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.

 

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 ?

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 🙁

Leaked: is a new Sound Devices MixPre-10T coming soon?

An interesting content tag has been spotted on the Sound Devices website:

https://www.sounddevices.com/component/tags/tag/tn-mixpre-10t

 

Took a screenshot just in case it might disappear:

Sound Devices MixPre10T

 

From this info we can fairly easily deduce this is likely:

Uses AA / Sony L-type batteries.
Writes to SD cards.
And works with the Wingman app.
 
From the name I will guess it does 10 tracks, and has a time code generator built in (unlike the MixPre6 or MixPre3, which need time code to be permanently sent to it, as can’t keep TC accurately otherwise. Which is great news the next MixPre will have TC built in, as I was disappointed to realise the MixPre6 will lose tracks 5/6 if you need TC while it is in your bag).
Annoyingly when you click on the “MixPre-10T Tech Notes” link you get asked for a username and password:
MixPre-10T Tech Notes

Wonder how many XLR inputs it would have? I am very extremely doubtful it would have all 10 inputs be XLR inputs (like the Zoom F8 does with all its 8 inputs), likely only a few will be powered XLR inputs just like with the MixPre6, 663, and a number of their other products. Probably at least four will be XLR inputs, as that is what the MixPre6 has (but then again the 633 only has 3x full sized XLR inputs), and the rest will be something else like 1/4″, 3.5mm, or TA3F (I’m highly skeptical if we’ll see a digital input such as AES3/AES42 in a low end recorder series such as the MixPre).
 

Hmmmm…. I wonder what the price will be? I might have found my upgrade path forward from my Zoom F4! Depending on the exact mix of features/price that the MixPre10T has.

Presumable the price will between the Sound Devices 633 at US$3.3K and the MixPre6 at US$900, but that is a massively price gulf! And likely the reason why Sound Devices is bringing out such a product, to fill this niche?!

You will wonder what will the MixPre-10T would be missing so that it doesn’t compete too strongly with the 633/688, I imagine output options and Dugan automix would be a couple of many ways they could differentiate their products.

When will this Sound Devices MixPre-10T came out? If some details are already being put onto their website (and Google cache tells me it has been up since at least the 5th of September 2017) then you would assume the MixPre-10T is already reasonably far along with its development. However actual release might not be days away, but still months away. So I’d predict/hope the MixPre-10T will be announced by at least next years NAB 2018 in early April.

 

A little quirk in the URL that I’m wondering about is this, compare:

https://www.sounddevices.com/component/tags/tag/tn-mixpre-10t

https://www.sounddevices.com/component/tags/tag/mixpre-3-tn

https://www.sounddevices.com/component/tags/tag/mixpre-6-tn

 

Both the MixPre-6 and the MixPre-3 have the letters “tn” at the end, but the MixPre-10T puts it at the start! Why??

Does the Sound Devices MixPre-D give us a clue:

https://www.sounddevices.com/component/tags/tag/tn-mixpre-d

Hmmmm……. same pattern with the “tn” in the front like with the MixPre-10T?Does this mean the MixPre-10T is going back to its roots and is not a recorder but instead just a mixer / USB interface like the MixPre-D is?

I don’t think so, am probably just going a teeny bit crazy overanalyzing these tiny details and in reality this difference means nothing at all! Ha.

Because the name “MixPre-10T” with a “T” at the end very strongly indicates it is a recorder with time code in it, and not just a mixer, as we’ve seen from the past naming of the Sound Devices 788T / 744T / 702T. But Sound Devices has never ever released a mixer with a “T” at the end of the name.

But if  you feel there is some deeper meaning as to what these “tn” letters mean, then hit me up in the comments and let us know!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to hearing more about the MixPre-10T when it does finally get announced. I’ll update my current overview of all the lower end recorders when it happens:

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

Also worth checking out is my vlog from when I went to the Pro Sound Expo in Auckland recently, which features the Sound Devices MixPre-6:

 

And finally but not least, here is my favourite recorder in this price segment at the moment, my Zoom F4 getting unboxed:

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