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Which Portable (mp3) Recorder?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Sean Baumann, May 15, 2006.

  1. Sean Baumann

    Sean Baumann Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2000
    Livin' in the USA
    I've been recording my various band practices for the last 5 or more years with my Sharp 722 minidisc recorder. This thing is indistructable, and sounds great. Well, it sounds great on the original minidisc, but when I transfer it to my PC analog using audacity, it just looses tons of quality. All the nuances are gone, and that makes me sad. I record using a small sony condenser mic that is powered with a couple of double As.

    I also have a Neuros, but I've never gotten good results from it. I got it to replace my MD recorder, but I didn't want to (and still don't) purchase a mic pre-amp to use with it. My sony mic just doesn't seem to have enough gain. Anyway, that device is on its last leg, so I need to think about what's next.

    I would love to be able to transfer the recordings digitally, USB or firewire. It must have decent battery life, and be portal. Nice to haves would be to have it double as my every-day mp3 (ogg vorbis plz!) player.

    Any suggestions/recommendations?
  2. Upgrade to a Sony HiMD. I love mine to bits! Full PCM quality, USB transfer as well as optical and line out.

    Other options a plenty, but none are as cheap as HiMD.

    Plenty of voice recorders around nowadays, but none have the frequency response you need.
  3. Sean Baumann

    Sean Baumann Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2000
    Livin' in the USA
    Which one you got? The MZ-M100 is spendy!
  4. MZ-NH900, don't think it's current anymore but I got it for AUD$200 about 6 months back and it included a stereo mic! Absolute bargain!
  5. Sean Baumann

    Sean Baumann Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2000
    Livin' in the USA
    Cool, I'll have to check out for one. Any issues with quality?

    I also saw something about the M-Audio Micro Tracks.. That looks interesting.
  6. boo-hiss M-Audio! Bad experience just last week with an M-Audio box!

    Yeah, looks nice, but speaking of pricey stuff... wowsers!

    The NH900 is full metal case, so no nasty plastic to bust. I've had mine around 5 months now, travelled throughout New Zealand for 3.5 weeks with it, taken it to gigs and rehersals, my fiancee uses it on the treadmill, it ran party music for 8 hours the other night without skipping a beat...

    basically, no hassles whatsoever. These are great units, especially since the price has dropped considerably in the face of the mp3 player onslaught.
  7. psi


    Mar 11, 2005
    New Jersey
  8. FR5


    Feb 12, 2004
    (Quote from earlier post in this forum)

    I have been using the iRiver IFP 590T for over two years now and I am very happy with the quality that I get, not to mention the many features and the very easy navigation (for instance, if you stop the playback mode it will automatically switch back to record stand by mode).
    But you do need to use an external mic for live recording. I have a cheap stereo mic, very tiny, clip-on type (no battery). I just place it somewhere in the middle of the rehearsal studio, it picks up everything (especially bass!).

    I don't know whether it is still in production, maybe you can still find it online (or the 990T model). Recording at 126 kbps will give you more than 3 hours recording time. You can also take a version with more memory.

    My band members are still stunned by the quality of this little devil.
  9. screwball


    Jul 25, 2004
    Manchester UK
    I was recording with an iRiver H340 for a while, with great results (records up to 320kbps). Unfortunately they aren't the most reliable pieces of equipment, I had returned 2 models that had died on me before they discontinued the line. If they bring out something with the same features but better reliability then i'd be tempted.
  10. Check out the stuff from Cowon/Iaudio.

    Cheers Rody
  11. Sean Baumann

    Sean Baumann Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2000
    Livin' in the USA
    Hrm.. I'd at least want the quality of my current minidisc. Do you find that 126kbps has any artifacts? Some MP3s, to my ears, sound tinny and have weird things going with hihats and acoustic guitars. Just curious of your experience.
  12. Thunder Lizard

    Thunder Lizard

    Dec 7, 2005
    Lethbridge, AB
    Canadian Distributor, Basson Sound Equipment
    My personal argument would be "if you're using MP3, you're already losing quality". Conversion to MP3 automatically means removing part of the information.
    You say you're transferring it "analog using Audacity".... I've never found that software to be the hot ticket. But I'll assume that you are recording to .wav files. Plus, what device are you using as an interface? If you're running a stock or less expensive aftermarket soundcard thru the "line in", that very well could be the issue, as well. The input qualities of even a pretty decent consumer soundcard just aren't up to the job of making good recordings.
    And... how are you listening? If you're checking it out on the MD player through your expensive practice monitors, or a decent home stereo, and then dumping it in and listening on stock computer speakers.......there may be nothing wrong with the files, it could be the monitors.
    I'd suggest a couple of things.... first, if you can shell out some cash, install a MD peripheral into your computer, so you can import the actual, original, unaltered .wav files and edit with those.
    If that's not an option, and it's a toughie, because MD drives aren't exactly all over the place, try using a higher quality software. Cubase, Nuendo, or if you can support it, the Trial version of ProTools will all yield a better recording than Audacity.
    Consider an external interface like the Edirol products or similar, I've found them to be very good, and not all that expensive.
    And make sure you're not converting them to MP3 on the way in... in my work I've never found the "perfect" way to convert a .wav to an MP3 and have it retain ALL of the quality.
    Plus, when using Audacity, make sure you're not compressing the signal on the way in.... a heavy compressor will create the issues you've described..... it just sucks the life out of a recording. Ensure that you are recording to at least 16 bit, 44100 hz .wav files (cd quality) to preserve your work best.
    But as a guy who records and engineers every day at work, my number one recommendation is don't use MP3...it just doesn't sound as good. It can't. Even the best MP3 conversion still removes a large chunk of the information, and that's going to hurt quality. There's not a (quality) recording studio in the land that records to MP3 for just that reason.
    Good luck!
  13. Sean Baumann

    Sean Baumann Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2000
    Livin' in the USA
    No, I'm recording using minidisc. It's an "uncompressed" format. I can only fit 74 minutes on one disc. It is digitial, and you can divide songs, split tracks, delete tracks, etc. Just that minidiscs recorders of this age do not support file transfer like mp3 players. Mine doesn't even have a digital out. I have to play it back through the headphones-out line and record via the line-in on my PC using some software package.

    The soundcard on my PC is built-in to the motherboard, it's a creative audigy (on a MSI motherboard). I assemble my own PCs, this one is pretty decent quality. But yes, I agree, it is not high enough qulity to my standards. I hate losing all that detail.

    I am comparing both through my Sennheiser HD-280 headphones.

    I agree with you 100% on mp3 quality. Ultimately, they don't have to be MP3. I just want a way to record my rehearsals and live shows in some format that can eventually make its way onto a CD. MP3s work for distributing some of the material over the internet, but I'd rather have a higher quality alternative to use when I am working out parts or listening for my own pleasure. Just as a side note, I use Ogg Vorbis for my own personal stuff (I have a Neuros which supports it) and plenty of HD space so that is no concern at all. I never used the Neuros for recording, even though that is why I bought it. The interface was too clunky and it required an external mic pre-amp, which I didn't want to buy. Anyway, that device is on its last leg, it keeps having HD errors...
  14. Minidisc also compresses, so there is no reason to choose it over mp3 from that perspective. Also, depending on your application, both mp3 and MD yield perfectly good results. If you want a cutting edge demo designed to blow label execs away, go to a real studio. But if you just want to do some simple recording of rehearsals, ideas, or make a simple demo, there is absolutely no reason not to use them. IMHO, YMMV etc blabla.

    Cheers Rody

    ps My 20 gb Cowon Iaudio M3 records from its line-in up to 320 kbs, straight from the desk. I never felt the need to go above 128... Also, I hook it up to the computer and ten seconds later all my files from that particular session are transferred.
  15. Sean Baumann

    Sean Baumann Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2000
    Livin' in the USA
    I'm just looking for a high quality scratch pad, I guess. I don't like listening to junk, but I also don't want to spend the big bucks. So, there has to be a happy medium somewhere in the $200 price range give or take.

    Yes minidisc is compressed, but it is greater than CD quality (for the newer format). And, 1GB disc is only $7. Though, transferring to PC in seconds would be great, and I don't think that is possible with any minidisc recorder.

    If I could fine a personal MP3 player that could do double duty of recording live stuff, that would be awesome. I guess I had a bad experience with my Neuros. It still needed pre-amp to get any kind of signal to record... Even though I was using a powered sony mic.

    Question about the MZ-NH900, does it support USB download to a PC?
  16. Sean Baumann

    Sean Baumann Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2000
    Livin' in the USA
    Also.. you folks using iRiver and other mp3 players, what kind of mic are you using? Are you using a powered mic, and just plugging into the line-in?
  17. Not true. HiMD allows 90 minutes of recording in full CD quality PCM wave files.

    This is unnecessary with HiMD because of the USB connection. Also note the above.

    And, the price is right.

    Sure does.

    Plus, I can get 1Gb HiMD discs for AUD$4.75 so I don't know where you're buying them, Sean!

    For this sort of money (AUD$200), nothing comes close to HiMD. Almost obsolete it may be, but who cares?
  18. FR5


    Feb 12, 2004
    As I said I am not using a powered mic, just a stereo clip-on mic into the line in. I record at 126 kbps because I want to limit the size of the files for other bandmembers to listen back to through the internet. But going up to 320 kbps and a better mic might give you the quality that you seem to be after.

    For me it is most important that all instruments can be heard clearly on rehearsal recordings, this takes a bit of experimenting with placing the mic in the right place when recording. Nowhere near my bass amp :)
  19. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    Just a note. You can make a very good mic preamp for about 50 bucks in parts. The upgrade from most built in mic-preamps (or no preamp) is huge, even if you change nothing else. It was a bit tricky to build. It took me almost three days to build my first one. The second one, though, I whipped out in a day and squeezed it into a box only slightly bigger than a cigarette pack. I use a Nomad Jukebox 3 and record in .wav. The quality is excellent. They don't make it anymore, unfortunately, nor am I aware of any currently available portable music players that do line-in .wav recording. I think that the best solution for the budget conscious would be the HiMD. Not for me though. I am committed to a lifetime boycott of Sony. The recent Rootkit scandal furthers my resolve. I ain't got no Ipod neither!

    I can email the schematic for the preamp if anyone wants.

  20. Sean Baumann

    Sean Baumann Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2000
    Livin' in the USA
    Yeah, send 'em my way. I hear you on Sony deal. They actually didn't write it, it was contracted out. Certainly they should have QC'd it though.

    Can't blame a company for at least trying to protect their property. Though, that is a bit extreme.

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