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Field Report: Nagra SD
The recorder has a pre-record buffer that can be deactivated in the menu, although I like having it on. When record is pushed, the ring around the record button flashes red a little faster than once per second. This indicates the recorder is in record ready, and levels can be set. Push the record button again, and the ring flashes red about four times per second. A circle on the display also fills solid to indicate the unit is recording.
I like having visual confirmation that I am recording, although I would prefer the ring to stay steady red while recording, like a camera tally light. The red ring can be turned off completely while recording, but I would like to have the option to make it stay on rather than flashing quickly while recording.
The unit includes a leatherette case, which protects the recorder while in use. A clear plastic front allows easy viewing of the controls and display. There are also cutouts for the audio levels and the hold button on the back. The case also provides the method to attach the recorder to a camera tripod mount.
The included mic sounds very good. I used it to record a concert band and a handbell choir, and there is good separation between channels. The frequency response sounds good as well. Most of the time I use an external stereo mic that has a 3.5mm output for these ensembles, and the recorder worked very well in this setup too.
I also tried the recorder like it would be used to get a news actuality or in a handheld interview. The high-quality capsule has lower handling noise than the standard capsule.
The mic preamps in this little recorder sound very good. The published distortion spec is listed as being 0.025 percent at 1kHz, which is really good. There is no published signal to noise ratio, although a 90dB dynamic range is specified in the manual. Using my external mic on the SD and the same mic on another handheld recorder, the SD appears to be quieter on silence.
The recorder has a voice on record (VOR) function to automatically record when the audio surpasses defined threshold, which is adjustable to be -30dBfs, -20dBfs, -10dBfs or off. VOR can also be set to pause on silence or create a new file each time recording starts. A delay can also be specified to continue recording from 5 seconds to 3 minutes once silence is detected.
While recording, the stop button must be held a few seconds to actually stop. I like this because it prevents accidental stopping if the button is brushed by mistake.
Overall, the Nagra SD is very good recorder. With recording capability up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution and the variety of mic capsules, it can easily be used in a wide range of recording applications.
Weiss is a contract engineer in Kansas City.
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