Sound & Vision

A rep from Zoom recently approached me to check out their new Q8 Handy Video Recorder. A few weeks after NAB, a box from Zoom showed up. The question is, what’s a "Handy Video Recorder," and why would a sound-oriented person be interested in it? Zoom, as you probably know, makes a line of digital audio recorders that have gained considerable popularity in low-budget productions. The Q8 Handy Video Recorder is a small HD camcorder that also features a more-sophisticated-than-average audio recording capability.

In examining the Q8, I was trying to figure out who this product was aimed at. It’s a camcorder, but it features built-in, stereo combination ¼" XLR audio inputs, which have 48V phantom power capability to power professional condenser mics. These inputs, combined with the included XYQ-8 stereo X/Y microphone capsule, allow the user to record four separate audio channels to an SD card. Besides the audio capability, the Q8 is a full-function HD and 2.3K video camcorder. The Q8’s built-in microphone swivels from an up position when shooting video to a down position when using the Q8 as an audio recorder or transporting the unit.

The video portion of the Q8 reminds me of a larger, more fully featured GoPro-type of video camera. In doing some research and reading reviews, the Q8 is aimed at and has become popular with podcasters and web shows. The Q8 appeals to nontechnical-savvy users who need decent-quality video for web video demonstrations, podcasts and video podcasts. The unit features a fixed wide-angle lens that can be "zoomed in" using a touch-screen control on the Q8’s foldout video screen. The Q8 also features a mixer screen that allows the user to set microphone levels, pan knobs, lo cuts and dynamics. The unit records up to 24-bit/96 kHz WAV and AAC audio formats and QuickTime-formatted .MOV video. The Q8 is capable of recording video in formats as small as 800×480 at 5 Mbps, all the way up to a larger-than-1080 format called 3M (2.3K), which is 2304×1296 at 24 Mbps, allowing you to reframe shots when editing video on a 1080 timeline. Note that the Q8 only records at 30 and 60 fps frame rates, not at 24p.

I have to give props to Zoom for trying something new and out of the box to address the needs of a new market—non-video-skilled users who need to record good-quality audio and video without much technical skill. Based upon my time with the Q8, the audio quality is on par with the audio recorded by other small digital recorders like the Tascam DR-40 and Zoom’s own H4n. The video quality, while nothing unusual or special, is fully usable for quality web video. If you think about it, most small video cameras only feature a 3.5mm audio input and questionable audio quality. The Q8 has ¼" XLR audio inputs and decent audio quality, and is capable of shooting video of a good enough quality for web/nonbroadcast usage. I can see this unit being very useful for journalists, podcasters or documentary filmmakers who are filming undercover or for travel situations in remote locations where every ounce counts. The Q8 would be an excellent backup camera also when size and weight are a concern.

The Zoom Q8 Handy Video Recorder sells for $399.99. It’s a consumer-grade product and isn’t made for dropping, crunching against concrete and withstanding soaking rain, but if you take care of it, the Q8 should be a handy addition to your sound or podcasting gear locker. We plan on purchasing at least one of these systems for evaluation as soon as they’re available and will report our results in a future issue. RØDE has a good reputation for their audio gear, and if they have solved the perceived problems and challenges in operating in the 2.4 GHz spectrum, this technology could spell the end of the FCC negating the use of expensive and essential wireless microphone systems by selling off the spectrum in which the system operates.

TASCAM DR-70D AUDIO RECORDER

Q I ‘m looking for an effective audio solution for my new Samsung NX1 camera. I mostly shoot interviews and would like to record the output from a Tram TR50 lavalier (wired). What would you recommend for a low-cost audio recorder that won’t cost a fortune, but will record fairly high-quality audio?
Perry H.
Via email

A The Samsung NX1 is a newer, 4K-capable DSLR-style camera. While I haven’t specifically tested the audio on the NX1, I have recorded a considerable amount of material using the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. Generally, DSLR built-in audio is of poor quality, and I’d never recommend using it for anything other than scratch audio. You can utilize just about any digital audio recorder with your camera, but there are some models on the market that have features that make shooting with a DSLR, and editing the footage, quicker and easier.

The Tascam DR-70D can be mounted directly between a tripod and the camera or on top of the camera, resulting in a compact package. The DR-70D has two built-in mics. In addition, it provides four XLR/TRS combo jacks that can be used to record four channels of audio with excellent sound quality using professional microphones. Thanks to a camera output, the recorder’s stereo signal can be recorded also on the camera to ease subsequent editing of the material in combination with the slate tone function of the recorder. On the other hand, you can use the camera input to monitor the audio of the camera using the recorder.

The Tascam DR-70D recorder can be mounted directly between a tripod and the camera, resulting in a compact package.

The DR-70D includes overload-resistant, high-quality preamps, with a switchable low-cut filter and limiter, handling of microphone signals in mid/side format, and 24 or 48 volts of phantom power for condenser microphones, as well as many common and not so common functions that facilitate capturing, monitoring and subsequent processing of audio tracks. The four-channel design enables use of two shotgun mics and the stereo mic to record ambience and each speaker individually. Channels 1 and 2 can be set to the stereo input and channels 3 and 4 can be set to the built-in mic, so a large variety of microphone setups are possible.

Tascam focused on making the unit small so it doesn’t interfere with camerawork when attached to a camera support system or stabilizer. The unit has tripod screw threads on the bottom side and a removable camera attachment screw on its top. A hot-shoe mount is included so you can attach the recorder in the way most convenient for you by placing it between a tripod and camera or on top of the camera with a hot-shoe. I own the DR-40 and DR-60, the predecessor to the DR-70D, and the sound quality, if you use high-quality mics, is far better than the price the unit sells for. The DR-70D sells for a little over $250 and is available at electronics retailers everywhere. It would be worth your time to take a listen to the DR-70D.

16 CFR Part 255 Disclosure: Zoom and Tascam didn’t compensate me to write this article. No material connection exists between the manufacturers mentioned in the article and myself.

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