Country Blues => Performance Corner => Topic started by: Chezztone on October 31, 2007, 08:24:15 PM

Title: portable recording rig?
Post by: Chezztone on October 31, 2007, 08:24:15 PM
OK, after my not-so-trusty ol' Sony Pro Walkman high-quality cassette recorder broke down, I never replaced it or switched to the digital minidisc format. So, if I were to purchase a portable, affordable recording rig now, what is the best format? And specific make and model recommendation? Thanks, Chezz
Title: Re: portable recording rig?
Post by: RobBob on November 01, 2007, 03:22:11 AM
Hey Chezz,

I bought a Zoom H4 several months, perhaps a year ago and have found it fairly easy to use.  They since have come out with a Zoom H2, the main difference is that it is only 2 track and not 4 like the H4.  I have not used the four track feature but can tell you that this machine makes some fine recordings, clean and with minimum fuss.  It has a USB port and comes with some software that is complicated to use so I use Magix Audio Cleanup lab, the same software I use to take LP's and make them digital.

The Zoom records in four sample rates, mp3, and 3 levels of wav files.

It is available at most of the regular retailers.  There are others but with the XY built in mics and general ease of use, I have been more than pleased with this unit,  Some techno twinkies are looking for something more but I just want to capture a song or jam and then record it to a CD or store it on a drive.  This works well for all of those intended uses.

Title: Re: portable recording rig?
Post by: blueshome on November 01, 2007, 04:02:03 AM
I'll go along with the H4. I picked one up a few weeks ago and we have recorded gigs and rehearsals (acoustic & electric) and the sound is good. Recommended.
Title: Re: portable recording rig?
Post by: uncle bud on November 01, 2007, 06:12:21 AM
Hey Chezz - check out the articles by Mark Nelson at http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/au/2474. He reviews the Zoom recorders, the Edirol R-09 (which is what I have and like so far) and others. MicroTrack is one option you'll see, but from other reviews I've seen of it, it looks like one to avoid.
Title: Re: portable recording rig?
Post by: Rivers on November 01, 2007, 06:50:19 AM
I have an m-audio MicroTrack which I used at Port T this year. It functioned flawlessly throughout. For peace of mind you probably need to spend a bit extra on a USB battery pack and the biggest flash card you can afford. I have 2 gig and a 4 gig flash cards, got the week's recording haul in MP3 format onto the 2 gig card with hours to spare. It records hi res .WAV files as well as MP3s

It has shortcomings for sure. My main complaint is the display is a bit hard to read. But for ease of use, quality of recordings, size, amount of usable storage, inputs including 1/4" L/R mic/line, S-PDIF optical (need an AD converter to use the optical), and L/R level controls it's a pretty good option.
Title: Re: portable recording rig?
Post by: bmore on November 05, 2007, 10:14:02 AM
I bought a belkin recorder unit for my Ipod and it really worked quite well at last years PT. Probably not the same league as the other recorders but if you own a Ipod it only costs $75.00. It also could not be easier to use, I added a outboard mike which markedly improved the sound quality.

Title: Re: portable recording rig?
Post by: Chezztone on November 06, 2007, 04:24:32 PM
Thanks folks! Yeah, I had heard about the Belkin addition to iPods and thought that seemed cool. But since I don't already own an iPod (and not sure I want one) maybe I'm better off with a dedicated recorder. The Zoom H2 sure looks cute and the price is right! I might go for that. Will let y'all know what I end up with and how I like it. Cheers, Chezz
Title: Re: portable recording rig?
Post by: Mr.OMuck on January 31, 2008, 09:59:22 PM
I just got an i-pod postage stamp sized thingy to make my subway commute tolerable and I'm a convert baby! If there is a way to record on those suckers, thats the way to go! I had one o them walkman pros for years too and was hard pressed to find a substitute when it finally joined the choir invisible. Now I just use garageband on my Mac and a mic from a set of headphones and its pretty OK. I did love that ol' walkman pro though. You could always use a laptop for portable recording if you've got one.
Title: Re: portable recording rig?
Post by: Rivers on February 01, 2008, 05:51:14 AM
Check out this thread re. recording on iPod (http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?amp;Itemid=60&topic=3511.0). I got it working, then had to ditch the idea since it was too flaky and coincided with various external hard drive and iPod corruption problems.

I ended up getting a Microtrack, which I used last night with the supplied T-mic and got a great little recording with no hassles.
Title: Re: portable recording rig?
Post by: frankie on February 01, 2008, 04:16:39 PM
I've been playing around with a zoom h4 and rather than the on-board microphones, a Rode NT1a.  Still working out how to get the best sound out of it...  trying to get an ensemble sound with just 1 mic is challenging.  I made this recording a couple weeks ago - 1 mic, no compression, just a little gain boost:

Alma Waltz (http://www.donegone.net/alma-waltz.mp3)

The tune in this post was also done on the H4 w/NT1a, but I tried compressing, then normalizing the file to boost the signal - I also added a tiny bit of reverb:

Jonestown (http://www.donegone.net/?p=141)

I still have a ways to go using that kind of strategy, as the resulting file seems to clip in a really bad way in spots.  Overall, I think I like the sound without compression better, but maybe I'm just not familiar enough with that kind of tool.

The zoom h4 is pretty easy to use, although it represents way more than I actually want to do - no intent to multitrack, really.  Honestly, I'm recording direct to mono  :P  I could have gotten the H2, but I liked the fact that the H4 supported phantom power for a mic like the NT1a and I didn't have to put another element (like a mic pre) in the chain.  I just turn it on and go.

leave it to me to take a 21st century technology and make it behave like technology from the end of the 19th century...
Title: Re: portable recording rig?
Post by: uncle bud on February 02, 2008, 06:28:18 PM
Hi Frank - thanks for the info about the Zoom recorder. I still haven't played around with the Edirol much, aside from doing interviews (i.e., no real music). But I just wanted to say that both these tracks are real nice performances. I think Alma Waltz has the better sound IMO. Jonestown sounds like you were sitting too far from the mic. I don't know if that has to do with the post-production or not. Just sounds like you're too far from the mic to me. I'd love to hear this with a hotter source, as it's a really wonderful performance of a song I don't think I've heard anyone else play (Could be wrong, I just haven't heard one). A performance I recommend to all Weenies. Click the link! Go ahead!
Title: Re: portable recording rig?
Post by: Rivers on February 02, 2008, 08:30:00 PM
Great stuff Frank. Good on you for taking on Alma's Waltz, surely one of the strangest tunes in country blues, or any other genre for that matter. As for Jonestown, great little ragtime piece that had escaped my attention until now.
Title: Re: portable recording rig?
Post by: frankie on February 03, 2008, 12:02:52 PM
Andrew - the Edirol is probably the favored recording unit among the old-time musicians I know, because it sounds great and allows very simple level adjustment while recording.  You can adjust levels on the fly with the zoom h4, but it requires drilling down through two menus and the use of the jog dial/selector can be somewhat audible, especially in recordings where there isn't much background noise.  If what you want is a point & shoot field recorder, the edirol is probably your best bet.  Some folks that I know who have the edirol also give high marks to the zoom h2, for the same 'ease of use' reasons.  The h4 can certainly be used as a field recorder, but the interface of the edirol makes it preferable in those situations.

I got the latest firmware for the h4 after I bought it.  The firmware upgrade allows "mono" recording in stereo mode - which isn't really mono at all, the signal for both the left and right channels are driven by a single external source and the level for each channel is equal.  It's possible to record to actual mono, but that's possible only in 4-track mode, and I'm not ready to go there, yet.  I think that would ultimately be the way to go, though.

Rivers - I got stuck on Jonestown a while back...  don't play it right and never can remember the verses correctly, but it's fun to use the banjo in that way.  No pattern to it at all...  I think Alma Waltz is some kind of weird cover (or ur-tune) of a pop song called Louise - the Mills Bros. did it, Louis Armstrong, too.  The Mudsteppers re-harmonized it out of all recognition and played it in 3/4 time.  Whatever...

I decided to stick with the harmony I thought they were going for (F-C7-Dflat dim-Bflat/F), although it undoubtedly sounds gnarly to anyone who craves sweeter sounds.  I could be totally wrong about those chords - I'm not totally sure about the Dflat dim and Bflat/D, although the ascending bass line played by Walter on the original moves from C to Dflat to D.  It sounds about as gnarly as the original, so I think we might be on the right track - ymmv.

It was hard enough to get the three instruments all in balance relative to the mic on Alma - we were all pretty close up on it.  We tried one or two things that included singing, but I think I need to play around with it a little more.  A set of decent headphones would probably help...  right now I'm using Spongebob Squarepants headphones swiped from my son's CD player.

I think the lower volume Jonestown is due to a couple of factors - I didn't really set out to record it, so the mic placement was set more for the guitar, which is a little quieter relative to my voice, so the balance is off (I can hear this most at the end of sung lines).  That made it hard to bring the level up without having the banjo clip.  That's why I tried compression, which worked to a degree, but of course can't fix the balance problem, so the clipping is still a problem and I was left with a track that's too quiet.  The worst of both worlds!

Lesson:  set levels twice, record once.

Sometimes it seems like the better your gear is, the more difficult it is to do anything right!
Title: Re: portable recording rig?
Post by: weelie on February 04, 2008, 01:34:47 AM
Edirol vs Zoom H2 review:
Title: Re: portable recording rig?
Post by: rjtwangs on February 04, 2008, 10:19:40 AM
Frankie, hey I really like your playing on the two tracks, very impressive. I also thought the sound quality was very very good. I guess I'll have to buy one of these!!

Title: Re: portable recording rig?
Post by: frankie on February 04, 2008, 08:51:58 PM
Thanks RJ - I should have said that I'm playing guitar on Alma Waltz, the fiddler is my wife Kim and the mandolin is played by our buddy Mike.  They're doing all the hard work...  I just get behind 'em & push!
Title: Re: portable recording rig?
Post by: rjtwangs on February 05, 2008, 08:54:08 AM
As I said in the post above, I guess that I will buy one of these. Has anyone tried the H2, after reading the review I'm thinking this is the one for me. Any input or thoughts would be greatly appreciated. I would use it primarily to record me here at home and probably take it with me to Port Townsend this summer. The H2 should be up to the task...

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