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Thread: budget travel setup for recording own classical chamber music concerts

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    budget travel setup for recording own classical chamber music concerts

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    Hi everyone!

    Newbie here and I would really appreciate your knowledge and experience with the following.

    I am a classical clarinetist often traveling to perform. I am looking for a recording set up for recording my own classical chamber music concerts (normally between 2 and 8 acoustic instruments in medium-sized venues with widely different acoustics).

    The equipment should be:

    - light, small and as portable as possible
    - easy to set up and operate (I will be playing in the concerts, so I don't have lots of time to set up and cannot rely on another person to operate the recording machine, check levels etc).
    - as high quality as possible for my 300-500 euro budget (natural sound but rather on the warm side).

    The final purpose of these recordings is to have archival audio which can be shared on social media, soundcloud etc. and sometimes sync'ed to concert footage.

    I have done some research online and right now I am thinking of a ZOOM H4N pro or a Zoom H5.

    I am wondering if it would be worth investing in external microphones?
    I read great things about Aston Origin cardioid microphones, but I would only be able to afford one, resulting in a mono recording, so I don't know if it is worth it?

    Also, would I get the best results by setting the mics on or close to the stage, or rather by setting them up in the back of the venue?

    Thank you in advance for your inputs!

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    In just the order that things popped out at me, I'll make some comments.

    I've done a lot of live recording, including some string quartets, and use a Zoom H6. Personally, that's the piece I'd recommend, as it seems to have come down in price to about $300USD when on sale or with a bit of negotiation. Used ones should be readily available for less, and mine has been reliable for at least 6 years. (If you were in the US, I'd probably offer it for sale, as it's just a backup for the F8 these days, and the F8 will soon be a backup for an F8n.)

    The big advantage of the H5 over the H4n for your purposes would be the interchangeable microphone capsule, which allows the use of a mid-side (MS) module or additional XY microphone jacks. The H6 comes with the MS module while the H5 does not, and the H6 is ready for 6 track recording out of the box, so really gives you a lot more options as you gain experience. I bought and use the external XLR module, but it does not support phantom power, so for your usage, might not be a bonus, and the H5 would still give you 4 track capability by using the built-in mic + 2 external ones. The H4n Pro would also suit, though you'd always be limited to the built-in mic for its XY capture. (The Zoom built-in mics/modules are quite good for what they are - certainly for live they are probably not distinguishable to the average listener from any good XY pair of SDCs.)

    You want to be relatively close to record, even in a nice room, if for no other reason than to minimize some of the crowd noise, inevitable coughing, dropped programs, etc.

    I would suggest adding 2 small condenser microphones on stands at the outside with the built-in XY in the center. This will give you more tracks to mix and allow flexibility in your group's configuration, especially if you have a large one sometimes.

    There are a lot of good, relatively inexpensive SDC pairs you could get for far less than that microphone you mention, which, IMO/IME, is not the sort of thing for a live performance, because there's always more room and background noise than you realize. You'll capture that marvelously with an expensive LDC, but the recording of the performance will not be any better (again, IMO).
    "... I know in the mornin' that it's gonna be good
    when I stick out my elbows and they don't bump wood." - Bill Kirchen

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    For years, I was using portable Zoom recorders (H4Ns, H4N Pros) with external mics for archival classical recordings. I thought they were reasonable at best, noisy, somewhat glitchy, but they got the job done-ish.

    One day, an orch director ask me to set something up so he can record a rehearsal -- I put [one of the units] on a stand right in front of him so he could just grab something with the built-in mics.

    Couldn't believe how decent it sounded. Way better, way quieter, way more "believable" of an image that I was getting with $5k of mics and outboard on the way in to the .

    Long story short - the "external" (internal) preamps on those things suck. Bad. But whatever circuit they run the built-in mics through is rather reasonable. Ease of use and what not - If you don't mind having the thing out there with you, you can hardly go wrong.

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    The Tascam DP-series is also good-and you can make a wav. file using the SD card your finished master is on re-uploading it...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Massive Master View Post
    For years, I was using portable Zoom recorders (H4Ns, H4N Pros) with external mics for archival classical recordings. I thought they were reasonable at best, noisy, somewhat glitchy, but they got the job done-ish.

    One day, an orch director ask me to set something up so he can record a rehearsal -- I put [one of the units] on a stand right in front of him so he could just grab something with the built-in mics.

    Couldn't believe how decent it sounded. Way better, way quieter, way more "believable" of an image that I was getting with $5k of mics and outboard on the way in to the .

    Long story short - the "external" (internal) preamps on those things suck. Bad. But whatever circuit they run the built-in mics through is rather reasonable. Ease of use and what not - If you don't mind having the thing out there with you, you can hardly go wrong.
    Well, I never used the H4x models, but based on my experience. I think they're fine, at least the ones in my H6 have never been a reason for me to think the overall recording suffered because of them. Clean and more than low enough noise for live use.
    "... I know in the mornin' that it's gonna be good
    when I stick out my elbows and they don't bump wood." - Bill Kirchen

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    I'd also go with the zoom and use the internal mics. With a bit of practice you will find the best settings and things become repeatable. The minute you start going better, you increase the equipment quantity rapidly. Mic stand can hold the zoom. Then you go to two, then extra cables, and to be honest, once you start setting up mics, you also need very good headphones or real speakers to be able to make appropriate decisions.

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    Thank you all for the precious input!! I will go ahead for now with the Zoom H5 and internal mics - I am sure it will develop from there.

    Best to all

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