Actually not so new anymore but I haven’t kept up.
In case anyone else is planning to buy a new recorder within the next 5-7 years Sony have released two new models this spring, presumably meant to replace their (discontinued) M10 and (still available) D100. They’re called the PCM A10 and the PCM D10, where the former is a consumer ~250£$€ recorder and the latter a ~500£$€ unit more directed towards the pro market, with - finally! - 2x XLR inputs and 48V phantom power.
I’ve come to trust Sony with recorders since they’ve produced fantastic quality products for the money for several decades, but I have to say these look a bit dodgy. The A10 is in the same price range as the half-legendary M10, but it’s now marketed as a voice recorder and has a preamp in it which appears to perform markedly worse. More disappointing still… is that not even the 500£$€ D10 preamp surpasses what was in the old M10 - which sold for less than half the price. If we disregard the feature set what these new models do hence is to increase the price and lower the quality of the recordings they make compared to their predecessors.
It’s maybe debatable how much the quality loss matters in the real world though. With condenser mics the limiting factor will overwhelmingly be the self-noise of the microphone, and from their previous products I’m confident (without actually having read any reviews) that both recorders will have pleasant sounding electronics inside them with class-leading battery life and reliability. The addition of XLR inputs to the D10 is also a major feature since it makes it much easier to pair the recorder with pro mics should one wish, at purchase or some time in the future.
I’m keeping an eye on the market myself since I’m still using an old (but glorious) MZ-RH1 which could break any day, but what I think I’ll do this time is to ditch Sony and go for a Sound Devices MixPre-3. It’s a little more expensive than the D10, and alas a lot more cumbersome, but for the first time I think they have a portable unit on the market which will “work”. You can just fit it in a large pocket, controls look manageable despite that a hold button is missing, it runs hot but hopefully not too hot, and it records for >2hrs with 4 AA NiMH/Lithium batteries with 48V PP. It’s only just on the right side of the line, but the amazing thing is that it’s finally a recorder which will give you state-of-the-art performance in a pocket sized unit at a near consumer price point. Just a few years ago, you had to pay almost ten times as much to get that.
Yes I’ve heard that as well. I’ve kept viewing them as low-quality recorders due to their initial models, but the ones from the last few years have apparently been really good. They’re still not an alternative for me however since their preamps still aren’t as clean as others in the same price range, which is all that matters for me with a recorder. I just want it to take care of the microphone signal as well as possible.
The D50 is a great recorder and I’d stick with it personally, but if you’re considering the D100 I would take a look at the SD MixPre-3. It’s actually cheaper, has higher quality electronics, and the benefit of XLR inputs which gives you a much wider range of microphones to (easily) pair it with should you wish to upgrade in the future. It’s maybe still a tad too unwieldly for stealth recording however, and it doesn’t have built-in microphones if you’d use that.
Yeah… In a way it’s a continuing trend. If you look at the succession MZ-RH1 (2006) -> M10 (2010) -> A10 (2019) they all sold at the same price point, but with a steady decline in pre-amp quality. From the technical specs it’s rather the D10 which is the true successor to the M10, but it sells at twice the price.
In both revisions you’ve been getting more features at the expense of the preamp though. The M10 recorded on flash rather than discs and had on-board microphones, and the D10 has XLR inputs and supports PP. The MZ-RH1 and the M10 both packed insane value, but it’s hard to say that about these two. The A10 in particular simply looks overpriced. Today the real bargain rather seems to come from Sound Devices - a recorder like that MixPre-3 has costed a lot more money earlier, especially if you demand portability at the same time.
For the record my Sound Devices plans just fell apart. What I really liked about the recorder was how their quality preamps could be used both with a 3.5mm jack and XLR inputs in the same unit, but reading the user manual now I saw the 3.5mm and the XLRs have different gain ratings. It hence looks like the Kashmir preamps are only for the XLRs, while the 3.5mm jack goes to something much simpler. Given it’s SD who are known for the amps I’m sure the 3.5mm one is good too, but I’m not sure I’d pay 700€ for it.
Bummer. Still no clear choice in the recorder jungle.
Yes, but personally sound quality is really all I care about. As long as the rest are simply manageable, they don’t detract me from buying. I’d like to think I could have squeezed this thing in to a pair of hip hop trousers, and I had already begun drawing up a mechanical hold button I could strap to the front corners.
It’s not completely off the table yet. Unless a clear winner emerges among recorders soon I’ll simply run my current setup until either part fails, and then I’m considering replacing all of it with a $6000 pro setup of which the MixPre-3 would be one part. It’s crazy expensive, but it’s my first hobby after all and if it had been a boat or a star telescope (which my sis just bought…) that kind of money would have felt cheap.
Phone amps for microphones are starting to emerge, but I’m only aware of very cheap stuff or very high end stuff. Might be worth looking in to - or to get a separate audio recorder like the Sony A10 here, the Zoom H5 etc, which you can upgrade with external mics later if you like.