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Author Topic: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!  (Read 1885 times)

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Offline detroit lightning

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Currently using a R26 with my berliner CM33 mics, and the occasional board feed either using XLR or a connector into the 1/8.

It's been a good setup & I have no complaints, aside from it would be nice to have 4 XLR inputs.

So I'm thinking about something like a Zoom F4 ($449), or a Marantz PMD706 w/ an Oade mod ($400). Could I possibly go up to a mixpre6 or something like that? Possibly I guess.

I'm really only interested in improvements in sound quality. Size isn't a factor since I'll never use this aside from open situations. I'll never need more than 4 channels (famous last words, I guess), so additional inputs isn't really an issue either.

Would like to keep it in the <$500 range, but if it just makes sense to go up one more level - I'd consider it.

Any feedback is welcomed!!

Online heathen

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2018, 01:31:23 PM »
I think the F4 is a fantastic recorder, and personally I don't think the MixPre-6 is worth the extra money (that's just my personal opinion...don't kill me guys, I'm not saying the F4 is objectively better).  The F4 is a tank, and having two SD card slots is great insurance.  The display isn't pretty, but I found it to work just fine.  Sure, colors would be nice, but I didn't find it to make a functional difference.

Some people might say the MixPre-6 sounds better than the F4, and I'm not going to touch that.  For myself, I don't think I could hear the difference between an F4 and a MixPre-6 (I couldn't when comparing the F8 with the MixPre-6, and the F4 likely has the same preamps as the F8).  At the end of the day only you can decide whether you hear a difference between the two.  Certainly on paper the specs are different, but I just haven't found that to be audible to me.

As for the PMD706, I've followed the thread a bit and it just doesn't seem like a high quality unit.  Even with the mods, there's nothing that would make me want to get a PMD706 over other options.  Again, just my opinion.

You might want to check out the F8 vs. MixPre-6 comp thread if you haven't already.  See if you can hear a difference doing a real ABX comparison, before reading any responses in the thread.  Let your own ears make the decision.  At the end of the day, you really can't go wrong with either the F4 or MixPre-6, in my opinion.
Recordings on LMA: https://archive.org/search.php?query=taper%3A%22Lucas+Lorenz%22
Mics: Core Sound TetraMic | AT4031s | AT AE5100s | AT853s (C/SC) | Line Audio CM3s | DPA 4061s | CA-14 omnis | Studio Projects CS5 Pre: CA9200 Decks: Zoom F8 | Roland R-05 | Tascam DR-2d

Offline rocksuitcase

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2018, 01:48:12 PM »
Used Tascam Dr680; less than $400 most times they come up. ( I got mine for $325).
The stock pre-amps are not as good as OADE mods of course, but mine (mk1) has been a workhorse since January 2016.

Admittedly, this is a step below the F4, PMD706 or mix-pre's feature wise, but I like it for the price point. To be a bit more informational/critical: After about 1.5 years of use with the stock PRe's, we started puttiing a Grace V2 in front of varying AKG mics, still using mic in at the deck input and the results are substantially better sounding.
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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2018, 01:56:40 PM »
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the DR680 has a digital input while the F4, MixPre-6, and PMD706 don't...?
Recordings on LMA: https://archive.org/search.php?query=taper%3A%22Lucas+Lorenz%22
Mics: Core Sound TetraMic | AT4031s | AT AE5100s | AT853s (C/SC) | Line Audio CM3s | DPA 4061s | CA-14 omnis | Studio Projects CS5 Pre: CA9200 Decks: Zoom F8 | Roland R-05 | Tascam DR-2d

Offline rocksuitcase

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2018, 02:02:40 PM »
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the DR680 has a digital input while the F4, MixPre-6, and PMD706 don't...?
yes on digi input. I don't know how to use it or set the menu to use it but it is there! 6 channels of RCA analog out as well as S/PDIF digi in/out
music IS love

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Mics:         AKG460|CK61|CK1|CK3|CK8|Beyer M 201E
Recorders:Marantz PMD661 OADE Concert mod; Tascam DR680 MKI

Offline detroit lightning

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2018, 02:04:05 PM »
I think the F4 is a fantastic recorder, and personally I don't think the MixPre-6 is worth the extra money (that's just my personal opinion...don't kill me guys, I'm not saying the F4 is objectively better).  The F4 is a tank, and having two SD card slots is great insurance.  The display isn't pretty, but I found it to work just fine.  Sure, colors would be nice, but I didn't find it to make a functional difference.

Some people might say the MixPre-6 sounds better than the F4, and I'm not going to touch that.  For myself, I don't think I could hear the difference between an F4 and a MixPre-6 (I couldn't when comparing the F8 with the MixPre-6, and the F4 likely has the same preamps as the F8).  At the end of the day only you can decide whether you hear a difference between the two.  Certainly on paper the specs are different, but I just haven't found that to be audible to me.

As for the PMD706, I've followed the thread a bit and it just doesn't seem like a high quality unit.  Even with the mods, there's nothing that would make me want to get a PMD706 over other options.  Again, just my opinion.

You might want to check out the F8 vs. MixPre-6 comp thread if you haven't already.  See if you can hear a difference doing a real ABX comparison, before reading any responses in the thread.  Let your own ears make the decision.  At the end of the day, you really can't go wrong with either the F4 or MixPre-6, in my opinion.

Good stuff - thank you. Are you going direct into the F4, or do you have anything in between?

re: the 2 SD cards, what is the benefit there - just a backup in case of a failed card?

I also posted in the F4 thread, but how is the battery life / are there backup battery options?

F4 seems to be what I need, and the price point is pretty good. @rocksuitcase - appreciate the suggestion as well. In this case, I actually sort of need to buy new based on where the $ is coming from...so that's kind of pointing me in the F4 direction as well.

Online heathen

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2018, 02:25:34 PM »
Good stuff - thank you. Are you going direct into the F4, or do you have anything in between?

re: the 2 SD cards, what is the benefit there - just a backup in case of a failed card?

I also posted in the F4 thread, but how is the battery life / are there backup battery options?

F4 seems to be what I need, and the price point is pretty good. @rocksuitcase - appreciate the suggestion as well. In this case, I actually sort of need to buy new based on where the $ is coming from...so that's kind of pointing me in the F4 direction as well.

I now run an F8, but used to have an F4.  I've always run mics directly into them, though.  I don't feel like I NEED an external pre, so I haven't ever tried one.  (Other than a CA9200 to power CA14s and the like, but I don't think that's what you mean.)

You can have it write to both cards simultaneously, in which case one is a backup.  You can also have it write to the second one only after the first is full.  I guess you could get use out of cheap low capacity cards that way?  I have always had it write simultaneously, and I use cards big enough that I go months before formatting them.

I've never run the F4 or F8 solely on internal batteries.  I've always used the Talentcell battery, and even running 6+ channels of phantom on the F8 I haven't come close to draining that battery.  Then again, I haven't done any all-day festivals, though I have done some long shows and not recharged in between shows.
Recordings on LMA: https://archive.org/search.php?query=taper%3A%22Lucas+Lorenz%22
Mics: Core Sound TetraMic | AT4031s | AT AE5100s | AT853s (C/SC) | Line Audio CM3s | DPA 4061s | CA-14 omnis | Studio Projects CS5 Pre: CA9200 Decks: Zoom F8 | Roland R-05 | Tascam DR-2d

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2018, 03:12:17 PM »
How about second hand?

Last I checked there was an OCM R44 in the yardsale for <$500.  That machine is rock solid reliable, straight forward and super easy to use, and provides excellent sound.  It also has digital in/out.  If you only need 4 channels, I'd strongly suggest checking that out if still available. It remains the top 4 channel recorder ever made for taper applications, IMO.

Other than that, I find the DR-680 impossible to beat for value, and continue to use one as my primary recorder as I need more than 4 channels.  The DR-680 MK2 includes improved preamps and streamlined menus making navigation significantly faster over the MK1.  This recorder also provides digital in/out.  Dig-in can may routed to tracks 5/6 or to the additional stereo channel (which is otherwise used to record an internal mix of ch's 1-6), the latter option providing defacto 8 channel recording capability on this otherwise 6 channel machine.

I occasionally connect both of the above recorders via SPDIF so I can record 10 clock-synced channels, and that arrangement has worked problem-free every time.

Both of the above are simpler to manage/setup/navigate/run than the F4/8 and SD's, which provide more capabilities which require more complex menu navigation.  All of the machines mentioned in this thread are capable of making great recordings.  Your choice may pivot on which is most comfortable for you.
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Offline goodcooker

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2018, 03:23:28 PM »

I haven't used an F4 but the recordings using the stock preamps sound good and it seems to be well rounded with features.

I have a Marantz PMD706. I like the feature set, layout, menus etc... but it has a couple of significant challenges - it has a bug where the file in progress is not saved if it loses power, it has a bug where it locks up if it has been recording for more than 3 hrs 39 minutes, and to be honest the preamps are just fine but nothing to freak out about - I bet the Oade modded unit would sound much better.

If you don't mind dealing with the shortcomings - powering down the unit and restarting it during long recording sessions and making sure you monitor the power (it runs forever off a 5V USB battery plus 4AAs inside) it's a fine deck and I will continue to use mine.

There are some recordings in my LMA recordings link done with the stock preamps with different mics and in different situations if you want to hear for yourself.
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Online heathen

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2018, 04:13:49 PM »
Both of the above are simpler to manage/setup/navigate/run than the F4/8 and SD's, which provide more capabilities which require more complex menu navigation. 

I can't speak to the Sound Devices recorders, but I've found the F4 and F8 menus to be easy to navigate and pretty intuitive.  I've never used the R44 or DR680, though, so I certainly can't say that the F4/F8 menus are comparable to the R44/DR680 menus.  In my experience, though, the F4/F8 menus have been easy to use.
Recordings on LMA: https://archive.org/search.php?query=taper%3A%22Lucas+Lorenz%22
Mics: Core Sound TetraMic | AT4031s | AT AE5100s | AT853s (C/SC) | Line Audio CM3s | DPA 4061s | CA-14 omnis | Studio Projects CS5 Pre: CA9200 Decks: Zoom F8 | Roland R-05 | Tascam DR-2d

Offline relefunt

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2018, 04:58:20 PM »
I really like my Roland R-44. Even though it is somewhat unnecessary now that i own a MixPre6, there’s something holding me back from selling it. Its layout is very straightforward and various settings (for example which channels have phantom power) are physical buttons which can be observed and rechecked at any time without going into layers of menu. Occasionally they show up for very reasonable prices in the Yard Sale.

The Tascam DR-70D has a lot of fans and I also have one (maybe I have too many recorders...). It works well for me but I do find the menus to be tiresome in their levels and complexity. That is just my reaction to the menus. It feels a little less rugged than it could be but the size is just about perfect.

Good luck hunting for a new recorder!
« Last Edit: October 04, 2018, 08:24:11 PM by relefunt »
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Online heathen

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2018, 05:10:54 PM »
various settings (for example which channels have phantom power) are physical buttons which can be observed and rechecked at any time without going into layers of menu.
That's definitely easier than the F4/F8!
Recordings on LMA: https://archive.org/search.php?query=taper%3A%22Lucas+Lorenz%22
Mics: Core Sound TetraMic | AT4031s | AT AE5100s | AT853s (C/SC) | Line Audio CM3s | DPA 4061s | CA-14 omnis | Studio Projects CS5 Pre: CA9200 Decks: Zoom F8 | Roland R-05 | Tascam DR-2d

Offline detroit lightning

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2018, 07:05:41 PM »
I pulled the trigger on the R44 in the yardsale - thanks Gutbucket for the tip!

Sounds like the zoom F4 is a really solid box as well, was probably going to go that route...but I liked what I heard re: the r44.

Offline relefunt

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2018, 08:33:21 PM »
I pulled the trigger on the R44 in the yardsale - thanks Gutbucket for the tip!

Sounds like the zoom F4 is a really solid box as well, was probably going to go that route...but I liked what I heard re: the r44.

I think you’ll like it. The guy on TS from whom I bought mine said that it was his favorite piece of gear (he was essentially retiring from taping to spend more time with his father) when he sold it to me. Just two things — make sure you understand the gain/trim knobs. They are set up the reverse of what I would have assumed had I never read up on it.

Also, and this is very important— you need a DC power cord with reverse polarity (negative center). I have never tried to use a regular (positive center) power cord, but I have heard you can severely damage the unit if you do. I’m personally not going to find out. Hopefully the seller will send you the right cable to use with an external battery!
AKG c414xls.
Beyerdynamic MC930, Line Audio CM3 and OM1.
Church CA11+14, Audiotechnica AT853.
Shure FP24, Audioroot Femto, Church CA9100, CA9200.
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Offline detroit lightning

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2018, 08:52:20 PM »
I pulled the trigger on the R44 in the yardsale - thanks Gutbucket for the tip!

Sounds like the zoom F4 is a really solid box as well, was probably going to go that route...but I liked what I heard re: the r44.

I think you’ll like it. The guy on TS from whom I bought mine said that it was his favorite piece of gear (he was essentially retiring from taping to spend more time with his father) when he sold it to me. Just two things — make sure you understand the gain/trim knobs. They are set up the reverse of what I would have assumed had I never read up on it.

Also, and this is very important— you need a DC power cord with reverse polarity (negative center). I have never tried to use a regular (positive center) power cord, but I have heard you can severely damage the unit if you do. I’m personally not going to find out. Hopefully the seller will send you the right cable to use with an external battery!

Thanks for the tips!

Yeah, he’s including the proper cables, which is great.

What can you tell me about the knob thing?

Offline relefunt

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #15 on: October 04, 2018, 09:15:14 PM »
I would recommend reading all of the R44 threads on TS. There are some very smart people on those threads.

My understanding (if you could call it that) is that you don’t want to set the inner knob lower than 12’clock because It can lead to clipping. as far as I can figure out the advice is to set the inner knob at 12 and then adjust the outer ring. The problem with that is that the outer ring has click steps which leave audible artifacts if adjusting on the fly.

Try reading from here: http://taperssection.com/index.php?topic=153957.60
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Beyerdynamic MC930, Line Audio CM3 and OM1.
Church CA11+14, Audiotechnica AT853.
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Offline detroit lightning

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2018, 09:35:10 PM »
Cool, will do. Thanks!

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #17 on: October 05, 2018, 01:47:00 AM »
Looks like you made a good choice. Congrats on the new recorder.
Recordings on LMA: https://archive.org/search.php?query=taper%3A%22Lucas+Lorenz%22
Mics: Core Sound TetraMic | AT4031s | AT AE5100s | AT853s (C/SC) | Line Audio CM3s | DPA 4061s | CA-14 omnis | Studio Projects CS5 Pre: CA9200 Decks: Zoom F8 | Roland R-05 | Tascam DR-2d

Offline dallman

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #18 on: October 05, 2018, 02:09:49 AM »

Admittedly, this is a step below the F4, PMD706 or mix-pre's feature wise, but I like it for the price point. To be a bit more informational/critical: After about 1.5 years of use with the stock PRe's, we started puttiing a Grace V2 in front of varying AKG mics, still using mic in at the deck input and the results are substantially better sounding.

I would disagree that it is a step below. In what way, as it has fantastic features. I have and very much like the MixPre6, but I also have a DR680 MKII and had the MKI originally, both being extremely versatile decks and they can be had for less than half the price of the MixPre6. The digi in is easy to set up and can be used on tracks 5 and 6, OR the digi in can be used instead of the mix track which is how I use it allowing me to use up to 8 tracks.
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Offline Ozpeter

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #19 on: October 05, 2018, 08:41:51 AM »
Panatrope's Second Law of Recording - the number of tracks required for a recording is one greater than the number of tracks available.  But seriously, you'll do well with the R44.

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #20 on: October 05, 2018, 11:16:04 AM »
Yep, won't be long before you're buying another, and linking them together for 8 channels of fun.  :guitarist:
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Offline IronFilm

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #21 on: November 19, 2018, 03:26:06 AM »
Both of the above are simpler to manage/setup/navigate/run than the F4/8 and SD's, which provide more capabilities which require more complex menu navigation. 

I can't speak to the Sound Devices recorders, but I've found the F4 and F8 menus to be easy to navigate and pretty intuitive.  I've never used the R44 or DR680, though, so I certainly can't say that the F4/F8 menus are comparable to the R44/DR680 menus.  In my experience, though, the F4/F8 menus have been easy to use.

I can speak as someone who used to use (and still owns) a Sound Devices 552 recorder and a Tascam DR680 recorder.

Upgrading from them to a Zoom F4 was a massive leap forward in my life. Zero regrets. Absolutely is a better experience and a better result.

Since the F4 I have then gone and pre-ordered a Zoom F8n which I've been using since day one it came out. (even though I could have afforded the likes of a Sound Devices 633, I just didn't see the value in it there for me even as as a professional who works purely at sound recording. Am happy to wait and see if I see a secondhand 633 for US$2K? That might happen. Or if a 633 mk2 comes out in the next couple of years)

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #22 on: November 29, 2018, 11:14:39 AM »
^Thanks for that input.  I was seriously considering picking up an F8 when they were on clearance for around $650 but was busy with work and missed the window.  Happy with the DR-680MK2 but would like to move to a reasonably priced recorder with 8 built-in preamps.  Might hold onto an R88 I have on loan rather than spring for the F8n at full retail, it's a fine recorder but absolutely gigantic.
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Offline IronFilm

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Re: Upgrading to a 4 channel (XLR) recorder...could use some advice!
« Reply #23 on: December 11, 2018, 03:24:05 AM »
I assume you're saying the R88 is gigantic? As the F8 is absolutely teeny!

And if you keep a close eye on eBay I'm sure you can find an F8 for even cheaper than they went on sale for.

 

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