Recording comparison "Organ music"
We have made it our business to test good and well-known recorder in different settings to make them go head-to-head. There are already a large benchmark test and an “atmo” test. Today, we focussed on an organ recording and therefore on (the topics) music and acoustics. We were able to engage the organ player Sebastian Weigert for a test run in the University Church of Marburg. In the following you can read and listen to our test results.
We decided on a range of popular recorders to be tested: Zoom H2 and H4n, Olympus LS-11 and DM-550, Tascam DR-2d and DR-100 as well as Sonys PCM-D50 and PCM-M10. The H2 is the oldest device in this field and still one of the best-selling recorder in Germany. Olympus, on the other hand, lines up with two recent devices which already stood out in previous tests featuring great recording quality and top ratings for sound and price-performance. The profitable recorders DR-100 and D-50 by Tascam and Sony make up the upper end of the price scale of up to 550 euros that we took into account.
We decided to leave it at these eight devices. Firstly, it is much easier and faster to test 8 instead of 16 recorders. We realised after previous tests that some gadgets are not suitable for music recording (e.g. Yamaha C24 or Olympus WS-450). Other recorders like the Marantz PMD661 work best with attached external mirophones. But, we were only interested in internal mikes.
We quickly agreed on the right type of setting: Organ recordings have a broad sound spectrum and appear to be quite challenging. Each recorder has to deal with large echo due to the typical church acoustics. Furthermore, there is a huge dynamical difference between tones that are high and quiet or low and firm.
So we caught up with the talented organ player Sebastian Weigert and were allowed to produce recordings in the University Church of Marburg, with the administration’s kind permission.
All devices were placed next to each other on a church bench, padded by a slim foam pillow. The organ itself was on a gallery, in approx. 30m distance to the recorders. This should produce a nice, spatially sound.
Recordings all done, we hurried back to the office. Before we could even start the evaluation, however, we had to realise that two devices had not worked as requested – despite thorough pre-calibration and pre-adjustment.
There was no chance of producing a second recording. So we compared only 7 devices.
Stereo (WAV: 44.1kHz/16bit)
LowCut, limiter etc. were turned off.
Microphone sensitivity high
The day before all devices had been set a gauge with the help of an even whistle.
Basis for audio sample and evaluation is a passage that we think mirrors the organ’s broad sound spectrum very well.
You should definitely use a (good) set of earphones to understand our results. No way that your notebook or PC loudspeakers are able to point out the details and differences.
All recordings were edited and anonymised for all test listeners. Any (file) information which allows a conclusion to be drawn about the recorder was removed.
This gave us the opportunity to access the recordings impartially. Using a set of Bose or AKG headphones, we listened carefully to the recordings. Afterwards, we filled out a questionnaire to write down our first impression and particularly noticeable characteristics. Moreover, we evaluated hissing, crackling, clicking, background noise and sound character (e.g. “light and clear” or “deep and rich”). We did not take into account when there was a rustling due to over-modulation.
The Sony D-50 generally receives very good ratings. The Tascam DR-2d also is one of our favourites. Both succeed in presenting the width of frequency and dynamics in a detailed and balanced way. Only exception in the team rating: Our trainee likes the mighty tones and therefore prefers the LS-11 and Zoom H2.
The Tascam DR-100 is lagging behind. But this is rather because of our negligence than because of the gadget itself.
In this case a mono recording simply has no chance against a broad stereo sound.
The following placing results from the average of all ratings:
In the lead: Sony D-50, Tascam DR-2d
Second: Zoom H4n, Sony M-10, Olympus LS-11
Last: Zoom H2, Tascam DR-100 (mono recording)
Conclusion – Dr. Thorsten Dresing and Thorsten Pehl
“Interestingly enough we rated exactly the same (independently from each other). Every device was put at the same place and we also agreed during the discussion. Our favourites are the Sony PCM D-50 and the Tascam DR-2d. We really like the detailed and clear sound of the Sony. Even in polyphonic passages, high tones are very well audible. The Tascam DR-2d offers similar distinction and a nice accentuation of basses. The sound, therefore, is powerful – but not reverberating. Taking the price into consideration, our recommendation for usage in these fields is the Tascam DR-2d (and a handful of batteries).”
Conclusion – Stefan Bauer (our trainee)
“The Zoom H2 may not be the best of all tested devices – but regarding its balanced recordings, it can definitely pad its own old back. My favourite? As expected the LS-11. Although there was a short and very quiet crackling audible at the end, for me, the recording simply left the best and also fullest overall impression. Listening to something like that is a pleasure."
The testing team
For an objective evaluation it is also necessary to transparently present our own role and position. Only then can you, as a reader, assess the motivation of our decisions
Our main task is the recording of oral conversation for scientific analysis of its content. For years we recorded interviews or direct quotes. On a daily basis we are confronted with listening to recordings via headphones. Our point of view is: The better (which means the more intelligible and realistic) the recording, the easier the transcription and the more can you see things from the speaker’s perspective.
We very deliberately did not analyse frequency curves or hiss intervals. We make the decision whether a recording is good or not only by listening with closed eyes and headphones on our ears.
Dr. Thorsten Dresing and Thorsten Pehl are educational theorists. David Georgi was a journalist for a long time (BBC London) and writes reports in the sports, travel and nature field. Stefan Bauer is a student, musician and our trainee.