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Sound Devices 633 vs Sonosax SX-R4+


DBounce
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It seems that the SD633 is a very common addition for many who take their audio seriously. That said perhaps a lessor know but by most regards superior option is the Sonomax SX-R4+. The main goal here for me is to capture clean audio. I want to avoid excessive background noise, self noise and also eliminate the possiblity of clipping. While Zaxcom offers simular capabilities it would appear that they lock you into a complete ecosystem. And while I am sure that ecosystem is top notch, I prefer not to put all my eggs in one basket as it were.

Some points: getting a Sonomax that is uncrippled by US patent restrictions (US versions are limited to 114db of dynamic range) presents some additional steps. Aside from this, how do the two units compare, price vs performance... reliability etc.

 

 

633_front_tilt.png

SXR4_01.jpg

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On 3/4/2018 at 4:50 AM, DBounce said:

getting a Sonomax that is uncrippled by US patent restrictions (US versions are limited to 114db of dynamic range) presents some additional steps.

Am rather annoyed with Zaxcom, they have the most busily active lawyers harassing others in the entire industry!!

I happen to know the only guy in my entire country who owns a Sonosax SX-R4+, he just got it handful of months ago. Unfortunately they're not that popular. 

My most briefest of thoughts on this is (because well past my bed time!): 
SX-R4+ kinda feels a teeny bit like a 688 but squeezed into the size of a 633!

However the Sonosax is not priced like a 633, is much more expensive. 

If you're looking at 633 ish pricing, then consider also Zaxcom Maxx (or even Nomad), or a Sound Devices 664 (which sells secondhand for the same price as a 633). Or even the new MixPre10T. 


Anyway, what specifically are you wanting to use this for and in what manner? As if you're not a specialist sound recordist then either of those are serious overkill for 97% of forum members here, and they should look at instead a F8/F4/MixPre6

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@IronFilm while I do not really consider myself a specialist sound recorder, I am pretty picky when it comes to audio, as I once was heavily involved in recording engineering. What specifically I am looking for is something that can isolate (within reason) the dialog that is being recorder, leaving behind ambient noise. Also, I would like something that can greatly mitigate the risk of clipping. These two things are issues that I am constantly trying to raine in when in post. If there is a reliable way to manage these problems I am open to it. 

Also I am seeking to get the most of of my Schoeps MiniCMIT. Which while even going directly into the Panasonic DMW XLR1, sounds really quite good, is still hampered by the issues previously stated. I understand that there are often times better choice when it comes to managing ambient noise, but sometimes removing sources or choosing different location to record are not options. 

F8/F4 both have limiters in the digital stage. I have yet to hear such a limiter that sounded great. So I would not consider the Zoom units.The MixPre10T is more interesting, and relatively inexpensive compared to the other two. What are your thoughts on the Pre10?

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10 hours ago, DBounce said:

What specifically I am looking for is something that can isolate (within reason) the dialog that is being recorder, leaving behind ambient noise.


Errrr... then your thinking is a bit screwed up if you're focusing your attentions on what recorder to buy :-/ 

Instead you should be focused on these, in this order (although someone more post focused than myself would flip #2 & #3 around!):

1) technique on set
2) mic selection
3) post


What recorder to use doesn't even come anywhere on that list.  No recorders at all on the market will reduce ambient noise. You do that either with better technique on set, your microphone choice, or with strategic NR in post. 

 

10 hours ago, DBounce said:

Also I am seeking to get the most of of my Schoeps MiniCMIT.


Solid (but expensive!) choice. But how are you using it, are you always getting it into an optimal position? (and are you really doing everything you can to minimize background audio distractions, sometimes all it takes is asking to turn off air conditioning,  or simply shifting the orientation of the interviewee to get a noise source more off axis)

 

10 hours ago, DBounce said:

F8/F4 both have limiters in the digital stage.


Many people erroneously assume that "digital = bad" (maybe because so many cheap cheapie recorders have "digital limiters" which are of only limited usefulness), when in reality it is *how* they're implemented.  For instance Zaxcom is not using analogue limiters in their recorders. Would you rule out ever buying a Zaxcom because of them being digital? Oh of course not, that would be silly! Because they're very fine machines. 

Somewhat amusingly the Sonosax SX-R4+ which is at the top of your list, also doesn't use analogue limiters.... :-P 

I think you should see now you clearly shouldn't be so quick and hasty to rule out the Zoom F4/F8. Plus limiters are like insurance, you should only very rarely be needing to rely heavily upon them and instead you shouldn't generally be engaging them. You'd have to be pretty ignorant to foul up F4/F8 recordings in that manner (especially with their safety tracks option).


How are you going to use these recorders exactly, dual system with a person dedicated to using just the recorder and doing nothing else but sound?

Or strapped to your camera rig?

As if it is the latter, I'd say just get yourself a Sound Devices MixPre3 for its super tiny size.  (one exception when I will recommend a MixPre, as that MixPre3 is teeny tiny! Am kinda hoping Zoom will release say a "Zoom F2" which is just as super tiny but with 2x XLR inputs and a stereo 3.5mm input)

Only consider the other recorders if you're going to have someone dedicated to the task, or if it is a very simple simple set up such as just sit down interviews. And for that a Zoom F4/F8 would be absolutely perfect.

 

 

11 hours ago, DBounce said:

The MixPre10T is more interesting, and relatively inexpensive compared to the other two. What are your thoughts on the Pre10?

MixPre10T is the only MixPre recorder I'd seriously consider as my main recorder. 

But at over three times the cost of the Zoom, then financially it doesn't make any sense at all! (not unless a specific project pops up that needs the MixPre10T, and will pay for it. Which seems like a rare scenario indeed, as it would be something which needs the 9 or 10 tracks often enough which the F8 can't do yet pays enough to justify a MixPre10T, but doesn't pay enough to justify a 664/688 purchase instead)

However that is only my preferences/needs, you might find the MixPre6/MixPre3 not as limiting as I would. 

 



 

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1 hour ago, IronFilm said:


What recorder to use doesn't even come anywhere on that list.  No recorders at all on the market will reduce ambient noise. You do that either with better technique on set, your microphone choice, or with strategic NR in post. 

Well I figured a low cut could help with some of this. And frankly the less I need to do in post the better.


Solid (but expensive!) choice. But how are you using it, are you always getting it into an optimal position? (and are you really doing everything you can to minimize background audio distractions, sometimes all it takes is asking to turn off air conditioning,  or simply shifting the orientation of the interviewee to get a noise source more off axis)

Mostly it lives on a boom pole. I have a sound person assist occasionally. But it also pulls duty on camera, and is pretty good in that use also. I have a pretty good idea of the pickup pattern and the sweet spot for the mic.


Many people erroneously assume that "digital = bad" (maybe because so many cheap cheapie recorders have "digital limiters" which are of only limited usefulness), when in reality it is *how* they're implemented.  For instance Zaxcom is not using analogue limiters in their recorders. Would you rule out ever buying a Zaxcom because of them being digital? Oh of course not, that would be silly! Because they're very fine machines. 

Somewhat amusingly the Sonosax SX-R4+ which is at the top of your list, also doesn't use analogue limiters.... :-P 

Perhaps I’m mistaken but do not both of those recorders use dual gain arrangements whereby they effectively eliminate the need for limiters altogether. Indeed, since those recorders can not clip, why would they need limiters?


I think you should see now you clearly shouldn't be so quick and hasty to rule out the Zoom F4/F8. Plus limiters are like insurance, you should only very rarely be needing to rely heavily upon them and instead you shouldn't generally be engaging them. You'd have to be pretty ignorant to foul up F4/F8 recordings in that manner (especially with their safety tracks option).

I can agree with this statement, and one might argue that if your levels are set correctly it will be a nonissue. I tend to find safety tracks are the poor mans answer to neverclip type tech or limiters placed in the analog part of the audio chain. Also, after listening to the F4/8 I just do not like the way the Zooms sound. 

How are you going to use these recorders exactly, dual system with a person dedicated to using just the recorder and doing nothing else but sound?

Or strapped to your camera rig?

Both

As if it is the latter, I'd say just get yourself a Sound Devices MixPre3 for its super tiny size.  (one exception when I will recommend a MixPre, as that MixPre3 is teeny tiny! Am kinda hoping Zoom will release say a "Zoom F2" which is just as super tiny but with 2x XLR inputs and a stereo 3.5mm input) 

I actually like the sound of the pres in the MixPre3, but I want TC and more inputs. Automix is interesting to me, I can see it being useful.

Only consider the other recorders if you're going to have someone dedicated to the task, or if it is a very simple simple set up such as just sit down interviews. And for that a Zoom F4/F8 would be absolutely perfect.
 

MixPre10T is the only MixPre recorder I'd seriously consider as my main recorder. 

Not sure what the fuss is about the Zooms. Yes they offer a lot of features for the money. But, the SD sounds much better to my ears. For me there is no sense in low price if the sound isn’t great. 

 

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1 hour ago, DBounce said:

Well I figured a low cut could help with some of this. And frankly the less I need to do in post the better.

A low cut filter will have but a very limited impact and just in a few circumstances, basically it is not going to matter in your decision making (especially as this is widely implemented anyway)/


Post is the right time to judge and apply noise reduction, not while shooting. (this is why many post people are very against using a Cedar DNS2 on set, although I suspect this is what you're looking for rather than any new recorder  :-/ Or swap out your MiniCMIT for a SuperCMIT and just use usually channel one in position one, or even position two. But that will mean over double the cost of your MiniCMIT!!!)

 

 

1 hour ago, DBounce said:

I actually like the sound of the pres in the MixPre3, but I want TC and more inputs. Automix is interesting to me, I can see it being useful.


Well MixPre6 only gives you on more input than the MixPre3 if using TC (while F4/F8 are 6/8 inputs respectively in total). 

If you want automix then you'll need to buy a 633/688/788T (or go with another brand, like Zaxcom).

Again, perhaps something better left for post?!

 

 

1 hour ago, DBounce said:

Perhaps I’m mistaken but do not both of those recorders use dual gain arrangements


Indeed, as you see analogue limiters are not 100% essential as you might think. 

Zoom takes a hybrid approach when you engage their limiters to increase the headroom available, because of its very quiet pre amps. 

And also, like I've said before, you can run a safety track as well for all channels, further making it near impossible to clip a Zoom recorder!
 

 

1 hour ago, DBounce said:

Mostly it lives on a boom pole. I have a sound person assist occasionally. But it also pulls duty on camera, and is pretty good in that use also. I have a pretty good idea of the pickup pattern and the sweet spot for the mic.


A boom pole.... which is manned? Or living on a C stand? (and if so, do make sure that talent doesn't move or even sway around?!)

Do you take all efforts to minimize headroom and to place the boom just a fraction of an inch above the final frame line?

 

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2 hours ago, DBounce said:

 Also, after listening to the F4/8 I just do not like the way the Zooms sound. 


Have you tried out say double blind test of F4/F8 vs say a 633? I'd be surprised indeed if you can tell the difference between two well recorded pieces on each under those circumstances.

2 hours ago, DBounce said:

Not sure what the fuss is about the Zooms. Yes they offer a lot of features for the money. But, the SD sounds much better to my ears. For me there is no sense in low price if the sound isn’t great. 


There is a lot of fuss because Zoom F8 (& F4) brought out very very low cost recorders with a level of quality and functionality that had never been seen before anywhere near that price point!

In camera terms, this is like the HDSLR Revolution all over again with the Canon 5Dmk2/60D/550D, Sony NEX-5, Panasonic GH1/GH2 etc!
(experiencing something similar with timecode boxes as well, with both their prices and sizes having massively fallen!)

And you can bet without the F8 (& F4) leading the charge, then Sound Devices would never have been pushed as hard with their new MixPre series (bit like without the Nikon D90, then Canon would likely have never been pushed hard to have done much in that area and might have just languished with another repeat of the Canon 50D again).


 

2 hours ago, DBounce said:

Both


Am starting to think your purposes the best approach might be to buy a MixPre3 for when you need an ultra small on camera recorder (as it is truly shockingly small!) and additionally buy the Zoom F8 for when you need to manage a greater number of channels (which you wouldn't/shouldn't be doing well mounted to a camera anyway). 

Somewhat incredibly, there is only a hundred bucks difference between the MixPre3 & F8!! :-o (& the F4 is even cheaper than the MixPre3, a hundred dollars cheaper)

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2 hours ago, IronFilm said:

(this is why many post people are very against using a Cedar DNS2 on set, although I suspect this is what you're looking for rather than any new recorder

Sorry to interrupt the thread - but I've never heard of this DNS2 before, do you happen to know if there are any cheaper alternatives to this for just stereo passthrough? (I read its around 3200$).

I work in a multicamstudio for podcasting, and the goal is to not have to do any postprocessing (you'd leave with the finished product). I've got it so I do both a raw recording & send a separate stereo XLR to the videorecorder. As of now there's noticeable AC noise being picked up, so I've been looking for a solution that doesn't require a whole new set of mics - something like this might just be it.

I assume it gives more clarity than software noise reduction?

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2 hours ago, sondreg said:

Sorry to interrupt the thread - but I've never heard of this DNS2 before, do you happen to know if there are any cheaper alternatives to this for just stereo passthrough? (I read its around 3200$).

 

The answer is yes and no. 

Yes: do it is post! (as I've said a few times beforehand.....) iZotope RX6 Advanced is affordable. 

No: no, because nothing else exists like the DNS2 as a portable piece of hardware you can use in your bag.

2 hours ago, sondreg said:

As of now there's noticeable AC noise being picked up, so I've been looking for a solution

 Top tip: turn off AC

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Just grab one of the Mix Pre's, and spend the rest of the Sonosax money on a real sound engineer. 

The analog circuitry of the Mix Pres is unheard for that price point.

Zaxcom has a technology they call Neverclips (they probably just charged me, just mentioning the name here!) that works very good, but the whole thing is too much in my opinion if you are not a dedicated sound engineer.

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2 hours ago, IronFilm said:

Top tip: turn off AC

Wrote AC instead of ventilation, whoops. The room itself is treated for acoustics, it's just because of the mic selection...

I'll see if I can modify the routing to see if its possible to have the mix coming from ProTools and not the mixer then, thanks

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  • 5 weeks later...
On 3/6/2018 at 11:04 PM, sondreg said:

Sorry to interrupt the thread - but I've never heard of this DNS2 before, do you happen to know if there are any cheaper alternatives to this for just stereo passthrough? (I read its around 3200$).

Back onto the topic of Cedar DNS2 again, wellll....  I get sent some odd messages sometimes, I got this just now sent on Facebook:
30173733_10155678221472909_2067607345_o.thumb.png.3f123ac8006f226d289da1e8c0488ed9.png

 

Sigh.....

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  • 2 weeks later...

Spurred by the original posts in this thread ... I recently upgraded my Zoom H6 to a SD 633. H6 was good but no TC and limited power options

led me to look at SD. Reality is that the audio of my 5D Mk IV is pathetic ... and I wanted something that could be used without a camera.

Just scratching the surface of its ability ...

Here are a couple of files that I recorded ... spur of the moment yesterday.

 

 

SD 633 First Light - One Crimson Thread 1.m4a

SD 633 First Light - Cello Improv FInal.m4a

Quick import into Logic Pro X ... the limiters and preamps are all they say .... could not be more pleased.

 

Bob

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57 minutes ago, docmoore said:

Spurred by the original posts in this thread ... I recently upgraded my Zoom H6 to a SD 633. H6 was good but no TC and limited power options

led me to look at SD. Reality is that the audio of my 5D Mk IV is pathetic ... and I wanted something that could be used without a camera.

Just scratching the surface of its ability ...

Here are a couple of files that I recorded ... spur of the moment yesterday.

 

 

SD 633 First Light - One Crimson Thread 1.m4a

SD 633 First Light - Cello Improv FInal.m4a

Quick import into Logic Pro X ... the limiters and preamps are all they say .... could not be more pleased.

 

Bob

Congrats!

As I said above, a MixPre (probably the 6) would be sufficient probably, but if you have the dough, then, well done!

 The H6 and the SD633 are not even close, price-wise, so I wouldn't expect to be in quality of sound and features either!

Canon pre amps are some of the worst in business (in their dSLRs).

What mic did you use?

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Actually I sold off all of my MF still equipment ... generated enough to finance the recorder and a couple of

video lights ... plus a return to a RF for stills.

I had a MixPre 6 on order but without TC I decided to throw caution to the wind an go for the 633.

The mics ... simple Rode M5 stereo pair ... better than I imagined.

Thanks,

Bob

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22 minutes ago, AaronChicago said:

Good info here. I LOVE sound design but I'm pretty limited in my knowledge. What is the best preamp available for field recording? (Other than rackmount PCI-e type devices)

Those Kashmir pre amps by Sound Devices (all the pre amps included in the MixPre recorders series) are consider the best in business for such cheap machines. In reality, in forums and elsewhere, professionals are hard to say if it is a mixpre6 or a 633, the differences are minimal, if any.

Realistically, for most people, a MixPre3 is sufficient, and does have a lot of tricks in its sleeve (audiio interface/touch screen/usb c), and can be mounted on (under, to be precise!) camera and solve some issues with hybrid/dSLRs, or even cameramen that want to up their game sound-wise.

Now, if you want a independent dedicated pre - amplifier, that is a whole new level of conversation, they are literally infinite, and even your local - sound loving - electrician can make a hand made one. There are also some mic and instrument pre amplifiers with valves or digital profiles that mimic mics and instruments of the past. Even Behringer have some interesting and cheap similar products.  

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