Sabyasachi Patra

Sound Devices 702T Sound recorder review

Sound Devices 702T sound recorder

A review of the Sound Devices 702T professional sound recorder in the Wilds of India.

High quality two channel recorder with time code recording at 24 bit or 16 bit at sampling rates 32kHz – 192 kHz.

Sound Devices is highly respected for its high quality sound recorders, mixers, portable microphone preamplifiers etc. It is said that the founders of this company – a bunch of engineers who left Shure and to form this company in 1998 – were grappling for a suitable name. And they looked at the carton where Sound Devices was scribbled. And the name struck.

Sound Devices manufacture a range of equipment. Their 7 series recorders are the beginning of the Professional range used in Hollywood/Bollywood and TV channels etc.

Sound Devices has recorders to record two channels, four channels as well as eight channels. The 702, 702T and 722 are the two channel recorders.

The 702 is a two channel recorder and is the starting of the series and sells at 1800 USD. The 702T is similar to the 702 with the added benefit of time code and sells at 2465 USD. The 722 has the added benefit of internal recording but no time code facility. All the recorders have the facility to record to CF cards.

First Impressions:

My first impression of the Sound Devices 702T recorder is Wow! It feels like a solid brick. The weight is close to a kg (970 gms to be precise without the battery). The metal finish gives the visual impression that it can take a few knocks easily. Not that one is intentionally going to subject it to some torture testing. Ofcourse, one needs to be careful not to drop it on your toes.

The knobs are large enough to be used using gloves and are well designed. For example the gain control knobs remain hidden inside the panel till you press it, and then it protrudes out. You can then rotate to increase the gain. The LCD is bright and one can easily read in bright daylight in the outdoors.

Front Panel:

The Sound Devices 702T (as well as SD 702) is designed to be monitored through the front panel with the two XLR inputs and earphone input on the left side panel. This is designed to be carried in the field with the front panel up. One needs a PortaBrace or a custom designed bag to effectively carry and utilize this equipment in the field. There are about twenty eight buttons/features in the front panel.

Sound Devices 702T recorder front panel

The Sound Devices recorder being expensive is not meant for the casual operators. You can safely predict that anyone carrying this recorder has serious intent.

This recorder has numerous buttons and features and one needs to read the manual thoroughly. A beginner may not need all the features mentioned, as a lot of those are meant for specific recording situations demanded by the professionals engaged in recording specific situations. For eg. the analog inputs (XLR) 1 and 2 can be linked to provide a stereo. Also, there is the flexibility of saving your settings in the Compact Flash card (CF card) so that if you are using someone else’s recorder or if the same recorder is used by many people with varying requirements, then one can simply insert the CF card with the desired settings to avoid spending time in going through the menus to individually set the various parameters.

The inputs accept both Mic level and line level as can be seen from the image below.

SD 702T sound recorder left panel

You can also daisy chain two 702/702T recorders to get four channel recording using the C Link. I am sure it would be a useful feature for many people who start by buying a two channel recorder and later on when their requirements increase or they move into large projects requiring four channel recording, they can just borrow or rent or even buy another recorder. So the recorder never goes waste.

Sound Devices 702T right side panel

Back Panel Descriptions:

In the back panel, there is the slot for Compact Flash card. Interestingly I had a problem with it. I inserted the 16 GB compact flash card and then I didn’t know how to remove it. The reason being, I was searching for a button which when pressed will release the CF card, the way we are used to in Canon’s DSLR cameras. Probably it is just common sense to simply pull out the CF card. I scanned through the complete manual but to no avail. Finally with no one to call and ask in India (as I don’t know who uses this in India), I tried pulling out the CF card and it worked. I had a good laugh.

Backpanel of Sound Devices 702T sound recorder

The Battery mount is on the right side of the CF Card slot and placing the battery and removing it was intuitive. You need to push down the release pin on the right by a long thin pin or screwdriver etc to release the battery. It accepts Sony InfoLithium L or M Series removable batteries. If you need the battery to last longer, then you can also go for higher capacities as the 702T accepts batteries from 150 mAh to 7000 mAh. Infact, I have an interesting and nice customer service from B&H regarding an extra battery. You can read it here: http://www.indiawilds.com/diary/equipment-buying/

FireWire:
It has FireWire (IEEE 1394) port and provides a chord for connecting your computer with the 702T for high speed data transfer.

External Power:
For those working in the studio, they can use the 10-18 VDC external input power. The battery is simultaneously charged as well.

Power Failure:
Sound Devices has taken enough care for power failure. There are auto save options and the data is not going to be compromised in case your power fails. This is a huge plus point over cheaper recorders like Tascam etc, where you lose the entire file in the event of a power failure.

Pre-Record Buffer:

The Sound Devices 702T has got a nice feature. It has a pre-record buffer available ie. when this feature is active, this feature helps in recording a few seconds before the moment the record button is pressed. Visualise a scenario. You are waiting for a raptor to call and it has been silent for a long time. You don’t want to continue to record for several minutes and waste your CF card space or battery. Or think that you heard a Lion-tailed Macaque (Macaca silenus) calling (which hardly many people have heard). So you fumbled and hit the record button. Now your Sound devices 702T recorder can record 10 seconds before you hit the record button if you are recording in 48 kHz. If your recording sampling rate is 96kHz then the pre-record buffer is 5 seconds. It reduces to 2 seconds if you are using 192kHz. Frankly speaking in nature recording 10 seconds buffer is awesome. I wish I had purchased the Sound Devices 702T in the first instance, rather than buying the Tascam DR100 based on misplaced suggestions of people who had no idea about my requirements (present and future) or my intensity of work. Use this feature once, and you will be hooked for life.

Performance:

According to Sound Devices, the SD 702, SD 702T, SD 722 and SD 744T mic inputs have 114 dB of dynamic range, and the 788T microphone inputs have 123 dB of dynamic range. The figures on the 788T approach the theoretical limit of A-to-D performance.

Why with Time Code? SD 702 or SD 702T?

The difference between the SD 702T which has time code facility costing 2495 USD and the SD 702 costing 1875 USD is sizeable. It is not easy to make yourself spend the additional 600 odd USD. However, after careful thought about the future plans and the versatility of the 702T recorder, I thought it would be prudent enough to have the time code facility for future use.

One can of course argue that with several softwares available, one can easily sync the audio with the video. When one is moving up the order in the world of film making, one finds time code facility in the better film cameras. So it would be prudent to have the ability to sync the recorder with the camera rather than struggle later in post processing.

However, a difference of 600 odd USD is not small. So if you are trying to decide which one to buy, then you need to ask a few questions to yourself. First is how serious are you about your sound recording. If you think sound is a small part, however, you need the better quality of the Sound Devices then probably you can settle for the lower cost and buy the SD 702 sound recorder. If you think software programmes like Dual eyes, Plural eyes etc are fine for your needs, then you can ignore the time code facility and buy the SD 702. However, if you think that you should keep an eye on the future, then better to go for the SD 702T.

If you are filming with RED cameras, the decision to go for SD 702T over SD 702 is easier. With the RED Scarlet or EPIC cameras you can sync the SD 702T sound recorders via the time code connector and can then sync the sound with the footage via the REDcine-X Pro.

The prices of other Sound Devices Audio recorders:

744T – 4 Channel Portable Audio Recorder with Time Code :: 4095 USD
788T – 8 Channel Portable HD Recorder :: 5995 USD
788T – SSD 8 channel Sold State Audio Recorder :: 6495 USD

 

To Download SD 702 Manual:

Click on the link  – SD 702T Manual

Edit: Here is a link to an elephant vocalisation recorded using a Sennheiser MKH 416 microphone and SD 702T recorder. You can hear the noise made by elephants while digging the salt lick as well as their vocalisations: http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?13896-Elephant-Vocalisations

A Word of Caution:

Though this is an excellent recorder, one needs to use a good microphone closer to the subject and watch out for noise generated due to your own dress, foot movement or in handholding. Please post your questions regarding the Sound Devices 702T sound recorder review in the comments below.

Sabyasachi Patra

Sabyasachi is an award winning DoP/Cinematographer, passionate wildlife filmmaker and photographer. He has been striving to make his films and photographs full of life and emotion and write articles to educate and evangelise the need for conserving the last tracts of vanishing wilderness and wildlife in our country. He hopes that his wildlife films, photographs and writings force people to pause, look, ponder and ultimately take action.
His documentary film ‘A Call in the Rainforest’ has been screened at various national and international film festivals.

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