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Lance Tang

Newbie audio questions

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I'm a complete audio noob so please excuse my questions. Here we go.


1) Are mixers able to record sound too or are they just fed into the external audio recorder?

2) Is the pre-amp the key to noise-free sound? If not, what is?

3) Is pre-amp and mixer the same thing? If not, what's the difference?

4) Don't recorders like the zoom h4n and tascam dr-100 have pre-amps?



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I know of no better place to start learning about sound than Tomlinson Holman's book "Sound for Film and Television". It describes every step of the process from location recording to transfer to final print/tape. You know the name, his initials are the "TH" in "THX", he invented it. Link to book on Amazon


A good online source for reading about sound is: Filmsound.org


1) In film and video the mikes may feed an external mixer first or the sound recorder directly which may be the camera or a separate recorder. My personal choice is to not use the mike preamps in a camera unless it's a truly professional one but to use an external mixer or separate recorder.


2) The preamp's noise level is important but just about any piece of modern prosumer or better gear has good to excellent mike preamps in it. But there are other important noise issues; the mikes themselves, ambient noise on location, noise buildup in successive steps of mixing/transfer, etc. I personally prefer not to use the camera's mike preamps, my personal preference is a good mixer with integrated preamps. The best low cost mixers IMHO are the Mackie Onyx series. People like Sound Devices make excellent recorders and mixers but they are expensive (Sound Devices just came out with an exciting new product. It's a $650 USB based external sound card that has the same mike preamps as their high end recorders and mixers. It's got everything you would want, XLR's, digital I/O, good VU/Peak metering, 48 volt phantom, monitoring facilities, etc.)


3) As a general rule yes, but there are extremely expensive custom mike preamps that are used for projects like classical music recording where dynamic range is important.


4) Yes, as a rule recorders (and cameras) have mike preamps.

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