The recorder is the first piece of equipment generally purchased for field recording, and there are many models to choose from, each with its own qualities and shortcomings.
Each device is designed for a different workflow, and here I review the ones I’ve chosen after several years of testing the market standards.
Nagra is the brand behind field recording, which began with the brand’s first tape recorders. They are world-renowned for their uncompromising sound quality, durability and, of course, price.
I found my feet straight away, because like all professional devices, you don’t have to go to the menu to find what you want, and functions are accessed by buttons arranged in a natural way, so nothing is left to chance.
Sound quality is on a par with the brand’s reputation, better than Zoom and Mixpre from Sound devices, with a depth of sound and a truly stunning realism.
Sound Devices Mixpre 3/6
I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try out the Sound Devices mixpre, a recorder that has been the center of attention for its quality and ease of use, making it a compact, professional device at a rather high price.
The price is justified by the sound quality, which is first-rate, and the construction, which is made for world-wide use.
The only drawback is the power supply, as it consumes a lot of power and firmware is unable to correct this defect. I use the adapter for 2 NP-F batteries, which gives me great autonomy, replacing the battery pack, which can be used for troubleshooting.
A great device if you can’t afford a Nagra.
Zoom F6 with it’s 32bits float recording capability is the real plus. The sound quality improvement are not noticeable in front of Tascam DR100 MkIII but 6 inputs can help for certain conditions . Everything has been described about this device and it works perfectly as an all-purpose machine for field recording. The big negative point is the headphone output which is not as good as the Tascam on this point.
I finally sold my F6 because I didn’t need the 32bits and the headphone output was the worst of any recorder I’ve tried, so the pleasure also comes from listening while recording.
TASCAM DR100 MKIII
The Tascam DR100 mk3 is an underrated recorder. Tascam is a long-established brand in the world of studio and portable recording, from the first portastudio that made multitrack accessible to the greatest number of users.
The recording quality of the DR100 is incredible. The sound is clear, fine and full of detail, with low background noise, all in a very portable format.
Its XLR inputs (48V Phantom) give it the best performance, opening up the possibility of using high-end professional microphones. The DR100 is also equipped with a high-capacity internal battery, and can also be used with 2 AA batteries.
A device made to last which, with its metal casing, will be with you for many years. It’s one of the recorders I use for sound recording, and it’s become the recorder I use in the workshop to test microphones, thanks to its simplicity and quality.
I use the Olympus LS14 mainly for binaural recordings with the Roland WPM10 microphones. The advantage is its size, it fits in my pocket and I always carry it with me just in case.
The integrated microphones are not at the standard of Tascam and the functionalities are basic but it allows uncompressed 24 bit/96 kHz PCM recordings with absolute discretion.
Its endurance which allows you to record for several hours with only 2 AA batteries
SQN mixer – SQN 3M & SQN 4S IVe
3-channel mixer with mono output designed for the Nagra tape recorder. The SQN mixer has been used by countless journalists and film engineers around the world… you’ve probably heard the SQN sound without even knowing it!
Designed to withstand the harshest treatment. Incredibly high quality preamps are the ideal complement to the NAGRA LB when you’re looking for a special flavor. They’re also capable of handling large peaks without overload, and the built-in analog limiter is often considered one of the best on portable equipment.
The SQN 4s IVe is a recent addition to my rig. This mixer works in stereo with all the qualities that SQN can bring to the sound. It opens the door to Earsight and Audio technica BP4025 / AT4022 microphones with first-rate quality.
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