When I was up in Canada recently, we began testing the hardware for the D16 audio. The firmware is still in progress, so there were some limitations to the testing I could do. But I brought a lot of audio equipment with me from LA, so I was prepared for whatever we had.
There is no quiet room in the office during work hours; the place is abuzz with conversation and equipment. So in order to do these tests, Constantine, our engineer creating the audio firmware, Mike, our CTO, and I stayed late one night after everyone else had left. We shut all the doors, turned off the air conditioner, and tried to make the office as silent as we could.
The firmware wasn’t finished so I could only record at 44.1khz, and there was no Phantom power on the camera yet. So I ended up recording the D16 at mic level with a dynamic microphone, and at line level using an external pre-amp and a studio quality mic. I then did the same tests on the Marantz PMD661MKII, a recorder of very high quality. I expected this to be the best-sounding of them all. I also tested the dynamic mic on an Apogee ONE system and a Zoom H4N.
- This is the D16 at Line level:
- This is the D16 at mic level:
- This is the Marantz at Line level:
- This is the Marantz at mic level:
- This is the Apogee at mic level:
- This is the Zoom H4N at mic level:
The Apogee is an inexpensive unit, but made by a highly reputable company so I expected this to be of very good quality too. The Zoom we know is not of the highest quality, but is good enough for what many people need out of field audio.
You guys will come to your own conclusions, but here are my findings:
- I think the Marantz is the overall winner, as I expected. If you want the cleanest audio possible, a very nice external recorder is still going to be your best bet.
- I was very surprised by the digital noise in the Apogee unit; it was unusable in my opinion. I used it with a new MacBook Pro Retina with 16GB of ram. I’ll admit I just got this unit so I may have had something setup wrong.
- The recording on the Zoom seemed a little tinny and sort of hollow. A lot of the base sound was missing.
- The D16 mic level had the most amplifier noise. We are working now to see if this can be cleaned up, but the good thing is that it had a much fuller range than the Zoom and from my perspective, a much nicer sound.
- The D16 line level sounds every bit as good as the Marantz at line level to me; there is a bit of background noise, but that is the air conditioner from the adjacent unit. I think if you use an external mic pre-amp with the D16 you can get production quality audio that you won’t have to sync.
As I said before, we will work to lower the preamp noise on the D16, (and I was being quiet so we had it turned up pretty darn high.) In the future we will do further tests with Phantom power and 96khz.
What do you think?