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Recording Zoom Recorder for Sax - Which Model ?

rhysonsax

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I have heard good things about using the Zoom digital recorder for making quality recordings of the saxophone in action.

There seem to be lots of different models available, including ones with video recording too. Of the non-video models I have seen on eBay H1, H2, H2N, H4, H4N.

Any advice on advantage and disadvantages of these models or alternatives by other makers ?

Thanks

Rhys
 

saxplorer

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Couldn't be happier with my H2n, but I have no comparison to the other models. Operation is very simple, if your need it to be, but bags of options available if you dig. I use it as a mic into Audacity, but have also used it in the field so to speak.

This recording http://soundcloud.com/saxplorer/bei-mir-bist-du-shon was made this summer in the Walled Garden in Basingstoke, just with the H2n on the ground in front of the band (and picnickers within 10ft of the zoom). Set in advance to Auto Gain, XY stereo image, nothing needed but clicking record, and stop.

I understand that the H2n is an advance over H2, with better battery life and the Mid-Side stereo imaging setup, but all that you will find from the publicity stuff. For me, I have had zero regrets in getting it.
 

trimmy

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kevgermany

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H2 battery life is abysmal, even on NiMH, otherwise it's a good piece of kit. comes with a mains adapter, but you can't always use it. H2/H2n have the advantage of front and back recording (4 mic capsules) which is great for when you're recording in a circle and you then get 4 tracks. I usually get a recording level and leave it on manual (hi/medium/low) to avoid surprises. Recording quality is excellent for the price. If I was buying again, I'd go for the H2n, not the H2, despite the price difference.
 

rhysonsax

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Couldn't be happier with my H2n, but I have no comparison to the other models. Operation is very simple, if your need it to be, but bags of options available if you dig. I use it as a mic into Audacity, but have also used it in the field so to speak.

This recording http://soundcloud.com/saxplorer/bei-mir-bist-du-shon was made this summer in the Walled Garden in Basingstoke, just with the H2n on the ground in front of the band (and picnickers within 10ft of the zoom). Set in advance to Auto Gain, XY stereo image, nothing needed but clicking record, and stop.

I understand that the H2n is an advance over H2, with better battery life and the Mid-Side stereo imaging setup, but all that you will find from the publicity stuff. For me, I have had zero regrets in getting it.

Nice recording ! Pretty good balance and I like the rhythm guitar playing too.

I saw King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys in the Walled Garden a few years ago and they were great.

Thanks for the advice.

Rhys
 

rhysonsax

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I already have an old Roland USB audio interface unit, that dates from Windows XP era and I don't know whether it will work on my Windows 7 PC.

How would the quality of recordings with the Zoom (or similar) compare with ones made using a decent external microphone, a digital audio interface and a computer ? The Zoom certainly would seem to be more convenient.

Rhys
 

aldevis

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How would the quality of recordings with the Zoom (or similar) compare with ones made using a decent external microphone, a digital audio interface and a computer ? The Zoom certainly would seem to be more convenient.

Zoom is great to record live gigs, rehearsals lessons... A professional setup with proper mics would sound better.
BTW you cannot use the H1 as a usb microphone. I think you can use the H4, maybe the H2
 

BigMartin

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Zoom is great to record live gigs, rehearsals lessons... A professional setup with proper mics would sound better.
BTW you cannot use the H1 as a usb microphone. I think you can use the H4, maybe the H2
The H2 can be used as a combined microphone/audio interface. Not sure if that's what you meant, but works great for recording with the likes of Audacity.
 

aldevis

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The H2 can be used as a combined microphone/audio interface. Not sure if that's what you meant, but works great for recording with the likes of Audacity.

Exactly what I meant: you cannot do it with the H1. Probably an essential difference.
 

breathless

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I bought a H2N for a few reasons not just recording myself on my learning process, but cant comment on the quality of my playing as every time I attempt to record myself I play rubbish! (same when I have a lesson with my tutor) think its a comfort thing!

anyway I did smuggle the recorder into one of the jazz clubs in London and recorded the session with the H2N sticking out the top of my bag under the table and the quailty of the recording blew me away.

once id cleaned the recording up a little using a piece of software called "Free Audio editor" ie- raised the levels of the quite bits of talking between pieces, I then burnt it to CD and I and others couldn't tell the difference between that and a professionally recorded CD.
an amazing piece of kit for the money, and if you want more proof, Garry Barlow used a H4N to record all the samples he collected from around the world for the Queens birthday, he then replayed the finished song to the queen with Loyd webber present.

there are others as good available but these Zooms are fantastic.

do have a good search though as I managed to get mine for a very good price either from Amazon or Ebay, cant remember which?

rgds Lee.
 

MandyH

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I have an H2 which I am more than happy with.
I've recorded myself, my quartet, and a number of Dave (LittlePlum) StaxofSax playdays with good results, so a range of sizes of rooms and groups.
I pretty much always use the mains adapter, but have noticed that the battery life isn't great.
As mentioned elsewhere, you can use it as an external mic into a PC. I can also add that you can't use it as an external mic into a iPad via camera connector (maybe I'm the only person that might ever have tried that, but I now know it doesn't work)
 

Wade Cornell

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I've been using a H4N for a few years. Excellent unit that is small and simple to use. The choice of which one to get really depends on what you are going to use it for. In my circumstance the H4N is a simple and small bit of gear that works well for basic room recording as is, but not really giving anything better than what the room has to offer acoustically. I mostly use it when recording with an electrified guitarist. He can plug in directly and I can use a good quality condenser microphone. You can check some of my basic rehearsal recordings in the soundcilps section to hear what the quality is like. The H4N also has the ability to simultaneously record with the built in microphones, so this gives you 2 separate tracks + a stereo track. I use this when we are playing with a drummer so that he is on the built in microphones. The only problem with this is that the built in microphones will be picking up the other instruments as well (if you are in the same room). The so called "bleed" means that you can't edit anything out of the track using the built in microphones, unless editing it out completely. Transfer to computer and any software programme is relatively easy. Record time is OK with the "N" units. I've not had a problem using it for over four hours on the "stamina" (power saving) mode. Definitely the best and easiest units around for the $$.
 

rhysonsax

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I've been using a H4N for a few years. Excellent unit that is small and simple to use. The choice of which one to get really depends on what you are going to use it for. In my circumstance the H4N is a simple and small bit of gear that works well for basic room recording as is, but not really giving anything better than what the room has to offer acoustically. I mostly use it when recording with an electrified guitarist. He can plug in directly and I can use a good quality condenser microphone.

Thanks Wade.

Does that mean that you basically record the natural sound of the room where you are, rather than trying to record 'dry' and then adding effects ?

What condenser mic. are you using and does this give a much/slightly better sax sound than the built-in mics if you are recording sax alone ?

Rhys
 

Wade Cornell

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95% of the recording I do is with a microphone plugged into the recorder and the guitarist also plugged in. The microphones I use are AKG C 1000S. They require a 9V battery, but the H4N has phantom power so you don't wind up wearing out the battery (as long as you remember to shut the switch off). They are a fairly high quality microphone so you'd have to be in a very professional situation before you'd need anything more. Recording "dry" with this type of microphone is fairly easy as long as you're not more than 40 cm away from it and have the level set right. The (electric) guitar has a lead out that goes directly into the Zoom which takes both a phone jack (usual for a guitar) or XLR microphone type jack. This set up gives you two fairly clean signals, although depending on how loud the guitar is it may "bleed" into your microphone some. Setting the input levels is the only downside as you can't separate the two channel level inputs. This means that you must get the guitar to adjust their output level so that it matches your level when playing. I usually set my own level first then have the guitarist play as loud as they can (or will during playing) and have them set their level to match on their output. Note that the output for the recorder is split off BEFORE their amplifier so they can turn up their amp and it won't affect the level into the recorder. The guitarist can NEVER turn up the level on their guitar or effects box (if they are using one before your split point) as this will overdrive the recorder and distort the recording beyond repair. Getting the levels set right takes a few minutes but from there on you just play. If playing for more than an hour you'll need at least a 5 Gig SD card (I use a 32 and don't worry about it for at least 12 hours of recording)

If you are using the recorder's built in microphones they are OK for what they are, and most would say surprisingly good. But what you hear is what you get. There is no way to separate out instruments or modify anything without modifying the whole. The recorder will hear what you hear with only a little bit of differentiation (as with your own hearing) that gives you a depth of field.

I've never recorded the sax by itself using the built in microphones, but have recorded larger "sessions" where I'm part of the group. I doubt that the built in microphones would give a better quality, but they are certainly good enough for most purposes such as practicing and playing back.

You may wish to remember that a H2N may be all that you need unless you want/need two discrete channels plus the built in microphones also recording to give a 4 channel recording.

Best of luck Rhys
 

rhysonsax

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I have just bought a Zoom H2N and it seems really good. Thanks to everyone who contributed here.

At first I am going to use it at home to record saxophone playing and try to make some recordings with backing tracks. I will probably use Audacity as I am slightly familiar with that, rather than Wavelab LE that came with the Zoom.

Now comes the tricky bit of finding out how to make the most of the Zoom. For instance:
  • Which mic pattern to use ?
  • What position relative to the sax (probably close mic'd to capture just the sax) ?
  • When using with Audacity, what effects to apply to the dry saxophone sound (e.g. Compression and Reverb) and what settings sound good ?
  • How best to combine a sax recording with a backing track to make it sound natural and part of a single performance (and make sure that the timing lines up just right) ?

Any helpful hints ?

Rhys
 

aldevis

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Now comes the tricky bit of finding out how to make the most of the Zoom. For instance:
  • Which mic pattern to use ?
  • What position relative to the sax (probably close mic'd to capture just the sax) ?
  • When using with Audacity, what effects to apply to the dry saxophone sound (e.g. Compression and Reverb) and what settings sound good ?
  • How best to combine a sax recording with a backing track to make it sound natural and part of a single performance (and make sure that the timing lines up just right) ?

I am sure that someone else can give you better replies, in the meantime, my only advice is:
find the correct recording level.

In my experience, H1 H2 and H4 don't work that well on "automatic". Better a low level than distorted.
 

kevgermany

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Mic pattern - use front unless there's a reason not to.
Position, play around, but it doesn't need to be that close unless there's background you want to exclude. The further away you are, the less movement affects recording level.
Level - recordings are clean, so set it lowish on manual to avoid clipping. The recorder holds the peak for a few seconds, so you can see how high it's giong. Aim to keep it below zero. Then afterwards increase to an acceptable volume.
Audacity - I'll let the others do this. There are some good tutorials on youtube as well, mixed in with some painful ones... .
 

Wade Cornell

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Good advice from aldevis. Get yourself set up and don't go moving around a lot. Try to keep your position constant in terms of distance to the microphone(s). No more than 40 cm away is good for a dry recording. Play as loud as you are ever likely to and look at the bar meter. Set the level so it's just under going all the way up. Levels should be set so you never overdrive/distort.

Audacity is very good for setting up reverb (it's called "GVerb in Audacity). You can't use it the way it's set, but that's probably so that you get to know how to use it. Under the heading "effects" go down to GVerb and click on that. There will be seven sliders. Leave the first two at their levels (75 m and 7.5 seconds). Put the third slider "damping" up to .85. The forth slider "input bandwidth" leave at .75. The fifth slider “ dry signal put at -6. The sixth is “early reflection level” put that at -40. The lat slider is “tail level” putat -36. This gives the sax a nice sound without being too much. Have a play at varying these levels and you’ll soon find out how it works. GVerb is just a little daunting if you’ve never done it and try to start with the set up when you open the GVerb. The GVerb takes the levels down quite a lot, so you will need to boost this when you finish. Under effects the top option is “amplify”. When you click on this it will automatically give the highest level possible for the section of the recording you’ve captured for modification without distortion. You can adjust it to lower levels if you wish.
 
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