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Zoom H2

Discussion in 'Useful resources' started by sarah, Jul 21, 2009.

  1. sarah

    sarah New Member

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    The last couple of months I've been considering purchasing a digital recorder of some sort. I've noticed that several of the pianists here use the Zoom H2, and I was wondering if that unit in particular would be a good investment. I don't want anything inordinately fancy that will break the bank, but I do want the ability to get a good sound. What do you think?
     
  2. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    The quality of sound from the Zoom H2 is okay. The determining factor of sound quality from these small digital recorders is the mic preamp and the quality of digital converters. Almost all of the built in mics are back electret mics, even though they look like "professional" small condensers, but their sound is mediocre at best.

    I would go for a more versatile unit like the M-Audio Microtrack II. It has very good digital converters, and the mic preamp has full 48V phantom power to add condenser mics in the future. This hidden gem is definitely a better investment for classical recording...

    I have a thread which skims over some pertinent info about home recording. Here is a useful link too: http://www.sweetwater.com/feature/recorders/
    I like Sweetwater because they have great tech support, free shipping, and a 30day return policy.

    Good Luck!
     
  3. sarah

    sarah New Member

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    Thank you very much for your help! I looked at the M-Audio II, and I like it; I've a couple of questions for you if you don't mind.

    I plan at this point to use just the recorder's built-in mics, and I think you're saying that the ones in the M-Audio are definitely better than the ones in the Zoom. Is it any problem that the M-Audio has only two mics instead of four? How would you record with the M-Audio since it doesn't have a tripod? If that isn't a problem, I won't worry about it, but the tripod was one thing that I liked about the Zoom. And, one more thing... is the M-Audio fairly easy to use? I am completely new to digital recorders or anything of that nature.

    Thank you too for the articles - they were very useful.
     
  4. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Sarah, welcome to digital recording! The differences between built-in mics are small among portable recorders because they employ the same dynamic or electret elements in their mics. They don't provide great sound quality, they sound muddy, but are convenient to have as a self contained on-the-go-recorder, if that is your primary goal.

    Don't be seduced by the number of mics - it's a marketing ploy. Even if you had 8 mics, they're all capturing the sound from the same point source. Only if you spaced the individual mics would it become significant. For example if you were intent on having 4 mics, then a typical configuration would be to have 2 spaced stereo pairs from 3-4ft of the curve of the piano and 2 spaced pairs 15ft from the instrument to pick up the natural reverb in a large room. For most of us, 2 mics are all you need on a portable recorder to give an accurate stereo image.

    A tripod mount is a nice feature for some, but then again, having the recorder on a tripod means you have to get up to start/stop and can't read the meters to see if you're clipping or not. That's a pain after you just made a perfect recording only to realize that the fortissimo passage caused the signal to clip and distort. It all depends on what feature set appeals to you and what you want the recorder to do. Striking a balance between features and quality can be tricky in selecting any device.

    The M-Audio may have slightly more menu oriented features to go through than the H2. But, for me at least, it's the sound quality of the mic preamps and analog-to-digital converters are more relevant to making sound investment. In this department, the MicrotrackII has a well documented success record where the dynamic range and noise figures exceed 100dB - that would be an excellent figure even for a $2000 recorder, let alone a $300 unit that does everything! A recorder like the MicrotrackII is not going to become obsolete anytime soon. Once you get used to digital recording, you might want to eventually upgrade with better quality mics. The MicrotrackII has the future capability of adding any decent mic ever produced because it has a built in phantom power supply that would be necessary to power any professional quality condenser mic. That's when you can have the mics mounted on stands to capture a beautiful stereo sound and the recorder beside the music to read the meters.

    But, first, become familiar with the supplied mics, then build upon a system that should yield excellent results. Make it fun. Make it simple. Make it high quality. As it is to many of us, recording yourself regularly will in essence become your musical diary...

    Keep us posted,
    George
     
  5. sarah

    sarah New Member

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    Mr. George, I so appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions. You sold me on the Microtrack II... by next week I should get the one I ordered. :D I see now what you mean by being able to add professional quality mics; getting a good sound is my main goal in purchasing a digital recorder, and I don't mind learning a few extra menus in order to achieve that. I suppose that the mics my church has will work when recording there? I'm not sure how great they are, but if the recorder and they are compatible I can always give it a try.

    Thank you again so much! I can't wait to get my recorder and start working with it.
     
  6. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Recorder

    It seems you have purchased a recorder already. For people who are still considering a recorder, If you have looked at the Zoom H2, Zoom H4, and the M-Audio Microtrack II but you are discouraged about the price, I have an audio recorder that you might consider. This recorder is the I-River E100.

    Quick run through of the pros and cons

    • Pros:

      built-in audio recorder is very good, is very sensitive (you better record your piano in a soundproof room!)

      expandable memory (micro sd cards)

      external line-in female jack for optional external microphone, or external mixer, piano line-out...

      Cheap (about $70)

    • Cons:

      No real-time recording level meter

      records to files with .wma extensions (you need to re-encode file to mp3 in an audio editor)

      you are not given great control for rec level sensitivity (there is about 2 settings, low or high)

      menu navigation is clunky, not smooth like the touch technology of apple products.

    there you have it! Hope this helps. The Iriver E-100-- a recorder that is cheap that will give you 'good' audio for recording your piano pieces. I use to have this recorder but I lost it on vacation and I think i might get a different recorder now like an H4 or an edirol.
     
  7. Horowitzian

    Horowitzian New Member

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    George,

    We corresponded about Steinway D's sometime back at PW, so I hope you remember me! :D

    Thanks for the great post about the M audio unit. I'm in the same boat as Sarah was last summer. :D I was considering a Zoom H4n, but you've sold me on a cheaper unit that appears to me to have more to go on, particularly in the area of eventually adding pro quality mics. I eventually would love to be able to make recordings as nice as Rachfan's, so I gotta start somewhere!

    Cheers!

    ~H

    PS — This thing has mics in it already, right?
     
  8. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hello Horowitzian! Of course I remember you. Everything you said was true about finding D's. I don't want to hijack Sarah's thread, so I'll PM you soon...

    Sarah and Horowitzian, did you get the MicrotrackII yet? My recommendation is to avoid using the included electret mics as I was reminded how boomy they sound. The most bang for the buck are a pair of Shure KSM 137 or KSM 141 mics - they're copies of the Schoeps CMC64 and the CMC65 mics which cost 5x as much. The German engineered MBHO mics with transformer body and omni or wide-cardiod capsule is another great choice. (If interested, I can let you know more about them). Let me know what body-capsule combo will work if you're interested. The beauty of the MicrotrackII is the fact that it uses full 48V phantom power for those nice condenser mics of your choice.

    Over the weekend, I was trying out a D at Steinway in Boston with the included tiny electret mic and you can hear how boomy they sound. It wasn't conducive for the occasion, so I didn't lug all my gear, nor did I practice (as you can tell), nor bring any music. I was just there to compare a D with my B in sound quality. Here are a few excerpts from my 2hour session... BTW, last time I practiced these 2 pieces were years ago... :p or :( is more like it!
     
  9. Horowitzian

    Horowitzian New Member

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    No I haven't gotten around to anything yet. Too much other stuff going on just now. :x Thanks for the mic recommendations though! I'll check them out. Any info you can provide will be most helpful; however, I have a feeling whatever gives the best bang for the buck will be my first choice! :D

    Give me a chance to listen to those recordings. You are also more than welcome to PM. :)
     
  10. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    PM sent.

    If the piano is good, you should get great sound. However, don't skimp on room treatment, as this can significantly improve the sound quality. If you're good at DIY, I can give you ideas to make your own acoustic panels - Simple Simon and cheap! I'll put some more ideas together for everyone...
     
  11. sarah

    sarah New Member

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    Hi George! Yes, I bought the Microtrack II last fall after you recommended it, and I'm very happy with it. It was well worth the little bit extra. Thank you so much for the mics recommendation - I've been thinking about investing in some condenser mics next year (right now I'm making do with a Sony condenser t-mic). I'd love to hear more about the Shure or MBHO mics. I don't quite understand what you mean by body-capsule combo, though... :oops:

    Thank you for the sound samples, too. BTW, that was a gorgeous piano - I could listen to the bass all day long! :D
     
  12. Horowitzian

    Horowitzian New Member

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    Good to see it has good references, because it's pretty much what I've decided on. However, the price of good condenser mics (like the KSM141) is pretty steep! :shock: Of course, Neumann is much higher, but still. I suppose it is a necessary investment.
     
  13. Horowitzian

    Horowitzian New Member

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    I was wondering if a pair of good 'ol SM57s would work to start out with. They are a very versatile mic that sees a lot of use on guitar amps and things. Not to mention they are only $99 apiece at Sweetwater. I'd rather not break the bank until I have more experience. :)
     
  14. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Sarah, thanks for the comments. Ah, it's only because of those last 6 notes or so in the bass that I find the D so alluring... It's intoxicating!

    Certain mic manufacturers have body + capsule mic arrangement. This allows the flexibility of having interchangeable mic pickup patterns on a similar mic amplifier platform. There are capsules for omnidirectional, cardiod, wide cardiod, figure-8, etc. pick up patterns. MBHO, Gefell, Schoeps, Neumann are just examples of a few manufacturers which employ this arrangement in their mic designs. This avoids having redundant mic amplifier bodies and saves space, as well as lowering cost.

    Pianos love omnidirectional mics, and to a lesser degree wide-cardiod mics! Each mic pick up pattern has its pros and cons. I discuss some of them in my thread on "Home Recording." In less than ideal room, a wide-cardiod will give good results, and in some cases only a cardiod will do if there are severe limitations in acoustics.

    For the money, the Shure KSM141 is the best deal for versatility, value, quality, reliability, and simplicity. The MBHO is more expensive and is sold only from Atlas Pro Audio in the U.S., but still of excellent quality for pianos with its various bodies and capsules.

    If you were intent on the MBHO mics, this would be the recommended set up:
    MBP648 body (with transformer)
    MBC KA 100 LK (Linear Omni) or MBC KA 300 NB (Wide-Cardiod) Capsule pair

    http://www.mbho.de/t1.htm
    http://www.atlasproaudio.com/mbho.html

    http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/KSM141ST/

    Good Luck and let me know if you have questions!
     
  15. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Horowitzian, anything will work when starting out. However, You won't be happy with a SM57 in the long run - it's not as sensitive, it has frequency peaks in the mids, and lacks air in the highs, and is deficient in the bass. The SM57 is a dynamic mic. You really should have condenser mics in your arsenal.

    Dynamic and condenser mics differ in how they produce an electrical signals going into your recorder:

    Dynamic mics use a diaphragm attached to a moving-coil in a magnetic field to generate a signal in the presence of sound vibration, just like a speaker working in reverse. The mass of the moving coil results in a relatively poor transient response and less sensitivity than a condenser mic. They are better suited for louder sources like in guitar amps or drums where they don't distort as much as condensers in high SPL situations.

    Condenser mics have a very thin plastic diaphragm coated with gold/nickel, mounted very close to a conductive back plate, which forms a collective unit called a capacitor or condenser. A polarizing voltage feeds through the capacitor by an external power supply, e.g. Microtrack II's 48V "phantom power." Sound causes the diaphragm to vibrate: as the diaphragm moves closer to the back plate, there is an increase capacitance which results in a discharge of current, when the diaphragm moves away from the back plate, there is a decrease in the capacitance which results in a discharge of current. This cycle produces an electrical signal going to the recorder. Condensers are better suited to capture nuances, wider frequency response, and transients due to their increased sensitivity over dynamic mics.

    Avoid the temptation with less expensive Chinese mics (Studio Projects, Samson, Rode, MXL, etc.). I find them to sound brittle, harsh, lack a full body bass, and are not as reliable. You don't need Neumann either. I'd save up for the U.S. made Shure KSM141. At $800, you're essentially getting a pair of omni and cardiod mics all in one package. I've looked all over... It's going to be difficult to find a pair of quality condensers that are as neutral or as classy in sound as the Shure for that price. Like I previously mentioned, these are Schoeps clones, which are standard in high end classical piano recording studios. The Schoeps omni and cardiod capsules with the amplifier body will cost $5525.

    I hope some of these ideas and concepts help... I hope you capture the best sound from your piano! Good Luck and keep me posted!
     
  16. Horowitzian

    Horowitzian New Member

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    Thank you for your detailed response, George! You may have sold me on the 141's, too. :D

    However, I play electric guitar too, so perhaps I could put SM57's to use if I didn't like them for piano. So much to think about! Not only that, I want to do some upgrades to my MacBook Pro this year (max out the RAM, get a new larger and faster HD, and install OS 10.6 Snow Leopard). So it all has to come in good time, since the MBP is the computer I use for my audio stuff. :)

    If the 141's are made here, that makes the choice even clearer to me; I buy US made whenever possible. ;)

    Again, thanks for your response, and I will keep you posted. May be a few months, though!
     
  17. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yes, the SM57, (or even the Audix i5) should work well with guitar cabs. Let me know how things turn out!
     
  18. sarah

    sarah New Member

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    Thank you so much for the great explanation! I see what you are talking about now. I am definitely sold on the Shure 141 mics... they sound like they will work very well in my smallish piano room, as well as for other applications. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I'm saving up! :wink:
     
  19. Horowitzian

    Horowitzian New Member

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    Sure thing! :)
     
  20. Marik

    Marik New Member

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    I think, this is a very good suggestion. This little thingie has another advantage very few even (much) more expensive units do not have--S/PDIF input. One day you might grow out of its pres and converters, then you could just get a high quality preamp with a digital out (or separate units of pre and AD converters). Another advantage would be using it for archiving, when getting from computer through stand alone hardware reverbs or EQs.

    While I agree the Samson, Rode, and MXL small diaphragm mics have those quality, the Studio Projects SP4 might be rather an exception. Their low end in fact is pretty nice (for the money), they come in matched pair, they have two pairs of capsules--omni and cardioids, and they are CHEAP. Besides, the customer service of Studio Projects is legendary. Most often they just replace the mic for free even if you step on it and it is long out of warranty. In other words, I mean if you are REALLY on a budget those could be the minimal entry option.

    If you are JUST on a budget :) , other cheaper mics to consider would be AT 4021/4022, or 4049/4051, depending if you want omnies, or cardioids.

    Another whole world of a difference would be ribbon microphones, but this is already another story.

    Best, M
     

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