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Wearable sound recorders: need advice
  • A few years ago, I bought a small pocket recorder for journalism work. These are small, cheap recorders about the size of an iPod, with a 3.5"' jack for a microphone. I once tried using it to record the sound of a play I was shooting, to gain an extra soundtrack of stuff that was too distance for my Rode mike to get. It didn't work too well, because the recorder's soundtrack was a tiny percentage slow: if I synced it up with the start of the play, by the end it was perhaps ten seconds out of time. Fixing that was possible, and seems easy in theory, but in practice it was a pain.

    Thing is, I recently got a nice lapel mike that works great. Now, I'm thinking of trying that recorder trick again-- and since the recorders and mikes are very cheap, I could buy six or seven pairs, attach them to a play's actors, put the recorders in their pockets, and get really good soundtracks that I could mix while editing.

    But it'd require mini-recorders that recorded at the proper rates. Are there any mini-recorders that work well with video?

  • 22 Replies sorted by
  • I like the Zoom H1s for just this. Maybe out of your price range but the sound is excellent.

  • @Brain_Siano Whatever recorder you use, make sure it is recording to PCM audio instead of a compressed format, if you can. Cheap devices that record to MP3 sometimes have the issue you described.

    While with professional devices, there should not usually be an issue, I would nonetheless say that if you are having trouble, try minimizing the chance for issues by setting the device to record uncompressed at 48 KHz. If the device cannot do that, chances are it is too cheap for use with sync sound.

    I would give you brand names if I had any, but I honestly do not delve into the price bracket below things like the Zoom and M-Audio (discontinued) devices for external recording.

    You might want to look into a wireless mic system instead and use a better recorder. Sync is (among other things) a function of the recorder clock source and since you would get a somewhat better clock on a professional recorder, you could use a cheaper wireless mic system without negatively affecting sync, as long as it fed into the recorder with a decent clock.

  • Many good tascam offers also exist.

    Some are cheaper than H1 and have better build and features.

  • I have the Tascam DR-05, and would definitely recommend it over the Zoom H1. It's much higher build quality, at the same price. If you've ever handled the H1, you will know how filmsy it is. The DR-05 is slightly larger, but it's much more rugged too.

  • I just won this YAY i'm excited! :)

    It shall arrive tomorrow

  • @LaserGuidedTaco

    I don't think that it is proper topic.

  • ok sorry about that :P

  • @LaserGuidedTaco that recorder has some of the best pre-amps ever made for a portable recorder in it. It's a shame that it doesn't have XLR, but all the same at $360 it's a great deal. Congrats. Back on topic, the Tascam DR-08 is even smaller than the DR-05, and may be designed as more of a Zoom H1 competitor. I haven't handled one, but it definitely looks more robust than the flimsy Zoom H1, and in my experience Tascam makes far better pre-amps than Zoom.

  • I do not have issues with Tascam sound quality in my previous experience. But I do take issue with some of their product support. Just look at the way they handled the (once industry-standard and since retired) GigaStudio software line.

    See Mackie's handling of their mixers in the wake of the succesful D8B for similar beef on my part. And M-Audio with the MicroTrack for that matter, frankly. :)

    But if you buy inexpensively, and it is a short-term investment, none of those things should be an issue.

  • Thanks to all your replies. I should reiterate that I'm looking at really cheap sound recorders, of the sort normally used by reporters or note-takers. They are very cheap, sometimes under $50 US, with good battery life lossless-recording, and probably very cost-effective if they work decently enough. It'd make a cheap, scalable system for wireless mikes.

    As I said, the problem I found was the clock issue. The recording I got could be synced at the start of a take, but the end would be wildly out of sync. Maybe there's a cheap recorder without that issue.

  • @Brian_Siano I use an Olympus digital voice recorder for the same purpose. I had to do some tests to find out what the exact drift compensation was (something like 100.21 using FCP and 48KHz audio timeline, probably varies from recorder to recorder though). Once I knew how much to compensate for, I could reliably punch that percentage in FCP to get sync every time. It's not a perfect solution, but it's a minor inconvenience when using a cheap recorder. My recorder uses WMA. I agree that sync will probably be better on a recorder that records PCM audio. Digital recorders are robust solid-state devices, shop for used or refurbs for the best prices.

  • @htinla I think the recorder I used was an Olympus: it's in a drawer somewhere, waiting for me to hunt for it. I'll try that 100.21 factor to rescale the audio again: that's about the amount I tried, way back when, but i could never get it quite right.

  • If you want to go extra cheap, you can get

    Disassembly it, and remove build in electret mike, connecting you own lapel.

    Quality won't be top notch, but it must work.

  • @htlina Got a question about that Olympus recorder you use. I'm getting ready to shoot an event, and there's a provision to patch my recorder into the event's sound board. I'm probably going to use a camcorder (a Panasonic TM700), but I'm thinking of using the Olympus. Any idea how the sound quality might work out?

  • @htinla Got a question about that Olympus recorder you use. I'm getting ready to shoot an event, and there's a provision to patch my recorder into the event's sound board. I'm probably going to use a camcorder (a Panasonic TM700), but I'm thinking of using the Olympus. Any idea how the sound quality might work out?

  • @Brian_Siano If you're patching into a soundboard. I'd recommend using a recorder with manual level control (with a limiter would be nice too). The Olympus I referenced above is a real inexpensive dictation type with no manual levels. It wouldn't be my first choice for patching to a sound board. I have another recorder, an Olympus LS-10s, that I used recently to get sound from a sound board via the mixer's stereo RCA line out into the LS-10 3.5mm line in. I recorded in PCM 24bit/48KHz, manual level with limiter enabled (it was a rock music performance, the 24bit w/limiter kept things from distorting pretty well). Sound quality was clean and made better with some EQ'ing and compression. The dictation recorder really should only be used for recording speaking voices, not singing or music or any loud dynamic sounds. You could try, but the fidelity of non-voice sources will leave you wanting more, and it records in mono only (the cheap recorder that is). The LS-10s (or any of the comparable Olympus DVR's) really is ideal: pocketable, well-built, super long battery life, and easy to use with terrific sound quality. So, that's what you should look for in a recorder if you want to plug into the house sound: line inputs, stereo PCM recording with 16bit/48KHz mode (24bit is a bonus), and manual level control (w/ limiter is a bonus).

    edit: the Olympus LS-10s also doesn't require a speed adjustment to maintain sync (when shooting in PCM 48KHz mode at least).

  • Any cheap option with two audio outputs and can use two lavalier for interviews connected to the GH2 recording audio synchronized?

    The Zoom ZH4N is out of my budget.

    What adapter for the socket MIC recommended for GH2?, the socket audio MIC from the GH2 is smaller than the standard.


  • @Manu4vendeta: the MIC IN jack on the GH2 is a 2.5mm socket, so you'd need a 3.5mm->2.5mm adapter. Since you pretty much want to do what I do, this is my setup (pulled from my B&H order, both were cheaper last year when I purchased them I think)

    1. ART USB Dual Pre - USB 1.1 Digital Audio Interface with Dual Microphone Preamps $79

    2. Sescom LN2MIC-ZMGHN-MON Line Out to Camera Mic In Headphone Tap Cable $35.95

    The ART Dual Pre, besides having Great preamps, doubles up as an USB audio interface with XLR IN/OUT. In fact I use it most of the time as output to XLR audio monitors. It's crazy versatile, and takes its own 9V battery for field use; in the studio it just draws power from USB. When recording, I have it mounted on the rig shoulder handle. The SESCOM cable (which also provides a split for headphone monitoring), comes out of the DualPre Headphone OUT, adapts impedance and levels to MIC and terminates into the 2.5mm jack the GH2 needs. So I have 2 XLR/phono inputs into my GH2, with (clear) 48 dB gain on each channel, for little over $100. You owe me a beer or something.

  • @radikalfilm Thanks for the great find of the ART USB Dual Pre - I will probably check it out. There are also some people modding it with threads and connectors to fully integrat e into rigs... awesome find!