Sound Devices 702 review. Digital recorder summary.

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F7 Sound and Vision's Michael Oster has recorded music, thunderstorms, F-18s, wild animals, kitchen utensils, celebrities, strange insects... He also makes the coffee and takes out the trash. more

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Disclaimer. The opinions expressed are those of Michael Oster and may not reflect that of other audio and music professionals. Your mileage may vary. Just because I like one piece of equipment does not guarantee a thing. F7 Sound and Vision and Michael Oster are not liable for any damage caused by your agreement or disagreement with the following:

Sound Devices 702 solid state 24 bit digital audio recorder
Hear this...
320kbps mp3 - originally recorded with the Sound Devices 702 / Rode NT4 microphone.

Inlet Water Sloshing
waterslosh.mp3

Sound Devices 702 Digital Recorder. $1975 street - 2 track 24 bit 192k capable digital audio recorder. Records to CF cards and external drives (version 2 and up). Great sound quality! Easy to operate, weighs less than 3 pounds and uses Sony L and M camcorder batteries.




Latest thoughts:
JANUARY 2014- Still a very happy camper....I got (more than) what I paid for!!!! I love this recorder!



Later thoughts:
SEPTEMBER 2007 - I've been using the 702 for several months now. This thing is wonderful! Love the sound quality. Would buy it again! No problems to speak of. One comment on the variable-brightness LEDs. Those things will blind you if you're not careful, but that's what makes them visible in direct sunlight. I could probably use them to scare off a bear if I'm ever confronted in the wilderness (WARNING: do not approach bears at any time; mountain lions too; OK, just stay away from wild animals).



Quick points:
The Sound Devices 702 IS MY DAT KILLER! In other words... "You get (more than) what you pay for" (remember that in 1998 an HHB PDR 1000 PortaDAT cost around $3000 without the timecode option!!!): amazing sound quality from a small, and seemingly bulletproof (if Sound Devices sends me a "loaner", I'll shoot it and we'll find out if it's really bulletproof) package.



I've been recording in the field for a long time. For about the last 9 years, my highest-quality and most portable setup was a Grace Design Lunatec V2 stereo preamp into an HHB PDR-1000 porta DAT. A nice rig, yes, but limited to 16 bits because of, well, DAT. The HHB is a great recorder for a DAT machine, but, even the best DATs are limited. And, I can't think of anyone (myself included) who has ever thought of DAT as a long term solution in field recording. Yes, portaDATs are small and battery powered. And with external preamps they can sound very good.


I don't know how other people dream, but when it comes to "top shelf" recording in the field, my dreams have been for a 24 bit solution that sounds as good as my Grace V2 while being about the size of my V2. Well, thank you Sound Devices! The 7 Series digital recorders have been around a little while now and they have earned a solid reputation for their sound quality and durability. But, the price has been a little steep for me with the 722 recorders starting at around $2500 (street). So, Sound Devices must have been thinking of people like me when they introduced the 702 - basically a 722 minus the internal hard drive for $500 less! The 702 records only to Compact Flash cards, where the 722 and it's big brother the 744 record to both a CF and/or an internal hard drive.


Looking like my dream has come true, I took the plunge. A new 702 set me back $1875 and add to that a Porta Brace bag for another $180. Oh, then the SanDisk 4GB Ultra CompactFlash for $70 (
Update 9/2011 Much Cheaper for good media *** Got a couple more at Circuit City for $50 each 8/07). Was it worth it? My first recording told me it was easily worth it. I took my matched pair of Earthworks QTC 1's (Now called Earthworks QTC 40 matched pair) and sent them directly into the 702 with no external preamps (or ADs) and the recording was absolutely beautiful! Dawn chorus in my backyard sounded like I was standing outside with the birds all around me. How did that compare to recordings I've made with the same microphones going into the V2 to Apogee converters to a laptop at 24 bits? Damn well actually and probably even topped them. BTW, I was recording at 24 bits 44.1k! I hadn't even tried 96k and I'm already convinced!


Battery Life
My 702 came with a 2200 mAH Sony NP-F570 lithium battery. This battery is also fits the Sony "L" series camcorders which comes in handy since these batteries are found at places like Circuit City and Best Buy (if you need an extra battery on short notice). To test the battery life, I did an overnight charge and then let it rip. I used the 702 in the field with a Rode NT4 stereo microphone. Microphone phantom power was supplied by the 702. By it's nature the 702 is constantly recording and you get a "pre-roll" so that you "never miss a moment". When you hit the "record" button, audio from the buffer along with the new audio is written to the card. I left the 702 running for close to 3 hours nonstop. Recording and waiting to record, and the whole time feeding 48v phantom to the NT4. When I was done (some 3 hours after power up) I had just under 50% of battery life remaining! Pretty kick ass, I'd say. This was a new battery operating outside at about 75 degrees (just about ideal conditions). And, the 702 doesn't have an internal hard drive to power (see below). I'm sure I'd be getting less time at lower temperatures and with an older battery.


Stripped Down?
Some people might think that not having an internal 40 Gig or larger hard drive limits the capabilities of the 702. Oh, and also from what I've read you can't add an internal drive to the 702, so you're pretty much "drive less". My thoughts are that it's no big deal. A 4 GB CompactFlash allows for 4 hours of stereo recording at 24/44.1. Not enough? Well prices on these cards keep falling (unlike the prices for gasoline) and 16 GB CompactFlash cards are now common and affordable (approx $50 street as of 9/2011). Not enough? Sound Devices took care of that too when they released version 2 (which is on all newer 7xx recorders and is a free update for older units). Version 2 allows for simultaneous recording to external drives (or cards on a reader) via the Firewire port on all 7xx's (yes even the 702).


There are other 2 track solid state recorders available by Sony, Fostex, and Tascam. Why did I choose the Sound Devices model? Sound quality and durability. I paid more for it (in the case of the Tascam and Fostex models, a lot more), but paying more for quality is a good thing. My bet is that the 702 will hold up longer and under more challenging conditions while giving me outstanding recordings WITHOUT the need for carrying an external set of preamps. We'll see what the future holds.


In addition to the Earthworks microphones, I've been using a Rode NT4 stereo microphone with the 702. Though not quite up to the Earthworks sound quality (and I'm comparing an ORTF matched pair omni set to an XY cardioid set) the NT4 has surprised me in a good way. The NT4 is a "single point" stereo microphone that can fit on the end of a boom pole via shock mount. So far, the recordings I've made with the NT4 paired with the 702 have been great. I'll write more on the Rode NT4 X/Y Stereo Microphone soon.


Find out more about the 7 Series recorders and other Sound Devices products their website - www.sounddevices.com

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