Sony PCM-D50 Portable Recorder - Quick Thoughts

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by StyxCollector, Dec 1, 2007.

  1. StyxCollector

    StyxCollector Man of Miracles

    All I can say is wow. I got this little portable recorder in the mail this week and I can finally say that I have a true DAT replacement. I got the Edirol/Roland R-09 awhile back and it's definitely small and portable, but feels cheap and I always struggled to get a good recording.

    Having owned the PCM-D50's big brother, the PCM-D1, for like 5 minutes (returned it because I really couldn't justify $2k on it ...) I was hoping the PCM-D50 would be close. The built-in mics in the PCM-D1 were really, really good (so were the pres).

    In some ways, the D50 is better than the D1. There are more output options (optical in and out, not just mic or line), there's an option for a limiter as well as a low cut filter (like on the R-09).

    Unlike traditional DAT recorders, some of the more modern portable recorders that use SD cards or some sort of flash memory have been a pain to use and sometimes counterintuitive. Not the D50. If you have to read the manual, you've never used a portable DAT recorder. It's just dead stupid to work and the controls I think are directly from the old SOny DAT decks.

    The D1 allowed you to adjust the levels separately for L and R, but the D50 is one big level knob adjusting both.

    The mic configuration is a bit different than the D1. With the D1 the mics were basically fixed but you could tilt them. With the D50 you can change the angle, but not tilt the mics.

    I gave the recorder a trial run last night at my band's practice using the built-in mics (and not my AT-825 stereo mic) and it sounds very close to the D1's output. I'm impressed.

    The build quality blows away all other recorders in the market at that price - it's basically the same housing as the D1 minus the VU meters.

    I haven't tested the rated battery life but in typical Sony fashion, the battery life is phenomenal. The D1 shipped with rechargeable AAs, the sleeve to put 4 batteries in the unit, and a spare so you could easy swap out if you ran out of juice. The D50 comes with regular AAs (the kind made in Japan which last longer) and just the one sleeve, but the cost is also much less here.

    Oh and the best part? 4GB of built-in memory plus you can also get Memory Sticks for additional storage/recording. To hook it up to a computer is easy - just stick a USB cable and it shows up like a drive. It works with both MAcs and PCs.

    You also don't get any kind of screen for the mics (the D1 comes with one). You can buy one. There's also an optional remote (not an option on the D1), tripod, and leather case (the case is Japan only I think; easily found on the 'bay).

    At $500 (I got mine for $440 with some coupon and had it preordered about 2 months ago), you can't go wrong. I would bypass all of the other options (M-Audio, Edirol, Zoom) and go straight for this one. It's nice to see Sony doing what they do - pioneering with a very cool piece like the D1 and then finding a way to make it mass market at an affordable price.
  2. Clint_f

    Clint_f Member

    Location:
    Everett, WA
    Very interesting, this recorder's now at the top of my list for portable recorders. :righton:

    I've been using an old Archos Gmini 120 with a pair of condenser mics and a mic preamp for my band rehearsal recordings, but it takes about 10 minutes to get setup. The D50 seems a bit more convenient with the built in mics.
  3. brupri

    brupri New Member

    Location:
    Seattle Washington
    Thanks for the report, congrats! I have an R-09 and found the built in mics better than all the external ones I have around. What do you think of the quality of the internal mics in the Sony? I really have no complaints with the Edirol but being a gadget junkie...the grass is always greener:winkgrin:
  4. ArneW

    ArneW Active Member

    Location:
    Cologne, Germany
    StyxCollector,

    your are saying that the D50 is "a true DAT replacement" finally. Which portable DAT did you have? I have a Sony PCM-M1 and I'm a bit reluctant to buy the D50 as a replacement. Can you say anything about the quality (s/n ratio) of the line/mic input?

    How would you rate the quality of the built-in mics compared to, let's say, a pair of Sound Professional or Core Sound mics? What is their sonic signature? Are they closer to omnidirectional or cardoid mics or something in between?

    Arne
  5. ROLO46

    ROLO46 Forum Resident

    Build quality is pro
    Pity about the memory stick
    Everybody else is using CF
  6. vomitgod

    vomitgod New Member

    Location:
    Boston
    FWIW, I recently used a PCM-D1 to record a choir in a church (I was trying to convince my brother, the conductor of said choir, to upgrade from his M-Audio MicroTrack), and in an A/B test, we both preferred the MicroTrack (using it's tiny stereo electret mic) over the PCM-D1! Both recordings were at 44khz, 16-bit with vanilla settings on both devices (no filters, attenuation, etc.).

    In fairness to the PCM-D1, the results were very close to the MicroTrack. But that said, a new MicroTrack costs $300, and the PDM-D1 costs $1850!
  7. ArneW

    ArneW Active Member

    Location:
    Cologne, Germany
    So you are basically saying that the Microtrack's noisy mic preamps are as good as those of the D1?

    I was under the impression that even the Microtrack's line in is much noisier than the line in of my trusty Sony PCM-M1 portable DAT.

    Arne
  8. vomitgod

    vomitgod New Member

    Location:
    Boston
    I can't vouch for the line in's - they might totally suck. The electret uses the tiny mic (1/8") input.

    I think ultimately what I'm saying is that the quality of a VERY dynamic recording with the MicroTrack w/the electret it comes with vs. the PCM-D1 and it's built-in XY mics was close. Way closer than the price difference of $1500! :)
  9. brupri

    brupri New Member

    Location:
    Seattle Washington
    I just picked up one of these thanks to the original poster for piquing my interest and I have to say that there's something to be said for actually holding one and putting it through it's paces. The pictures I've seen of it leave me with an...eh feeling. But seeing it in person sold me. I have an Edirol R-09 and it does fine. Not enough volume for my headphones; Sennheiser HD-25 and the mic pre is a bit hissy for my liking. I've yet to use the Sony in a working situation but having the record level knob on the side makes sense for silently adjusting input level while using the internal mics, none of that case noise and creaking from toggling the volume up and down buttons on the side. Just to clarify...it does have 4 gig built in memory and you can add the memory stick for I believe an additional 2 gig so you don't rely solely on the DuoPro memory *(or whatever Sony calls it) Now I need to figure out how to go about selling the R-09 to offset the cost of the new unit. Oh well...the life of a gadget addict. I can quit anytime I want to. Really.:D
  10. semidetached

    semidetached Monkees Mixographist

    Location:
    Bucks County, PA
    I just got one this week. Aloso bought a 4 gig memory stick... happy with it so far!
  11. StyxCollector

    StyxCollector Man of Miracles

    It has 4GB built in - you needed 8GB of storage? :D
  12. StyxCollector

    StyxCollector Man of Miracles

    Well, to each his or her own. I've used tons of these little recorders and the D1 is by far and away the best one I've heard/used to date with the D50 a close second. One review awhile back said that the D1 may sound "strange" to people because it is more accurate. (paraphrasing of course - I'll see if I can dig up the link).

    I've heard/played with the MicroTrack and it just wasn't great. But again, to each his or her own. Not everyone can hear $1500 of difference or even if there is a difference, it may not be worth $1500 to them.

    Now, if you had used, say, a high quality stereo mic (not the built-ins), you may have had totally different results, too. The guts of the D1 are definitely higher quality, so if you bypass the internal mics, you never know ...
  13. StyxCollector

    StyxCollector Man of Miracles

    Not everyone. The R-09 uses SD. And memory sticks are so ubiquitous and cheap it's not even worth complaining about anymore. CF is old news.
  14. StyxCollector

    StyxCollector Man of Miracles

    I've been unhappy with the sound quality of everything I've owned since my Denon DTR-80P which left active use quite a few years back. It was my present to myself after I graduated college. I used it with either an AT825 or a Radio Shack stereo mic I got back in the 80s (which still stands up well ...).

    Even Minidisc sucked in comparison WITH recording PCM and you had time limitations - I would much rather have 90 to 120 minutes continuous time.

    The R-09 is certainly small and convenient, but even with the AT825, I got so-so results.

    I don't measure S/N. I listen with my ears.

    It's also a replacement in the sense that it's VERY well built. Not some cheap plastic thing like the R-09. Intuitive menus, easy-to-use (like the aforementioned level knob on the side), etc. DAT was that immediate as well.

    Never heard those mics, so I couldn't tell you.
  15. StyxCollector

    StyxCollector Man of Miracles

    Remember that built-in mics are just that - built-in mics. They're not necessarily meant to compete with standalone stereo mics that cost as much as if not more or close to the recorder itself.
  16. semidetached

    semidetached Monkees Mixographist

    Location:
    Bucks County, PA
    Absolutely!

    The one show I'm taping in a few weeks is going to be two shows in one night. Going to tape at 96/24, so the recorder gives me just short of two hours.
  17. brupri

    brupri New Member

    Location:
    Seattle Washington
    What's with the $500.00 XLR adaptor? :confused: It probably sounds good and cosmetic match to boot but it's almost the price of the recorder itself! Found any good prices on accessories?
  18. ROLO46

    ROLO46 Forum Resident

    All the new proper solid state recorders use CF

    Sound Devices

    Sonosax

    Nagra

    But it is good to see Sony back on the trail of the Pro Walkman again

    How could they loose their way?????
  19. StyxCollector

    StyxCollector Man of Miracles

    YOu're seriously kidding, right? To me a serious recorder would have a hard drive first, or some sort of built-in memory (like the Sony does), and then something else. Name me one PC that has a CF slot as standard. Some PCs come with different kind of media readers, but the most pervasive is SD. The media type doesn't define the player.

    They never did. Minidisc held the market for a long time and even their last tone (the RZ1 I think) people still love.
  20. ROLO46

    ROLO46 Forum Resident

    You misunderstand
    All those pro devices have hard drives but enable rushes to be delivered in CF form , this is becoming a standard in post.

    The Sony MD's missed the boat
    Sharp were much better portables and enabled manual recording with variable level control
    The Sony Datman was an ergonomic nightmare.
  21. brupri

    brupri New Member

    Location:
    Seattle Washington
    Well, the cases for these I understand are only available in Japan. Here's something I came up with, most sporting goods stores cary Pelican boxes, I took a model 1040 (I chose green but they come in black, yellow and blue)and it required very little padding, and a couple of peel and stick large feet (epoxy is required as nothing sticks to the silcone rubber inside.) $16.00 on sale...:righton:

    Attached Files:

  22. StyxCollector

    StyxCollector Man of Miracles

    Kinda fugly and definitely not pocketable lol

    I ordered the case from Japan. Should be here in a week or two.
  23. brupri

    brupri New Member

    Location:
    Seattle Washington
    Be that as it may, I did see the case on the Japanese website and it looked to me kind of like a cell phone case and could not offer the kind of protection I need here in rainy Seattle:sigh: . That depends of course on the level of protection one needs day to day, it looks fine for tossing in a briefcase though Is that the one that folds back to tilt the unit up at an angle? As far as pocketable...well, even without the case I have no pockets it fits in anyway.

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