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/

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.

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: