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Monday, March 14

quickie shootout-744t vs PCM D50 with phantom power


Last week I sold my Tascam DR-100. While its a good recorder, it wasn't meeting my needs with regards to ergonomics and battery power.

This left my portable rig a little short handed since my PCM D50 is now my only capture device and it doesn't have XLR inputs or phantom power.

After some reflection I decided to forgo grabbing another handheld recorder and instead to just roll with the D50 plus a phantom power unit for now. The question became, which one?

The market is pretty broad. Phantom power units run from ARTs $70 Phantom II on up to Sony's $450 XLR1 with just about no change in feature set.

My initial thought was "hey, it's phantom power. what's it going to do to the sound? probably nothing." Then I found this website. Whoops. Eyes opened. ART, Juicedlink and Beachtek entirely out of the question now. Only a video guy could love those things.

The rolls was serviceable, but I'm not really looking for a serviceable rig. I want the D50 to give me all its got, and I don't want anything in the way. I decided to grit my teeth and get the XLR1, so I started price shopping. Along that route I found this page, which showed the lengths an XLR1 owner had to go to in order to get the thing ergonomically workable with his D50. He extended the factory mounting plate and still wasn't exactly in love.

F.



Then I remembered a little box that we have in the office. The Denecke PS-2. $135, stereo, smaller than the XLR1, solid brand name, made of metal but still incredibly light, and I'd have to mod a mounting plate anyway. Seems pretty straighforward, but how does it sound?

Time to test it out.

I ran this test similarly to how I did my handheld shootout test, though more low key and less extensively.

To set up I ran an AT 4050 through a whirlwind splitter. One side went to the Denecke and into the D50. The other went into a sound devices 744t.

I rolled pink noise through the studio speakers and calibrated 75dbspl to equal -12 dbfs on both devices. Then I did a little speaking into the mic and struck a noah bell. The results speak for themselves.

sample 1 by Rcoronado

sample 2 by Rcoronado

So this kind of turned into a D50 vs 744t shootout as well, and I think its pretty interesting. There's a little diff in the midrange, which is at least interesting. Its visible in izotope and and most pronounced in the pink noise test.

Outside of that its pretty darn close. The D50s pre's are as clean as the 744t, and seem to handle transients and the human voice similarly.

The final verdict for me is that the Denecke has the same feature set and sonic quality as the sony XLR1 but $300 cheaper. Both units would take some modification to any mounting plates, so I call that a clear win for the Denecke.

Secondarily, the Sony performed very well sonically vs the much more expensive 744t. The ergonomics of a Sony D50/Denecke rig are not close to what you'll get with the 744t, but once the recordings are done you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference.

In the end I'll be very proud to roll on anything with that little rig when it's all put together and buttoned up.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your research wasn't very thorough there. You missed the best option! :D

http://www.core-sound.com/Mic2496/1.php

Optical input to the D50. Sounds better than any of the SD units.

Rene said...

I did take a look at that while browsing around, but in the end i decided that it was a bit overkill. still an option in the future, but for now I think I'll rely on the pres in the d50.

thanks for the tip though. helps to have people keep me honest.

Colton said...

This is a revelation, thanks so much for doing this test!! I love this blog. And after looking at the Core-sound 2496, i agree that for 600 bucks, its kinda overkill for the D50. But great stuff!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, very interesting! The At4050 is not really a quiet mic. Would it be possible, that you make a short recording where we could get a better idea of the noise floor with this combo?

Also the cable between the two devices seems to be a week point, especially the connection into the PCM-M10 looks scary ;-)

regards

Anonymous said...

...I mean to say, D50.

Rene said...

I disagree with the idea that the AT4050 is a noisy mic. IMO the noise floor of this setup is low enough not to be an issue for 98% of the stuff that I intend to record (including ambiances).

re: that cable setup - yeah, it's not exactly roadworthy unless you mount the deneke (fwiw I did build a mount after this test) but with it mounted it works out pretty well. There is not a sonic compromise being made there, just a robustness one.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rene,

Thank you for this article. Very interesting indeed.

I understand that the quality of the phantom power unit will largely influence the sound quality, but AFAIK it can't make the device itself better. It can only make the D50 shine at it's best, which in regard to self noise, for example is EIN -126dBu ( quote from the same source as your audio samples ), whilst a Fostex Fr-2LE is said to be at -129dBu and a "simple" 702 at -130dBu.

Therefore it would be very important to hear a comparison between a few mics in an identical setup. Is it possible that you record some with three or four different mics?

regards
nino

Rene said...

Hi nino,

IMO the noise floor on the two pres are similar enough that the more important differences lie elsewhere. As I observed above, it was most interesting to me to find out that the pre's were reacting differently in the midrange.

preamps are about more than just noise floor - they're about transient response, frequency response, impedance matching and clarity.

also, the point of the test was not really to pit the D50 against the 744t, it was to test the D50 in conjunction with the Deneke. I used the 744t as a control.

Anonymous said...

Rene,

you are absolutely right about the audio qualities of a preamp, it's just that at the moment, in relation to a particular project, I'm looking for a very silent setup. So I was focusing on that aspect.

In comparison to your combo what would you say about a setup bringing together a Sony PCM-M10 fed through Line-In by a Sound Devices MixPre?

regards
nino

Rene said...

I think the SD mix pre will end up sounding better than the D50, though as stated above the core-sound mic2496 will probably also do the trick.

Anonymous said...

But do you someone who actually heard M-Audio's mic2496? What does it sound like?
The whole setup would be quite complicated, I think. You'll need a cable that splits in two XRL > the mic2496 > a short, preferably right angled coaxial optical or S/PDIF cable > a digital recorder like an old MicroTrackII, a PMD661, or a PD50, which you already got, so you could give it a try. Only what is the mic2496 like. Did you read or hear any tests?

nino

Marco Raaphorst said...

thanks for this information. very well done! greetings from Holland.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rene, I like your blog and your post, all very interesting stuff.
I recently bought a Deneke PS -2 to mate with my D-50, I'd been searching for quite a while and only came across your thread here after ordering the Deneke, so it was very assuring.
Thing is: I think the Deneke unit has fried one of my d-50 preamps or input stage in some way or other. : ( oopps. I am replacing the D-50 and that is all fine, however I thought I'd ask if you have any particular routine or order of events regarding plug in and power up of the mics/PS/D-50?
I'm guessin that I've perhaps carelessly hot swapped a mic and that has sent a spike down to the pre. Alternatively, if you hot swap without damage I would do well to have my Deneke unit checked.
Thanks in advance, Nathan

Rene said...

Hi Nathan,

you definitely have to be careful about hot swapping the Deneke into the mic in. I actually fried an input on my D50 doing the same thing (fortunately I was still covered under warranty and Sony quickly shipped me a new one).

they don't mention it in the manual, but DONT hot swap into that mic port. pull that guy out of record first.

Anonymous said...

Ok, great thanks.

Is it enough to take the D-50 out of a record/paused state or do I need to physically unplug the lead from the Denecke where it goes into the D-50?

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

.... when changing mics that is.

Cheers!

Rene said...

that much i'm not sure of. I believe that just pulling it out of record is enough. that's how I've been doing it and I haven't killed another yet. :)

Anonymous said...

Great, thanks heaps.

All the best to you, and thanks again for your interesting blog.

Cheers, Nathan

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't you need to transform the impedance before plugging in to the D50? this is a doubt i've had for some time.. doesn't the mic signal become really low?

Rene said...

No, you don't need to change the impedance. the D50s preamp works fine with regular impedances on mics (as you can hear in the test). In fact, that D50 has TONS of gain available on most mics.

Anonymous said...

Hello: can i ask, will the D50 be capable of low noise recordings when the Deneke lead goes into the Line-in rather than the Mic-in? I'm using a Rode NT1-A which has a high sensitivity. thanks. grayham

Rene said...

Hi,

The Deneke is not a preamp, and while the NT1-a is a high sensitivity mic, it still needs preamplification in order to get up to a proper recording level. I'd say its unlikely for that mic to sound good into ANY device without being preamplified.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rene, I'm posting from Poland and I'd like to say that I love your blog :)

I have one question.
How long is life of Denecke PS-2 on batteries with two phantom powered Line Audio CM-3?

I own both sony recorders and CM3 microphones and i'm looking for external dual phantom power device.

I consider buing one of them:

Denecke PS-2
Core Sound 2Phant
Naiant Tinybox
CANFORD PHANTOM POWER SUPPLY P48

Core Sound webpage claims that operating time of Denecke PS-2 is about 18 minutes. Is it true?

regards
Boguslaw

Jorge said...

I found this article, this guy made a Mod of the Denecke, and added two diodes in order to limit the voltage spike and avoid damage of the pre's of the recorder. Nice!

http://www.rcrowley.com/Denecke/PS2mod.html

Anonymous said...

a few thoughts on this-

first is the obvious- the 744 is a one piece unit with a very convenient form factor, and it can be run over by your car....

the second is that the limiters on the 744 are pretty amazingly great.