Multitrack Recorders

March 4, 2009

I’m in the market for a multitrack recorder. As I’ve mentioned before I shoot video using a Canon GL2. It’s a great camera but because it isn’t quite in the Professional level (it’s a Prosumer camera) it is missing a few options: namely XLR inputs.

Because the GL2 only has 1/8th inch input (also known as mini) it cannot accept Line Level signals such as instruments or mixer outputs. You can record directly from most microphone, at least those mics that don’t use phantom power. The problem comes when you are shooting an event where you might not want ambient noises (crying babies, cars zooming by) but you have to get multiple subjects and cannot mic them all. That’s where a mixer would come in handy.

There is an attachment to the GL2 that you can purchase that will provide you with 2 XLR inputs coverted down to your 1/8th input; Canon makes one as well as Beachtek. These adapters also allow the use of phantom powered microphones.

“Great”, you say, “problem solved!”

“Well”, I say, “Not exactly…” That is an ok solution but now I want to expand and perhaps get some ambient noise (still avoiding crying babies though).

I shot a commercial a few months ago and realized my wireless mic had died completely so I had to rely on the GL2’s onboard mic. That is a one power mic because I picked up people coughing and whistling as they walked by (30 feet away) and plenty of squelling brakes. (People of Bowie, MD please get your brakes checked). The commercial was great but when it came time to edit we realized it was useless because of too much background noise. So the commerical was reshot in a new location using a wired lavelier which worked great except it eliminated any outdoor ambience; the audio felt dry.

If I had a mixer at the time I could have added an additional mic and recorded the background along with the subject. But now I want to go a step further: A multitrack recorder will allow all this and more than either of the adapter could for not much more money. Thinking forward a multitrack recorder will allow me to record more to seperate tracks. Certainly there is the additional time spent during editing to add the additional audio tracks but having the ability to record multiple clean tracks is definitely a bonus.

There are so many devices to choose from:

  1. Cassette based units (including Jaz drives)
  2. Flash card based units
  3. Hard drive based usings
  4. 1 track record at a time
  5. 2+ tracks at one time
  6. Portable

and the list goes on…

I’ve narrowed my decision to the following models:

  1. Tascam DP-004: Pros – Very portable, Uses SD cards  — Cons – Only uses 1/4 cable inputs,
  2. M-Audio Microtrack II: Pros – Portable, Can use Microdrives & Phantom powered mics — Cons – Only 1/4 cable inputs, Composite (RCA) Outputs???? (come on)
  3. Fostex MR8-MKII: Pros – Multiple Ins&Outs, versatility — Cons – Not as portable, uses CompactFlash cards

Once I make my choice I’ll give you a review. Let me know what you use and why you make your choice.


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