The MixPre Mk3 comes out in 2021??? (a two year gap between each generation)
My theory is “No, we will not see a MixPre mk3 in 2021” (or even 2022). My reasoning why: 1) the initial launch of the MixPre series was rocky (perhaps it was a bit too rushed out in response to the formidable Zoom F8?), thus the stream of many firmware updates, and even relatively quickly a totally updated hardware with the new mk2 series. Thus while the original MixPre at initial launch wasn’t so great at all, the current state of the MixPre series with the new mk2 hardware and many firmware updates later, is really really very good. Thus why rush to put out a mk3 series? What’s the point? That’s my first reason why I think this is unlikely. 2) even ***IF*** Sound Devices had a plan to update the MixPre series every couple of years (highly unlikely, when you consider both how small their company is, and how quickly they historically refresh their product lines. Or even how quickly the industry in general refreshes their product lines, Zaxcom, Nagra, and Sonosax etc you could all say are a lot slower than even Sound Devices are!), the last two years has been far far from normal! Thanks to covid19, which would have massively slowed down R&D, and possibly dampened demand. Plus covid19 (and other factors…. that factory fire) has caused such extra shortages that Sound Devices can’t even make all of their current products! (MixPre3 & 833 has been dropped) Why should they then be pushing out brand new products??? (first, they need to bring back the MixPre3 & 833) Thus, I’d say even ***IF*** you believe Sound Devices has their MixPre series on a two year cycle for refreshing, you should subtract two years from the time elapsed as “not counting” due to the crazy times we live in. Perhaps 2023 you’ll see the MixPre mk3?? (**IF** you believe in this quick refresh cycle of only “2yrs” between generations in “normal times”. But I don’t, we might not even see a mk3 until 2025!)
3) my third and final reason is, “what could Sound Devices add to the MixPre series to justify new Mk3 hardware?” Yes, everyone has a lengthy list of dreams they’d like to see their MixPre do! But whatever can be done by firmware, it would be better they did it via that rather than an entire new range of hardware. And you need to keep your requests reasonable, Sound Devices doesn’t want their entry grade prosumer MixPre series to be stepping on the toes of their core business of selling professional field mixers (the 8 Series). Maybe the ONLY justification I could think of for a MixPre mk3 right now, is so that they can ditch completely the Wingman App, and unify all their current products across the board as using the new SD-Remote App. As that is such a radical change, they might need to do a whole new hardware refresh to the MixPre series. (but if they could achieve this simply with a firmware update that would be so much cooler! And good for Sound Devices too, to only need to support the development of one app, rather than two)
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.
AETA: They’re the smallest of all the players in the professional market who are still kinda sort of “current”, but perhaps calling them “current” is now a stretch too far? Their 4MinX recorder is now a decade old and was recently discontinued. I expect that’s the end for this company in our niche of the sound world.
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.
HHB: Take everything I just said about Fostex, and double it.
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?
Wish we could have greater customizability with our meter viewing?
I specifically want to be able to pick very specific tracks and not others to be displayed.
For example, if I’ve got a simple day with just doing ISOs of a boom and a lav then it would be nice to *only* see those on the screen.
We can then be monitoring big thick bold bars, rather than skinny little bars which are cluttered up with all the unused tracks on screen as well.
Feels strange to me that I’ve gone backwards in this area compared to my Zoom F8n/F4 & Zaxcom Maxx, I really deeply miss this when compared to the crowded Sound Devices 833 screen. Monitoring felt so nice to watch when I went back to using an F8n last week.
Unless there is some secret shortcut which gives me this precise surgical level of control over what meters are displayed that I missed reading in the manual?
I think the Sound Devices 6 Series can’t do this either, am sure a Sound Devices 633 user would appreciate this flexibility as well if they got a firmware update as well!
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?).
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).
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.
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!)
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 wonderfulrecorder 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, butif 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:
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.
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!
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).
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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 majordownside 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.