Field Recorder

Send Audio from Zoom F4 to Camera 3.5mm Mic Input

This is one segment from the upcoming Zoom F4 course which will be available soon at our school.

In this episode, I run through the process of feeding audio out of the Zoom F4 into the 3.5mm microphone input on your hybrid, mirrorless, or DSLR camera. Some cameras make this a little more difficult because their microphone inputs can only be “turned down” so far (lookin’ at your Panasonic), which is not enough. But we also show you how to work around this issue.

If you’d like to learn how to make great dialogue audio for your film and video projects, please have a look at my courses at https://school.learnlightandsound.com including processing dialogue audio in Adobe Audition and DaVinci Resolve/Fairlight, recording sound, how to use the Zoom F8 and F8n, and how to get the most from the Sound Devices MixPre series of recorders.

Links to gear used in this video:

Zoom F4 - Audio Recorder and Mixer. Course on how to get the most of your Zoom F4 coming soon!

Juicebox 95Wh Cine Battery - I use this to power my F4 for 8 hours. Need the cable below as well.

And you’ll need this cable:

D-Tap to Hirose 4-pin cable to power the F4 with Cine Batteries

TalentCell 22,400mAh Battery - a less expensive rechargeable battery to power the F4 for many hours

And you’ll also need this cable:

DC Barrel to Hirose Cable

Aputure COB 120DII LED Light - this is my main workhorse light for 90% of my video work.

Nikon Z6 & 24 - 70 f/4 Lens - used in this video to demonstrate how to feed sound from the F4 to camera

Panasonic GH5

Olympus 45mm f/1.8 Lens - wow, super sharp, fast lens. Love this for product shots like this video

Copyright 2019 by Curtis Judd

Music Copyright 2019 by Cary Judd. Used with permission.

Ethics statement: Some of the links above are Amazon.com or B&H Photo affiliate links which means that if you click on them and buy, I get a small commission. You don't pay more by clicking these links than if you just went to the retailer’s web site on your own. I use the proceeds to buy additional gear to review and help you improve your sound, lighting, and video. Thanks for your support!

Sound for Video Session: Desert Island Gear 2018

Cary Judd and I have an informal, unscripted discussion on the one microphone and one audio recorder we would each choose if we were stranded on a deserted island.

Please consider my sound for video classes available over at http://school.learnlightandsound.com

Gear and links discussed/used to record this episode:

Sennheiser MKH416 Shotgun Microphone

DPA 4107b Shotgun Microphone

Sound Devices MixPre Recorders

Sound Devices 633 Audio Recorder/Mixer

Runners Up:

Sennheiser MKH8060 Short Shotgun Microphone

Zoom F Series Recorders

Copyright 2018 by Curtis Judd

Outro music licensed from Artlist: Sunday by Young Rich Pixies on Amazing Journey

Ethics statement: Some of the links above are affiliate links which means that if you click on them and buy, I get a small commission. You don't pay more by clicking these links than if you just went to the retailer’s web site on your own. I use the proceeds to buy additional gear to review and help you improve your sound, lighting, and video. Thanks for your support!

Sound Devices MixPre-10T: Initial Impressions

Links to gear below. If you found this review helpful and are planning to buy one of these lights, please use one of our links below which will help fund our ongoing efforts to make high quality filmmaking gear reviews.

Sound Devices added some nice options to the prosumer audio recorder market earlier this year with the introduction of their MixPre-3 and MixPre-6. And now, they’ve added the MixPre-10T which takes the MixPre line legitimately into the professional recorder realm for $1800 USD. I pre-ordered and the 10T arrived yesterday. Let’s take an initial look with a full review to follow in a few weeks when I’ve had more time to work with it.

Links to gear discussed and used to record this session:

Sound Devices MixPre-10T Audio Recorder/Mixer

Sound Devices MixPre-6 Audio Recorder/Mixer

Sound Devices MixPre-3 Audio Recorder/Mixer

Voice Technologies VT Duplex Headset Microphone

RODE Reporter Handheld Dynamic Microphone

Sennheiser MKH 8050 Supercardioid Boom Microphone

Adapter Cable for Mini XLR outputs (TA3F to XLRM)

AC to Hirose Adapter (useful if you plan to use the 10T as an audio interface)

Sound Devices MixPre Battery Sled for Sony NP-F Style Batteries

Copyright 2017 by Curtis Judd 

Ethics statement: Some of the links above are affiliate links which means that if you click on them and buy, I get a small commission. You don't pay more by clicking these links than if you just went to the retailer’s web site on your own. I use the proceeds to buy additional gear to review and help you improve your sound, lighting, and video. Thanks for your support!

Zoom F4 Audio Recorder Final Review

Last year Zoom took their first step into more professional filmmaker field recorders with the Zoom F8. And now they have just released a younger sibling, the Zoom F4. The F4, at the time of release, sells for $650 USD, has 4 microphone/line inputs, and records 8 tracks simultaneously. The preamplifiers are impressive in my tests and there’s a lot more to cover so grab your favorite beverage and let’s have a look at the Zoom F4 in this wrap-up review!

Summary: The Zoom F4 is the best audio recorder I have used in the $650 USD price range.

Zoom F4 Audio Recorder First Impressions

Last year Zoom took their first step into more professional filmmaker field recorders with the Zoom F8. And now they have just released a younger sibling, the Zoom F4. The F4, at the time of release, sells for $650 USD, has 4 microphone/line inputs, and records 8 tracks simultaneously. The preamplifiers seem very, very impressive in my first tests and there’s a lot more to cover so grab your favorite beverage and let’s have a look at the Zoom F4!

Zoom F8: First Impressions

Just received my copy of the Zoom F8 field recorder yesterday evening and spent a little time working with it. We should have a final review sometime in September but wanted to give you my first impressions here.

Build quality: Zoom has been steadily climbing the build quality ladder and the F8 is a definite continuation of that trend. The body is a very solid aluminum and the strap brackets are as solid as can be. The selector knob that allows you to navigate the menus is a HUGE improvement over the silly little jog dial on all of the previous Zoom handy recorders. If we're being honest, that was the feature I did NOT like on any of the previous Zoom recorders. It felt flimsy and ergonomically, was not the quickest tool to get around in the menus. And when you're on a recording job, time is critical.

This new selector knob is as solid as you would expect on a Sound Devices recorder or mixer.

The power and menu buttons have a sort of clicky feel to them that I'm still not sure about. I think they'll be fine over time but only time will tell.

The battery and SD card doors are also very solid metal and the battery door closes with a finger screw. The XLR inputs are Neutrik connectors, an industry standard and always top quality. The external DC power hirose connector is a nice option for pro-level batteries. I connect the F8 to an Anton Bauer battery which should power the F8 for well over 20 hours based on the battery's "remaining time" readout which is usually pretty accurate.

Overall, the unit is smaller than I remember when I first saw the prototype at NAB in April. It is not as light as the more consumer grade recorders from Zoom or Tascam once you add batteries, and about the same as the Sound Devices 744T recorder I've used in the past.

The Screen: The screen is better than I expected and also includes an "outdoor" monochrome mode for use when out in the broad daylight. That is great because that was a major issue with the H6 recorder. The F8's screen also seems much higher grade than the H6's, easier to read and very bright. It also doesn't seem to suffer from the same issues when viewing off axis. Setting the brightness to 50% indoors in a brightly sunlit room, I had absolutely no problem seeing the screen. Haven't had a chance to work with it outdoors yet but will include that in the final review.

Controls and Menus: Usability is a big deal. If a device has a ton of features but you have to constantly dive into menus to access them, that can be a problem and makes working with the device less than practical. I sort of didn't love the H6, H5, or H4n for this reason. They all required a little too much menu diving and when that meant I had to use the jog-dial, it was not fast and not enjoyable.

The F8 seems to be better thought-out on this front. The biggest difference is the selector knob. The menus are similar but having the new metal selector knob makes menu diving a little less onerous. Also, I like that I can use the buttons to arm/select a channel, press the PFL button and quickly access settings for that input like phantom power, the limiter, and pre-fader mode. Nice improvement by Zoom here as well!

The potentiometers or gain trim knobs for each channel have a good feel and work well but they are small. I don't think I'd want to attempt to mix an 8 channel program with just these little pots/knobs. That's where the iOS app comes in.

The mobile (iOS) App: The app is surprisingly good! The only thing about it that made me scratch my head a little bit is that you have to install an additional little firmware thing to enable bluetooth on the F8. I can only guess that maybe Zoom didn't have final FCC approval when they went to manufacturing and perhaps that will be included in the next overall firmware update.

The app works great on iPad and reasonably well on my iPhone 6+. There are a lot of things to fit into the UI so it just works better on the bigger screen of the iPad. On the iPhone, it sort of switches between landscape and portrait orientations to make everything fit depending on what you're doing, mixing or changing settings. It works in a pinch but if I'm truly mixing, I'd rather do it on an iPad.

And that's a pleasure - a 9.7 inch screen dedicated to mixing works quite nicely.You can set the gain for each channel with a skeuomorphic gain pot at the top of each channel, mix with the sliding faders for each channel. You have nice large peak meters for each channel. You can punch the PFL button for each channel to toggle the phantom power or limiter. You can do just about everything aside from set up the recording formats and timecode from the app. I really like it so far.

Preamps and Limiters: This is where I need more time before I can really evaluate things. In terms of specs, the F8 looks top notch. Only more testing will tell for sure. In the recording I've done so far, the preamps appear to deliver in terms of sound quality and noise performance. They seem very, very promising. The limiter, unfortunately, is in the digital domain of the signal chain. In practical terms, this means it isn't all that useful. If a sound comes in too loud, it will pass unprocessed through the analogue preamp, through the analogue to digital converter and the damage is already done before it gets to the digital limiter. That makes the limiter pretty close to useless for preventing distortion from clipping. That's not a total show stopper for enthusiasts that are very price sensitive and have the luxury of doing retakes, but probably not acceptable for pros that make their living doing location sound.

Headphone Amp: for better or worse, this is part of the device that has gotten a lot of attention based on Jose Frias's review.  At first I thought that the headphone signal was noisy. I don't think that's actually the issue after more time with it. But it doesn't sound as nice as what is actually recorded by the F8. The question is whether this is a show-stopper issue. So far, I don't think it is for me. Again, I don't feed, house, and clothe my family with location sound jobs. I'm a corporate video one-man band. And for that scenario, I think it works fine.

Other Features: You can use the F8 as an audio interface connected to your computer via the mini USB port on the left side of the unit. There are ASIO drivers for Windows and it works with core audio out of the box on the Mac side. It isn't the most intuitive device for using as an audio interface if you're going to feed monitors from it, but not bad for recording and listening with headphones.

Timecode! Woot! I haven't had a chance to play with it yet but looking forward to syncing it with my Shogun recorder to see how well that works. Zoom claims to keep time within half a frame in 24 hours which is pretty good. Gotham Sound, a professional sound gear rental house, did a test where they jam synced a Sound Devices 788T and Zoom F8 from a third timecode generator, then stuck both of them in a freezer overnight for approximately 10 hours. When they came back, the two devices were within .8 frames of one another. This seems to suggest that the timecode generator in the F8 is good enough for most professional applications.

The recorder has a 3.5mm stereo out for cameras and two mini XLR outs (L and R) along with adapters so you can send a stereo output to full-sized XLR cables or inputs. Need to test these as well.

Keep yourself subscribed to the updates over the next few weeks and let me know if there are specific questions you would like answered.

What's the Difference Between a $200 Field Recorder and $900 Audio Interface?

https://youtu.be/TRoIMPHS91U I've been using a Tascam DR-60DmkII Audio Field Recorder to capture the audio for my film projects and am quite happy with the results in almost every case. And while I'm really happy with the Tascam, the DR-60DmkII isn't perfect. The build is quite plasticky and the battery life isn't amazing. So I attached a massive USB battery to the back of the recorder with industrial grade velcro and that powers the recorder for longer than I am able to measure (I suspect about 50 hours because I have to charge it every other month or so). And that's with the recorder phantom powering mics.

But why do the pros use things like Sound Devices and Zaxcom field recorders that cost thousands? Is it that the pre-amps are night and day better? Better build quality? Better analog to digital converters? Lower self-noise in the signal path? More audio processing features built-in?

Here's my guess:

  • More durable build quality as in solid metal or carbon fiber body, bigger, more durable potentiometers (the fader knobs)
  • Cleaner pre-amps with more gain
  • Better analog to digital and digital to analog converters. In practical terms this should result in being able to capture a greater dynamic range in terms of amplitude (just like on cameras where a camera with more dynamic range can differentiate between a wider range of luminance values and often makes for more pleasant highlight rolloff)
  • More routing options, and especially more pro grade outputs (XLR outs, sometimes just stereo, but sometimes even more). At a practical level, this makes it so that you can meet requirements that often come with higher budget shoots. For example, while you'll record the production audio on your pro-level audio recorder, you'll also send a stereo mix to camera
  • Often, more robust powering options either built-in or by using robust connectors for external batteries and AC adapters.
  • High quality timecode generators

I have my suspicions and I think it might be time to test two of these hypotheses: Cleaner pre-amps with more gain and better analog to digital converters.

Sound_Devices_USBPRE_2

To do that, I sort of wanted to dip my toes in the water without making a huge financial commitment. So the very kind folks at B&H have arranged to lend me a Sound Devices USBPre 2. No this is not exactly a field recorder, it is more of an audio interface that you would normally pair with your desktop computer. However, it has the same pre-amps and AD converters that all of the 7xx series recorders from Sound Devices have. So that allows us to compare the difference of those two dimensions in the real world.

SoundDevices USBPre 2

SoundDevices USBPre 2 Back

The USBPre 2 looks like a pretty interesting desktop audio interface. In terms of specs, it is better spec'd than my current Focusrite Saffire Pro 24DSP in terms of AD dynamic range and amount of gain. But specs, of course, never tell the entire story. And in fact, this would be a step back in some ways from the Focusrite in terms of the signal processing that the Focusrite offers - real time compression and EQ. And while I don't use the EQ all that much, I do sometimes use that compressor when recording live like on Google Hangouts. No biggie. It isn't like I have to get rid of my Focusrite if I were to invest in the USBPre 2.

Its on it's way so standby for updates over the next few weeks and let me know if there are any specific questions or curiosities you might like to explore in the test.