Recording tools

January 14, 2011 at 08:13 PM ·

I am a looking to buy a digital recorder. I have looked at the Edirol R 09 HR and the Zoom H4n. both were recommended to me. I am a professionel violinist, and would use that as a practice tool as well as recital recordings if a professional is not available. I have read that the Zoom H4n might pick up floor noises. I don't know if the Edirol is as good as the Zoom. What do you know about these 2 recorders or do you have another you would recommend?

Thanks for your help

Replies (20)

January 14, 2011 at 09:15 PM ·

I use a Zoom H2. Works very well. Important recordings often get put through music production software afterwards. I have used an Edirol. Not much in it.

January 15, 2011 at 03:48 AM ·

If you want to use a recorder during practice, can I suggest getting a Digital voice recorder. The kind that are sold at office supply stores. While these lack some sound quality during play back they are much easier for playing back during practice.

January 15, 2011 at 07:22 AM ·

I have an Edirol R 09 HR and I love it.  Very easy to use.  Very easy to listen to playback during practice sessions, very easy to transfer recorded material onto computer and from there onto CD.  I have used it several times to record an orchestra rehearsal where a colleague was playing a concerto, then burned a CD for them during rehearsal break.  Even did it for myself once and listened to it in the car on the way home.  I have to say the sound quality is pretty phenomenal even with the dinky built-in microphones.  I got mine from someplace on Amazon that included a USB cable, regular stereo cables, and a 4G SD card for the same price that others charged for just the machine.  (This setup costs slightly more than I paid, but I didn't get the tripod and the jacket -- they look worth the extra $20.)

I don't know anything about the Zoom, but I would guess that any machine will pick up floor noise if you put it on (or too close to) the floor...?



January 15, 2011 at 01:48 PM ·

 I think the Zoom Q3HD would be better as it takes video as well, and would be able to help you work out tricky areas. At least, I find a video of my playing useful.

January 15, 2011 at 03:01 PM ·

I am pretty new to recording digitally--about two years ago I started giving it a try. Your question is interesting because I have looked at these sorts of things recently for myself.

Just reading the features and specifications, the Zoom H4n looks like it has some significant advantages over the Edirol R-09HR. However the quality of a recording always starts with the microphone, followed by the first amplification (the pre-amp). I don't have any idea how good either machine's built-in mics are. However the Zoom has an XLR input and even a 1/4" jack input for a guitar. The Edirol has only a single 1/8" input--either line in or microphone but not at the same time (unless outboard mixer is added).

The built-in single-axis stereo microphone arrangement on the zoom is interesting.

Both support 96kHz/24bit.

The Zoom also looks like it has more built-in mixing functions and also comes withe Cubase LE4 which is a the limited edition of a pretty well-regarded professional recording software. It isn't as easy to learn as the more entry-level stuff I have (Tracktion) but it is powerful. I recently bought a copy myself.

Edirol comes with Cakewalk Pyro LE which I know nothing about.

It looks like the Zoom is marketed to function as a digital interface as well as a portable recorder. The Edirol does not claim this--only claims it can be connected to a computer to transfer files to/from.

If the zoom has low-latency capability, and a (one would assume) a direct monitoring function, it could be a very versatile machine with many built-in functions such as automatic recording (when levels reach X) and could function as an interface, being controlled from a PC albeit a pretty simple one.

I recently bought a second digital interface--I have a Tapco Link Firewire which takes in two mics or two guitars or a mixture of them at tow total. I also have a Tascam 144MKii which will take two mics, or one guitar and one mic, or a line in and one of the others and this is USB2. Both also take digital inputs as well.

These interfaces are quite compact and by hooking them up to your laptop computer, and to separate microphones, you have a complete portable recording studio. But some of the built-in features found in the Zoom, or in the Edirol, are not "on the front panel" as it were and would have to be added or done through software. If you do what I do, it takes more objects to carry around and obviously the portable recorders have the ability to do everything in one small package.

If you really want to stand in for a pro recording set-up at times, I would check into the Edirol mixing board aspect and compare that with  the built-in XLR approach on the zoom. Because for good recording, I think you might want another microphone/microphones. I can't imagine these built-in mics are *great* considering the whole package in both cases is under $300? I jut bought a Rode condenser for $360 and that is barely mid-range in the world of I am discovering...

January 15, 2011 at 04:54 PM ·

I use a Tascam HD-P2 (two channel mono/stereo) which records to a flash card, and with a good size card you can get 24 bit 44.1 KHz recordings - up to 2 hours on a 4 Gig card - 8 hours on a 16 GB card. If you go to the ultimate 24 bit 192 KHz setting it cuts down a lot - but who records at that setting? Even at 96Khz 24 bit it will give 4 hours on a 16 GB card. The pre-amps are very good. I don't use the built in mono mic. You really need to spend at least $1200 on two good mics. The machine is about $800.

I do all my editing on Pro-Tools or Reaper.

January 15, 2011 at 05:15 PM ·

 I bought an m-audio Microtrak when it first came out, to record recitals in our shop. At that time, it was the only cheap small recorder offering inputs for high-quality, phantom powered, balanced microphones, which I think it a really necessary feature for the best quality recordings. I still use it, but there are other, better, options now, the most well-known being the H4n.

I would not buy a recorder offering only 1/8" mic inputs unless I knew for sure that I wasn't going to be serious about it. Any money spent on good mics is well-spent, even for a lesser recorder, and I wanted to be able to buy good things that I wouldn't have to throw away if I went to a more professional recorder.

If you're buying just for feedback purposes and casual concert recordings without a big setup, one option that I've considered is the Tascam DR-03. It has a full set of features, including the very essential manual level setting, and costs only $80. For something to carry around all the time and not worry about, it seems perfect, and I've been fighting off buying one because I really don't need it, but at that price. . . . 

For editing, I use Audacity, which is adequate, easy to use, and totally free. If you're not doing a lot of mixing, it's fine.

January 16, 2011 at 08:38 AM ·

 Last year I recorded a professional violinist's recital in a large reverberant church, so put the main couple of mics fairly close and as high as possible on a 2.3 metre stand. An extra mic on the piano proved essential in this acoustic. The piano was a Yamaha grand half open and the balance was good from the audience perspective with the violinist standing to the right of the keyboard. However the sound of the piano was too low in the main mic couple; it might have been possible to get a balanced sound with the mics on a suspended wire way above, or an extra high mic stand but neither of those options were available.

Anyway the point of telling that is to illustrate that there'll probably be times, in difficult acoustics, where you really do need more than two microphones. If you are considering standing in for a sound engineer I'd recommend getting a separate audio interface with at least 4 preamps all with phantom power. Even if you start off with a couple of mics there's always going to be the possibility of borrowing or hiring an extra one or two, and be able to use them. 

i agree that any money spent on good mics is well-spent, and by keeping things separate you'll have good options to upgrade or expand if you want to. 

January 16, 2011 at 08:50 AM ·


I would agree with you and I should have mentioned that I have a small separate mixer with four good pre-amps so I can mix four mics when I have the need to use them. I may try soon to record a piano quartet using either a pair on the piano and a pair on the three strings, or even one mic on each of the four instruments.

I recently did a piano lecture recital using two on the piano and two for the speaking parts between various piano solos. It worked well.

January 16, 2011 at 03:19 PM ·

 That's an interesting question about recording a piano quartet. Mostly I've put two microphones on a piano when available. The most recent recording I did I got an engineer to record as I was playing viola (even there, I probably should have left the viola playing to someone else and just stuck to being the composer ha ha). This was for my trio for clarinet, viola and piano. The engineer had a stereo couple in front of us, and individual mics on each of the three instruments, the piano mic was more or less on the axis of the strings. The mp3 files on my site are just a preliminary mix, and also includes a second stereo couple closer to the piano than the main couple. That was because I wanted to try out my own microphones and see how they sounded through the Metric Halo ULN-8, in any case this will give lots of possibilities for the final mix, having seven mics in all. 

I did record a piano quartet a couple of years back, but it was for a demo only not a concert, so managed to put the mic stand on a table and get just a stereo couple well over the entire ensemble.

January 16, 2011 at 08:32 PM ·

 Does anyone have experience with the recommendations of Cellist Matthew Barley mentions it in his Jan 2011 Strad article on recording his own music.

January 16, 2011 at 08:37 PM ·

This little baby should be good enough.


January 16, 2011 at 09:54 PM ·

 Here's what a lot of people who do live recording use, but you still need a digital recorder to use as a "bit bucket"--it's just a preamp. They make a super headphone amp, too.
are good places to go to geek out on this stuff. I spent a couple of months hanging around these two plus a couple others before I bought anything. These aren't recording engineers with limitless budgets--they're folks who go to rock concerts and record live performances as a hobby, and so they have a way of sorting out function from $$$flash$$$.

January 16, 2011 at 11:56 PM ·

Most of the audio engineers I know (from the broadcasting world) seem to think the microphone is the most important link in the audio least in the sense that the common wisdom is that it's infinitely better to use a  "$500 mic with a $100 recorder" than use a "$100 mic with a $500 recorder", a little like photographers who say you really want to put a 1000 dollar lens on a 100 dollar camera, rather than the other way around.  They also agree that one really mics "the room" rather than the instrument, which makes mic placement the prime factor, and takes into account all the various acoustical properties of the space you're playing in.  Any ideas along these lines...which mic?  and mic placement?

January 17, 2011 at 01:33 AM ·

 For my situation, with a very limited budget, I opted for omnidirectional mics, small capsule, placed about 10 feet ahead of the performers in a 20x35 foot room with 40 people in the audience. I chose omnis because it appeared, and I later confirmed to my satisfaction, that they would give a more transparent, less-colored sound for the money, with a better feel for the room, than similarly-priced cardioids, and I needed every last bit of quality I could squeeze out of my too-few dollars. The ceiling is not very high--about 11 feet, but I use them on a boom (left over from my studio photography days) out over the audience, and keep them as far from the ceiling as I can, which is about 4 feet. If there's a piano involved, I place them a bit catywampus to keep the piano from overpowering things, and the balance is usually pretty good. Fortunately, my musicians, partial to old recordings, like a lot of room rather than things like the sound of a mic that's been swallowed by the piano.

The mics I got are now discontinued, but my criteria were to look for mics that attracted positive attention from the right people, staying away from ones with a huge fanboy user base who sounded in the forums like they were trying a bit too hard to convince themselves they'd done the right thing (you find this phenomenon at both low AND high price ranges).

My shop partners, who are crazy audiophiles, are surprised at the quality of the recordings, given the budget (under $700, if I remember right). It's good to have a best lens on your cheap camera, but ultimately it's neither the lens nor the camera that makes the photo. :-) The best mics I could afford were at the top of the list, though. 

January 17, 2011 at 07:15 PM ·

We seem to have moved some distance from the OPs requirements.

I bought a Zoom H2 for just this purpose - recording my practice, and have been sufficiently impressed that we've used it to record an orchestra I play with and burned CDs.

Yes, I would like an array of mics and a mixing desk - but for what I wanted to do, the Zoom is more than adequate. And its simple and cheap.

January 17, 2011 at 08:57 PM ·

I use the Zoom H2 for the same reasons as Malcolm does.  It's also not a bad mp3/wav playback machine to have with you either; the only drawback though is that you're stuck with the Zoom's slightly odd folder system, the folders of which can't be renamed, added to or subtracted from, and don't accept sub-folders, but you can name your files within the folders as you wish, and have as many files in a folder as you're prepared to scroll through.

January 17, 2011 at 08:59 PM ·

I use the

Olympus LS-10 Linear PCM Field Recorder

and love it for its quality.  Best quality when you play in one room and put the recorder in the next

April 14, 2011 at 07:57 AM ·

 I've been introduced to ambisonics just recently so I'm currently on a crash-course to learn about it. For the recording of my flute/viola/harp trio the sound engineer (Andrew Levine) used a Core Sound TetraMic. An extract of this recording has been used as a sound sample for Harpex audio software. Harpex = high angular resolution planewave expansion (nothing to do with harps...)

April 14, 2011 at 10:28 AM ·


I just recently invested in the Zoom H4n and I couldn't be happier! Forget about what people are saying about "floor noise", you'll have that on any recording device and you might hear it slightly when there is absolute silence, but it's not like you're going to hear a hum over your playing or anything!

You can listen to my first recording using the Zoom here:

The Grieg Sonata was recorded with the Zoom, and the Bruch was recorded using a compact you can compare the difference in quality too. I should add that I didn't do any post production editing on the audio, which could I guess have improved it even more. Maybe I'll still do that if I have time.

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