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.

Firmware Wishful Thinking for the Sound Devices 833

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!

Sound Device SL-2 is coming!

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

Sound Devices’ Quick Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6) wiiiide band

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

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

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

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

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



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

Zaxcom DEVA 24 recorder and MIX-16 fader officially shipping

 

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

 

 

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

 

Press Release:

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

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

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

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

Dependable delivery

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

Immersive mixing

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

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

Familiar functionality

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

Seamless integration

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

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

Pricing and availability

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

Saramonic SR-VRM1, new XLR sound recorder coming soon!

Tascam DR-10X sound recorder

Spotted this text from a Saramonic employee on Facebook: “It provides XLR connector and 48V phantom power, recording 24bit/48kHz wav audio files to MicroSDHC card, capacity up to 32GB” (minor tweak by myself to fix her typo)

The name of this new product is going to be “Saramonic SR-VRM1”.

I’m guessing as it only provides one XLR connection (assuming the grammar is correct here…. that it is singular, not plural. Not always 100% accurate to make this grammar assumption about all products out of China, but it is a reasonable conclusion to leap to!), that it is going to be a very small recorder, perhaps a competitor to the Tascam DR-10X but at an even lower price point?
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1086779-REG/tascam_dr_10x_dr_10cx_plug_on_micro_linear.html

What I hope for one day is a lower priced alternative out of China for the Tascam DR-10CS, which unfortunately is tied up with legal issues caused by Zaxcom in the USA which prevents its sale there, except in other countries such as the UK:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tascam-Connection-Lavallière-Microphones-Anthracite/dp/B00QV8L586/

As if priced low enough, it could provide a good budget alternative for those non-wireless “wireless” lav scenarios which people are using Zoom H1 recorders for (as I’ve done a few times myself at weddings, & similar scenarios):
http://aspenmics.com/products/belt-clip-for-zoom-h1-handy-recorder

A few important points I’d like to see the Saramonic SR-VRM1 have:

  1. As well as internal power (AA battery?), a way for it to be externally powered as well (even if it is as simple as a USB port to power it by. But please not mini USB! Make it be at least Micro USB sized, or even better full size USB). That way we can use it for long recording takes unattended, until the card fills up. Or can be used in your mixing bag as an small back up recording, without needing to concern ourselves about keeping batteries topped up.
  2. Some way to pass out audio (just like the Tascam DR-10CS has, and many other recorders), ideally XLR, but even just a 3.5mm output would be ok & better than nothing.
  3. Have both one XLR input, and one 3.5mm (a locking 3.5mm please!) input, so we’ve got that choice.

Update:
Saramonic confirmed it is coming soon with this tweet which links to my tweet of this blog post: