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    UGH Rode NTG-2 + Tascam DR-100 = quiet. Need preamp help!
    #1
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    Hello friends, I've been searching the forum for hours and I have a few questions about building a small setup for an indie film. I recently purchased (within 30 days so returns are an option) a Rode NTG-2 and a Tascam DR-100 recorder. The only problem, as many folks have said, is that the levels are very, very low coming into the recorder out of the mic, even with the DR-100's gain set to High.

    Now I know that adding a Sound Devices MP-1 preamp would solve the problem (right?) between the mic and recorder, but is there a way I can shuffle the gear around to get a better bang for my buck? What I'm trying to say is that adding $350 for the pre is going to be tricky in my situation.

    How would a setup like this work:

    Rode NTG-2 > MP-1 via XLR > Zoom H1 or Tascam DR-05 via XLR to 1/8" mini phone

    How much of a difference (in pure sound, not function) would the cheaper recorder make over the DR-100? In theory I would pump the clean signal from the MP-1 into the Tascan DR-05 and it would work nicely? Is there a major disadvantage to using a XLR to 1/8" cable?

    Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Again, I know that keeping the DR-100 and geting the MP-1 would be the best best, but is it the only option? I am also willing to swap recorders for something with a hotter pre for the mic...


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    #2
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    Also, here is a link to the cheaper Tascam recorder: http://tascam.com/product/dr-05/


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    Senior Member henryqiu's Avatar
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    Why not Rode VideoMic Pro?

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...t_Shotgun.html

    That will kill your current question(s)...

    Honestly, I have no idea why you can't get NTG-2 work with DR-100. The recorder provides up to about 60db gain for the preamp. I thought that it was its (only) major advantage over the similarly priced Zoom H4n. If what you wrote were true, then NTG-2 wouldn't work well with Tascam DR-680 either, which I strongly doubt (well, that said, you might still be right). I bought NTG-2 + H4n, and after testing, returned both for NTG-3 + DR-680, which to me is a perfect combo that works so beautifully. If you don't put more $ into all this, I don't think your best bet is to add a single-channel field mixer. It has to be the new VideoMic Pro. Give it a shot, at least....

    Hope this helps.


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    Im trying to avoid the mini-cord out of the VMP and it's tiny frail cable. Maybe I'm just being picky with the gain set high on the DR-100.


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    Section Moderator Alex H.'s Avatar
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    The low level issue with the NTG-2 and H4n is well documented, though I'm not sure I've heard of the same issue with the DR100 before. Basically, the NTG-2 doesn't have as hot an output as, say, the NTG-3 and it needs a stronger pre-amp to drive it.

    An MP-1 would help, though if you're going that route I'd recommend the MM-1 instead. It's a little more expensive, but has headphone monitoring which is crucial for an added gain stage. It also has a monitor return input so you can monitor both pre-amp and recorder from the same place (or if working as a boom op in a larger system, you'll get monitor return with talkback from the mixer).

    Adding the pre-amp but dropping to a non-XLR recorder may be a bit counterproductive. Sure, it'll work (with the proper adapter cable), but it's going to be a pain and you're still going to be sending the signal through pre-amps on the recorder... pre-amps that aren't as good as what the DR100 has.

    Last, the VideoMic Pro is probably the last option. The mic element may be on the same quality level with the NTG-2, but having only a hard-wired cable that is unbalanced means that longer cable runs will add noise. It's not a big deal for running a few inches to a camera, but can be a real problem if trying to run from a boom pole to a recorder.

    Your best solution, however, is probably to invest in a better recorder. For the money you spent on the DR100, plus what you'd spend on the MM-1, you could get a Fostex FR-2LE. For just a little more, you can get a Tascam HD-P2 or DR680. Any of those recorders will outperform the DR100, and have much better form factors that are bag- and cart-friendly.
    Formerly known as C2V
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    I'll give you another take on the situation you find yourself in. I started as a location sound recordist with a Sennheiser ME-80/K3 and and a DR-100. The ME-80/K3 has less output than the NTG-2. I had to run my gains on the DR-100 at High, and have the gain wheel turn nearly to 100% to maintain dialog levels of -20 with peaks around -12. This resulted in my learning how to boom the snot out of the talent. Getting the mic close, and in the most appropriate position for the best gain. My next step was purchasing a used PSC Alphamix. This gave me lots and lots of clean gain, plus an assortment of routing options not available without a quality mixer. In the last 5 months, I've upgraded my recorder to the DR-680. While the 680 is a very capable recorder, I am spoiled by having a mixer in front of it. Since the Alphamix provided pre-fader direct out, I'm able to record ISO tracks very cleanly, and also record a two channel mix track. At the same time I can send a feed to up to two cameras, as well as drive a comtek transmitter for wireless director/scriptie feeds, and very quickly and accurately monitor alot about what's happening with the production sound environment.
    It really depends on what you're trying to do. I am a sound guy and market myself as a person who can step into a production, and support just about anything the production demands regarding sound. Granted, I do this mostly on an Indie level, but even on an Indie level things can get complicated pretty quickly with regards to production sound.
    Here's the takeaway:
    If you're balking at the cost and investment in a preamp stage ahead of your DR-100, you may be better served by hiring a competent sound person in your area who has decided to bite the bullet on this types of investment, and is focused on getting every ounce out of this investment.


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    #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by C2V View Post
    The low level issue with the NTG-2 and H4n is well documented, though I'm not sure I've heard of the same issue with the DR100 before. Basically, the NTG-2 doesn't have as hot an output as, say, the NTG-3 and it needs a stronger pre-amp to drive it.

    An MP-1 would help, though if you're going that route I'd recommend the MM-1 instead. It's a little more expensive, but has headphone monitoring which is crucial for an added gain stage. It also has a monitor return input so you can monitor both pre-amp and recorder from the same place (or if working as a boom op in a larger system, you'll get monitor return with talkback from the mixer).

    Adding the pre-amp but dropping to a non-XLR recorder may be a bit counterproductive. Sure, it'll work (with the proper adapter cable), but it's going to be a pain and you're still going to be sending the signal through pre-amps on the recorder... pre-amps that aren't as good as what the DR100 has.

    Last, the VideoMic Pro is probably the last option. The mic element may be on the same quality level with the NTG-2, but having only a hard-wired cable that is unbalanced means that longer cable runs will add noise. It's not a big deal for running a few inches to a camera, but can be a real problem if trying to run from a boom pole to a recorder.

    Your best solution, however, is probably to invest in a better recorder. For the money you spent on the DR100, plus what you'd spend on the MM-1, you could get a Fostex FR-2LE. For just a little more, you can get a Tascam HD-P2 or DR680. Any of those recorders will outperform the DR100, and have much better form factors that are bag- and cart-friendly.
    Excellent advice, thank you. In regards to the Fostex and the other Tascams, do their pre-amps outperform the DR-100? I understand that they are more bag friendly, but I will deal with the bad form factor of the DR-100 if the pres are going to be close. I am not opposed to the Fostex as that could be worked into the budget.


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    Section Moderator Alex H.'s Avatar
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    The pre-amps in the FR-2LE are very respectable, and I'd venture to say are better than anything you'll find in a $300 hand-held recorder.
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    #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by C2V View Post
    The pre-amps in the FR-2LE are very respectable, and I'd venture to say are better than anything you'll find in a $300 hand-held recorder.

    Well, I'd hope so. But is the gain going to be that much of a difference? I have been watching shorts made with the NTG-2/D100 combo and after asking about preamps each director said that they are just using the built in pres and cranking it in post. Maybe I just need to learn how to boom closer and a few noise reduction tricks in ProTools


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    "fixing it in post" takes time away from the creative process. I've been down this road many many times on indie projects, and when time and money just aren't there, having to spend all my time fixing things rather than spending more time on sound effects editing and sound design is an overall detriment to the project. When you just "raise the gain" in post, you also increase the noise level, and then that has to be cleaned. You should strive to get the best production audio you can possibly get.
    David Fisk
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    K-Tek/M. Klemme Technology Corp.
    dave@ktekbooms.com


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