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    11 sounds
    7 posts
    Marantz PMD 661 or Fostex FR-2 LE

    Due to budget constraints I use ZoomH2 with FEL battery preamp and Rode Nt4. While at first I was quite satisfied with this setup, I notice since beginning a distinct noise floor, quite annoying in case of the nature recording. I am thinking about upgrading of my system and would like to start by changing a recorder.I am thinking about two options: Marantz PMD 661 or Fostex FR-2 LE.
    Digging in the forums I have found that these two recorders seem to have some good points:
    Marantz PMD 661: presence of internal mics, smaller size than Fostex, pre-amps are hotter than in case of Fostex (important for nature recording)
    Fostex FR-2 LE: very low noise floor of the pre-amps, I like also the "vintage" look wink

    Which of these recorders would be a better match for Rode Nt4? And which is more suitable for a nature/ambient recordings ?

    I would very appreciate any suggestions from the users of these recorders.
    Thanks in advance

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    3295 sounds
    320 posts

    While everyone can agree the Zoom is pretty noisy, here is the way you can look at it: whatever recorder you have is going to amplify the noise from your mics (whatever they are). So I guess my first thought is decide if your mic has an acceptable noise level. If so then a cleaner recorder will be a good idea. But if a lot of noise comes from the mic then you can spend some money to get a better mic (or mics).
    With that said I have a PMD661 with modified preamps that are quieter than the stock ones. I purchased it from and I believe you can get a modified FR2 from there as well. But if you are outside the US then perhaps it is more trouble that it is worth. But my point is that I purchased some very quiet mics used, some nice cables (don't forget to get good cables!) and a PMD661. It is a very flexible setup that can record loud rock shows and train horns to quiet naturescapes with no trouble and no noise. But to be honest if I had gotten the FR2 I don't think I would know a difference. The main difference between the two is probably ergonomics and the FR2 does BWF files and the 661 doesn't.

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    1886 sounds
    1107 posts

    I have a Sony Pcm d5 recorder with 5v phantom power for external mics. I use the em173 mics, self build by someone) and a rode blimp.

    my spendings:

    sony pcm d50 €500
    rode blimp: €220
    primo em172 stereoset (omni) €100

    minus of this set: no 48v phantom power.

    recordings with these combination search: em172 d50. most recordings from inchadney and me in all kind of situation.

    4 different mic tests:


    To hear, you first have to listen
  • avatar
    171 sounds
    381 posts

    Besides look towards the quality of noise (how the noise sounds like). For example Sony PCM-D50 produces warm and nice kind of self-noise. The same issue goes for exeternal mics (more noisy or less sensitive can sound better than sterile one), although this also depends on environment you are going to record (i.e. urban/nature and so on). So I would check various setups via freesound search, and then decide. - independent research on sound and consciousness - best sounds for extraordinary inner experiences
  • avatar
    11 sounds
    7 posts

    Thank you very much, guys.

    To resume:
    - perhaps with my Rode Nt4 I am not capable of seeing any difference between these two recorders (since the mic is the weakest point of this setup)
    - but for the "future" perhaps Fostex would be more reasonable (if I replace the mic by the quieter one...)
    - Fostex is bigger, less ergonomic, more dificult to hide...

    I incline toward the Fostex, but I don`t know if its preamps and Rode NT4 are suficciently performant to record the very quiet sounds...
    Has anyone tried to record the nature sounds with this setup ?

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    171 sounds
    381 posts

    BTW - there is also Olympus LS-100 (pretty new) - has generally clean preamps with 48V phantom (tested), and this is also a multitrack device. - independent research on sound and consciousness - best sounds for extraordinary inner experiences
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    13 sounds
    426 posts

    Hi truflabart,

    If you do a search of Free-sound (advanced) for Tags and descriptions including PMD 611, FR-2 LE, LS-100, etc with ambient, nature, plus any other equipment options you think might be interesting, you can hear what other people have achieved with various combinations. I think actual recordings can be much more enlightening than the spec sheets and marketing promises. Also, because one person swears by product X, it doesn't necessarily mean that he has comparative experience with other equipment. (I still swear by my 30yo SM57s, home made pre-amp and 15yo 8Kg Pioneer CD recorder, but that's only because I don't know any better and do all my recording around the house and gardensmile)

    Good hunting

    Heaven in the sky is to die for, Heaven on earth is to live for.
  • avatar
    11 sounds
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    OK. Now I really don`t know what to choose. I looked for the recordings on freesound... but there are FEW recordings of nature made with both recorders.
    My big question is related to the amplification level of Fostex and Marantz preamps. Is Fostex able to sufficiently drive the NT4 (I mean recordings of the quiet sounds) ?. I had a cable limitter in my NT4 and the low level of sound was real PITA before I have changed the cable. I don`t want to relive the same experience using the weak preamp....

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    171 sounds
    381 posts

    I can only tell that I connected Behringer B1 (large diaphragm, phantom 48V) to LS-100, and the sound was lound and very clean in terms of noise - much cleaner than using it via behringer cheap mixers.

    Thomann sound store allows you to buy stuff, and send back within 30 days if you are not satisfied as far I remember. Maybe you should ask them about your concerns and/or give a try to some setup? - independent research on sound and consciousness - best sounds for extraordinary inner experiences
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    368 sounds
    257 posts

    Almost all my stuff on freesound is recorded with an NT4 into a Fel BMA2 preamp into a Edirol R09HR recorder.I also had a limiter on the NT4 cable which made it useless and had to be replaced.I am very happy with the NT4,especially when i want all surrounding sounds captured (For example at the bottom of a valley....i don't expect it would work well capturing a pair of buffalo mating on the plains).I find the Fel preamp is also fine.I put the recorder on unity gain (40 on the Edirol) using the line in on the recorder as the mic line is terrible.I cannot get good results on the edirol without using the preamp.
    I also have a zoom H4 which i use occasionaly,this recorder accepts xlr cables and suprisingly gives very good results with the NT4 going directly into the H4 through the xlr cable that comes with the mic(no preamp).All other other line options with the H4 are poor imo.I've listened to some of your uploads and they sound pretty good to me....perhaps quality is in the ears of the beholder!

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    70 sounds
    134 posts

    I use a Zoom H4n.  I got a Sound Devices MixPre-D and adding it into the mix reduced my noise floor by a HUGE order of magnitude.

    Granted, I had to learn how to make an attenuator circuit to attenuate 15dB from the MixPre-D into the H4n, which was actually kind of cool.

    But if you can't do that yourself, you can get somebody else or a company which makes custom cables to make you up some cables to get the MixPre or MixPre-D and the H4n to play nice together.

    These are the specs for what you'll need:

    1. A single ~0.60m long audio cable for monitoring with right angle stereo 3.5mm mini jack plugs on each end, and 

    2. A pair of ~0.50m long audio cables with right angle XLRFs with an attenuating L-pad built in for the line out, and right angle 6.5mm mono jack plugs  (TS)  for the input, to suit the following devices:   
    - MixPre  -  20dB L-pad for an XLR output impedance of 120Ω  or 
    - MixPre-D  -  15dB L-pad for an XLR output impedance of 100Ω  and 
    - H4n  -  unbalanced 6.5mm mono jack TS input impedance rated at 480kΩ  

    3. The unbalanced L-pad requires metal film resistors of the following values: 
    - MixPre  -  R2 = 120, R1 = 1080  (std value 1k1) 
    - MixPre-D  -  R2 = 100, R1 = 462  (std value 470)

    It may all sound horribly complicated, but if you can get somebody to make these cables for you, then the solution is simplicity itself to use. I keep my H4n levels set at 17 all the time, and let the quieter-than-quiet preamps in the MixPre-D do all the work.  So all you need to do is just connect everything up, and enjoy the noise floor plummeting down through the cellar and into the Earth.  smile

    I've got a blog post in the works for explaining more details, but some health issues have put a delay on publication.  Nevertheless, in researching and constructing it I've consulted a number of very knowledgeable people, and I can assure you that the numbers are sound and the solution works beautifully.

    Good luck!  smile

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    182 sounds
    69 posts

    The only time I had to work with recording that came out of marantz (and neumann sm69), I had to use noise reduction and I hate noise reduction. The noise was strange, not just a pure hiss, it had some aditional structure. Perhaps there was something wrong with the unit, who knows, but this experience told me "stay away from marantz, if you can".

    The cheapest setup with nice sound nowadays seems to be SD usbpre2 with USB battery (or MixPre-D) and some bit bucket. Cheapest being m-audio microtrack (has bad reputation for build quality). Sony D50 (optical in - it is nice unit even on its own). Tascam DR100-mkII (spdif in).
    Downside of this kind of setup is in its fiddliness, many boxes, many cables, more then one set of batteries. More things to go wrong.

    Nature recordings... there is always some noise (in the nature) and it is easy to listen to the recording louder than it really was.

    12 posts