Sound Device SL-2 is coming!

This definitely ranks for me as the most exciting film product announcement of the new decade. Sound Devices just announced (as has been widely predicted) a “SL-2” is coming in a few months’ time. Supports quad channel SuperSlot receivers (next step, need someone to make them! Wisycom? So the rumors say. Plus surely Sound Devices’ own Audio Ltd must be cooking up something?).

Sound Devices’ Quick Summary

The SL-2 Dual SuperSlot Wireless Module is the first model of a new range of SuperSlot™-based accessories which bring integrated multichannel wireless to the 8-Series mixer-recorders.

Compatible with the 833, 888, and the Scorpio.
Accepts two UniSlot or SuperSlot wireless receivers from Audio Ltd, Lectrosonics, Sennheiser, Sony, and Wisycom.  
Built-in antenna distribution with antenna powering for active antennas or boosters.
Two TA3 AES3 inputs for an additional 4 channels of digital audio.
Powers via an 8-Series mixer-recorder.
Accepts either analog or digital audio from slot-in receivers.
Ability to set and monitor multiple functions of a SuperSlot-compatible receiver from the 8-Series mixer-recorder. Power on/off
Set frequency 
RF Scan with visual representation of the RF spectrum
Monitor transmitter battery, receiver audio, and RF levels
Rugged, lightweight, and compact design.
Mounts to the top of any 8-Series mixer-recorder. 
Same width as the 833.

A Sound Devices 833 / Sound Devices SL-2 combo (with quad SuperSlot receivers) would be similar ish or even more powerful than a Sound Devices 688 / Sound Devices SL-6 combo, but in a much much lighter/smaller package! Not quite (in terms of compactness) a Zaxcom Nova / Zaxcom MRX414 combo, but a worthy alternative (and Sound Devices gives you much more flexibility than the Walled Garden Ecosystem which is Zaxcom).

It’s coming out mid this year, but I won’t immediately pre order it like I did with my Sound Devices 833 which I pounced on straight away!

Partially a factor of cost. As while the Sound Devices SL-2 I’m sure will be under NZ$3K (hopefully even well under NZ$2K?), it is the cost of all the SuperSlot compatible wireless that will really really hurt. Could easily end up being $10K+ investment in total (or even double that, once all is done).

The other even bigger factor is all the general uncertainty in the wireless market at the moment (even worse if you’re somewhere such as the USA, where they’re repacking the wireless spectrum, heaps of bandwidth lost. But hopefully we’re more than a few years out from that ever happening in NZ).

As I feel we’re on the cusp of another leap forward, and as usual Zaxcom is charging ahead with their ZHD modulation and Zaxcom MXR414 quad channel receivers (that of course won’t play super nicely with anything but Zaxcom recorders).

The closest comparison to that would be the Lectrosonics DSQD, but that is a 1/2 RU form factor receiver, definitely not for SuperSlot!

But I’m sure it is only a matter of time before we see more products:

1) able to pack mutiple channels into even just a single 1MHz (as ZHD does)

2) quad channel SuperSlot receivers (like Vincent said, has been rumored for ages that Wisycom will do this “soon”. I even read today someone saying they’re taking pre orders)

3) encrypted wireless (such as Lectrosonics DBu and others)

4) recording wireless bodypacks from brands other than Zaxcom (such as Audio Limited A10, Lectrosonics SMDWB, kinda Deity Microphones, etc)

5) even smaller micro transmitters (at the moment there are not smaller equivalent alternatives to the somewhat bulky ish Audio Ltd A10 TX or Lectrosonics DBu)

6) wiiiide band

7) other goodies we don’t even know about yet, or only just starting to be introduced (such as Lectrosonics DSQD with Dante. Although I doubt we’ll see a SuperSlot RX ever with Dante in the near future?).

So I personally really want to wait it out for a while to see how this pans out, and who makes the most sense to back: Wisycom, Audio Ltd, Lectrosonics, or even someone else??

Until them I’ll happily keep on trucking along with my previous generation Lectrosonics SMQV / LMb / UM400 / SR / LMa / etc

But great job Sound Devices!! Looks like their new SL-2 is really not missing anything major! Aside from not being stackable (drat! As 2x SL-2 would be intensely awesome), and the lack of quad channel Superslots on the market (not exactly their fault… Sound Devices is just being too forward future thinking with the SL-2!).

The only gotchas might be: Price? Weight? Power consumption? But fingers crossed those are all reasonable.



Powering options for Sound Devices MixPre3?

Is a new year, and we’re only roughly a week into 2020 and I’ve already purchased yet another sound recorder for myself! Just couldn’t resist adding the cute little Sound Devices MixPre3 to my collection of sound recorders.

Now the first question on my mind is what would be the best method for powering the Sound Devices MixPre3? (am planning to run it with phantom power on one channel for a hardwired boom mic, plus a Lectrosonics SR for channels 2/3)

The way I see it is there are four main options:

1) Sound Devices MX-LMount (2x horizontal L Mount batteries. This seems like an awkward choice for a compact bag to have the batteries sticking out at an angle, works with 2x slim NP-F550 batteries perhaps? But the run time would be a little too lean. Yet 2x NP-F970 would stick out too much! I suspect a compromise would be a NP-F550 on my “belly side” so the MixPre3 sits flush against that side of the mixing bag, and a large NP-F970 on the opposite side which a receiver would then sit on top of)

2) Hawk-Woods SD-2 (this is a single NP-F battery in the horizontal orientation, solving the problems with the MX-LMount. But would a single NP-F battery be enough?? Not sure at all. I’ve read a MixPre draws up to 7.5W? So would a NP-F970 be enough to always get through to lunch break every day? Seems likely, but perhaps the MX-LMount with an extra NP-F550 with the NP-F970 would be the safer bet. There is a low power mode, which seems perfect for what I want! As I don’t need HDMI/USB or more than two phantom power channels, however from reading the manual it seems there is no way to turn that mode on yourself?)

3) Hawk-Woods SD-1 (gives you a Hirose input, that I could use with my BDS. However I can ditch the BDS entirely, because I can use a Lectrosonics SRBATTSLED on my receiver, and power that via a NP-F550. There is also the Cable Techniques MX-POWERSLED which does the same thing and is a little cheaper at US$99 vs US$131.52, but the Cable Techniques option is over 50 grams heavier and I feel like the Hawk-Woods SD-1 would protect the Hirose connector better)

4) USB-C powering (a USB connection seems too fragile to me to handle the hurly burly knocking about during a fast paced run & gun production)

5) something else I’m not thinking about? (don’t think the existing AA battery sled would be the best option, neither using the 8x AA option. That’s too many extra unnecessary batteries to juggle at the end of each day!)

Do I hate Sound Devices?

A comment on Reddit got me thinking…  because the quick and simple answer is: NO!! 

I love what Sound Devices is doing now, I love what Sound Devices has done in the past in contributing to film sound’s history, and I wish I could own every product that Sound Devices has ever made! (as it is I own five of their products already)

Yet someone had got a rather different impression of me and what I thought of Sound Devices, and I replied back with what ended up being a rather lengthy and long comment indeed on Reddit! Thus I thought it is worth it spinning off to form this blog post as well.  

Here is my response I wrote to him:

Probably also because there is an awful lot of negativity around Zoom, which is totally applicable for their H series but is wrongly justified in attacking their F series. And in the process of my defense I might come of as “too negative” of competing brands.

I believe *ALL* equipment that Sound Devices has made from their first MP-1 to their latest MixPre10T are very very fine machines.

But everything needs to be viewed in the context of their time, and in today’s marketplace vs the competition, and in terms of a person’s needs/wants.

For instance do I think the Sound Devices 552 makes any sense whatsoever to buy at its current brand new price? OH HELL NO!!! (you could buy a 633 for less than the cost of a new 552!) Do I enjoy my 552 that I own myself? Yes I do. Would I recommend anybody buy a 552 secondhand today? (they’re commonly listed for over US$1K, but can be found also for a little under US$1K without too much trouble) Nope! Only in very niche scenarios might it *maybe* make sense (or if you find an utterly crazy bonkers good deal!), I reckon they’re overpriced on eBay vs the options we have today in 2019. But did a 552 make sense for at that point in time those years ago for the price I paid? It certainly did!

I do feel that way about most of Sound Device’s older products: 552/442/744/722/702. They really need to sell at more like half (no, a third!) of their typical going prices before I think they make sense in the context of 2019. As for 9 out of 10 people it makes no sense for them to pay more for a secondhand 744 than it costs to buy a brand new Zoom F8n! Or to pay more for a 702 than a F8 is on sale or secondhand.

A few exceptions (due to their prices on eBay being low enough to still make sense in 2019, but none of these would I be keen to recommend buying full price for in 2019 except maybe the MM1 if you needed it ASAP) which I feel their eBay prices are decent *ish* representation of their true worth might be:

The MM1 (great for a boom op!), MP1 (handy little thing to have in your tool kit), MixPre/MixPreD/302 (useful if you’re still doing a lot of old fashioned directly cabled to camera stuff on small shoots, but still… I’d be inclined to say just get a Zoom F4?), 788T (but it is a tough ask to want to spend double what a new F8n is on a secondhand 788T, however it might make sense for some people. I think it is a close call as to if I should even include the 788T in this category as I still feel the 788T’s eBay price is over inflated, but it is at least a more reasonable proposition than say paying for an overpriced 702 which will fail to even meet the needs of many modern 2019 productions), and 664 (which can be found at a big discount to the price a 664 goes for new, which brand new I feel is too closely priced to the newer 688).

Thus what Sound Devices do I feel are worth buying *new* in 2019? Their entire MixPre series of recorders, 633, 688, and 970

But it depends so very very very much on context. Is it a brand new college grad? Then the 970 would be an **awful** choice for him! Or even a 688 would likely be very wrong. While a 633 would be wrong for many one man bands who are operating a camera as well, and should instead be considering a MixPre3 (or MixPre6). As I feel the MixPre3 is a wonderful recorder to pair with a camera such as a Fujifilm X-T3 or Nikon Z6 (or any of the many other popular mirrorless cameras out there to film with)(. 

So circling back around to the topic which started this, I’m usually always recommending a Zoom F series recorder if the assumed context is they’re a newly starting out production sound recordist seeking their first ever recorder (or if not their first *first*, it is an upgrade from something way worse like a sub $300 Tascam or a Zoom H series or such).

Because in those scenarios I see the clearly best choices to be starting out with are (in increasing costs): Tascam DR60D (if they’re so dirt broke they’re panhandling on the streets! But if this is true then I think they’ve got bigger problems to consider than “what recorder to buy”), Zoom F4, Zoom F8, Zoom F8n, the “industry standard” Sound Devices 633 (but *only* go with the 633 if their total budget is $15K or *more*, as if you’re going to only go with buying new pro grade “industry standard” kit from the start then you’re going to blow waaaay past that $15K budget)

So in summary, I think all of them are great products which Sound Devices has ever made, but if you’re starting out trying to build a small sound kit then in terms of their price (especially their older products with their still high eBay prices, but is even applicable to their latest line up as well) for many people it doesn’t make sense if you’re wanting to get great value for money for your very small and extremely limited budget compared to the alternatives we’re spoiled with in 2019. 

However, I still see it as highly likely I’ll own a 6 series in my near ish future (but I’m waiting to see first if a 2nd generation 6 series product will happen! Such as a “Sound Devices 666”? Haha! But my wild guess is we’ll instead see a new “Sound Devices 8xx” series come out next).

I wrote a couple of other blog posts as well back in 2018 and 2017 which took somewhat of a big picture overlook at what recorders there are to consider:

http://ironfilm.co.nz/most-popular-sound-recorders-on-bh-in-2018/

http://ironfilm.co.nz/which-sound-recorder-to-buy-a-guide-to-various-indie-priced-sound-recorders-in-2017/

Three Years of Firmware Updates for the original Zoom F8, what does the future hold for the new Zoom F8n?

Zoom F8n the Next Generation

 

Currently I am very excited about the brand new Zoom F8n which just got announced, as you can see from the blurb it has some amazing specs, all for only US$999! (same price as the original F8 at launch, and cheaper than the indicated US$1200 when Zoom announced at NAB 2018 that a F8n was in development) However not everyone seems to be as happy about this as I am.

 

Zoom F8n frontal view

In response to people complaining that their original F8 doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the F8n and asking if their F8 will get updated to this as well (it might? But I wouldn’t hold your breath), I wrote up this somewhat lengthy response:

The F8 original has had three years of excellent support from Zoom in updating it. I feel that is a perfectly reasonable level of support, better than that even!

Plus there is the possibility the F8n has a more powerful processor in it than the F8?? So maybe the F8 is not even physically capable of all of the software features of the new Zoom F8n?

Currently the F8 is at firmware update v4.10, that is a *lot* of updates!

Here a few of the highlights:

v2.0:

https://www.learnlightandsound.com/blog/2015/12/27/zoom-f8-audio-recorder-firmware-v2-0

Sound reports

Trim knobs can be used as faders

False take folder

Scene number advancement

Change previously recorded track names

Show track names on level meter screen

PFL solos tracks during playback

Shortcuts

Those are some big BIG UPDATES there! And that isn’t even all of it from the v2.0 firmware update.

v3.0:

https://www.zoom-na.com/news/f8-firmware-update-v300

Monitoring input signals of specific tracks without recording

Backing up / loading saved settings.

Adding a TONNE of extra functionality to be used with the new FRC-8 and a keyboard.

Again, another big BIG update.

v4.0:

Extensive ambisonics support!!!! wow

https://www.zoom-na.com/news/firmware-update-zoom-f8-firmware-40-recording-360-degree-audio

Another big big update.

And this is not even counting the many smaller updates between the big updates, which further improved the F8 during its lifetime.

I feel buyers of the F8 when it came out have been served very very well by Zoom, and I can only hope I get a similar series of updates during the lifetime of the Zoom F8n! 😮  I wonder what the future holds for the F8n?  I certainly have some hopes for Zoom F8n which might still come to pass.

 

 

Seems like it was only yesterday that I was  unboxing the Zoom F4. But actually it was in late 2016 when the Zoom F4 was announced (and I very shortly afterwards purchased, been a great upgrade from my previous Sound Devices 552 / Tascam DR680 combo).

What I’d like to see in the new Zoom F8n

 

Zoom F8n

 

With the Zoom F8n not far away with a release date of July, I’d thought I’d write up my hopes for the F8n which seem like reasonable wishes (or at least semi reasonable!). Many of these might also be doable as a firmware update for the existing F8/F4 models.

What we know currently about the new Zoom F8n is:

The headphone amp will be improved (wasn’t a deal breaker for me beforehand, but certainly improving the headphone amp would be very nice, especially when you’re trying to record quieter ambiances)

The XLR inputs will be mic/line switchable, which is a nice small addition. So then I won’t need to use 1/4″ cables from my Lectrosonics transmitters for putting line level into the recorder.

Improved limiters that “look ahead” (via the magic of time travel! Or rather the magic will be done via having a cache).

Price will be US#1200 (but not set in stone), which is steeper than the US$1K launch price of the original F8, but not by much at all (although, the F8 now has fallen in price to under uS$800! Which is amazingly cheap). And the F8n is still a lot cheaper than the Sound Devices MixPre10T (and the F8n isn’t even that much more than say the MixPre-6, yet I’d much rather have the Zoom F4 as my only main recorder than the MixPre-6. So even at US$1.2K the F8n will be absolutely phenomenal value!).

Plus also a number of secret unannounced improvements, which we’ll find out about in July. And it is about these which I’m writing about that I hope we’ll see. Although we can’t set our hopes up too high! As the Zoom F8 original has only been on the market for two and a half years, which is a somewhat short period of time in the professional sound market. Thus we can see the Zoom F8n as more like a mid life cycle product refresh.

Now onto my hopes and wishes for the new Zoom F8n (and even ideas for possible firmware updates for the existing F8/F4 models):

Currently the F8/F4 has “consumer line level output” (or mic level), which basically makes their so called “line level output” pointless for me to pair with any of my wireless transmitters or to send directly wired to camera. The F8n needs proper pro line level output rather than their current anemic “line level”.

Metadata History: I love that when I’m entering in metadata into my F4 I can quickly grab past metadata entries via scrolling through the history, rather than dealing with the finicky on screen keyboard. However, the history page doesn’t go anywhere nearly far back enough! Plus for the sake of metadata consistency it is really nice if I can keep on reusing exactly the same spelling/description as I’ve used in the past on the shoot.

PFL key: on the topic of metadata, why don’t I get more info about the track when I hit the PFL button? As sometimes I might forget what it is I’ve assigned to one particular track, and rather than hunting down into the metadata menus for everything, it would be much faster to be able to leap to that specific traffic to see. By in the PFL menu to see the name of the track from the metadata, and the option to edit the metadata for this track.

Shortcut key: why why on earth do you need to press the STOP key on the F8 as part of accessing a shortcut function??? Seems like sheer madness to me! As if you need to access something quickly during a take (as often happens) I do not want my fingers to go anywhere near that STOP key! Ideally the Zoom F8n will have a dedicated shortcut key like my Zoom F4 has, or at the very least come up with a different arrangement than the high risk approach of using the STOP key as part of the shortcut key press combo. Yikes.

While on the topic of the stop button, could it please be illuminated? Would save fumbling for it in the dark at the end of a take. Also if the stop button had a very small little bump on it (like a Braille dot) that would also help finding it without needing to look down directly for it.

Safety track: this is a feature I really like of the Zoom F8/F4, and I nearly always use it for at least my boom mic. Especially with the way many productions “shoot the rehersal” or with actors/directors going off script, and you’re running sound solo so you’re booming as well then it is nice peace of mind to know you’ve got another layer of insurance at work. However, currently the safety track is set completely independently of the main track (heck, you could even set the gain of the safety to be higher than the main track if you wished!).

But for the vast majority of shoots you don’t need that degree of customization, and I’d rather trade that freedom for instead the speed of just having the safety track be automatically a set amount lower than the main track (although this should be customizable, to say: 0, -6, -12, -24 dB or any other number you might wish to use it for. As depending on the expected dynamic range of the scene you can then select the appropriate sized gap between the main track and the safety track).  Thus I’d hope in the safety track recording menu of the F8n (or even the F8/F4, with a firmware update) to have an option for the safety track to either be freely set to any level or to be set to a fixed amount lower.

On the topic of things the F8n could do automatically to make your life easier:
Automix, like the Sound Devices 633 and 688 have.
Automute the outputs when not recording, very handy indeed if you want to give a degree of privacy to people who are wired up while a take is not rolling.

 

Aanton Cantar X3 and Mini's screen

A rather ambitious desire I’ve got for the F8n is showing audio waveforms of recorded tracks, even if it doesn’t show it for all the tracks at once but only the one selected track at a time. One example of where such a feature could come in very handy is if you want to check back on if a track is ok (maybe you want to check if a wireless hit or a clothing rustle is overlapping a line of dialogue), then you can very very quickly use the waveforms as a guide to skim ahead to exactly the right points on the track to listen to. This would massively speed up my process of quickly checking up on tracks afterwards. And I’m sure you can come up with more examples of how this could be a handy feature to have (such as quickly at a glance checking across the whole take for if any serious peaking happened, this is super handy if say you have had to drop your audio bag in a car boot during a driving scene and then you’ll be able to do a quick check on the take with a glance when the car gets back).

Currently I believe such a feature with audio waveforms being displayed is only on the Aaton Cantar X3 and the Cantar Mini, two recorders at the opposite end of the price spectrum to the F8n!

 

Sound Devices MixPre-10T Timecode jam clock difference

 

Currently the Timecome screen in the menu for the F8 (and F4) just displays the current internal TC and what is sees from the external source, but it would be very handy indeed if it could compare the two to show the difference between them like in this image from the Sound Devices MixPre10T’s screen. This would be useful for troubleshooting problems, catching out issues before they arise, testing out new gear, or simply for triple checking things for your own absolute confidence on set.

(side note: yes, I do notice that 10:00:30:13 is not the same as 10:00:30:14! Guessing this might be a problem with either the recorder display’s refresh rate and/or an issue with the rolling shutter of the video camera that this screen grab came from? Maybe. Anyway this just highlights why it is important for the recorder to calculate the Timecode difference to then tell us the difference. Rather than rely upon our own eyesight or cellphone snap shots, as I have done before)

While on the topic of timecode, a quirk that really bugs me as a flaw, is that pre-record completely fails to work if you’re using External Timecode at the same time.  Which is rather annoying indeed, and caught me out a couple of times until I realised this slightly strange behavior was happening.

 

Zoom EXH-6 Dual XLR/TRS Combo Input Capsule

 

Anther hope is that the new Zoom F8n with the Zoom EXH-6 support 10 channel recording! (as the F8 with the EXH-6 doesn’t increase its channel count at all when the EXH-6 is used, rather it just replaces two of the existing XLR inputs that get removed as an option to use. Thus the channel count for the F8 doesn’t increase up from 8 at all when the EXH-6 is used) Being able to use an EXH-6 effectively with the new F8n for very high track count days would be handy indeed, and would demolish one more benefit the Sound Devices MixPre10T has over the F8 currently (10 channels vs 8 channel recording). 
 
Also if there could be a new updated EXH-6 v2.0 with knobs that lock into place or click into each step instead of freely moving then I’d be VERY happy. As currently there is always a risk the gain gets adjust accidentally for my F4 while the EXH-6 sits at the bottom of my bag :-/
Ideally the EXH-6 v2.0 would have a push button lock in the center of each dial, so that it retains having a smooth clickless dial for if people need to adjust gain during a take (put personally I’d be happy for it to click into place at each gain setting or for a center dial push in lock, anything is better than currently when it might accidentally freely move at whim! Placing tape over the dial of the EXH-6 is the work around for now)
Additionally I’d hope a EXH-6 v2.0 update would add locking XLR connections, rather than XLR connections that just sit there without locking in place. Again, this is another risk factor for something to go wrong if they don’t lock in place. 
Because currently as an F4 user I find the EXH-6 is very handy indeed, almost an essential piece of a gear for a F4 owner, but it is also darn bloody annoying at times!!! And these proposed changes to the EXH-6 would make my days significantly more stress free.

I wish the Zoom F8n would be able to talk with my Timecode Systems :wave like the Sound Devices 6 series can. If the Zoom F8n could do this then that would be the single biggest feature I’d get excited about! (although naturally I’m a little biased, as I’ve got an existing investment in this timecode system).  But it would be very exciting indeed to have this level of metadata integration, and being able to share it across all departments with the Movie Slate 8 app.

Zoom FRC-8 F-Control
Currently you can’t simultaneously use fully both the F8 iOS app and and the Zoom FRC-8 at the same time, would be nice if this could be resolved so that you could keep both connected at all times, then you can just grab and use whichever one is appropriate in the moment to use.
One handy feature the Zoom F4 has, which the F8 doesn’t have (but I hope the F8n does), is that the Zoom FRC-8 F-Control can be powered via the USB connection (that I wish was a more sturdy full size USB connection on the F4, but it full size USB is on the Zoom FRC-8’s size!) from the Zoom F4. But the Zoom FRC-8 with the Zoom F8 needs to have its own powering for the FRC-8 to turn on. Which is a pity, as it would be nice to have one less thing to worry about batteries for, and it would make the FRC-8 when used with a bag rig (which some people do!!).
But would be even nicer is if the USB input on the Zoom F8n can be used to directly plug in a keyboard (without needing to use the Zoom FRC-8 F-Control in between the recorder and the USB keyboard, like we have to do currently with the Zoom F8 & Zoom F4). As most people would find the Zoom FRC-8 too bulky to use with the bag rig, but they’d still like to use a mini keyboard with their kit for faster and easier metadata entry.
Would be double nice if a wireless bluetooth keyboard could be used directly with the F8n, without even needing to use the USB input at all! How handy would that be? Especially if you are able to connect both the bluetooth keyboard and  the Zoom app to the recorder at the same time running side by side simultaneously (on which point, why is there no Android app? And even the iOS app hasn’t been updated in ages! I could also write a long blog post about all the improvements I wish they’d done for the F8 iOS app…..).

On one past shoot I had issues on a rooftop that was stacked full of radio/tv/cellphone antennas, which my F4 experienced but my Sound Devices 552 was trouble free (luckily! So I switched over to the 552). Additionally any time I use my RodeLink transmitter too near to my F4 then I run into issues (simple solution: I don’t use it! Or at least only have the receiver in my bag, not the transmitter). Thus I hope Zoom improves the RF shielding with the Zoom F8n.

A very low priority for me personally, as I rarely use my F4 as a USB interface, but it would be nice if the F8n could be used as a USB interface and  a recorder at the same time. As my F4 can’t record at all once it is set up as a USB interface (and I believe the current F8 has the same issue as well).

Another small but handy change I’d like to see is if the clip peak indicators could automatically clear themselves (for those times when I’m booming and recording, and don’t have a spare hand or time to clear them myself after slating even via a shortcut) after a selectable length of time after you start rolling (for instance 15 seconds later, or even 2 minutes later, which you could pick depending on the type of production you’re on. Some shoots are very quick and timely between “turn over” and “mark it”, but others….. are not). The reason why I’d like to see this feature is because very often while I am booming I’ll look down at my recorder wondering if a track peaked, but I can’t tell! Because the peak indicator is still there (unless I manually cleared it) from when the take was slated at the start of the take.

 AES inputs would be nice on the Zoom F8n, but I suspect very unlikely with Zoom’s target demographic.

Last but far from least important, is my wish for B format support for the new Rode NT-SF1 ambisonic microphone:


Zoom already supports B format decoding for the Sennheiser AMBEO ambisonic microphone in their F8 & F4 recorders, thus I hold out reasonable hope that when the Rode NT-SF1 ships then Zoom will bring out a firmware update for the Rode NT-SF1 ?

A better headphone output for the Zoom F4 / F8?

A common criticism of the Zoom F8 and the Zoom F4  is the poor pre amp on the headphone output, as if you crank it a bit to high then you can definitely hear the noise floor creeping. Personally I feel this criticism of the F8/F4 is a bit overblown. Because this noise you hear doesn’t at all exist on the recorded files (or in the main / sub outputs). 
Thus 9 times out of 10 I am perfectly happy with the pre amps on the Zoom F4/F8, at least when it comes to normal dialogue levels recorded on location (at least not with my set up. Although others with headphones that need a greater output to drive them do have a legitimate concern).
 
But occasionally (such as when recording ambiance, or quiet whisperings) I wish the head phone pre amps would be better. As while not perhaps quite an *essential* improvement, it would be a handy “luxury” to enjoy? Thus I’m wondering to perhaps use a Behringer P1 / P2 , ART MyMonitorII, or a PreSonus HP2? (or open to any other suggestions that I’ve missed. Have seen the Fischer Amps In Ear Stick used with the F8, but that is a lot more expensive than these other options, and doesn’t seem to offer anything more?)
 
I’d love to hear some personal user experiences from taking this approach to monitoring (with the main or sub out from the F4/F8, which are much much cleaner), instead of using the headphone output for monitoring.
 
The biggest downside is that all the interaction feedback (such as the beep you’d hear when you start/stop recording) is completely gone if you’re not using the headphone output, likewise the PFL buttons become 100% useless (which would be a major downside for me, as I’m frequently using them while recording and during playback).
 
However, this should be an easy firmware fix for Zoom to have a toggle options in the settings as to if the effects to the headphones (start/stop beeps, & PFL button pushes) should be applied equally to the main/sub outputs as they also are to the headphone output. This firmware update should be seriously considered by Zoom as it would “fix” the biggest (or at least the most common, even though I personally feel it is a bit overblown) objection to the Zoom F4/F8: their poor headphone amp.
 
 

Zaxcom DEVA 24 & MIX-16 are now finally officially shipping

Zaxcom DEVA 24 recorder and MIX-16 fader officially shipping

 

Now for news at the opposite end of the pricing spectrum (almost tens times more expensive!) to the Sound Devices MixPre10M announcement today is the news that finally the Zaxcom DEVA 24 & Zaxcom MIX-16 are in stock and shipping! After what feels like YEARS of Zaxcom teasing us this coming.

 

 

With a retail price of US$12K for the Zaxcom DEVA 24 recorder this won’t be for everyone, rather will be competing against the likes of the Sound Devices 688, Sound Devices 970, Aaton Cantar X3, and others. But not directly competing though as the DEVA 24 is Zaxcom’s own take on this, the DEVA 24 is itself quite unique from those others.

 

Press Release:

Based on its Academy and Emmy award-winning predecessors Deva 24 can record pristine 24 track audio and has a plethora of advanced features including flexible input/output routing, ZaxNet™, NeverClip™, PowerRoll™ and MixAhead™.

Deva 24 provides 16 analog inputs, 12 of which are switchable mic or line level with adjustments for high pass filter, limiter, input delay and 48V phantom power. Four additional line level inputs can be used as returns. Thanks to NeverClip™ preamps, it offers a staggering 136 db of dynamic range.

Digitally, 24 inputs channels of AES are available on the unit, 16 support AES42. Deva 24 also accepts any unlocked AES signal with a sampling rate of 32 to 192 kHz.

10 output busses offer routing versatility through four XLR, three TA-5M and three 3.5mm connectors. Outputs feature delay settings, level attenuation and assignable output names.

Dependable delivery

Audio can be recorded to three media simultaneously. An internal 2.5” SSD (1TB max capacity) is the primary media paired with two compact flash (CF) card slots. Files are recorded as MARF II, a lossless fault tolerant recording format to the internal drive and as Broadcast Wave files (BWF) to the CF cards. An eSATA port provides an external hard drive (SSD or HDD) option that takes the place of a single CF card slot.

Immersive mixing

Deva 24 has an integrated mixer where 12 rotary faders can be assigned to act as a fader, input trim knob or a ZaxNet™ control knob. The rotary encoder allows you to adjust the compressor settings, input trim and invert the phase of an input.

8 tracks provide an infinite mix of all Deva 24 inputs, while 16 tracks are dedicated to ISO routing. Any of the 16 analog or 24 digital inputs can be assigned to an ISO track as either pre or post fader.

Familiar functionality

Users of previous Deva systems will enjoy the familiarity of its design and intuitive software. Deva 24 has a detachable front panel interface and a touchscreen menu system that’s fast, easy to learn and extremely reliable for any type of audio workflow. It also allows you to connect a compatible MAC or PC to control it remotely via a USB cable.

Seamless integration

Combined, the Mix-16 control surface is a versatile extension for Deva 24. Featuring 16 motorized faders in five banks, any combination of analog or digital input channels on the Deva 24 can be assigned to the Mix-16. This provides sound recordists with an integrated recording and mixing solution capable of solving many audio challenges.

Each fader on the Mix-16 has a bright LED input meter and the control surface is equipped with a pre fader listen (PFL) monitoring system that allows you to listen to channel audio before the fader is closed. It also has the ability to control the ZaxNet™ remote control function of Deva 24.

Pricing and availability

Zaxcom’s Deva 24 and Mix-16 are available now. Receive a $1,000 USD discount when purchasing both before April 13, 2018. This new technology and more from Zaxcom will be on display April 9-12 at NAB Show in Las Vegas, Booth C3927.

Sound Devices MixPre10M announced (a MixPre10T without the “T”, for Musicians)

Sound Devices MixPre10M Mixer Recorder for Musicians

https://www.sounddevices.com/products/recorders/mixpre-10m

https://www.sounddevices.com/products/recorders/mixpre-10m/feature-comparison

 

The MixPre-10M musician’s feature set includes:

Overdubbing – including Punch In/Out
Track Laying – up to 12 tracks
Bouncing – to allow for more tracks
Premium Quality Effects – Vintage Reverbs & Vocal Air
Metronome
Render (Export) – for sharing files

For existing MixPre-6 and MixPre-10T users: Sound Devices will soon be releasing a studio-grade Musician Plugin adding a new dimension of recording capabilities to the already versatile devices. For US$99, the Musician Plugin will feature all the musician-inspired features, including overdub, track laying, reverb, metronome and more.

“Sound Devices has a rich heritage of employees who are also musicians – so the MixPre-10M is truly a product designed by musicians for musicians,” says Matt Anderson, CEO of Sound Devices, LLC. “It’s an incredible device that simplifies songwriting and production to allow musicians to focus solely on creating and recording music the way it was before computers took over. With built-in overdub, metronome, and effects like premium-quality reverb and vocal air, the travel-size MixPre-10M gives musicians the ability to record 12 tracks anywhere inspiration hits – from a tour bus, backstage, to a hotel room or live performance.”

The MixPre-10M retails for US$1499 and will be available in late March.

 


 

So now I’ve read up on this latest news, the first question I then have for myself is: “would this be a recorder for me personally?”

As while I’ve been very happy with my F4 recorder, I am thinking later this year (or perhaps next year) I will be upgrading from it. And the MixPre10T has been one possibility I’ve considered (along with a new 633 or 688, or a secondhand 664 or 788T. Or even from another brand such as Zaxcom or Sonosax).

So is this MixPre10M is simply just a MixPre10T without an internal timecode generator? (just like how the MixPre6 & MixPre3 also lack it) As if so it could be a sweet way to save US$300, if you already have a timecode box to use with it (or even you could easily buy one for less than US$300, they’ve become amazingly affordable lately!).

But it seems timecode in (no timecode reader whatsoever), metadata editing, Wingman app, and camera return are all a bit crippled in some manner or another in comparison to the MixPre10T.

Oh well, that 100% killed my interest in the MixPre10M as (slightly) cheaper alternative to the MixPre10T. No surprise though, as it is targeted at musicians. And it is easy to see the appeal for musicians, if you’re not intending to do any sound for picture with your new MixPre10M.

However, this is still overall good news for users if Sound Devices are expanding their user base. As this will help support further firmware development in the future for all MixPre users by bringing down the per user cost for development (so long as they keep the base firmware the same across all the new MixPre models, so it is easy to migrate improvements for one model across to all the others as well).

Most Popular Sound Recorders on B&H in 2018?

Sound Recorders with Timecode Ranking

Being curious, I was wondering the answer to the question of which are the most popular? Handily B&H allows you to sort your search results according to “Best Sellers”. I then refined my results to those that interest me: only recorders with timecode in them. (strangely the MixPre3 is not included! But the MixPre6 is??? Odd because they both have the same timecode capabilities, neither have an internal timecode generator but can work with an external timecode source)

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?ci=14934&fct=fct_time-code_1180%7cyes&N=3992462091

I’m a bit surprised at how Sound Devices has managed to out sell Zoom, even with their much higher prices for Sound Devices recorders.

The MixPre6 is DOUBLE the price (when you factor in a TC box purchase) of the Zoom F4 (even though the MixPre6 with TC in the bag, only has four input channels vs the six of the F4). The MixPre3 is even outselling the MixPre6! (MixPre3 is even out selling the F1!) Which I suppose makes sense as the MixPre3 is the cheapest of them all, but makes no sense to me personally as the MixPre3 isn’t “that much” cheaper for how much more crippled its functionality is?! Maybe the ultra miniature form factor is proving to be very popular.

Likewise the MixPre10T which is well over DOUBLE the price of a Zoom F8, yet the MixPre10T is also out selling the F8.

Guess this is why Zoom has recently put price drops on their F8 & F4! As even though I feel Zoom is out competing the low end Sound Devices when it comes to features and price, the market is speaking that the price gap needs to be even bigger if Zoom wants to out sell Sound Devices’ low end MixPre recorders.

Surprising indeed the Tascam DR701D is next on the list when the F4 is only $50 more to get (didn’t expect Tascam to be so high), but I presume this sorting by “Best Sellers” includes ALL historical data (which only makes the newer MixPre rankings even more impressive? As they came out after the F4/F8), thus perhaps the long ish time the DR701D has been around is what has helped push up its total sales volume.

Sound Devices 633 is next on this sorted list, no surprises here? As it would be easily Sound Devices most popular recorder ever, before they brought out the new MixPre recorders.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ns=p_POPULARITY%7c1&ci=14934&srtclk=sort&N=3992462091

All sound recorders for music / film / tv / corporate / voice overs / ADR / whatever / etc listed!

Sadly the original Zoom H4n is the most popular recorder of all for sale?!?! :-/ Terrible. Shows how slow people can be in moving on, and instead rely upon old chinese whispers of advice.

Interestingly Tascam DR10L is #3, glad to see that is being widely picked up in the low budget world perhaps? And understandable why Zoom wants to then get a piece of that market with their Zoom F1.

A firmware update I’d love to see for the Zoom F4/F8: mirroring from one SD card slot to another.

A damn cool feature I wish would be implemented in the Zoom F4/F8

We ALL have recorders which record to more than one piece of media at once (for a safety back up), thanks to the dual card slots in the F4/F8.

But why can’t we have recorders which allow you to pull out your back up SD card then pop in whatever rubbish SD card the production has brought along (because you seriously don’t want to dare risk recording takes to their card! And losing files or locking up a recorder. As they just don’t understand your specialized media needs) to then copy over from your main card the day’s shoot into their card they brought along (and you could have the option to throttle the speed if need be). Because of course you don’t want to risk using the production’s card during the day’s shoot itself! 😮

Sound Devices MixPre10T is kinda doing that, as they have a USB port which you can copy your single SD card slot to. But what if they don’t bring a USB drive? But a SD card instead…. the MixPre10T doesn’t have two SD slots. I wonder, can the MixPre10T copy from the USB drive attached to a SD card?? Guess that would be a work around, so you could handle either a USB drive or a SD card brought along by the producer,

Anyway…. I hope Zoom could implement this feature to mirror files (or rather, whole folders! 😀 ) at the end of your day.

Much much better option than either using their card during takes, or giving them your card… only to never see it again 🙁