Prosumer Aint So Bad

Sure, there are compromises when building a recording/playback device for around $300 street, but you have to admit they are wondrous.
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Our esteemed technical advisor and reviewer Steve Murphy has a column in this issue called “Prosumer Portables in the Pro World”. He offers tangible, in-the-trenches advice on the pros and cons of inexpensive flash recorders in pro environs. But in the larger view. the technology has allowed great strides in products that now feature amazing fidelity at low prices and — as the Yamaha PocketTrak and Olympus LS-10 show — very small sizes. The integrated A/D-D/A chip sets and high capacity Flash cards allow good quality and a good quantity of audio to be conveniently recorded. Sure, there are compromises when building a recording/playback device for around $300 street, but you have to admit they are wondrous.

(click thumbnail)Olympus LS-10
Of course, the top-notch portables from Sound Devices, Zaxcom, TASCAM, Fostex and others are truly pro, with features that are tailored for high-end professional use, but as the number of inexpensive recorders on the market shows, there are plenty of uses for these lower-end machines.

In fact, I have done some comparisons and they sound better than some of the expensive pro digital recorders from 15+ years ago. I recently made some recordings on an early 1990s Sony DAT recorder with a good mixer and a decent mic set. I then recorded the same guitars cuts with the Yamaha PockertTrak with its teeny stereo mic. The outboard mics were better, as one would expect, but the recorded audio from the PocketTraks’s A/D was way smoother when played back through a Benchmark DAC1 converter. Through the Yamaha’s internal DAC /headphone jack the audio was still smoother than old Sony was out of its line jacks. The old 16-bit machines were quiet and measured well in their day, but they sure were edgy and harsh. And remember: those DAT machines were $3,000+ in the late 1980s and early 1990s — with $30 tapes.

It’s all in the gear

Pro Audio Review’s main objective is to provide balanced product reviews written by real-world pros from their facilities. We also do feature articles that highlight industry trends, professionals and upcoming gear. I would like to acknowledge writer Mel Lambert, a respected industry veteran, who often graces our pages with excellent tour spotlights (such as Avril Lavigne’s summer tour) and detailed high-end gear previews. Another of our feature writers is Heather Johnson, who joined us this year. She written several great pieces including the current one of location recording tips and the interviews she did with speaker and amp designers earlier this year. Readers tell me they like our approach to these feature stories – though they are not reviews in our traditional form, their orbit still revolves around the gear and peripherals that we all love to use.