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Can I use a portable recorder and 4 lav mics without a mixer?
Old 11th September 2012
  #1
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🎧 5 years
Can I use a portable recorder and 4 lav mics without a mixer?

I want to record up to 4 people speaking on lav mics for a series of oral history projects. Is it possible to use a portable recorder without a mixer to do this? Could I split the XLR inputs on a Tascam or Zoom recorder to create 4 lines? I realize they would not be four distinct tracks, but could this work?

I really, really want to be able to mic people separately so everything is discreet and comfortable. I want a low-budget solution, but I'm not sure if any recorder can successfully do this.....

Thanks in advance for any ideas.
Old 11th September 2012
  #2
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Lotus 7's Avatar
There is really no easy way of connecting (4) mics into one input. Mic "combiners" exist to mix (2) mics to one input but they are not inexpensive and you would need three of them to combine (4) mics to one input, or (2) of the combiners to mix (4) mics into two stereo inputs. Mixing mics directly with a passive combiner also reduces the signal level so there would probably be noise issues. If your mics need phantom power it gets even more complicated.

The least expensive solution would likely be to look for a used, small mic mixer like a Mackie 1202.

It's a better solution and will allow separate control of the sensitivity of each mic. Of course, using a line powered mixer makes the whole setup less "portable" and limits use to locations with line power being available. Battery powered mixers are available but are certainly not going to meet your "low-budget" requirement.
Old 11th September 2012
  #3
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richgilb's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
i think the zoom h4n gets close, 2 lavs to plugin and then use the onboard stereo pair
Old 11th September 2012 | Show parent
  #4
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🎧 5 years
THanks Lotus 7. That mixer just looks way too big- I am going to be going into homes and want to set up something in about 3 minutes that is as unobtrusive as possible. What would happen if I split two XLR inputs to hook up 4 mics?
Old 11th September 2012
  #5
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Mats H's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by grapefruitvendor ➑️
I want to record up to 4 people speaking on lav mics for a series of oral history projects. Is it possible to use a portable recorder without a mixer to do this? Could I split the XLR inputs on a Tascam or Zoom recorder to create 4 lines? I realize they would not be four distinct tracks, but could this work?

I really, really want to be able to mic people separately so everything is discreet and comfortable. I want a low-budget solution, but I'm not sure if any recorder can successfully do this.....

Thanks in advance for any ideas.
A little unusuable choice perphaps, but you could use a Firerace UFX with external USB Hard drive. It has four preamps. You can record everything separately, while also creating an auto mixed version, using auto level, expanders, compressors and EQ on each channel and record the output as a separate mix to mono or stereo.
Old 11th September 2012
  #6
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 15 years
If you don't need discrete tracks (which would require something like the Tascam DR-680) and can live with a sub-mix to stereo, then the least expensive solution might be something like this Rolls 4-channel field mixer ($138 USD):

Rolls MX124 Portable 4 Channel Stereo Mixer MX124 B&H Photo

Then send the outputs to whatever you're using as a portable stereo recorder. I don't know what the preamp quality is like on this unit, and the build quality won't be the same as the more pro-level field mixers from Sound Devices, etc But for a quick 'n dirty mixdown of just voice through lav mics on location, this might work for you.
Old 11th September 2012
  #7
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Lotus 7's Avatar
Are you using phantom powered lavs? and if so do they need +48 or will they work with a lower phantom voltage? If they will work at +18 volts or less the Rolls MX124 mentioned by Foldedpath sounds like a workable way to go.

Most capacitor lavs require either a fixed +5volt supply (won't work with the MX124) or a 11 to 52 volt supply (will work with the MX124). There are also a few dynamic lavs around like the Shure SM11 which have no phantom power requirements.
Old 11th September 2012
  #8
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Richard Crowley's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
IF (and that IF is bigger than it appears!) you have four IDENTICAL microphones of an appropriate design, you could legitimately use a pair of inexpensive "Y-cables" to combine two microphones into each input channel of your little recorder. But whether this can work depends on many factors which are not in evidence. In particular: exactly what microphones are you using?

Yes, I know there will be protests that this is not an "accepted" method, but I beg to differ. Fully understanding how equipment works allows one to "break the rules" in some cases and get away with it.

It also depends on what you intend to do with these recordings. If these are only for analytic listening or transcription, then the production quality requirement is not as high as if the recordings were intended for public listening or for radio or TV production, etc. I would prefer to use a 4-track recorder and capture each microphone on a dedicated track. Particularly worrying to me would be cases where people who are combined on the same track talk over each other.
Old 11th September 2012 | Show parent
  #9
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by rcrowley ➑️
IF (and that IF is bigger than it appears!) you have four IDENTICAL microphones of an appropriate design, you could legitimately use a pair of inexpensive "Y-cables" to combine two microphones into each input channel of your little recorder. But whether this can work depends on many factors which are not in evidence. In particular: exactly what microphones are you using?

It also depends on what you intend to do with these recordings. If these are only for analytic listening or transcription, then the production quality requirement is not as high as if the recordings were intended for public listening or for radio or TV production, etc. I would prefer to use a 4-track recorder and capture each microphone on a dedicated track. Particularly worrying to me would be cases where people who are combined on the same track talk over each other.
The recordings will be provided to the recipients on CD and they will also receive as a digital file. I want the option of being able to air on local public radio, but generally the subjects themselves and their family members will be the primary listeners. I understand the concern about people talking over each other on the same track, but ultimately I want a quick set-up and clear and strong sound. I will be doing minimal editing in post, want to be able to provide the raw interviews as is for the interviewees and their families.

I've done 1:1 interviews using a Zoom H1 with two ATR-3350 lavs and was impressed with the result. I just want to replicate this with up to 4 people mic'd (e.g. me+ 3 subjects or 4 subjects without me mic'd).
Old 11th September 2012
  #10
Gear Addict
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
The H4n has inputs for four external mics. Two are XLR with P48, the other two are a stereo 1/8" with plug-in power and replace the built-in mics. If your mics can work with those inputs you can record four track mode on the H4n and adjust levels in post.

Fran
Old 11th September 2012
  #11
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richgilb's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I tried to introduce the h4n but it seems he is not interested in this option. Maybe he can let us know why? The stereo mics work very well up to three feet from the face in my experience.
Old 11th September 2012 | Show parent
  #12
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by richgilb ➑️
I tried to introduce the h4n but it seems he is not interested in this option. Maybe he can let us know why? The stereo mics work very well up to three feet from the face in my experience.
richgilb, in your first reply I thought you were suggesting I record using the onboard mics. I really want to avoid this at all costs and have everyone on lavs, interviewer and interviewees included. But Fran's clarification seems to make sense to me so maybe I go with the H4n.

I suppose I could do the same thing with the Tascam DR-40? Are these my two options in the sub $400 range?
Old 11th September 2012
  #13
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John Willett's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by grapefruitvendor ➑️
THanks Lotus 7. That mixer just looks way too big- I am going to be going into homes and want to set up something in about 3 minutes that is as unobtrusive as possible. What would happen if I split two XLR inputs to hook up 4 mics?
You need something like a Roland R-44 or the new R-88 or a Tascam 680 to do what you want.
Old 11th September 2012
  #14
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richgilb's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
not sure the Tascam does more than 2 external mics.....If you go down the zoom h4n route, I would buy 2 lavs first and see.

I am happy with the on-board mics. Happier with the on-board mics than with cheap lavs. I have upgraded lavs 2ce now because the lavs have not been as good as the onboard mics, not enough level and too much hiss. I am now waiting for a Rode lav. The Shure dynamic lavs may require super clean preamps, as they will need loads of gain. And the cheaper handheld recorders simply are not that quiet.
Old 11th September 2012
  #15
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Richard Crowley's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
It is not clear (at least from the Tascam web page) whether the DR40 has FOUR MIC-level inputs. It seems to say that it has two mic-level inputs and two line-level inputs.
Old 11th September 2012 | Show parent
  #16
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1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by grapefruitvendor ➑️
richgilb, in your first reply I thought you were suggesting I record using the onboard mics. I really want to avoid this at all costs and have everyone on lavs, interviewer and interviewees included. But Fran's clarification seems to make sense to me so maybe I go with the H4n.

I suppose I could do the same thing with the Tascam DR-40? Are these my two options in the sub $400 range?
I've never used the Tascam, but I downloaded the PDF manual and found no indication of external mic inputs other than the XLR combo jacks. Based on this I would say that the 4 external mic scenario cannot be accomplished with the DR40.

My suggestion will require a good understanding of the cabling, connection, and powering issues of the mics you plan to use.

Another group of recorders to consider are the Zoom R series. Depending again on the powering and cabling for your mics, one of these might be an effective solution. The R16 has two channels with phantom power and 6 additional inputs without power. It can record 8 channels simultaneously and is under $400. The R24 has 6 channels of phantom powered inputs and records 8 simultaneous tracks but exceeds your budget by about $100.

Fran
Old 12th September 2012
  #17
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
A simple mixer like the Shure M67 SHURE M67 PROFESSIONAL MICROPHONE MIXER | eBay would do what you want and they are always up on Ebay. They are a bit noisy but would easily mix down four microphones to one output which can be either microphone level or line level. They are small and it gives you individual level controls over the four microphones. Most times on Ebay they are sold for about $50 to $75.

FWIW
Old 12th September 2012
  #18
Gear Head
 
🎧 5 years
Several years ago I used two AKG B29L and dual channel recorder.
Mix two microphones on the left channel, mix two the microphone to the right channel.
Old 12th September 2012 | Show parent
  #19
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by rcrowley ➑️
IF (and that IF is bigger than it appears!) you have four IDENTICAL microphones of an appropriate design, you could legitimately use a pair of inexpensive "Y-cables" to combine two microphones into each input channel of your little recorder. But whether this can work depends on many factors which are not in evidence. In particular: exactly what microphones are you using?
I agree,
I've done this with a stereo interface and 3 wired, self powered, lavs. Took 2 into 1 and ran the other one straight into the other side of the interface I was using to record on my laptop.
The only problem I had was one of the speakers was a little louder than the other (on the 2 into 1 side) and I couldn't do anything about it.
It's not the best way but it worked.
If you plan to do this often I'd just go ahead and get a 4 channel recorder.
Old 18th September 2012
  #20
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pkautzsch's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
The fail-safe way would be to either
(a) rent (or buy, if this kind of job gets regular) a 4-track recorder with 4 separate mic inputs
(b) rent (or buy) a 4-channel mixer like SQN-4 or SoundDevices 442, and hook it up to the recorder you have.

I'd strongly suggest to NOT combine 2 or more mics to one input without a mixer.
Old 18th September 2012
  #21
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
Hey man I would go with a 4track with 4 separate inputs I have an old 280 Fostex 4 track
high speed that sucker has 8 inputs!

Last edited by Saturn; 18th September 2012 at 09:46 AM.. Reason: Forgot something
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