Audio: Recorders

744t: Portable, Four-Track Audio Recorder B&H Mfr. Site

Comments: This is a ROCK solid sound recorder used on professional movie sets.  This means that it is also out of most people’s price range (see the Zoom H4N below for a great alternative.)  I’ve defaulted to this right away because I found that with any interview setup or dialogue in a narrative – you will quickly be using more than 2 audio inputs.  Always get an audio recorder that has rechargeable batteries (in case you use mics w/ Phantom power) and that have no moving pieces – i.e. in this case you can record to a CF card.   When you don’t have moving pieces – you have fewer points of failure.   And never forget: one of the major differences between an Indy film and a blockbuster hollywood production is the quality of sound.  Never overlook the need for high quality audio – especially for dialogue scenes.  Voiceovers are expensive and time consuming – and sometimes you can never get them to match with the acting on set.   This unit also has time code which is great – as you can sync your slate and other devices to it – so all are on the same "timecode" page. 

Description (from Sound Devices): The 744T is a powerful four-track file-based digital audio recorder. The super-compact 744T records and plays back audio to and from its internal hard drive, Compact Flash cards, and external FireWire drives, making field recording simple and fast. It writes and reads uncompressed PCM audio at 16 or 24 bits with sample rates between 32 kHz and 192 kHz. Compressed (MP3) audio recording and playback from 64 kb/s to 320 kb/s is also supported. The time code implementation makes the 744T ready for any recording job—from over-the-shoulder to cart-based production.

DR-100mkII 2 Channel Linear PCM Recorder B&H Mfr. Site

A SOLID and affordable audio recorder – you need 8 tracks to do any serious audio with actors.

Description: The DR-680 from Tascam is a professional-quality portable field recorder that allows you to record and edit multiple tracks of audio, ideal for musicians, filmmakers, journalists, and more. The DR-680 allows you to record up to 8 tracks onto widely-available SD/SDHC flash memory cards at rates up to 24-bit/96kHz. It also allows you to record a stereo track at up to 24-bit/192kHz, as well as up to 4 channels of MP3 audio for web-ready recording.

H4n X/Y Stereo Recorder B&H Mfr. Site

Comments:  The Zoom H4n has pretty much become the industry standard for all photojournalists / documentary filmmakers and indy filmmakers out there.  It can mount on any HDDSLR Rig big or small and has EXCELLENT audio.    Unless you are working on a long-form narrative or with multiple actors – this will serve you very very well.   It’s simple, has built-in stereo mikes and is incredibly portable – what more can I say?  This is the way to go unless you need something like the 744T above for more demanding/complex productions.  Great for reporters too! 

Description: The Zoom H4n Handy Recorder picks up where the H4 left off and adds additional features to an already popular audio recorder. Ideal for recording interviews, lectures, rehearsals, meetings, and more, this palm-sized unit packs the ability to record up to 4 channels of audio at greater than CD quality.

DR-100mkII 2 Channel Linear PCM Recorder B&H Mfr. Site

Comments:  I’ve been a big fan of the Zoom H4N for awhile – but recently I’ve found myself using the Tascam.  

Description: The rugged TASCAM DR-100mkII offers high-end recording features to musicians and engineers who demand more from their portable recorder. It features four built-in microphones, two cardioid and two omnidirectional, for great sounding recordings. A pair of XLR microphone inputs with phantom power welcomes pro-grade condenser microphones, and line in and out connectors are also provided. The markII version adds balanced line ins, S/PDIF digital inputs, locking connectors and more.

DR-40 Handheld Digital Audio Recorder B&H Mfr. Site

Comments:  Again – after 2 yeas of working with the Zoom – this line of Tascams is well worth a look.  We’re still in the process of testing them out over a period of months before I draw any final conclusions – but so far: EXCELLENT.

Description: he adjustable mics, four-track recording and extended battery life of the TASCAM DR-40 give you the flexibility you need to record tracks anywhere. The DR-40 captures up to four tracks from built-in, high-quality condenser microphones, XLR mic or line inputs. The internal mics are adjustable from XY to AB position, helping you to tailor your recording to the sound of the room. A pair of great-sounding TASCAM microphone preamps welcome condenser microphones with phantom power, recording at up to 96kHz/24-bit resolution. It accommodates balanced XLR or 1/4" line inputs using locking Neutrik Combo jacks. The DR-40 accepts SD or SDHC cards up to 32GB, and a 2GB card is included.