Audio field recorders in 2021? My Predictions (“wild guesses”).

I’ll give my personal thoughts on each brand, one by one:

Zaxcom:
The Nova is a very new product, I see almost no chance of a “Nova 2.0” coming out this year. 
Deva 24 is a little older than Nova, but also their highest end product which thus has a longer life cycle, I see it as unlikely there will be a Deva release in 2021. 
Could Zaxcom release a product which is between Nova & Deva 24, or below Nova? I doubt it. 

Sound Devices:
The 8 Series is their latest range, I don’t see any chance whatsoever they’ll be ending the 8 Series in 2021 and replacing it with something newer. No chance at all. 
Could the 8 Series be added to??? Is there space to squeeze in a product in between an 833/888/Scorpio? Nope, I don’t think so. (but then again, I’ve been surprised before, when the 888 came out in between the 833 & Scorpio)
Could an 8 Series recorder come out below an 833 or above a Scorpio?? Seems unlikely. Scorpio is already their most expensive ever product, and if they released a product below the 833 that might put it too close in price to a MixPre10 underneath it? (but hey, perhaps I might be wrong, and a “Sound Devices 811” will come out? A mini sized 833, with 1x XLR + 3x TA3F all for say just US$2.5K??  I doubt it, but that’s an example of how an odd ball product which might come out and surprise us) 

Now as for the MixPre series, all bets are off here, as Sound Devices has been putting out new updates and variants to this at a furious pace in recent years. As while I “guess” they will not bring out any new MixPres in 2021, I’d also not be surprised either if one (or more!) gets announced. 

Sonosax:
Their SX-R4+ has been around for a while, time for an update? But then again,  Sonosax is an extremely small company, and it is to be expected their products will have long life cycles between updates. (will give a quick mention to the Sonosax SX-M2D2 which came out more recently in 2019, but that’s a mini portable preamp and not the type of field recorders for production sound that we’re discussing here)

Aaton:
Cantar X3 came out in 2014 (and the Cantar Mini in 2017). You’d think that after 7 years that perhaps an update is coming? But not necessarily, the X3 still seems to be very popular, you never hear of anybody leaving X3 for something “better/newer” and the X3 is still attracting new users to the platform. Plus as a high end premium product (it is after all the most expensive field recorder there is) we can expect that it will have long life for its product cycle. Perhaps next year we might get a hint from Aaton that the “X4” is under development?? Maybe. But I’m not expecting a new field recorder to be released by Aaton this year. 

Nagra:
Nagra Seven came out waaaay back in 2013, surely it is time for an update? Nagra VI is even older from 2008!
But no, won’t expect an update to these in 2021. Nagra has more or less abandoned the film market, as they’re focused instead now on the high-end audiophile market. Verdict: Nagra is AWOL.

Tascam:
The DR680mk2 & DR701D are now both looking totally outclassed in the budget end of the market once the Zoom F8 came out. 
And the Tascam HS-P82 is from 2009! Was a nice machine, but looooong overdue for an update. 
While I’d like to dream that Tascam will bring out a product in the mid range as an update to the HS-P82, and new low end product which is competitive in the new “Zoom F8 Era”, I don’t see any sign of life from Tascam that they’ll do that. In 2021 I expect Tascam to be AWOL. 

Roland:
Take everything I just said about Tascam, and appeal an extra heavy dose of skepticism and pessimism. 
As nope, I do not at all expect an update from Roland to their R4 Pro or R44. 
Am definitely expecting Roland to be AWOL in 2021. 

Fostex:
Take everything I just said about Roland, and times it by ten. 
Fostex will be AWOL in 2021. 

Marantz:
Charitably we could call Marantz a “Tascam clone”. (except for when they’re not pretending to be a “RØDE clone”…) Mostly Marantz has been AWOL, but they did in late 2017 (almost 2018! Practically speaking) release the Marantz PMD-706. Which was arguably a “clone of the Tascam DR70D” but with a couple more channels. But also the Marantz PMD-706 had a few teething issues it seemed with early adopters. However, the mere existence of the PMD-706 and also the Marantz PMD-750 wireless (“a clone of the RØDE RodeLink”) as well indicates that perhaps Marantz has a desire to target the low budget indie filmmaker? Perhaps that means there is a slim chance they might try their hand at a “Zoom F8 clone”?? But based on the recent track record from Marantz, I wouldn’t be eagerly looking forward to this.

Zoom:
The Zoom F8n came out in 2018, but that’s wasn’t a major revolutionary update to the F8 but rather a half step refresh midway through the F8’s life cycle. 

The Zoom F6 came out in 2019. 

2020 didn’t see anything from Zoom in the F Series (unless you count their mini bodypack Zoom F2-BT recorders as part of their “F Series”, which technically they are), thus could we see a new product in 2021? I think perhaps so. As these are products which could see a faster refresh cycle, there won’t be an F6n in 2021 (as the F6 is the newest), but more likely a replacement to the F8 series…. a “Zoom F9”?? As the F8 is the oldest, and the F8n was a minor refresh. Personally I’d love to at least see a Zoom F4n, an F4 with a few tweaks (such as pro line level outputs, ditching EXH-6 for inputs 5 & 6 instead using 2x TA3F, further UI tweaks, adding bluetooth, USB keyboard without needing FRC-8, etc). But it seems Zoom believes the F6 is the true replacement for the F4 (which is not true at all!), thus I’m not counting on an “F4n” arriving. But something like a “Zoom F8n Pro / F9 / F10 / etc” seems reasonably likely in 2021


RØDE/Deity/Saramonic/BlackmagicDesign/AJA/Behringer/Lectrosonics/Tentacle/”Unknown”/Etc:
This heading is for all of those wild card unknowns from companies which have never before made a field recorder for the film industry.
Such as, could 2021 be the year we see a “Chinese F8” field recorder? A low low priced field recorder like the F8, but from a Chinese brand. I doubt it, but we’ve already seen a couple of Chinese companies dip the edges of their toe into the water with Saramonic (their Saramonic SR-VRM1 & SR-Q2M) & Deity (with their Deity BP-TRX & HD-TX) making mini recorders, thus is a bigger field recorder next? Again, I doubt it, but this is an example of the kind of “surprise” we might see in 2021. Likewise, Blackmagic Design already makes video recorders (with their range of Blackmagic Video Assist recorders), is an audio recorder next? I doubt it, but who knows. Likewise with that other Australian company: RØDE. What might RØDE have planned? They’re an audio focused company, will they surprise us with an audio recorder? And while on the topic of BMD, what about their competitor AJA? They’ve build video recorders too, might AJA surprise us? I doubt it, who knows though. 

Behringer is another company like RØDE which is focused on the audio market, they’ve already got good products like their X32 Series. Imagine if Behringer released an X32 Rack with timecode I/O, improved UI with metadata entry, dual SD cards, & is DC powered? (and a DC powered Behringer X-Touch control surface too) I’d absolutely be down for one of those!

Mentioned Lectrosonics as one of those crazy oddball surprises which isn’t totally bonkers to dream of happening (just “mostly bonkers”). Lectrosonics’ biggest competitor is Zaxcom, and the Zaxcom Nova shows the power of being able to integrate your own wireless and field recorder together into one unit. Perhaps that is why Sound Devices recently purchased Audio Ltd (their A10 wireless have built in recorders too), as a long term strategic move to tightly integrate them together & reap the benefits. Such a move would serve as a double threat to Lectrosonics from both Zaxcom and Sound Devices / Audio Ltd!! Perhaps Lectrosonics needs to make a defensive move and develop their own field recorder? I highly doubt such a product will come as soon as 2021 from Lectrosonics. But they might be making the first small tentative steps in that direction, with the Lectrosonics DCR822/PDR/MTCR/SPDR/DPR/SMWB/SMDWB all have MicroSD card recorders built into them.

Tentacle just brought out their first ever recorder, the miniature Tentacle Syc Track E recorder. Could they bring out a bigger field recorder in the future? Who knows, it would surprise me, and definitely can’t see it happening in 2021 so soon after their first ever recorder.

But I bet 2021 will have “somewhere” a surprise for us, most likely from some unknown left field company which I haven’t even mentioned yet. But of those that I mentioned, perhaps most likely (or rather “least unlikely” is a better way to describe it) would be Rode or Saramonic in my wild guess of an opinion? But if Rode did this, it would be a product unashamedly aimed at the YouTubers/videographers. And the Saranomic field recorder would be dirt cheap yet surely also be a huge steaming heap of sh*t (but perhaps after a few generations would evolve into a “not terrible” product). 


Thus in brief summary, I’m not expecting many major field recorder announcements in 2021, aside from “a Zoom F10” (might even be so bold as to call this “likely“) plus maaaaaaybe a MixPre and quite likely some kind of left field announcement none of us are even expecting (could even be from one of those brands I wrote off as AWOL, that’s exactly why it would be an unexpected surprise! ha). 

Perhaps 2021 might be a relatively quiet year for us? Especially with the impacts felt from the AKM Factory fire causing shortages, and COVID19 in general causing economic stresses which would be dampening demand for equipment upgrades.

What we may see from the big pro brands, is a focus this year in 2021 to be bringing out more accessories to support and develop their existing range of recorders, rather than releasing brand new recorders. For instance 2021 is when we’ll see Sonosax’s SX-RX8+ (the Sonosax SX-RX8+ brings Superslot Wireless integration to the Sonosax SX-R4+ recorder). And 2021 will also likely be when we see a “Sound Devices SL4” (a bigger version of their Sound Devices SL2 for Superslot wireless), or maybe (here is my hope! Fingers crossed) a “Sound Devices CL6” (a smaller & cheaper version of their Sound Devices CL16 control surface). And Zaxcom might bring out a similar new control surface for their Zaxcom Nova as well?

The first two recorders from the Zoom F Series: F8 & F4, the smart bets are on this line up getting the first new release for 2021? (credit to Transom.org for the pic)
Not expecting any updates this year or next from Nagra! The Nagra Seven might be their last ever. But the 633 got a nifty update with the Sound Devices 833, which is what I use personally myself.

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.

Set of camera gear for a school to use for teaching filmmaking to young teenage students?

Is basically exactly a year since I wrote my newbie guide to filmmaking gear based around the GH2, so now is a timely time to write a short update?
It is a tribute to the GH2 and Panasonic’s range of cameras as a whole, that they still line up as a very competitive choice even today in early 2016!

Lots more interesting cameras have since come along, such as Sony A6300/RX10mk2, Nikon D5500/D500, & Panasonic G7. But if you want to keep costs down and the max bang for buck then my guide from a year ago still holds relevant the bonus that a year later you can find these secondhand even cheaper than before!

Here is a post I wrote in response to a request about gear for Highschool for their young filmmaking students. Naturally with a limited school budget, and the need to buy multiple gear kits for several student groups to be able to use at once (and not to mention the risk of youth breaking gear!), costs need to be kept under tight control, so my GH2 gear guide still holds very relevant:

A few secondhand Panasonic GH2 is my vote. Dirt dirt cheap, and you get top notch quality from it! Waaaaay better than any Canon APS-C DSLR (heck, people rated a hacked GH2 above a 5Dmk3 even!).

Another thought is several GH1 bodies (nearly as good as GH2, but lacks live HDMI), plus one or two GH2 bodies for when they want to use it with an external monitor (Aputure FineHD VS-2, a quality 1920×1080 screen for dirt cheap!! 😮 Amazing), plus one G6 (or even G7, which some people even prefer over a Gh4! It is better than a GH4 at low light) for when they want 60fps FHD slow motion on a production (or 4K).

Get a few RJ Lens Turbos, and Nikon F mount lenses.

http://ironfilm.co.nz/a-priced-out-gear-kit-for-a-newbie-to-filmmaking-using-the-panasonic-gh2/
http://www.eoshd.com/2013/07/panasonic-g6-review-the-gh2-redux/

Nikon D5200 is also a solid choice! I own one myself (plus lots of Micro Four Thirds cameras). Again, maybe if you go with Nikon instead consider a mix with several D5200 plus one D5300 for when you want 60fps FHD slow motion on a project.

http://www.eoshd.com/2013/02/nikon-d5200-review/
http://www.eoshd.com/2013/02/nikon-d5200-vs-canon-5d-mark-iii/

For audio I’d avoid a Zoom H4n like the plague. (Ditto Canon for a camera body) An H4n or a Canon both “kinda” (but not really) made sense in the very very early days of the HDSLR Revolution (years ago), when there were very few other options. But it makes no sense to buy either today at all.

I’d go instead with a Tascam DR-60D mk2, paired with a cheap Xiaomi USB battery bank (Xiaomi is like the Apple of China!) which I Velcro to the back plus a camera strap around the handles of the Tascam. No need then for a mixing bag! And you’ll be able to run for a looooong time with that set up! (vs the internal AA batteries which get eaten up if you run only on them, but with a USB battery pack you never need to worry about that)

That there is my set up before I upgraded to a Sound Devices 552 (waaaaaaaaay more expensive! But worth it, for me as a semi pro soundie). A Tascam DR-60D mk1 is also worth getting if you find a very cheap deal on it, but improvements in the DR-60D mk2 I feel is worth it. (Tascam DR-70D is also worth a look, but for your school needs is not really worth it the extra XLR inputs)

For microphone, get perhaps one Sennheiser MKE 600? (I have a NTG2 at the moment, which is a solid microphone and I got a good deal on it! But I might suggest going with a MKE600 or perhaps a NTG3 instead) And the rest be HTDZ HT-81 microphones (which is what I started out with years ago, recording into a Zoom H1). Again following my suggestion of having the bulk of the gear being cheap while still decent (HTDZ HT-81) but get one or two nicer pieces (which are still frugal) for use on more important projects which deserve it (or/and for when they’re under closer supervision by you, so they’ll be looking after the equipment). This means they’ll also learn to appreciate the quality difference which can be output from lower end equipment vs better equipment (and also how it can *not* matter… how a HTDZ HT-81 in skilled hands will sound better than somebody clueless on a project using a MKE600).

So that is for outdoor recordings, for indoor you’ll want something else (due to reflective surfaces which will bounce the sound back, not ideal for using a shotgun in). I’m using a Takstar CM-60 at the moment, until I can afford an Oktava MK012. So I suggest you get a few CM-60 for indoor audio dialogue.

For a boom pole I got this:
http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Free-shipping-Miloboo-carbon-fiber-4-sections-microphone-Handheld-Grip-Rig-Support-Rod-Flash-Light-LED/32278111738.html

But I mainly got this because of the FREE SHIPPING, as I live in the middle of nowhere in a small island nation called New Zealand. Sometimes shipping of big bulky items from the USA can be painfully expensive! But if you’re in the USA then there are well priced boom poles with free shipping for you to choose from at B&H / Adorama or Amazon.com

Firmware update for Tascam DR-60D mk1 fixes recording interruptions when running on external USB power packs.

If you have a Tascam DR-60D mk1 and haven’t updated to the latest firmware then dooooo it!

As the DR-60D is battery eating monster, but now with the latest firmware I can put on it a big external battery pack and never worry again about batteries for hours and hours.

As before whenever I powered a DR-60D over USB the recording would halt if the USB power was ever bumped and reattached (which can accidentally happen a lot out in the field!) as a pop up would then show up asking you to select USB power or act as a USB storage device. Which made it practically impossible to use USB power while recording it unless you just left it on a desk and didn’t even breath too hard on it least the cord got bumped slightly (strangely it had never mentioned this issue being fixed in the firmware release notes, so I hadn’t bothered to update mine earlier. But I’d heard it mentioned by another person that the latest firmware fixed this issue so I thought I’d give it a go before tomorrow’s sound job. Now after testing it thoroughly I can say it works! Yay).

Now the pop up box only shows up on the screen for you to select an option for USB if you are not currently recording, thus it doesn’t interfere now with recordings.

Is a very neat and tidy arrangement too, stick a Velcro patch on the back of the battery pack and the other side of the Velcro patch on the rear of the Tascam DR-60D, then I hang the whole thing from my neck using a camera strap attached to the handles of the DR-60D. A very nifty and lightweight arrangement!

I’m using one of these (Xiaomi is a major major brand name in China, kinda like Apple in the USA):
http://www.banggood.com/Original-XIAOMI-5_1V-2_1A-10000mAh-Power-Bank-For-Smartphone-p-977406.html