ProTrack Recorder for iPod & iPhone …a test

21 Jan

UPDATE:

So i went out and recorded some outdoor sounds with the ProTrack and H4 … i also did some tests in the studio with a NTG1 & NT1A studio microphone form RODE and also some stereo stuff

… in the end … well … the pro track is no real pro recorder for DSLR shooters. (IMO)

Here is why:

– very intense sound sync drift if  you sync it with a video (way more than with the H4)

very noisy mic pre amps, no good stereo mic sound also very noisy

– very bad sounding limiter (even more noisy)

– iPhone causes odd sounds form time to time on the recording

– only 16bit, 44.1kHz Wave Redordinng,

– not to mention that the iphone batteries are empty quite fast

… well … even with the unit just at a price-point of only 50 bucks it’s really not quite useful after all  (sadly as it is actually a good concept)


That are my FIRST impressions after i got the unit and “played” with it for a few hours:

I saw a post from Philip Bloom on twitter one day, talking about that thing … and as my H4 is not in a good shape i was looking for a replacement and had a old iphone 8GB (not in use anymore) anyway. So i’d  go for one.

Well… basically its more like a mobile docking-station for an iPod or iPhone (does not work with iPhone 4 though) that has a built-in Stereo-Mic and two phantom powered XLR inputs to plug in some pro mics (like a RODE NTG1 in my case)

It uses the iPod or iPhone as recording-device. So in my case i have almost 6 GB recording space, which should be ok for Interviews and stuff.  iPhone users need an extra piece of software from the app store on the iPhone called iProRecorder which is (4.99 right now … that is ok). Its a quit nice app if you ask me … (more in depth “review” on that in another post)

So a little something about the unit itself:

Build quality is not the best in the world but over all ok … especially for 50 bucks ( that’s the price for that …. that’s right … 58 EUR back here). For iPod users there are some plastic cover shields for the unit included … iPhone & iPod touch users have to buy them separately for around 10 bucks … but they can be useful in the filed.

Really nice is that this thing has phantom powered XLR inputs you can plug in condenser mic’s. You can use these as instrument inputs as well (didn’t test this though) The iPod charging functionality should not be used during recording as it generates a lil annoying sound which will be recorded as well.

The unit has a headphone output that can be useful. It’s not the best in the world though… not as clean if you power it all the way up, so some of the noise you will be hearing in your headphones will not be on the recording itself.
Speaking of noisy … the built-in limiter is not really usable as this thing adds a lot of noise / static to the signal. Use the limiter only if you really have to. You will not be happy if you record (in) quite surroundings / environments with a turned on limiter.
I also would not use the “Stereo to Mono” option / switch as it combines both signals to one mono-track …so it will add any noise level of the “unused” path / input to the mixed signal … if you want the cleanest possible recording, just delete the “unused” track in post (quite easy in FCP) .

Leveling is nice but if you used to a Tascam-Recorder you will notice that it’s not super precise … but usable.


The built-in Stereo-Mic system is ok … i like the H4 Stereo-Mic a bit more (sound-wise)

The unit is powered by 4 AAA’s (yep i know rather unusual … didn’t have any of these) … will to a runtime test later. You can power this unit also via AC Adapter – which is includet!

So in the end, a nice unit for the money… so far.

Now i did some first test recordings … to see how it works & sounds … and what the workflow is to get the WAVE files into FCP … and how the 44.1 kHz stuff turns out.

BTW sorry for the german accent … i’ll work on that over the next few recordings … i promise 😉

 

 

I really like the app on the iPhone. You can actually name your Tracks and sort them in categories, which can come in handy … (will go over the software in another post) …its nice to use. Make sure you are in flight mode – as you don’t want any of these mobile phone sounds / interferences on your recording (WLan is ok BTW)

Ok, after the recording  is done … and now i can only speak for iPhone & iPod Touch users (= same iProRecorder app) … you can send you files via email… which might not a good way for large files. Or upload them… which i didn’t try. The other way is via “Local Web Sharing”. For that you need WLan and another Mac or PC hooked up to that …

You type / open the URL the iPhone app gives you in your Browser on your Mac or PC and you will get a nice list in your browser. Now you simply download the files.

As soon as you have all your files (sadly it doesn’t  adopt the titles you typed in)  … you have to make sure to convert the files to 48kHz. I use a free app called “switch” for that.

I convert to 16bit, 48000Hz, aiff … still stereo … as i cut the “mute” track / part in FCP (i used just one Mic/input for this recording)
I just did a sync by hand in FCP with the 60D audio file and the converted ProTrack file … well … and there comes the issues (as i actually suspected): Even with my 3min 30 sec (or so) file/recording i noticed a sync/sound drift between 60D & ProTrack stuff right after 1 min or so and it got really hearable around 3 min. Well for that Test video that was no real issue as i had no lip-sync recording – for like an interview – to provide. So that is bad news – in a way. I’m not sure right now what the problem is (ProTrack Recoding at 44.1 or converting or FCP or even 60D…) For some stuff its not as much of an issue as it is pretty much for Interview in a double system recording situation. You could fix this in editing as you line up the tacks with every cut … maybe sync tools can help… but it will be a pain with 10-15 min or longer interview stuff. So i will definitely look into that. Stay tuned.

Here is a lil iphone video to “show” you real quick how the drift “sounds”
http://www.twitvid.com/BEDX4

 

UPDATE:

i tried  differed stuff … another software (Soundtrack Pro…) and some tips i’ve got form my twitter buddies (like JJ Kim …) to speed this up or slow it down in FCP … (tried 99.8 and 99.9 % speed) but that only shifts the “problem” to another part for the Timeline (if you will) even its actually really a bit better.

Over all its a nice solution. Quality is good for the money. It will be usable … not for high fidelity Recordings though. I will test this unit for SFX and Atmos as well in the next few weeks. But first i have to find a fix for that sync drift.

UPDATE:

As i mentions on top: it might not be a real pro-recorder for DSLR shooters … it is no H4n replacer ! … more like a backup recorder if you really have nothing els to spend the 50 bucks for. You may be better off with a Zoom H1 and a extra some sort of mic pre amp ( 9V batterie powered) for XLR inputs. (like that one: http://cheesycam.com/inexpensive-dual-xlr-microphone-preamp/). You will get better sounding results even though that “setup” is more bulky  it might work better after all.

For more specs go to: http://www.alesis.com/protrack

on a side note: a lil Zoom H4n to Tascam DR100 “comparison” by theC47:
[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/hItdgp6rQgI%2Em4v%5D

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One Response to “ProTrack Recorder for iPod & iPhone …a test”

  1. Dave Sidaway 01/03/2011 at 02:32 #

    I’m no expert but I think your sync problem stems from the fact that DSLRs record video (and its audio track) at 29.97 fps while recorders like Zooms and iPhone apps record at 30 fps causing your audio to slowly drift out of sync. You would need a program like Dual Eyes or Plural Eyes to re-sync your audio tracks.

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