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Core Sound PDAudio® System
How does PDAudio compare with other recorders?

Comparison of Portable Digital Audio Recorders

(Last updated 06/08/2007)

Under Construction

Introduction

The latest models of handheld and portable two-channel audio recorders use removable solid state memory (e.g., Compact Flash, Secure Digital), hard disk cards (PCMCIA/PC Card, Microdrive) and internal hard drives for storage instead of tape (e.g., DAT) or rotating optical disks (e.g., MiniDisc, CD-R, DVD-R). They are:

All of these recorders are starting to get popular for concert and general high-resolution audio field recording.

One exception is the Apple iPod Video 5G. Even though it is not a high-resolution recorder, since there are so many of them out there and we are frequently asked about it, we chose to include it anyway.

In addition, Sound Devices has released their 722 recorder. It costs considerably more than the other recorders compared here.

In addition to these recorders, there are other recorders that also use removable solid state and hard disk storage media, but since those recorders are primarily targeted at the broadcast/electronic news gathering world and are not high-resolution audio recorders, we won't include them in this comparison.

We've included notes about the low cost Zoom H4 recorder at the end of this comparison.

We solicit and appreciate corrections to this document. Please send your comments to:

moskowit@core-sound.com

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Summary

If you want a portable recorder with true 24-bits of dynamic range, there is currently only one choice: Core Sound's PDAudio. Edirol's R-01 and R-09 recorders, though they have 24-bit converters, actually provide less than 16-bits of dynamic range. The same holds true for the Marantz PMD671. Similarly, the Fostex FR-2 has only 16-bits of dynamic range on its Mic and Line inputs. The M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 has only 16-bits of dynamic range on its Mic input and 17-bits on its Line inputs. (Marantz's PMD670 and Apple's iPod are both 16-bit recorders.)

If you want to record at your choice of 88.2, 96, 176.4 or 192 KS/s using a recorder that's not a laptop computer, there are currently only two choices: Core Sound's PDAudio and Fostex's FR-2. (Marantz's PMD670 is a 16-bit recorder and its maximum sample rate is only 48 KS/s. Marantz's PMD671 has a maximum sample rate of 96 KS/s at 24-bits, and 48 KS/s at 16-bits. M-Audio's MicroTrack 24/96 has a maximum sample rate of 96 KS/s via its analog and digital inputs. Apple's iPod Video G5 has a maximum sample rate of 44.1 KS.s. Edirol's R-01 has a maximum sample rate of 44.1 KS/s. Edirol's R-09 has a maximum sample rate of 48 KS/s.)

If you want a handheld recorder, there are five choices: PDAudio, MicroTrack 24/96 iPod Video G5, R-01 and R-09; all five are easily held in one hand. In contrast the FR-2 is the size of a thick hardbound book and weighs within a few ounces of the Manhattan phone book. The PMD670 is almost as large and heavy.

If you want a recorder that can record continuously at 24/96 for more than two hours, there's only one choice: PDAudio. PDAudio can record continuously with essentially no time limit at 24/96 and 24/48. The FR-2 is limited to 2 hours at 24/96. The MicroTrack 24/96 is limited to 1 hour at 24/96. The R-1 can't record at 96. (The PMD670 can't record with 24-bit word widths or above 48 KS/s. The Apple iPod Video 5G is limited to two hours at 16/44.1.)

For the two truly 24/96-capable portable recorders, a full featured version of PDAudio costs approximately $324 less than the FR-2. A digital-only version of PDAudio costs $824 less than the FR-2. (At $399 (MAP), MicroTrack 24/96 is less expensive, but it is effectively only a 16-bit recorder unless you add an external 24-bit A-to-D converter, adding considerable cost.)

PDAudio has a full color display including fast-response stereo metering, fail-safe touch screen controls and a very quiet mic pre-amp and A-to-D converter. The FR-2 has a much smaller monochrome display, hardware buttons and a noisier mic pre-amp and A-to-D converter. The MicroTrack 24/96 has a much smaller monochrome display and a much noisier mic pre-amp and A-to-D converter. The R-01 and R-09 have monochrome displays, while the R-01 has slow-response mono metering. The iPod has the ability to use full color but it is not used for recording; it has no metering.

If you want a rugged recorder that can survive in the field, only PDAudio has a metal case. All the rest have plastic cases, with the R-01 having a particularly lightweight plastic case.

If you want more details, please keep reading...

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Physical Dimensions

RECORDER DIMENSIONS
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, Mic2496, Live2496) 3.0 inches
(76 mm)
2.0 inches
(51 mm)
5.8 inches
(146 mm)
Marantz PMD670 10.4 inches
(264 mm)
2.0 inches
(55 mm)
7.3 inches
(185 mm)
Fostex FR-2 9.8 inches
(250 mm)
3.0 inches
(77 mm)
8.7 inches
(220 mm)
M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 2.4 inches
(61 mm)
1.12 inches
(28.5 mm)
4.3 inches
(101.5 mm)
Edirol R-1 3.94 inches
(99 mm)
1.19 inches
(30 mm)
5.31 inches
(124 mm)

Discussion

PDAudio, MicroTrack 24/96 and R-1 can easily be held in one hand. The R-1 is a bit wider than the other two.

In contrast, both the Marantz and the Fostex are much larger, roughly the size of a hardbound book, and are not easily hand-held.

The Fostex is higher and deeper than the Marantz but not quite as wide. Both sit more comfortably on a lap or on a flat surface than in your hand.

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Weight

RECORDER WEIGHT
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, Mic2496, Live2496) 1 pound (.48 Kg) with batteries
Marantz PMD670 2 pounds, 14 ounces (1.3 Kg) unknown if with or without batteries
Fostex FR-2 3.3 pounds (1.5 Kg) excluding batteries
More than 4 pounds (1.8 Kg) with batteries
M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 5.2 ounces (.15 Kg) with batteries
Edirol R-1 10 ounces (0.3 Kg) with batteries

Discussion

PDAudio, MicroTrack 24/96 and R-1 are all easily held in the hand while the other two are too heavy to hand hold for very long. The PMD670 and FR-2 sit more comfortably on a lap or flat surface.

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Case Material/Ruggedness

RECORDER CASE RUGGEDNESS
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, Mic2496) PDA: Metal Case
Mic2496: Metal Case
PMD670 Plastic Case
FR-2 Plastic Case
MicroTrack 24/96 Plastic Case
R-1 Thin Plastic Case

Discussion

When used in the field, portable recorders have to survive significant handling abuse, including being dropped.

Of all the recorders, only PDAudio has all metal cases. PMD670 and FR-2 have reasonably thick plastic cases, while the R-1 has a thin plastic case.

The R-1 also has a poorly designed battery door and CF card cover.

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Sample Rates and Word Widths

RECORDER WORD WIDTH (bits) & SAMPLE RATES (KS/s)
PDAudio (Dell X50v, Mic2496, Movie2496) 16 and 24 bits at 32, 44.1, 48, 64, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192
Marantz PMD670 16-bits at 44.1, 48
Fostex FR-2 16-bits at 22.05, 44.1 and 48
24-bits at 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4 and 192
M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 Analog: 16-bits and 24-bits at 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96
Digital: 16-bits and 24-bits at 44.1 and 48
Edirol R-1 16-bits at 44.1
24-bits at 44.1

Discussion

PDAudio running Live2496 on PDAs supports all combinations of 16 and 24-bit word widths and sample rates from 32 up to 192 KS/s. PDAudio on laptop and desktop computers can record at up to 24/192. (24/192 recording is currently limited to Mono.)

At the upper limits, the PMD670 is limited to 16/48 and so is not really a high-resolution recorder. It does not record with 24-bit word widths and can not record at 88.2 or 96 KS/s.

The FR-2 supports 16-bit word widths for sample rates up to 48 KS/s and 24-bit word widths for sample rates from 44.1 up to 192 KS/s. It does not record from or play to the digital interfaces at rates above 96 KS/s.

The MicroTrack 24/96 supports recording from its analog inputs at 16-bit and 24-bit word widths for sample rates from 44.1 up to 96 KS/s. Keep in mind that since it only has 16-bits of dynamic range on its analog inputs, it simply wastes storage to record at 24-bits. It currently can record on its digital S/PDIF input using word widths of 16- and 24-bits and at rates up to 96 KS/s.

The R-1 supports recording at 16-bit and 24-bit word widths at 44.1 KS/s. It will play files recorded with 8 to 24-bit word widths and sample rates from between 8 and 48 KS/s.

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File Formats

RECORDER SUPPORTED AUDIO FILE FORMATS
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, Mic2496, Live2496) WAV, FLAC
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, Mic2496, Resco Audio Recorder) WAV, MP3, OGG, RAF, SPX
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, Mic2496, Pocco Wichita) WAV, GSM6.10
Marantz PMD670 MP3, MP2, WAV, BWF
Fostex FR-2 BWF
M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 WAV, MP3
Edirol R-1 WAV, MP3

Discussion

PDAudio, running Live2496 software, supports uncompressed linear PCM using the industry-standard WAV format. For high-res audio recording, WAV format is by far the format of preference.

PDAudio, running Live2496 software, also supports the FLAC lossless compression format. This almost doubles the recording time on a flash memory card or hard drive with no loss of quality. Only PDAudio offers real-time FLAC encoding.

Other PDAudio software (Pocco's Wichita and Resco's Audio Recorder) also support MP3, OGG, WAV, SPX, RAF and GSM6.10 formats.

The PMD670 supports compressed files using MP2 and MP3 formats and linear PCM using WAV and BWF formats.

The FR-2 only supports the Broadcast Wave File (BWF) format, primarily used in the broadcast industry but not commonly used in the pro or hobbyist audio world. Some of the common PC and Mac DAW software applications do not read BWF files.

The MicroTrack 24/96 supports uncompressed linear PCM using the industry-standard WAV format. It also supports compressed files using the MP3 format.

The R-1 supports uncompressed linear PCM using the industry -standard WAV format. It also supports compressed files using the MP3 format.

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Display Size & Type, Controls

RECORDER DISPLAY SIZE & TYPE, CONTROLS
PDAudio (Dell Axim X50v, Mic2496, Live2496) Color LCD, 640 x 480 (VGA), 64k Colors, Backlit
Touch screen, full-color graphics, hardware buttons
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, Mic2496, Live2496) Color LCD, 320 x 240, 64k Colors, Backlit
Touch screen, full-color graphics, hardware buttons
Marantz PMD670 Monochrome LCD
Hardware buttons and switches
Fostex FR-2 Monochrome LCD, 132 x 65, backlit
Hardware buttons and switches
M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 Monochrome LCD, 1-3/32" x 1-3/32", backlit
Hardware buttons and switches
Edirol R-1 Monochrome LCD, 20 characters/2 lines, backlit
Hardware buttons and switches

Discussion

PDAudio has a large color display while the PMD670, FR-2, MicroTrack 24/96 and R-1 all have much smaller monochrome displays. The latest PDAs, including the HP iPAQ hx4700 and the Dell X50v, offer 640 x 480 VGA color displays.

PDAudio displays its controls as soft buttons on a touchscreen and also uses the PDAs hardware buttons. Since the on-screen controls are generated by the software, there is essentially no limit to how many functions can be controlled. If desired, the PDAudio software also allows specific functions (e.g., Record, Stop, Pause, Screen Off/Screen On, Screen On/Off) to be assigned to the PDA's hardware buttons.

PDAudio's Mic2496 provide two concentric gain controls that are ganged together so that you can easily set the same gains both channels.

The PMD670, FR-2, MicroTrack 24/96 and R-1 have fixed-function hardware controls.

The MicroTrack 24/96 has two gain controls, one for each channel. A menu item allows them to be slaved together: change one and the other changes the same amount.

PDAudio has the familiar Windows/Mac graphic user interface with color graphics, control tabs, drop down menus, pop-up warnings, and text messaging. The PMD670, FR-2, MicroTrack 24/96 and R-1 use a system of nested menus displayed on a small monochrome screen.

PDAudio's Live2496 software provides a fail-safe dual control lock to prevent accidental recording, erasure or stoppage. The PMD670's Record switch has a "slide" feature to help prevent accidental recordings and/or stoppage. The FR-2 does not have any safeguards to prevent stoppage or accidental recordings. The MicroTrack 24/96 has a "hold" switch prevent accidental recording and/or stoppage. The R-1 has a "hold" switch to prevent accidental recordings and/or stoppage.

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Storage Options

RECORDER STORAGE TYPES
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, Mic2496, Live2496)
  • SD card
  • Wireless Network drives
  • Unlimited Media Chaining
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h5555, Mic2496, Live2496, Dual PCMCIA expansion pack)
  • SD card
  • CF card, Type II (flash memory, hard drive) via adapter
  • Wireless network drives
  • PCMCIA (PC Card) card (flash memory, hard drive, external hard drives as large as 100 GB)
  • Unlimited Media Chaining
PDAudio (Toshiba e805, Mic2496, Live2496)
  • SD card
  • CF card, Type II (flash memory, hard drive)
  • Wireless network drives
  • USB flash memory card
  • USB hard drive
  • Unlimited Media Chaining
Marantz PMD670
  • CF card, Type II (flash memory, hard drive)
  • SD card (via adapter)
Fostex FR-2
  • PCMCIA/PC Card
  • CF card
  • SD card (via adapter)
M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96
  • CF card
Edirol R-1
  • CF card

Discussion

PDAudio can use a variety of PDA and laptop hosts; each PDAudio host offer a variety of storage options. The PMD670, FR-2, MicroTrack 24/96 and R-1 have fixed storage options determined by their hardware.

The most compact PDAudio system uses the HP h2210/h2215 iPAQ or DellAxim X50v PDA. Both of those PDAs have two slots: a CF slot that holds the PDAudio-CF card and an SD slot for a mass storage (flash memory) or wired/wireless network card. Using the network card (or a PDA with a built-in wired or wireless network interface), PDAudio can record files directly to a network drive rather than storing them locally.

Using the Toshiba e800/e805 and e750/e755 PDAs, PDAudio can record to a USB device, either a USB hard drive as large as a 100 GB or a USB flash card. The Toshibas have a wireless network function built-in so they can record to wireless network drives.

Using an HP h5150/h5155 or h5550/h5555 and an HP Dual PCMCIA Expansion Pack, PDAudio can record to an internal SD card, PCMCIA hard drives (e.g., Toshiba 5 GB PCMCIA drive) or external hard drives as large as 100 GB (e.g., the Addonics Pocket ExDrive). The h5550/h5555 have a wireless Wi-Fi network function built-in so they can record to wireless network drives.

PDAudio can also do "media chaining". If you fill up your storage card, you can set Live2496 to record temporarily to another storage device (e.g., internal memory or another memory card) while you swap out the primary card. In this way you can record continuously at 24/96 essentially forever using low-cost, low-density cards.

The PMD670 has a single CF card slot. It can accommodate flash memory and hard drives. It can probably accept SD cards via an adapter.

The FR-2 has two slots: a PCMCIA/ATA slot and a CF card slot. Only one may be selected as active at any one time. It can probably accept SD cards in the CF card slot via an adapter.

The MicroTrack 24/96 has a single CF card slot.

The R-1 has a single CF card slot.

Neither the PMD670, the FR-2, the MicroTrack 24/96 nor the R-1 can record to network drives or external hard drives.

To record reliably at 24/96 the FR-2 requires expensive high-speed versions of the flash memory cards. For example, Fostex specifies the SanDisk Ultra II CF card. PDAudio can use the much less expensive standard SanDisk CF cards.

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Battery Type

RECORDER BATTERY TYPE
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, Mic2496, Live2496)
  • Internal Li-Ion for iPAQ
  • Internal Extended Pack for iPAQ
  • External 5 VDC Pack for iPAQ (alkaline, Ni-Cd, Ni-MH, Lead-Acid)
  • 9V alkaline "transistor radio" battery for Mic2496
  • External Pack (7 to 14 VDC) for Mic2496 (alkaline, Ni-Cd, Ni-MH, Lead-Acid)
  • External AC adapters for iPAQ and Mic2496
Marantz PMD670
  • Eight AA alkaline cells
  • RB1100 Ni-Cd pack
  • Eight AA rechargeable Ni-Cd or Ni-MH calls (external charger required)
  • RB1650 Ni-MH pack (optional charger required)
  • External 12 VDC pack (alkaline, Ni-Cd, Ni-MH, Lead-Acid)
  • External AC adapter (13 VDC @ 1A)
Fostex FR-2
  • Eight AA alkaline cells
  • Eight AA rechargeable Ni-Cd or Ni-MH cells (external charger required)
  • External 12 VDC Pack (alkaline, Ni-Cd, Ni-MH, Lead-Acid)
  • External AC adapter (12VDC @ 1A)
M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96
  • Internal Li-ion battery pack (non-removable)
  • 5 VDC from USB port
  • External USB AC power adapter
Edirol R-1
  • Two AA alkaline cells
  • Two AA rechargeable Ni-MH cells (external charger required)
  • External DC Battery Pack (alkaline, Ni-Cd, Ni-MH, Lead-Acid)
  • External AC adapter

Discussion

All of the recorders accept external battery packs. This allows essentially unlimited operating times if you are willing to carry along an external battery pack.

The MicroTrack 24/96 does not have a removable battery pack. When the internal battery fails after three to five years, replacement will require factory service.

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Battery Operating Time (Recording)

RECORDER BATTERY TYPE
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, Mic2496, Live2496)
  • 3.5 hours (internal standard 900 mAh iPAQ battery)
  • 14+ hours (internal expanded 3600 mAh iPAQ battery)
  • 12+ hours (external iPAQ battery)
  • 4+ hours (internal Mic2496 9V alkaline battery)
  • 12+ hours (external Mic2496 pack)
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h5555 with Dual PCMCIA Expansion Pack, Mic2496, Live2496)
  • 5+ hours (internal iPAQ and Expansion Pack batteries)
  • 12+ hours (external iPAQ battery)
  • 4+ hours (internal Mic2496 9V alkaline battery)
  • 12+ hours (external Mic2496 pack)
Marantz PMD670
  • 6 hours (alkaline cells)
  • 5 hours (Ni-Cd pack)
  • 7 hours (Ni-MH pack)
Fostex FR-2
  • 2.5 hours (Ni-MH cells)
  • 2 hours (alkaline cells)
MicroTrack 24/96
  • 4 to 5 hours, 3 hours using phantom power (internal Li-ion)
Edirol R-1
  • 2.5 hours (alkaline cells)
  • Less than 2.5 hour (Ni-MH cells)

Discussion

PDAudio, PMD670 and MicroTrack 24/96 can record for more than three-and-a-half hours without a battery change or use of an external battery pack. Using an optional larger internal battery pack for the PDA, PDAudio can record for more than 14 hours without changing batteries or use of an external battery pack.

To record continuously for more than 2 or 2.5 hours, the FR-2 requires an external battery pack. This adds size and weight to the field package.

In our experience, when not using its phantom power option, the MicroTrack 24/96 battery typically lasts around 3 hours rather than the 4 to 5 hours that M-Audio specifies.

To record continuously for more than 2 or 2.5 hours, the R-1 requires an external battery pack. This adds size and weight to the field package.

PDAudio uses two batteries: one for the PDA and one for Mic2496.

Use of external packs increases the size and weight of the field package but can enable essentially continuous recording for more than 12 hours.

If you can stop recording for a few minutes, all of the recorders can have their exhausted internal packs swapped out for fresh ones, except for the MicroTrack 24/96 (non-removable battery).

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Analog Inputs

RECORDER ANALOG INPUTS
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, Mic2496, Live2496)
  • Mic: 5-pin Mini-XLR jack (Switchcraft TA5F or equivalent)
  • Mic: Dual XLR (via breakout cable)
  • Mic: 1/8-inch (3.5mm) Stereo mini jack (via breakout cable)
  • Mic: 1/4-inch (3.5mm) Stereo phone jack (via breakout cable)
  • Line: Dual RCA (via attenuating breakout cable)
Marantz PMD670
  • Mic: Dual XLR
  • Line: Dual RCA
Fostex FR-2
  • Mic/Line: Dual XLR (selectable)
M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96
  • Mic: dual 1/4-inch (6mm) TRS (balanced), and 1/8-inch (3.5mm) (unbalanced)
  • Line: dual 1/4-inch (6mm) TRS (balanced)
Edirol R-1
  • Mic: 1/8-inch(3.5mm) Stereo mini jack
  • Line: 1/8-inch (3.5mm) Stereo mini jack

Discussion

Only PDAudio provides for both XLR (balanced) and 1/8-inch (3.5 mm, unbalanced) microphone inputs. Other custom breakout cables are available on special order including mono dual XLR, BNC and others.

PDAudio requires an attenuator breakout cable to accept Line level signals.

MicroTrack 24/96 does not accept standard XLR plugs, but rather 1/4-inch (6mm) TRS (tip, ring, sleeve) phone plugs. To use standard XLR plugs requires the use of two adapter cables.

MicroTrack 24/96 requires adapter cables to accept RCA (unbalanced Line level) signals.

The R-1 does not accept XLR (balanced) inputs.

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Analog Outputs

RECORDER ANALOG OUTPUTS
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, Mic2496, Live2496)
  • Headphone/Line: 1/8-inch (3.5mm) stereo mini jack
  • PDA speaker
Marantz PMD670
  • Headphone: 1/4-inch (6mm) stereo phone jack
  • Speaker: Internal
  • Line: Dual RCA
Fostex FR-2
  • Headphone: 1/4-inch (6mm) stereo phone jack
  • Speaker: Internal
  • Line: Dual RCA
M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96
  • Headphone: 1/8-inch (3.5mm) stereo mini jack
  • Line: Dual RCA
Apple iPod Video 5G
  • Headphone: 1/8-inch (3.5mm) stereo mini jack
  • Speakers: (optional via dock connector)
Edirol R-1
  • Headphone: 1/8-inch (3.5mm) stereo mini jack

Discussion

PDAudio uses the stereo PDA headphone output also as a Line level output. R-1 uses the stereo headphone output also as an optical digital output and Line level analog output.

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Digital Inputs and Outputs

RECORDER DIGITAL I/O
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, Mic2496, Live2496)
  • S/PDIF Inputs: Optical and Coax on dual-function 1/8-inch/3.5 mm mini jack
  • S/PDIF Outputs: Optical (Toslink) and Coax 1/8-inch/3.5 mm mini jack
Marantz PMD670
  • S/PDIF Input: Coax (RCA)
  • S/PDIF Output: Coax (RCA)
Fostex FR-2
  • S/PDIF and AES/EBU Input: Coax (XLR)
  • S/PDIF and AES/EBU Output: Coax (XLR)
M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96
  • S/PDIF Input: Coax (RCA)
Appled iPod Video 5G
  • None
Edirol R-1
  • S/PDIF Output: 1/8-inch (3.5 mm) optical miniplug

Discussion

PDAudio can accept S/PDIF digital audio on a dual-purpose (optical and coaxial) 1/8-inch/3.5 mm mini phone jack.

PDAudio can output either a digital optical or coaxial signal from Mic2496 to another device during recording. The signal can be used for feeding a second recorder or a daisychain. It does not output a digital signal when playing back.

The PMD670 can accept coaxial S/PDIF digital audio on a standard RCA jack. It has no capability to accept optical signals.

The PMD670 can output S/PDIF coaxial digital audio via a standard RCA jack. It has no capability to output optical signals. It does not provide a digital signal during recording, so it can't feed another recorder or daisychain. Its digital output is active only during playback.

The FR-2 can accept coaxial S/PDIF and AES/EBU digital audio via a balanced XLR jack. It has no capability to accept optical signals. The FR-2 does not accept digital input signals at 176.4 and 192 KS/s.

The FR-2 can output S/PDIF or AES/EBU format (selectable) coaxial digital audio (selectable via menu) via a standard XLR jack. It has no capability to output optical signals. Its digital output is limited to sample rates of 96 KS/s or less; it does not provide digital output at 176.4 or 192 KS/s. It provides a digital signal during recording and so can be used for feeding a second recorder or a daisychain.

The MicroTrack 24/96 can accept S/PDIF format coaxial digital audio via a standard RCA jack. It does not have digital outputs and can not provide a daisychain.

The Apple iPod Video 5G does not provide digital inputs or outputs.

The R-1 does not have any digital inputs. It can output an S/PDIF optical digital audio signal via its 1/8-inch/3.5 mm headphone jack. Headphones can't be used while using the digital output.

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Phantom Power

RECORDER PHANTOM POWER
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, PDAudio-CF, Mic2496, Live2496)
  • 48 Volt, 4 mA maximum
  • Power for Core Sound High End Binaural (DPA 4060)
Marantz PMD670
  • 48 Volt
Fostex FR-2
  • 48 Volt
M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96
  • 30 Volt, maximum 2 mA
  • Plug-In Power: 5 Volt
Apple iPod Video 5G
  • Plug-In Power: 2.8 Volt
Edirol R-1
  • Plug-In Power: 2 Volt

Discussion

Three of the recorders provide 48 Volt (P48) phantom power. The MicroTrack 24/96 provides a non-standard 30 Volt phantom power at currents up to 2 mA. The R-1 does not supply phantom power.

PDAudio's Mic2496 also provides power for Core Sound's High End Binaural (HEB) microphone set (using DPA 4060 or 4061 capsules). When used with the Mic2496, no HEB battery box is required. The combination of PDAudio and HEB microphone set is the world's smallest, complete high-resolution handheld digital audio recorder.

The MicroTrack 24/96 provides five Volts of "Plug-in Power" for low cost condensor mics. In general, this low voltage does not allow microphones to handle very loud sound sources.

The MicroTrack 24/96 does not provide standard 48 Volt phantom power at 10 mA per channel (20 mA for two channels). Rather, it provides 30 Volts at 2 mA (total current for two mics), 24 Volts at 3.5 mA, and 12 Volts at 10 mA.

The iPod Video 5G does not come with a microphone input. To record, you'll need to buy either a Belkin TuneTalk Stereo or XtremeMac MicroMemo (both available for under $80). Neither has a professional quality microphone or Line-level pre-amp. Neither provides 48 Volt phantom power. Both provide a low voltage version of Plug-in Power for their microphone inputs. The microphone input on the XtremeMac MicroMemo is mono -- one channel only.

The R-1 provides two Volts of "Plug-in Power" for low cost condensor mics. This low voltage does not allow microphones to handle very loud sound sources.

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Noise and Sensitivity (at minimum gain)

RECORDER SENSITIVITY (for 0 dBFS)
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, PDAudio-CF, Mic2496, Live2496) 575 mV (-2.6 dBu)
2.3 V (+9.4 dBu with Line Attenuator cable)
Marantz PMD670 Unknown (0/-20 dB attenuator switch)
Fostex FR-2 Unknown (Mic input with Trim set to -26 dBu)
1.23 V (Line Input with Trim set to +4 dBu)
M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 Unknown
Unknown
Apple iPod Video 5G Unknown
Unknown
Edirol R-1 Unknown

Discussion

The mic pre-amp in PDAudio's Mic2496 was designed to have extremely low noise when recording concerts with high and medium sensitivity condensor microphones (e.g., DPA 4060 and 4061 capsules). When used in this way, Mic2496's level controls are typically set at or near their minimum, resulting in exceedingly low noise levels, typically -108 dB (RMS, broadband, unweighted, ref: 0 dBFS. At minimum gain, noise in a 1 Hz bandwidth is typically less than -135 dBFS (exceedingly low).

In contrast, at minimum gain the PMD670 mic input has a noise level of approximately -85 dB (less than 15-bits of dynamic range, ref: 0 dBFS) and the FR-2 has a noise level of typically -107 dB (assumed A-weighted, Ref: 0 dBFS). (A-weighting is a much looser way of specifying noise levels than unweighted.)

Three of the units (PDAudio, PMD670 and FR-2) can accept very high level signals without distortion.

The mic pre-amp in the FR-2 has only 93 dB of dynamic range compared to more than 108 for PDAudio's Mic2496. That's good for a 16-bit device but rather poor for a 24-bit one.

The mic pre-amp in the MicroTrack 24/96 have 16-bits of dynamic range making 24-bit recordings a waste of storage space. The mic pre-amps are noisy even at low gain levels and overload ("brickwall") easily when recording loud sound sources with even low sensitivity microphones.

The iPod Video 5G does not come with a microphone input. To record, you'll need to buy either a Belkin TuneTalk Stereo or XtremeMac MicroMemo (both available for under $80). Neither has a professional quality microphone or Line-level pre-amp. Audio specifications for both of them are unavailable.

The R-1's internal microphone pre-amps overload ("brickwall") when using either its internal microphones or external microphones to record even moderately loud sound sources. They are also noisy when recording quiet sound sources. Dynamic range is specified at 83 dB, effectively less than 14-bits.

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Frequency Response At 96 KS/s

RECORDER FREQUENCY RESPONSE (96 KS/s)
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, PDAudio-CF, Mic2496, Live2496) 20 Hz to 40 KHz (+/- 0.2 dB)
30 Hz to 40 KHz (+/- 0.1 dB)
Marantz PMD670 NA (Does not offer 96 KS/s)
Fostex FR-2 20 Hz to 40 KHz (+/- 2.0 dB)
Apple iPod Video 5G NA (Does not offer 96 KS/s)
Edirol R-1 NA (Does not offer 96 KS/s)

Discussion

Frequency response is defined to be the frequency limits that can be recorded with reasonable fidelity. The range is qualified by a flatness specification. Ideally the frequency response should extend down to at least 20 Hz and up to beyond audibility (greater than 20 KHz) with excellent flatness. For recorders that offer a 96 KS/s sampling rate, the frequency response should extend up to at least 40 KHz.

PDAudio's Mic2496 offers excellent frequency response and flatness specifications.

The PMD670 does not offer high-resolution (88.2 or 96 KS/s) sampling rates.

The FR-2 offers an excellent frequency response specification but a flatness specification that is good but not excellent. If the frequency response is down by 2 dB at 20 Hz, that will result in a potentially audible loss of bass.

The MicroTrack 24/96 specifies its frequency response at 48 KS/s (20 Hz to 20 KHz, +/- 0.3 dB), but does not specify its frequency response at 96 KS/s. We don't know whether it will record beyond 20 KHz nor what its flatness specification is. It does not record at 96 KS/s via its S/PDIF digital input.

The iPod Video 5G does not offer high-resolution sampling rates.

The R-1 does not offer high-resolution (88.2 or 96 KS/s) sampling rates.

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Maximum Continuous Recording Time

RECORDER MAXIMUM CONTINUOUS RECORDING TIME
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, PDAudio-CF, Mic2496, Live2496) Unlimited at 24/96 using Media Chaining
10 hours at 24/96 (with external 20 GB hard drive)
20 hours at 24/48 (with external 20 GB hard drive)
30 hours at 16/44.1 (with external 20 GB hard drive)
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h5555, PDAudio-CF, Mic2496, Live2496, Dual Expansion Pack) Unlimited at 24/96 using Media Chaining
2 hours at 24/96 (with 4 GB compact flash memory card)
4 hours at 24/48 (with 4 GB compact flash memory card)
6 hours at 16/44.1 (with a 4 GB compact flash memory card)
10 hours at 24/96 (with external 20 GB hard drive)
20 hours at 24/48 (with external 20 GB hard drive)
40 hours at 16/44.1 (with external 20 GB hard drive)
Marantz PMD670 (Does not record at 24-bit or 96 KS/s)
6 hours at 16/44.1 (with 4 GB compact flash memory card)
Fostex FR-2 2 hours at 24/96
4 hours at 24/48
6 hours at 16/44.1
M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 57 minutes at 24/96
2 hours at 24/48
3 hours at 16/44.1
Apple iPod Video 5G 2 hours at 16/44.1
Edirol R-1 2 hours at 24/44.1
3 hours at 16/44.1

Discussion

Recorders that use PC-compatible file systems are commonly limited by the FAT32 file system's maximum file size of 4 GB.

PDAudio's Live2496 recording software has the ability to do "media chaining". When you fill up a flash card, you can temporarily record to another card or internal memory while you swap in a new card. This lets you record at 24/96 continuously with no limit.

PDAudio's Live2496 recording software also has the ability to seamlessly record to a chain of up to five 4 GB files on the same storage device. So when using PDAudio with an external hard drive (or when streaming to a network drive) you can record continuously for up to 10 hours at 24/96, 20 hours at 24/48 or more than 30 hours at 16/44.1 without swapping media.

The PMD670 can record up to a maximum file size of 4 GB. At 16/48 that allows six hours of continuous recording on a 4 GB compact flash memory card. (The PMD670 can't record at 24-bit word widths and is limited to 48 KS/s maximum sampling rate.)

The FR-2 originally had a maximum file size of 2 GB; a recent update extended that to 4 GB. Using a 4 GB compact flash memory card it can now record continuously for a maximum of 2 hours at 24/96 or 4 hours at 24/48.

The MicroTrack 24/96 currently has a maximum CF card capacity of 4 GB, but maximum file size is 2 GB. This limits continuous recording time to a bit under an hour at 24/96, 2 hours at 24/44.1 or 3 hours at 16/44.1.

The iPod Video 5G can record continuously for a maximum of two hours. If you try to record longer than that, after two hours it will automatically start a new file, losing about five seconds of audio in the process.

The R-1's maximum CF memory card capacity is 4 GB, but maximum file size is 2 GB. This limits continuous recording time to 2 hours at 24/44.1 or 3 hours at 16/44.1. It does not allow for recording at higher sample rates.

Neither the PMD670, FR-2, MicroTrack 24/96 nor R-1 offer media chaining (media hot swapping), file chaining, accept external hard drives or allow recording to a network drive.

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Monitoring

RECORDER MONITORING
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, PDAudio-CF, Mic2496, Live2496) PDA Headphone jack
Playback via a wide range of independent Media Player applications, headphone or internal PDA speaker.
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, PDAudio-CF, Mic2496, Resco Audio Recorder)) PDA Headphone jack
Playback via recording application plus a wide range of independent Media Player applications, headphone or internal PDA speaker
Marantz PMD670 Headphones
Playback via headphones and internal speaker
Fostex FR-2 Headphones
Playback via headphones and internal speaker
M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 Headphones and Line (when recording from analog inputs only)
Playback via headphones and external amplifier/speakers
Apple iPod Video 5G No monitoring
Playback via headphones and external amplifier/speakers
Edirol R-1 Headphones
Playback via headphones

Discussion

PDAudio's Live2496 (from Gidluck Mastering) offers monitoring.

PDAudio's Audio Recorder (from Resco) offers monitoring and playback functions.

All of the recorders can play back audio files over headphones; all have internal speakers, other than the MicroTrack 24/96 and R-1. MicroTrack 24/96 can also monitor via its Line level outputs.

PDAudio can also play back any file available to it on its wired or wireless network.

MicroTrack 24/96 does not offer monitoring via its headphone and Line outputs when recording from its S/PDIF digital input.

iPod Video 5G does not offer monitoring.

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Metering

RECORDER MONITORING
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, PDAudio-CF, Mic2496, Resco Audio Recorder) Stereo/Three Color
Instantaneous Peak and Average
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, PDAudio-CF, Mic2496, Live2496) Stereo/Three Color
Instantaneous Peak
Marantz PMD670 Stereo/Monochrome
Fostex FR-2 Stereo/Monochrome
M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 Stereo/Monochrome
Apple iPod Video 5G No metering (Clip indicator only with Belkin TuneTalk Stereo)
Edirol R-1 Mono
Slow response

Discussion

PDAudio, using Resco's Audio Recorder software, displays two pairs of three-color stereo meters simultaneously, one pair displaying instantaneous peak and the other average. Both have very fast response times. Of all the recorders, this provides the most informative metering.

PDAudio, using Gidluck Mastering's Live2496 software, has a very large, stereo, calibrated averaging meter displayed in three colors.

PDAudio's Mic2496 dual mic pre-amp/A-to-D converter also provides Activity and Clip LED indicators for each channel.

The PMD67, FR-2 and MicroTrack 24/96 metering characteristics are unknown.

The R-1 has only a mono (one channel) monochrome meter that is very slow to respond. This is the least useful metering.

The iPod Video 5G does not have on-screen metering. When used with the Belkin TuneTalk Stereo, a single LED flashes quickly when levels in either channel approach clipping.

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Other Features

In addition to its audio recording, playback and editing functions, PDAudio is also capable of performing all functions normally performed by a PDA including Web browsing, file management, email, word processing, image viewing, appointment calendar, media players, alarms, phone directory, and more.

PDAudio is easily upgraded by installing new software as it becomes available. And as new PDAs become available with faster CPUs and other new features, PDAudio grows with them.

PDAudio, using Gidluck Mastering's Movie2496 and Technica Del Arte's Luci software can provide cue lists, essential for on-location recording supporting film and video shoots, and electronic news gathering (ENG).

PDAudio, PMD670, FR-2 and MicroTrack 24/96 can record in Mono. PDAudio can record in Mono using Gidluck Mastering's Movie2496 software. R-1 can record in Mono but creates a Stereo file (twice the size of a Mono file).

Both PDAudio and the PMD670 provide a built-in mono microphone. The MicroTrack 24/96 comes with a stereo "T" microphone that picks up lots of handling noise. The R-1 provides a built-in stereo microphone useful for quiet recordings; it too picks up handling noise.

The PMD670, FR-2 and R-1 provide a Limiter function. The PMD670 also provides an automatic level control (ALC).

The MicroTrack 24/96's battery is not user replaceable. When it wears out, it must be sent back to M-Audio or to an authorized repair center for replacement. M-Audio provides only a 90-day warranty on the battery.

To transfer files, in addition to physically removing the memory card and inserting it into a card reader, all the recorders allow you to transfer audio files to a PC running Windows via a USB cable. PDAudio uses the Windows ActiveSync utility that comes with your PDA. The latest version of the FR-2 (running version 1.03 software or later) allows USB operation with an Apple Mac running OS 10.2 or later. The MicroTrack 24/96 allows USB 2.0 operation with PCs running XP and Macs running Mac OS 8.6 or above. The R-1 allows USB operation with an Apple Mac running OS 9.2 or 10.2 & later. (Using a card reader on your PC or Mac is typically much faster than USB transfers.)

PDAudio time/date stamps its audio files. It's unknown if the PMD670 and FR-2 time/date stamp their files. The MicroTrack 24/96 and R-1 do not time/date stamp their audio files.

PDAudio running Live2496 can record at scheduled times for pre-determined intervals, unattended. None of the other recorders offer this feature.

The FR-2 provides a built-in High Pass (bass roll-off) Filter (100 Hz @ 12 dB/octave).

The FR-2 provides a slot for an optional (not yet released) Time Code card.

PDAudio can format and defragment memory cards in a variety of optimum formats and cluster sizes using SoftWinter's "Storage Tools" utility. This allows you to successfully use a much wider variety of low-cost memory cards for high-resolution recording. The FR-2 allows you to format and defragment a memory card in one specific format and cluster size, as does the MicroTrack 24/96. MicroTrack 24/96 is currently very sensitive to CF card formatting -- using the wrong format can cause loss of recordings.

The MicroTrack 24/96 offers selectable EQ on playback. The R-1 offers a variety of playback effects including EQ, Reverb, Tuner, half-speed playback and Metronome.

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Price

RECORDER PRICE
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, PDAudio-CF, Live2496) $375
(digital input only, no mic pre-amp)
PDAudio (HP iPAQ h2215, PDAudio-CF, Mic2496, Live2496) $975
Marantz PMD670 $699
Fostex FR-2 $1299 to $1599
M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 Under $259 (Core Sound Price)
Edirol R-1 Under $500

Discussion

PDAudio can be configured with or without a mic pre-amp/A-to-D (e.g., Core Sound's Mic2496, Grace Design's Lunatec V3). Without a mic pre-amp/A-to-D it accepts digital audio only. With a mic pre-amp/A-to-D it can accept analog signals from a pair of microphones or a Line level source.

PDAudio is the least costly of the high-resolution (24/96 or better) recorders. Without a mic pre-amp/A-to-D, PDAudio costs less than $375; with the Mic2496 pre-amp/A-to-D it costs less than $1000.

The PMD670 is limited to 16/48 recording and is not a high-resolution recorder.

The FR-2 sells for between $1299 to $1599.

The M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 is the least expensive unit, typically selling for under $399 (See our MicroTrack 24/96 Web page for current pricing). It is currently limited to 2 GB files and has a relatively noisy microphone pre-amp.

The R-1 the least costly of all the recorders but is limited to 24/44.1, does not have digital inputs, has mic pre-amps of unknown quality and is limited to 2 GB memory cards.

Note: All prices do not include the cost of memory cards.

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User Comments

Edirol R-1

R.B., in the UK, wrote:

I got an R-1 as it seemed to do everything I needed. My work is as a harpsichordist on the one hand, and I wanted something to record practice and rehearsals, and as a sound recordist on the other - for this the R-1 looked to be handy as a backup 2 track recorder. Unfortunately I found it to have such poor noise performance, and generally weedy sound quality, that I couldn't bear to use it even for the simplest tasks. It was sent back to Edirol, who confirmed that it was performing as expected. Astonishing - I think I'd get better noise performance out of my old tape Pro Walkman!

I also found the R-1 to have very poor build quality - the battery and card doors in particular are poorly designed - and a terrible LCD. All in all, if I'd not paid 320GBP for it I'd have said it was worth about 100. A botched product, as far as I can see.

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Edirol R-09 Notes

Miles, a subscriber to the DAT-heads mailing list, wrote:

My Edirol R-09 (like many others) records glitches when changing the input level during recording. although adjusting the level during recording is usually a bad idea and best avoided, it is terrible that some of the R-09s do this regardless... sometimes you have to make on the fly changes.

Zoom H4 Notes

The Zoom H4 (selling for around $299) is a low cost two-channel flash memory recorder that records to SD cards. It is advertised as a four-channel recorder but it can only record two channels simultaneously. It records at 44.1, 48 and 96 KS/s but can play back at only 44.1 and 48 KS/s.

It is advertised as a 24-bit recorder but its internal microphone pre-amps provide only 16-bits (or less) of dynamic range. It does not have any digital inputs so you can't use an external microphone pre-amp/A-to-D converter. The quality of its line-level inputs are good.

Its internal microphone pre-amps are noisy and when the H4 is run on batteries, they record a continuous low level 700 Hz tone. Its internal microphones are slightly noisy and susceptible to handling noise. They are set at a fixed plus-and-minus 45 degrees and separated by a small distance, giving neither a true X/Y nor something approaching the ORTF standard, resulting in poor stereo imaging.

It does not have "plug-in power" so you must use self-powered or 48 (or 24) Volt phantom powered microphones. It is currently unknown how much current its phantom power supply can provide.

The Zoom H4 has a maximum file size and maximum card size of 2 GB. Its headphone output provides only 50 milliWatts of power, making it unable to drive many headphones to reasonably loud levels.

It runs on two AA batteries. Its specifications say that it will record for 4 hours (less when phantom power is on) and play back for 4.5 hours on one set of batteries. It also accepts an external 9 Volt DC AC adapter or battery pack.

It has a USB 2.0 connector and can function as a USB storage device. It transfers data at less than 1 MB per second, much slower than USB 2.0's peak rates.

Its dimensions are: 2.75" W x 5.22" D x 1.38" H (70mm W x 153mm D x 35mm H.) It weighs 190 grams.

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For pre-sales consulting or to place an order, call Core Sound at 1.888.937.6832 or 1.201.801.0812.

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"Core Sound" is a trademark of Core Sound, LLC
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