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richardz

Interesting Recording Device

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In case anyone is interested, I did some web research for a low priced/small digital recorder because I was going to a week long music seminar. After reading a lot of reviews I ended up buying an Olympus WS 500M for $75. The salesman tried talking me into an H2 but I didn't go for it. (Twice the price, much bigger and you have to buy a bigger card for it). The Olympus is really pretty amazing. It has stereo mics and records up to 34 hours of the highest quality sound onto the internal 2 gig Nand flash. The highest quality sound is really pretty good for music. (50hz-19khz) It lasts for 8 - 12 hours on 1 AAA battery, and is almost tiny. It's like you're hardly carrying anything around. I've now been recording concerts, shows, and jam sessions with it because it sounds so good. It's good enough quality sound for any use except selling as a studio product. It's a very interesting low cost musicians tool. It has a slow playback speed and supposedly will loop too. It comes with a USB rechargable battery that seems to work pretty well. I have a mac so I convert the WMA files to M4a or MP3 with Easy WMA which I downloaded for $10. I know this probably sounds like a product ad but I really wanted to let folks know about a pretty amazing inexpensive musicians tool. I'm surprised it's so good, and I couldn't be happier with it.

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Glad to hear you like it. It's difficult to find audio samples or music-oriented reviews of the lower-cost digital recorders online.

Here's a helpful site for the higher-end products:

http://www.wingfieldaudio.com/index.html

I'm likely going to buy an Olympus LS-10 in the near future. I've been researching the sub-$300 (street price) field of portable digital recorders over the past couple of weeks, and it seems that Olympus has the best overall product range. Unfortunately, the Zoom H2 has gotten so much positive press lately that I'm afraid it is undeservedly capturing the dollars of people who don't do any research on its numerous competitors. While the H2 is a nice design, and is quite inexpensive, its sound quality falls short of similarly-priced recorders. The highest frequencies are suppressed, rendering recordings that are dull, lifeless, and lacking in 'presence'. Compared to slightly more expensive offerings from Tascam, Olympus, and Sony, the H2 sounds muffled and artificial. Low price and features simply can't make up for that flaw.

I plan on using the LS-10 as both a practice tool and for evaluating tone. I want to hear, from the audience's perspective, how changes I make impact my tone. (string brands, bowing, variations in setup, etc.) To detect such subtle variations, and to inch ahead on my quixotic quest to sound like Aaron Rosand, I need the best recorder I can afford.

Plus, I like gizmos.

Rat

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Interesting perspective and information Desert Rat. Thanks. I compared files from my ultra low budget Olympus to an H2 file I had and I thought they were quite similar. I didn't want to say it was just as good but maybe it is. Both files were made outdoors where it's harder to tell. At the store I got the distinct impression the salesman didn't want me mucking around in the voice recorders for music applications when they could get more money for something designated as a "music recorder".

Good luck with your project. I know it will be difficult as there are so many variables in recording such as: type of equipment used, room sound, mic placement etc. but you're just the guy to do it I'm sure. Thanks again for the great link.

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FWIW, I got a Edirol R-09HR High-Resolution WAVE/MP3 Recorder from Amazon, and it arrived Friday. It's wonderful; it's a tiny bit of a learning curve (for me anyway), but if you noodle around wtih it, it's actually very easy to use once you figure it out, and the sound is fantastic. Really great item:

Edirol R-09HR High-Resolution WAVE/MP3 Recorder

It makes directly MP3 files or .wav files and they sound so clear. Of course it's not $75 - it's $300, but it's really worth it, to me. I don't have to drag my lap top around.

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Since everyone is mentioning their own favorites, the Tascam DR-01 is easy to use and has some very nice features for a musician. For example, you can vary either pitch or speed independently on playback, at the touch of a button. I find this very useful. It will also do overdubbing. You can also record and playback simultaneously, so you can add parts to your own playing. (The two parts are mixed in the recording, but you can separate them with a computer by subtracting out the original.) It has other tricks too that I don't use. It's convenient to use, and the sound quality is very good. I have used it very successfully to record concerts just by holding it on my lap (legally, I might add). I paid about $225 plus $25 for an optional charger, including shipping.

The DR07 is similar but a little less expensive, with a different mixture of features and accessories, and a different battery. I prefer the DR-01 because you can aim the microphones, but the DR07 comes with accessories that cost extra for the DR-01.

EDIT: A friend told me you can get the DR-01 for $170 after rebate, from B&H Photo Video. That includes shipping, and you can return it if you don't like it. The charger is still separate, though.

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I just did some research and recently bought a recorder myself, so it's worth mentioning here. There are several others worth considering.

The Zoom H2 is cheap but nevertheless has a unique capability of its own: it has four microphones. As an example of its use, you can use it to record a group by putting it in the center and recording four channels separately. With a computer you can even remix the channels later in various combinations to emphasize certain parts. The afficionados even use this for such things as suppressing crowd noise, by subtracting some of the signal from the rear-facing microphones. Unfortunately, it is reputed to lack a little in treble response.

The Olympus LS-10 is small and reportedly has a long battery life. It has a zoom microphone, but lacks a little bass response. The bass response may not matter to you, and I assume the bass level can be raised after recording.

The Edirol is among the best suited for high-quality recordings -- especially if you use high-quality, remote microphones -- because it has a very good, low-noise preamp. The preamps on most of the less expensive devices are noisier, although still quite good for many uses. From what I understand, it would probably be good for digitizing LP's and tapes. Don't expect to get stereo recordings from the built-in microphones, however. If the published information is correct, these are almost omnidirectional, with virtually no stereo separation. (However, the Tascam doesn't have much separation either.)

There's a new recorder that looks promising. The Zoom H4n is supposed to be better than the H4, and much easier to use.

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There's a new recorder that looks promising. The Zoom H4n is supposed to be better than the H4, and much easier to use.

I have one of these. It works well, but it is a bit heavy, if anyting. The mics are cardiodids with a directional sensitivity you can choose 90degrees and 120degrees. It has a phantom supply so one can attach condenser mics using XLR cables. It can record in four channels simultaneously and the resolution can be set as high as 96Khz 24 bit I think. My take on the resolution is that CD quality is sufficient.

It can hadle up to 32GB SDHC cards.

The microphone response is quite good, being fairly flat. The mic channels are not exactly the same, so if its used for recordings for analysis, I use the average of the two channels.

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Can anyone comment on the sampling frequencies of any of these micro recorders and what is an acceptable minimum sampling frequency for violin music? I am not sure that the Nyquist or Shannon theorems and resulting 44 khertz are valid after hearing some recordings I did with a DV camera. (Note: minimum acceptable meaning that the quality of the recording will want to make me keep playing the violinj vs throw the fiddle out of the window...)

Thank you.

Tom

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Can anyone comment on the sampling frequencies of any of these micro recorders and what is an acceptable minimum sampling frequency for violin music? I am not sure that the Nyquist or Shannon theorems and resulting 44 khertz are valid after hearing some recordings I did with a DV camera. (Note: minimum acceptable meaning that the quality of the recording will want to make me keep playing the violinj vs throw the fiddle out of the window...)

Thank you.

Tom

Why dont you try and hear what seems to satisfy you? There is a trade off between file size and the sampling rate. The higher the sampling rate the larger the files get. The higher the dynamic range, that is 8 bits, 16 bits or 24 bits, the larger the files (I think).

It depends what your purpose is. Are you planning to publish your recordings? Or are you using it as your tool for critical listening?

When the hearing is tested using audigrams they stop at the 8kHz octave band. In general the hearing deteriorates from the highs and downwards. So maybe a young musician may benefit from a higher sampling rate than the older.

I read an excellent book at the time by Floyd E. Toole "Sound Reproduction The Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of Loudspeakers and Rooms" where he show his own audigrams at the age of 30, 40, 50 and 60 compared to the ISO standard for average hearing at 60 as well as the "hearing threshold". He has been taking care of his ears using earplugs etc. (He does not note if he hunts or use guns, wich is a very important information). However, at 30 he is 15dB off the "hearing threshold" (HT) at 8kHz, and slightly under it for the 4kHz band. At 50 he is 5dB above the HT at 1kHz and 2kHz, 15dB above for the 4kHz band and 27dB above it for the 8kHz band. At 60 he is still 5dB below the average curve for a 60year old at 4kHz.

In average a 60 year old will have lost about 15dB at 2kHz, and about 30dB at 4kHz, unfortunatley the average curve stops there. A 10dB shift is experienced as about a halfing of the perceived sound level.

To add to this, the treble sounds are attenuated more than the middle and low frequnecies through the air, in say a concert hall. So the highs are more filtered when you sit far back in a hall. And if the air is dry, the filtering becomes a little stronger.

So if your recordings reveal details in the highs, like hiss from the rosin and the bow, scratches etc, much of that will have disappeared at some distace, and the classical music concert goers, often being fairly aged, will even hear less of it.

Back to your observation. Your camera probably also compress the sound. Wav does not compress the sound, and is a better format to work on for analysis of the recorded music. Stephanek is the researcher that has gone furthest in correlation words for timbre and how the spectra look from a violin. He has correlating data up to about 16kHz I think, after wich I think most is "noise". So a good enough sampling rate for violin sound would be somewhere around 32kHz + a little. But we are different, and some may hear better than others. Musicians are probably in that better category.

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I am not sure that the Nyquist or Shannon theorems and resulting 44 khertz are valid after hearing some recordings I did with a DV camera.

Apart from the question of whether you can still hear anything after living in a noisy world and could actually test high-frequency sound with a video camera, you can absolutely believe the Nyquist theorem. It's a theorem. Whether a 44-kHz sampling rate leaves enough artifacts so you can hear them is another question. It probably depends a lot on the low-pass filter and other aspects of the equipment, and I think you'll just have to try it.

For what it's worth, the Tascam offers a choice of 44kHz or 48kHz, 24-bit sampling, and CD quality (44) is fine for my middle-aged ears. Others offer 96kHz recording but 16-20kHz microphones. You might be pleasantly surprised by any of these recorders. But if you are trying to make professional-quality recordings, you probably need to move up in price at least to the Edirol or the Sony D50 and use expensive external microphones. Or maybe use professional studio equipment. And we're getting way beyond the $75 recorder that is the subject of this thread.

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The Edirol is among the best suited for high-quality recordings -- especially if you use high-quality, remote microphones -- because it has a very good, low-noise preamp. The preamps on most of the less expensive devices are noisier, although still quite good for many uses.

That's very impressive; you really sound like you know what you're talking about. I wish I did; I don't know what a preamp is (for example). Could I ask your help?

(1) Could you recommend microphones for the Edirol? and

(2) Could you recommend a book for some clueless person like myself, so I can learn a little bit about this?

I have another issue, as well: when I record my little Twinklers, the .wav files are around 25MG. Yahoo mail, and my professional email service, as well, only allow attachments up to 20MG, so I can't send these to parents, as I had planned. I can't put them on my webpages for parents to access, because my webpage won't accept downloads of over 20MG, either. They said use FTP, but I don't know how to do that and I really don't want to take the chance of putting these huge files in the same place as my business pages.

The alternatives seem to be:

1. Give the files to the parents on disks (hassle);

2. Try to find one of those free webpages that allow bigger downloads (I don't think they would); or

3. Is there an online service where you can store documents this size?

TIA

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You should compress those wav files to MP3 or Microsoft proprietary wma files. MP3 is more of a standard but wma files can produce smaller but still acceptable files at lower bit rates. For casual use I like wma encoded at "CD quality". You can only post MP3 files here on the forums as far as I know.

A link to a good free MP3 encoder is here and the link to the free Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9 Series is here.

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That's very impressive; you really sound like you know what you're talking about.

I've read the specs and the reviews. I'm not a recording expert and I haven't seen most of the recorders. The Edirol is generally well regarded, however.

(1) Could you recommend microphones for the Edirol?

Sorry, no. There are too many to choose from, and too many kinds of applications. But there are quite a few major brands that should be quite adequate for preserving memories for proud parents, I would guess for $100 to $200. Heck, I think you can get an AKG (??) mike for around $30 that might even be good enough. Or you could use the built-in microphones in the Edirol. I think it comes with a remote control and probably a tripod mount. Personally I record very casually, laying the Tascam down on its soft case on a table, leaving the microphones hanging out over the table. I'm not too picky about that.

I have another issue, as well: when I record my little Twinklers, the .wav files are around 25MG. Yahoo mail, and my professional email service, as well, only allow attachments up to 20MG, so I can't send these to parents, as I had planned. I can't put them on my webpages for parents to access, because my webpage won't accept downloads of over 20MG, either.

Ah, yes, this is a problem. You could compress the files. That situation isn't ideal either, because beige toaster computers don't always support standard file types. The most universally supported compressed file format is probably .mp3. MP3 players are commodities, and you can always make CDs or whatever from the files. Unfortunately the file format is proprietary, and technically they can demand royalties.

If the parents can handle it, the best lossless format is FLAC (free lossless audio compression). Lossless means you don't lose any of the sound by compressing it. You can compress sound to about half its original size, and that's enough for you. And it's an open standard. That means, no royalties, no funny business, ever. You can always play it back. Alas, people have to figure out how to play the files. Not hard but they have to figure out what program to get and use. Audacity handles this well, as do some others. Audacity is a good, free, open source audio auditing program. You probably need this anyway. Anyone can get it and it will work on any computer that isn't powered by hamsters. It will convert between different file types very nicely, although you may have to jump through hoops to add MP3.

The best compressed file format is Ogg Vorbis. Maybe better than MP3 and it's standard, free and open source. Forever.

Bottom line? For you, without hassles and choices, hold your nose and figure out how to use MP3 unless you have some dedicated parents who can help.

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Fraunhofer holds patents on MP3 software. To use an encoder based on their patents you have to pay a reasonably small license fee. MP3 use is full of patent disputes but it doesn't affect users. My link is to a front end for the free Lame encoder which supposedly doesn't infringe on the Fraunhofer patents. Audacity also uses the Lame encoder.

Open source Ogg Vorbis and Microsoft's Windows Media Audio can produce better quality audio and/or smaller files. Apple uses it's own proprietary compression format. Sony gave up on their proprietary compression format. Real Player still has a presence for streaming audio. Despite the patent problems and better competing formats, MP3 is still the most popular format for compressed audio.

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