The Metaphorical ‘Budget’ Allocation, Part 2

Featured recorders in these video discussions were the Zoom H4n, Roland R26, Marantz PMD 661 and the Nagara. These choices were neither intentional nor influenced by the vast popularity of its sales. These are units we have used extensively or had on hand at the time. While there is debate amongst serious sound recordist & indie filmmakers on “pro-sumer” units, they can also often be “under utilized”. Let’s explore why.

For argument sake, let’s compare 2 popular audio recorders for the HDSLR market. Current trends show that some have opted for the newly released Roland R26 over the Zoom H4n. The fact that it records 6 audio channels simultaneously and the touch screen function are major selling points. The R26 is larger in form factor, and the unit incorporates 2 combo XLR inputs, an onboard XY coincident pair and a pair of spaced Omni mics. While recording simultaneously for example, the XY pair may sound great but the spaced Omnis may not be at an optimal position depending on the sound source. The notion of more is better doesn’t mean it’s conducive to a good recording. Ultimately both the R26 & H4n have identical options of 2 XLR inputs. Take away the other bells and whistles, and effectively you have a stereo recording medium. One very legitimate appeal of the R26 any professional sound recordist will tell you, are the large rotary knobs designed for adjusting incoming signals. This is important when you need to ” ride” or adjust input levels on the fly. While the H4n doesn’t have large rotary knobs, the little unit is often underestimated. You only have to look at its popularity & sales statistics. Stay tuned to watch part 3 as we explain why.

The dialogue in these videos when done using a single Schoeps CCM4 compact cardioid microphone, mounted on a Rycote Lyre system and a fixed boom pole approximately 2.5 feet above & between us. Audio was recorded onto a Marantz PMD 661, which is still a favorite unit of mine for a number of reasons. While the 661 is a tad more expensive, the signal to noise in its pre’s are significantly quieter, it has a digital spdif input which allows me to bypass it’s internal A/D converter, and use it in conjunction with my Apogee pre amps and standalone A/D converters. It also has a pair of unbalanced RCA line outputs should I need to connect it to a playback system. Not ideal but handy nonetheless. Metering is both LED and on screen. And lastly, Neutrik XLR input connectors and a proper 6.5 TRS headphone output jack for monitoring spells reliability for me.

As discussed in my previous articles, using a single cardioid mic indoors to record 2 subjects can sometimes yield more natural results. In the past, I’ve been asked why I haven’t used a Lav mic. Well, keep in mind that placing 2 Omni Lavs on either of us within close proximity could have induced comb filtering. Also, the space we shot in is right next to a major traffic intersection & under a flight path. Considering the extraneous noise, the dialogue was processed only with a roll off filter and a minuscule amount of compression.

For those of you that still are not willing to explore the options of recording separate sound, and would rather opt for convenience, portability and capturing straight to camera, I’d recommend checking out Robert Rozak and his audio solutions. He is the founder & president of Juicedlink products. Robert is passionate about his stuff and provides excellent educational info too. Another terrific resource for serious aspiring sound recordist is a discussion group JWS Sound Group Another worthy mention is GearSlutz com for those who want to explore audio pre & post production a step further.

I studied audio engineering by necessity as I soon realized the relevance it had if I wanted to aspire and become a versatile & consummate professional. Constant research & practical field recording & studio time is essential in drawing any type of conclusion when making decisions on buying equipment.

Misinformation is often fueled by ignorance or generally by hear say. And with the influx of mindless blogging, bombardment of media content, reviews & opinions, finding out what equipment you need best becomes even harder. Hence I urge you to check out the websites I mentioned above.

In conclusion, it would be safe to assume that there is no such thing as one ultimate recorder. Different models have their own merit and it greatly depends on what your job requires from you. It’s refreshing to hear from someone like Greg who loves his quality units but still acknowledges the merit, functionality & advantages in cheaper recorders for folks on a budget. But as the saying goes, you pay for what you get. Now, it’s time to sell my left kidney to buy that Aaton Cantar-X2 I so desperately want.


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One Response to “The Metaphorical ‘Budget’ Allocation, Part 2”

  1. Bj on May 30th, 2013 5:42 am

    Great work guys , thanks 4 sharing , gave me some great advise

About the Author

A cinematographer, filmmaker, producer and audio recording engineer, Clinton’s peers & colleagues regard him as a “Renaissance” man, as his passion for creative technology has seen him delve into almost every facet of creative & artistic media content. After years of being entrenched & producing work for the music industry, 2013 will finally see Clinton shoot his first full length feature film, which is currently in production, with a 2015 scheduled release. His recent endeavors includes working as camera operator and AC to Rodney Charters ASC, known for lensing numerous TV dramas such as 24, Dallas, Shameless, Roswell, and many more.


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