mini several years ago and mostly like it.  Sometimes the menus are frustrating if you haven't used a particular function in a long time.  For me one of the big pluses was the Transvideo screen, unlike the SD screens this one is viewable in any lighting conditions.  Along with the larger screen viewing the different menus is easier on my old eyes.  I do like the Hydra system as your wireless receivers can be out of sight, still allows easy control of the parameters.  Yes, extra cables and weight for the Hydra.  For a cart based system not a deal breaker, though Dante enabled receivers would be I think even better than the Hydra system.

Manuel, I agree with Constantin, try both, and see what works for you.  We really are very fortunate in todays world to have some very good choices in gear selection.  When I started out, it was a Nagra and a couple of Vega wireless systems.

David

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Cantar takes time to learn-- i picked up a mini in Sept...  i am still learning how to maximize my workflow.--- that being said.  I do love the mini--  and love working with linear faders instead of rotary ones.  Best part is that i can assign any fader to any function..  Actually they do not call them faders- they are called actuators..     Mini on the shoulder- very tough..   i am going to design a bag for shoulder use and have it made.   The integration with Hydra to my lectro receivers is good but it is not as good as what i had with SL-6/688.  With lectros in hydra, not all the menu options are there like they were in 688.  If you go to PSC six pack manual, you can see what options are there for each RX brand.  Not all the same..  

 

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Totally agree with you John.  The learning curve is steeper than SD products, imo.  Really is more flexible.  The lack of a bag and the difficult shape for the Mini is a challenge.  I have built four versions to date.  My latest works for me, no perfect, but for what I have been doing the past year or so, it is ok.  Just got the Melody from Gotham this past week.  Now I will mount that and have a total of 3 SRc receivers installed using the Hydra.

David

CantM1.jpg

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It's a tough choice. For a long time I've been somewhat disappointed with SD's offerings. To me, on the hardware front, they seem limited. That being said, with their integration of plugins and such, I've been really impressed. I think they're starting to show some real innovation which I'm stoked about. I'll say that I've owned (and still own) SD products. I've also been working with the X3 since 2016. The X3 is simply the most flexible machine I've ever worked with. With the many configurations that you can save for inputs and outputs, switching up workflows is a breeze. To many people it seems very complicated, but in reality it is extremely easy to use. Of course, everything takes time to get used to.  All the points made above are great observations. I'm in the states (DC) and I had an accident that happened on the job. The main selector crown hit the ground and bits and pieces flew everywhere. My heart sank for many reasons. I got on the phone and in 1.5days I had a new crown delivered to me. I was able to install the new one in about 2 minutes. The service you get from these guys, even across the Atlantic, is simply stellar. I LOVE that the machine is user serviceable for the most part. And I love that even though the main selector went down, I was still able to have full control of the recorder via keyboard. When I bought the X3 I ordered it without the DANTE board. I bought card later and installed it myself. Easy. Love it. I was in a similar situation with an SD product (744t) and it failed in a shoot in my beloved Mexico. SD support kinda left me hanging. I had a backup recorder so it was no big deal but I felt left to my own devices. When I got back to the states, service was slow and I think it left a bad impression on the service front. This was a long time ago. I'm sure things have changed since. I've had other so-so experiences when I tried and wanted to use a 633. I tried two of them(brand new), and they both failed. This was more recent. So I gave up on them and moved on to something else. I know that there's a lot of positive SD experiences here but this is just mine. For me service is important.

The X3 over the shoulder is definitely challenging. The protogear bags are fantastic for this. I got a chance to check out Chris Giles's bag and it was sweet. The typical box shaped recorders are easier to bag, regardless of weight. What sells me on the X3 is 1) the sound, 2)routing flexibility (you can pretty much do anything you can imagine), and 3)the fact that you can assign any fader or pot to any output or input. I really don't understand why more manufacturers don't bring this flexibility into their recorders. I cant stand the fact that I cant 'gang' a bunch of inputs to a pot/fader on other recorders. I do recordings in stereo, decca tree, ambisonic and such so its important to me to have this ease. Maybe you can with the Scorpio but it seems to me that fader 1 is tied (hardwired) to whatever track/input that is. I do a lot of music recording as well and to me the X3 excels in that department. 

Both great units, like has been said above, just try them both. Have your dealer of choice get one for you to audition for a week or two. All this being said, I know of at least one guy who left the X3 for the Nova workflow. Talk about compact! You could switch from on the go car rigs to cart mode in seconds (minutes but you know what I mean). It's a good time to be checking out new recorders as you have so many options!

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34 minutes ago, ivanovich said:

I know of at least one guy who left the X3 for the Nova workflow. Talk about compact! You could switch from on the go car rigs to cart mode in seconds (minutes but you know what I mean). It's a good time to be checking out new recorders as you have so many options!

I'd consider getting a Nova + zax wireless if I was completely starting from scratch.  It would be silly though to ditch 10 channels of Lectro gear + 10 R1a's though at this point in the game.  I guess Zax does sell an AES module that slots into the 2 bays on the Nova now but at that point might as well just get an SD 8 series with the little 8 channel AES barnacle on it and save money because in my opinion, Zax is only worth it if you treat it like Apple and go "all in" with just living in their entire ecosystem.

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I have owned a 788 for some years and currently work on a 833 for docus and a Cantar X3 for scripted cart work (with typically 10 wireless channels).

I've never used a Sorpio. I am mostly doing rather fast paced TV series with like 5-8 minutes a day and I love the X3 especially for:

 

- metadata handling (native X3 supported by a wireless keyboard is faster and with better overview than SD remote on a separate iPad; Cantar lets you edit metadata during record, including use of shortcuts for scene advance. I often find myself listening to the slate and typing in the new number. Batch edit of multiple takes, like inserting or deleting comments or correcting slate numbers of takes way down in the list is also easy. )

- playback capabilities  (scrolling through the waveform of a lav mike brings you to the line in question in 3 seconds + with track solos right on your finger tips you can jump through the tracks on playing back and forth with the scroll wheel. I am frequently checking overlaps, lav issues etc immediately after the take & I can be very quick to give an OK on sound. Not even try that with the 788 or 833.

- compactness: even the stand alone X3 recorder with it's linear faders, scroll wheels and the big screen provides a dedicated cockpit for piloting it. I've skipped the "Cantarem" external faders and never used a Cantaress for weight reasons, as my cart has to be carried up the stairs in narrow locations frequently. The only add ons are a cheap wireless keyboard and a set of 8 extra rotary faders to quickly control more inputs and if necessary mix more than 10 tracks.

- X3 is very versatile and can cope with even rare requirements. The setup screens are comprehensive and quick to access, but the logic is different to SD.  Scorpio menus will be more familiar to you if you have used a 633 before, but it will be a matter of the first week only.

 

To be fair, the plus points for the Scorpio would be

- the price tag

- the more familiar menu structure 

- the Cedar Option

- some more mic inputs (X3 got "only" 8)

- maybe it consumes less power (X3 typically draws between 15 and 25 watts)

 

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The screen is a definite disadvantage of the 8-series. The CL-16 screen somewhat mitigates that, but only if you have it and can use it. 
I always thought the removable front panel of the Deva 24 was a brilliant idea, and I hoped Scorpio would get something similar or at least the possibility of an external display. 
I guess the tablet option is SDs version of that idea, but for me that doesn’t really work well. I would want a clone of the display without any controls, just a large screen. 
 

2 hours ago, axel said:

metadata handling (native X3 supported by a wireless keyboard is faster and with better overview than SD remote on a separate iPad; Cantar lets you edit metadata during record, including use of shortcuts for scene advance.


Just to clarify: all of this works on the 8-series, too. No need to use an iPad. 

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A bit of a tangent here but I don’t believe you need to be “all-in” on Zaxcom to choose to use one of their recorders. 
 

I actually think Zax would be better off if they shifted their focus away from this all in one integrated approach they’ve been pushing. I think it’s likely a big turn off for a lot of potential customers. 

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43 minutes ago, Derek H said:

A bit of a tangent here but I don’t believe you need to be “all-in” on Zaxcom to choose to use one of their recorders. 
 

I actually think Zax would be better off if they shifted their focus away from this all in one integrated approach they’ve been pushing. I think it’s likely a big turn off for a lot of potential customers. 

I agree--especially for those of us down the road a bit with large investments in gear already.  I understand that folks who are doing a full "rehab' of their rigs (vs a small scale "remodel") might buy into the whole ecosystem, but that's not an economic possibility for many of us.   There was a comment above about bad+slow service from SD, going back to the 744.  I have to say that my experience has been the polar opposite: they have "talked me down" live over the phone when on the set, let me have loaners and turned machines around for me very fast when I needed help, even machines no longer being made.  I still very much believe in backups, but there are great service-support stories out there for all 3 of the main makers of the recorders we use.

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Good point Philip, system integration if you are already invested in a particular line of gear is important for most of us.  The Hydra system or something like it is nice, as you can use different manufacture's wireless systems, including the ability to mix brands and use them at the same time.

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There is no reason that Zaxcom wireless or Zaxcom IFB will not work well with other recorders. The complete package is without equal but so is the recording wireless and the digital IFB on their own. The original poster should demo some gear before making a decision. If the original problem is needing more than 8 tracks the Nova at 16 tracks and 1/2 to one 1/3 the weight and size will be a big bonus. A 16 track 5 pound sound bag can be very attractive.

 

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3 hours ago, drpro said:

The Hydra system or something like it is nice, as you can use different manufacture's wireless systems,


Yes, exactly. Just like the SuperSlot integration of the SL-2 for Sound Devices Recorder

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20 hours ago, Constantin said:

The screen is a definite disadvantage of the 8-series. The CL-16 screen somewhat mitigates that, but only if you have it and can use it. 
I always thought the removable front panel of the Deva 24 was a brilliant idea, and I hoped Scorpio would get something similar or at least the possibility of an external display. 
I guess the tablet option is SDs version of that idea, but for me that doesn’t really work well. I would want a clone of the display without any controls, just a large screen. 

I've always thought an HDMI port on a recorder would be a nifty thing to have. 
So you can send an exact live copy of what is on the recorder's screen to any size and any type of screen (so long as the other screen has an HDMI input. Of course, an SDI output on the recorder would be even nicer to have!). 

 

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5 hours ago, IronFilm said:

I've always thought an HDMI port on a recorder would be a nifty thing to have. 
So you can send an exact live copy of what is on the recorder's screen to any size and any type of screen (so long as the other screen has an HDMI input. Of course, an SDI output on the recorder would be even nicer to have!). 

 


Yes this would be great. But they’ve all opted for app control which is more useful in some ways but problematic in others. 
 

you have to commend Aaton for choosing a design that doesn’t need an app to augment the display or controls. 
 

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