Good portable video cam for music

June 29, 2023, 4:36 PM · I know this is been discussed before, but the passage of time sometimes brings new information.

What do you think is a good digital camera that is best for recording quality, for live music?

Replies (40)

June 29, 2023, 11:20 PM · There are previous threads on this. The Zoom Q4n is a solid, reasonably-priced camera with excellent integrated microphones. It's discontinued now but may still be purchasable from some online retailers.
June 30, 2023, 1:22 AM · Maybe since the last thread there could be a newer generation or products available?
I will check out the Zoom Q4n.
June 30, 2023, 2:29 AM · Cell phones have really hurt th3 market for other devices.

The newer high end digital cameras have better audio hardware than older ones. They can record in 24 bit audio. However, they are still not very good. There are even external audio preamp that can attach to cameras.

Then you have camcorders. Again, these are not known for audio quality.

If you want decent audio, the best option is a separate audio recorder with external mics, such as a field recorder or even a laptop with audio interface for microphones. These things are not very portable.

From my perspective, I wouod not want to capture live music on video without a tripod. Thus I would be lugging something. Given this fact, I figure I may as well lug proper equipment, such as external microphones, stands, etc. More stuff to carry, for sure. But it is a better result.

June 30, 2023, 7:22 AM · I agree with Mark. That said, about the only remaining dedicated camera for this sort of thing I am aware of is the Sony ZV-1 which costs about 600 bucks and was released in 2020; there are two newer models being released and I expect there will be discounts on the original model. No idea how these compare for live music to an iPhone.
June 30, 2023, 10:06 AM · I think the current available model of the Zoom camera is the Q8n- 400$ on Amazon. No experience with this one but had a Q4n that worked ok. I am no longer doing my daughter's vids, but if I was just starting out I would do something like video with a recent iPhone on a tripod and a better Zoom handheld sound recorder- melding the two together after.... video quality was not that great on Q4n.
Or consider a better quality digital SLR with a better mic attached.......
June 30, 2023, 4:28 PM · I actually recorded a viola recital I did back in March on my iPhone 13 Pro Max. I was originally going to only use the iPhone for video and backup audio and use a separate mic for the audio, but the iPhone ended up having the better audio quality. Keep in mind though this was against a USB mic plugged into my Mac. An actual mic or even a zoom mic like the H5 would likely have been worlds better. Of course, it could've been a user error. Maybe the USB mic was too close to me since I put it at the same distance as the phone halfway up the hall.

So if I were you I would just get something like the Zoom H5 or H6 (or even the H4 if you can find it) and use that for the audio and then use an iPhone (or Android if you prefer) made recently for the video. Smartphone cameras have come a long way and since most people always have a smartphone with them there's usually no need in spending extra money on a camera unless you really need the extra quality. And down the road, you can even buy some xlr mics and use them with the H5 or H6 since they have phantom power.

June 30, 2023, 6:41 PM · Many thanks for everyone's additional information and recommendations.
Now I have some good leads.
June 30, 2023, 10:15 PM · If you're looking at the Zoom Q8n, you should look at the current model, the Q8n-4K, which is $400 on Amazon. (If you're buying a Q8n now, you should look for a sale.)
July 1, 2023, 1:55 PM · For a budget choice with decent audio and so-so video, Thomann Music has the Zoom Q8 for $183:

https://www.thomannmusic.com/zoom_q8.htm

July 1, 2023, 2:23 PM · As Mark said the best audio is with dedicated microphones and an interface into a laptop. I've been fooling around with it for a while to the point that some pros are now calling me up to make audition tapes. Blush!

It really is a bit of a rabbit hole but the big breakthrough for me was when I bought a ribbon microphone. This is an old technology - and probably the reason why so many truly ancient recordings sound so good. The ribbon can record the high frequencies of the violin and yet it largely cuts out the scratches. Modern condenser microphones record everything but my (and others) experience is that they are a bit harsh.

Ribbon mikes are more delicate and are often expensive. Again, check with Mark but I have found what I think is a terrific one that is not insanely priced"

https://seelectronics.com/products/vr2/

I used it to record a pro's audition tape and have had rave reviews.

[Disclaimer - I am NOT an expert at this, just another person like you trying to make a decent recording. Note also that there are many other complications like which software to use and matching the sound recording to the video if you do them separately (not as difficult as I thought if everything is digital)]

Edited: July 2, 2023, 5:24 AM · As Mark said the best audio is with dedicated microphones and an interface into a laptop. I've been fooling around with it for a while to the point that some pros are now calling me up to make audition tapes. Blush!

It really is a bit of a rabbit hole but the big breakthrough for me was when I bought a ribbon microphone. This is an old technology - and probably the reason why so many truly ancient recordings sound so good. The ribbon can record the high frequencies of the violin and yet it largely cuts out the scratches. Modern condenser microphones record everything but my (and others) experience is that they are a bit harsh.

Ribbon mikes are more delicate and are often expensive. Again, check with Mark but I have found what I think is a terrific one that is not insanely priced"

https://seelectronics.com/products/vr2/

I used it to record a pro's audition tape and have had rave reviews.

July 2, 2023, 12:33 PM · It is a shame there are not new all in one devices with better audio.

The zoom q8n which has been around for a while will likely record better audio than a modern phone, but will not record as good video as a phone. It is very serviceable, but not ideal. The same may be said of phones.

The newer audio recorders, record in 32 bit, which makes it much less likely to encounter problems with clipping. They are point and shoot so to speak, which is good for casual users.

The zoom f3 or f6 are field recorders to look into. The tascam dr 60 or 70 are less expensive but only offer 24 bit. The zooms have slightly more powerful preamps.

There are of course tons of others on the market as well. Zoom and tascam produce less expensive stuff, as opposed to nagra.

July 2, 2023, 12:43 PM · A recording engineer that I know also recommended the SE VR2 microphone, same as Elise has. I asked him to suggest a "value" ribbon mic and he looked up the specifications of all the models I was considering. This one is $500 at Sweetwater. I'm keen to get one, too. I predict that will go up soon based on other pricing changes that I've seen recently. Also very good is the Royer R-10 at $600.

Then you still need an interface. I have a PreSonus Audiobox USB-96 and I really like it ($100 at Sweetwater). It comes with a reasonable DAW (StudioOne) but you have to upgrade that (about $150) to be able to use VSTs. I wanted that capability because I can run my NORD keyboard into the DAW (also through the interface) using MIDI and voice that to an an absolutely incredible-sounding piano sample (Garritan's Abbey Road CFX, $160). The PreSonus has 2 channels but for an audition tape I don't think you really need it to be stereo.

Of course there are higher end products out there. When I took a course with Nathan Cole he gave a tour of his studio and I wrote down all the gear he had at that time. His mics are Warm Audio WA-87 Large Condenser ($700) and DPA 4011A Small Condenser ($2000) and his interface is a Universal Audio LA-610 channel strip ($1800). You know what they say, though. The gear doesn't make the violinist.

Also, if you only ever record in one place -- your own studio -- then you can set up your gear, place your microphones, and so forth, and you can manage having a mic that's a little more fragile. But ribbon mics are designed to be used -- they're not designed to be dropped or used to drive nails.

July 2, 2023, 1:16 PM · Just so people do not get the wrong idea, higher quality microphones are fragile. Ribbon mics are particularly susceptible to wind, or someone blowing on the mic. This can stretch or tear the ribbon, effectively destroying the mic. (They can be repaired, but will need a new ribbon.)

One needs to be a bit careful using ribbons on location.

Microphones, like violins each have their own sound signature. Sometimes that cam be difficult to aporeaise by looking at the numbers. Hearing the mic is really what is needed.

A good inexpensive ribbon is the golden age project r1 mkii. It can be had for less than 200.

I personally am not as much a fan of the middle priced ribbons. I tend to prefer to upgrade to the higher end ones which start at about 800 usd and go up from there.

July 2, 2023, 4:10 PM · Have you had a chance to try the VR2 Mark? Would love your opinion.
July 2, 2023, 4:10 PM · Have you had a chance to try the VR2 Mark? Would love your opinion.
July 2, 2023, 4:10 PM · Have you had a chance to try the VR2 Mark? Would love your opinion.
July 2, 2023, 4:46 PM · I have not worked as much with the active ribbon mics. Paying for amps in each mic is more expensive than buying a good preamp. The self noise from the v2 is a bit high.

The v1 was bright. This is in line with the trend of lot of modern ribbons like the Royer 121 and mesanovic. However it was not as warm some ribbons. If you want full bass, or a very warm sound, it is not the right mic.

July 2, 2023, 8:01 PM · Thanks - it seemed to work particularly well with cello. I combined it with the AKA C414.
Edited: July 2, 2023, 8:29 PM · Your $500 ribbon microphone worked well when "combined with" a $1300 large-diaphragm condenser? Okay. What was the balance like, between them?

Mark does make a good point that it does seem strange that people will spend $2000 on a channel strip because the preamp performs better with lower noise, etc., but then they buy microphones with tiny preamps built right into them, and how good can those be?

July 2, 2023, 9:20 PM · I just mixed the two tracks, its just a mono output.
I thought those built in preamps were pretty good ....
July 3, 2023, 3:42 AM · It is not uncommon to mix microphones. The mics chosen to mix are not judged on price, but on sound.

A lot of people mix Royer 121s with sm57 mics. The latter are 100 usd, whole the former are over 1000.

A single microphone may not capture what you want, even if it is expensive.

The vr1 and vr2 are good mics for the money. The preamp in thr vr2 is on the noisy side.

Edited: July 3, 2023, 11:39 AM · Elise I think the preamps built into the mic probably ARE pretty good. I just don't see how they can be as good as a $2000 channel strip.

Mark, what's the general idea of mixing a condenser in with something like the Royer 121? You're basically saying the Royer's not reporting the sound faithfully. Is it possible to characterize that further?

July 3, 2023, 1:01 PM · The 121 is a ribbon, and in comparison to many other types of mics it is smooth and dark. (Although not dark in comparison to other ribbons) The 57 is a dynamic mic, not a condenser. Its role is to add more mid and upper range. Being dynamic it is still somewhat closer to a ribbon than a condenser, not quite as much high end as a condenser.

Here is a YouTube clip made by Royer illustrating mixing the two mics when recording an electric guitar. You can hear each. They are very different.

https://youtu.be/tXlvfek4YwE


July 3, 2023, 2:07 PM · Mark, I hear the difference. To me it's relatively subtle, but I get it. What I don't understand is why the same outcome can't be reached with an equalizer
July 3, 2023, 2:59 PM · Well, in theory it may be possible, but in practice trying this with an equalizer would not produce a good result.

They have created amp modelling software, which is similar to creating microphone simulation. The difference being in an amp sim, the initial signal is canon, it comes from thr instrumemt. Simulating a mic implies that you do not have a canonical signal. What the other mic captures could be lacking certain information and simulator would have to predict what is missing. That prediction could of course be wrong.

July 4, 2023, 8:58 AM · I don't have good experiences with modeling. But that's probably because I am using quite low-end gear (basically a stomp box). What I've read about equalization is that if you need an equalizer to fix your mic then you need a better mic. Sort of like siting your house and landscaping your property to prevent water from coming into your house in the first place vs. installing a sump pump. But, if you already have the house ...
Edited: July 10, 2023, 12:59 PM · I still use a Zoom Q3HD: good sound but video poorer than recent smartphones.
I hate fish-eye style cameras, and if I want better video I shall buy proper cam-corder with an input for a stereo mic.
I would even add an H1 sound recorder nearer the musicians.
July 17, 2023, 10:29 PM · I have a Sony video recorder.the "auto" soind effectively adds compression, that you don't want. I also have a plug-in Rode stereo mic that sits on the camera and relaces the built-in mics. Setting the audio level manually makes all the difference, and provides decent sound
Edited: July 26, 2023, 7:57 AM · I have the Zoom Q8N 4K and the SE VR2. Below are sample files recorded at the same time using both mics.

Stereo file from Zoom Q8N 4K
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1XmA2JVBt4Dj4S0YLwgbA5KXK6FiQ-GkX/view?usp=drive_link

Mono file from SE VR2:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jFWGGKqaSCVN1P4VG-uWVZ30FkL7NYJC/view?usp=sharing

The SE VR2 was arranged as mid-side (see below), with one AT2025 as side. Below is the file from AT2025 in case you want to combine for stereo:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1onc2cJSqQiP21pyONHfwaoz1WFpXscMt/view?usp=sharing

July 27, 2023, 2:16 PM · The horror. That is not what mid side recording means.
July 27, 2023, 3:34 PM · What does it mean, then, and why is that important? Rather than just blasting some other guy, how about helping us all out? Most of the people on here aren't gear heads.
July 27, 2023, 5:30 PM · Both microphones pictured are "side address," meaning the sound is picked up on the sides of the mic, and not on the top.
July 27, 2023, 6:07 PM · Mid side is a stereo recording technique in which one microphone captures the middle of the scene, and the other (figure 8/ribbon) microphone captures the left and right information. The signals are mixed to produce a stereo effect.

(The ribbon mic in the photo is not positioned to capture from the left and right.)

Edited: July 27, 2023, 10:19 PM · Ignoring the camera mic on top, I am using the AT2050 (configured as 8) as side, and the ribbon as mid.

How is this not mid-side? Ok ok, it technically is Blumlein I guess.

@Gene, the ribbon is facing front (and back).

I am not an audio SME, I am here to share the recorded sound from SE VR2 and Zoom Q8n4k since someone asked.

July 28, 2023, 1:18 AM · Why not get an independent mic for your phone or camera?
July 28, 2023, 7:49 AM · Some people do opt to get an independent mic for their phone or camera. Being able to place the microphone in a different place from the camera can be important. (In both the film and music industries, mics are typically separate from cameras. The location for a good photo may be different than one for good sound)

I did make a incorrect assumption about the mid side setup above. I assumed the ribbon would br the side mic. I also did not recognize the other mic as a figure 8. This being said, it is a still a mess. Those mics are not an equal distance from the sound source. This can cause phase issues.

I appreciate regit's contribution. It may be useful to post mono files. Mono from just the ribbon mic. And the zoom as mono

July 28, 2023, 8:38 AM · I have an active AEA R88a, two crossed ribbon transducers and a matched stereo preamp all in the same package. Instead of needing setup every time you want to record, you just put it on the stand and turn 45 degrees one way or the other depending on whether you want mid-side or Blumlein. Easy as it comes, other than looking a bit large. I had originally considered two (mono) AEA N8s which are also active, but you'd need to buy a stereo bar and cable them separately, and the footprint would be even larger. But something to consider if you plan to use both as spot mics a significant part of the time.

https://aearibbonmics.com/products/r88-series/

https://aearibbonmics.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Hero-R88-Violin-e1519098215681.jpg

July 29, 2023, 3:46 AM · The same layout but with cardio├»des will help to reduce audience shuffling, coughing, snoring etc..
July 30, 2023, 3:53 PM · I have seen good results using a zoom h2n and mobile phone, most of which these days will record video in 4k.

Making this work requires some fiddling - you need an adapter to allow you to plug in a USB device such as the h2n to the phone, and if you're planning on recording more than the battery of the zoom or phone can cope with, you'll need an external power supply - a powered USB hub works for this

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