Zoom R16 crashing/hanging during recording

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serafin
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Zoom R16 crashing/hanging during recording

Post by serafin » Wed Aug 08, 2018 4:26 am

Hi there,

I recently encountered the following problem with my R16:

While recording about an hour of live music on all 8 tracks, after hitting stop at the end of the recording, the message saying "wait ..." didn't go away for ov er 10 minutes and the recorder no longer reacted to key presses. I had to turn it off, disconnect DC, then turn it back on to restart it. After that a second session of about the same duration succeeded without any further problem. The SD card used was a quite new 16 GB Class 10 SDHC card with only about 5 hours of recording usage so far.

A look at the audio files in the project where the recorder crashed showed something strange:
There were 3 wav files (mono-000.wav to mono-002.wav) with about 310MB and the duration of about 1 hour, which corresponds to the length of the recording session. These files were readable audio files, but didn't contain any audio. The other five wav files had only about 190KB and couldn't be read by my DAW software.

Has anybody encountered similar issues/problems?

How could obviously the recorder write 3 files with the correct length of the recording session (so it had to be still "alive" in some way during the duration of the recording) but with no audio data in them, while it wasn't able to write the remaining 5 track files during the same period of time?

Has anyone any idea?

Does anybody know how the Zoom R16 writes recorded audio to files on the SD card? I'm sure it has to write to all track files in real time during the recording, having no internal memory. What's happening during the usual short period when the message "wait ..." is displayed after pressing the stop key? Is this just the closing of the written audio files?

Yours
Ser
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Re: Zoom R16 crashing/hanging during recording

Post by Wulfraed » Wed Aug 08, 2018 8:07 am

serafin wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 4:26 am
Does anybody know how the Zoom R16 writes recorded audio to files on the SD card? I'm sure it has to write to all track files in real time during the recording, having no internal memory. What's happening during the usual short period when the message "wait ..." is displayed after pressing the stop key? Is this just the closing of the written audio files?
Partly the nature of flash memory -- it is /erased/ to all-1s, and data writes can only convert 1-bits to 0-bits. Also, erasure takes place is very large allocation units -- not the smaller "block" sizes that are used during data writes. Thirdly -- Class-10 SD cards are rated for streaming video to a freshly formatted/erased card, and cheaper brands are optimized only for that usage. Class-2/4/6 cards are rated for writes in smaller chunks, onto potentially fragmented media (still image camera that has had some images deleted). A good grade 4 could, thereby, potentially beat out a grade 10 card when one is recording multiple files in parallel, especially if it has to close/erase/open allocation units each time it changes from one file to another.

What the Zoom gear is doing is hypothetical: at the least, it has to update the WAV file header with the information about total length of the file. That requires closing all allocation units, finding/erasing free units, opening said units, writing the file length and then copying the rest of the recorded data into the new unit, and marking the original unit as available.

It could even go beyond that, if the original recordings are interleaved in the media (one block of track1, one block of track2, etc.) -- it could be copying each track, one at a time, into new allocation blocks so that they are no longer interleaved; IOWs, defragmenting the SD card [which would be doubling the wear :gosh: ].
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Re: Zoom R16 crashing/hanging during recording

Post by serafin » Thu Aug 09, 2018 7:18 am

Hey Wulfread,

thank you very much for your explanations. One problem is, there aren't that much class 4 or class 6 cards around any more, but I'll keep looking.
So it might be a good idea to reformat the SC card with the R16 before doing a bigger project?

Still I can't understand why the recorder has written 3 files with the full duration of the recording session, even if they were empty, while it just kind of "forgot" to write the remaining five tracks. In my experience, a computer that has crashed usually doesn't write to a file any longer. And if the zoom crashed at the end of the recording session, why then are the 3 recorded files empty and the remaining 5 way too small?

I did a data recovery scan on the SD card afterwards but the program wasn't able to find recoverable data. Not very amazing, since there was another project written after the crash.

Well, I still can try another brand of SD card (the used one is a quite new Toshiba 16 GB Class 10 SDHC) and reformat the card every time I'm doing a bigger recording session.

Thank you again for your hints

Ser
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Re: Zoom R16 crashing/hanging during recording

Post by Wulfraed » Thu Aug 09, 2018 9:37 am

Just for sniggers, read the grey box at https://www.toshiba.co.jp/p-media/wwsit ... tm#cate4-2
{Though I suspect all the card makers have similar disclaimers -- any memory cards in those high-risk devices would have had to be certified in testing}

I don't know if Toshiba actually manufactures their cards. The only foundries I'm fairly sure of are SanDisk, Lexar, and I think Samsung (I've never seen a Samsung branded SD card, but have heard of them). Some review sites give Transcend as runner-up to SanDisk/Lexar (Transcend being slightly slower) -- but those sites are either doing single video streams, or burst mode still image shooting; nothing with both multiple streams and long duration. PNY is a reseller -- they buy up batches of lowest-bidder cards, and put their name on them; as a result, performance could change from one batch to another.

As for the 3vs5 question. As I mentioned, hypothetically, writing the header (which contains the file length) could entail rewriting the entire track. Possibly the card started writing the headers, and had power-dropped before it had time to copy/flush the data from one area into the new area. I've never seen any actual explanation for the 10+minute hangs (someone tends to report one every year or so).

The SD Card Association does make (and recommends using) their formatting software, but so many devices insist of writing special configuration files as part of their own formatting operation -- so the association formatter essentially comes down to cards that are strictly used as bare mass-storage devices (computer card reader, things like Raspberry-Pi [though that starts as FAT, it converts most of the card into an EXTn partition], Beaglebone Black [OS images are EXTn partition from the start] -- EXTn partitions can play hob with cheap cards due to the amount of file rewriting that journaling file systems perform).
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Re: Zoom R16 crashing/hanging during recording

Post by serafin » Fri Aug 10, 2018 3:51 am

Hi Wulfraed,
thank you again for all the information.

What's particularly useful for me is the info on SD card manufacturers (so I should buy me some SanDisk SDHC cards as long as they still are available, even only as class 10 cards) and the reported "10+minute hangs". At least this hints towards a problem with the cards and not a hardware failure.

Since there is no new firmware available the only reasonable things to do - as I understand - are:
- preferably use SanDisk cards
- use class 4 or class 6 cards before class 10 cards (that's difficult, there are nearly only class 10 cards available)
- format them with the R16 before using (hint from a support man)
- maybe reformat them before any longer recording session? (something I thought might be a good idea)

Seems there's not much else one can do. Besides using a stereo recorder as a fallback for important live recordings (which I did)

Thinking about the Zoom's usage of the SD card file system, I think it would have been a good idea to give the recorder a reasonable sized internal memory to write to in the first step and let it write to the SD card from there. So a lot of the allocating/reallocating stuff could be avoided. Well, but they didn't design it that way, so I have to work with what I got.

Thank you again for the help
Yours
Ser
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Re: Zoom R16 crashing/hanging during recording

Post by Wulfraed » Fri Aug 10, 2018 7:53 am

serafin wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 3:51 am
Thinking about the Zoom's usage of the SD card file system, I think it would have been a good idea to give the recorder a reasonable sized internal memory to write to in the first step and let it write to the SD card from there. So a lot of the allocating/reallocating stuff could be avoided. Well, but they didn't design it that way, so I have to work with what I got.
But what would be "a reasonable sized internal memory"?

Recording 8 tracks in parallel, at 44.1kHz/16-bit, for a 1-hour duration, is the equivalent of four music CDs, or close to 3GB. The internal memory can't be flash based since that would have the same problem with allocation and wear-leveling as the SD card (along with the chance of failure from over use). But if you put in 3-4GB of RAM, then any power glitch before it is written to SD card will lose everything.

It would also be overkill for the person who creates a project for each song, and is doing overdubbing, so they only have one or two tracks in record mode at a time. A 5-minute song, with stereo record, needs about 100MB of RAM, and would then be flushed to SD card. Such a person would probably object to having to pay $$$ for 4GB of RAM (which likely means external memory and DRAM refresh logic) when a moderate system-on-chip with 512MB would suffice (Raspberry Pi 3B actually has 1GB, and at 1.2GHz is likely a lot faster than whatever is in the R16; a Beaglebone Black has 512MB, and runs at 1GHz -- but has more built-in ADC capability).

The BOSS BR-600/-800 use a different scheme for storage. Everything is really held in one large file, and an event list is used to identify where in the file pieces are for each track. In order to get access to WAV files you have to run a converter program (and said converter only does 44.1kHz/16-bit). They also don't support a whopping 8-parallel record (the -800 does have a four-input mode, but most operations are just one [mono] or two [stereo] inputs -- using dedicated inputs yet [guitar input is separate from microphone input which is separate from line-in; and one has to select the input mode]).
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Re: Zoom R16 crashing/hanging during recording

Post by serafin » Sat Aug 11, 2018 6:19 am

Hi Wulfraed,

you certainly are right there. It was just a thought though, since memory isn't very expensive any more.

My Sony cam for an example has so much internal memory, that I'm able to record a 2 hour concert without using any additional SD card. So that would have been an option. I think most people have a maximum continuous recording length of 3 hours on 8 tracks, so 32GB internal RAM memory would be more than sufficient to record that all. After the recording you could export the whole stuff to SD, USB, whatever. 32GB internal RAM aren't that expensive.

But ok, Sony did that with their handy cam and Zoom didn't do it with the R16, that's life.

Thank you again

Ser
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Re: Zoom R16 crashing/hanging during recording

Post by sciurius » Sat Aug 11, 2018 7:43 am

You're missing the point a bit. For video stream recording flash memory is okay. See Baron's earlier post (2nd in this thread).
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Re: Zoom R16 crashing/hanging during recording

Post by serafin » Sat Aug 11, 2018 9:48 am

Hi sciurius,
I don't think that the internal memory of my sony cam is flash memory, wouldn't make much sense when you can insert additional SD cards ...
My idea was, since the Zoom only can access up to 32GB SD cards, it would have been easy to provide 32GB internal RAM memory for actual recording and an USB port for exporting data. Anyway, it is as it is.
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Re: Zoom R16 crashing/hanging during recording

Post by Wulfraed » Sat Aug 11, 2018 9:53 am

serafin wrote:
Sat Aug 11, 2018 6:19 am
But ok, Sony did that with their handy cam and Zoom didn't do it with the R16, that's life.
1) I suspect that is not RAM -- RAM loses its contents when the power is removed (if you can shoot a video on internal memory, remove all the power [including back-up batteries -- normally those just power the clock], and still recover the video a day later when putting power back into the device -> Non-Volatile-Memory: Flash or EEPROM (or some sort of magnetic system).

You didn't specify what model, so I can't readily look up the specs. I found ONE Sony model with 32GB internal memory (on a mid-price camera -- the high-end cameras don't have it). https://www.sony.com/electronics/camcor ... mory=32-gb
Emphasis is mine:
Storage Media

Media Type
Internal Flash Memory, XAVC S HD: Micro SDHC Memory Card (4 GB or over, Class 10 or Higher)/Micro SDXC Memory Card (Class 10 or Higher), AVCHD, Still: Memory Stick Micro™ (Mark 2), Micro SD/SDHC/SDXC Memory Card (Class 4 or Higher)

Internal Media
Flash Memory 32 GB8
It uses flash memory, NOT RAM.

RAM is not all that cheap: https://www.amazon.com/Crucial-16GBx2-P ... B015YPB8ME
You've just doubled the price of the R16, not counting improved power supply and refresh logic (not to mention the headaches of making sure to copy to SD card BEFORE turning off the power) :noway:

2) As has been mentioned, video cameras are streams of single files -- even a cheap flash memory controller can handle video streams without problem (the audio is interleaved with the video, not a separate file). Internal flash on a multi-stream (with editing capability -- how many video cameras allow one to, say, overdub and mix on-camera) would have similar problems as using external flash (the memory controller is a chip inside an SD card package -- but for embedded/raw flash usage, the main processor has to have the file system written to do wear leveling). And, since audio projects hit flash so heavily, an internal memory is quite likely to wear out much faster and become useless.
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Re: Zoom R16 crashing/hanging during recording

Post by serafin » Sat Aug 11, 2018 10:00 am

Hi sciurius, Wulfraed,

I think you're right there. The sony cam most probably uses flash memory as internal memory.

And yes, RAM is more expensive, you're right there too.

Yours
Ser
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Re: Zoom R16 crashing/hanging during recording

Post by serafin » Sat Aug 11, 2018 10:04 am

Hi Wulfraed,

maybe you can shed some light on the following topic:

A Zoom support guy recommended to format SD cards with the Zoom itself instead of using the preformatted cards to avoid writing failures.

Following this idea I thought about reformatting the SD card every time before doing a longer recording session with the Zoom itself. Does that make any sense to you?

If so, could I copy my empty project directory structure along with the project config files to my PC before reformatting and back to the SD card afterwards? That would save some time needed to reinstall and rename the projects every time.

Yours
Ser
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Re: Zoom R16 crashing/hanging during recording

Post by Wulfraed » Sat Aug 11, 2018 10:53 am

serafin wrote:
Sat Aug 11, 2018 10:04 am
A Zoom support guy recommended to format SD cards with the Zoom itself instead of using the preformatted cards to avoid writing failures.
As I'd mentioned many moons ago -- it gets a bit confusing: The SD card Association recommends one use their (downloadable) application to format SD cards... And for a new card, probably use the overwrite mode -- after that, fast mode [which just wipes the FAT area] is effective.

BUT many devices don't just format a card, they also write initial configuration information and directory structure.

Following this idea I thought about reformatting the SD card every time before doing a longer recording session with the Zoom itself. Does that make any sense to you?
Depends a bit on how much of the card had been used. Cards have a limited erase capability, and full (overwrite) formatting will hit every allocation block on the card (this is also one reason to NOT do a defragment operation on flash memory). If you only used a fraction of the card, just erasing the project (which should only hit the FAT area) and letting the card wear-leveling algorithms cycle through the unused blocks until needing to reuse the "erased" file areas should provide for slightly longer life -- the card can mark out worn out blocks and allocate from the small amount of spares it keeps track of.
If so, could I copy my empty project directory structure along with the project config files to my PC before reformatting and back to the SD card afterwards? That would save some time needed to reinstall and rename the projects every time.
While I'd keep a configuration as back-up for use when initializing a new SD card (which I'd probably double-format -- first with SD card Association formatter, then in the Zoom device), I'd probably just delete projects after copying them off the device, and keep the empty template on the device for initializing new projects.

If one has a supply of truly identical SD cards (which likely means the same batch from the same maker), one could prepare one card, then use a computer to do a block image copy to a file, followed by using that image file to initialize the other cards. (Win32DiskImager for Windows, the "dd" utility on Linux) {The BeagleBoard organization now recommends Etcher for Windows -- but Etcher is a write-only application; Win32DiskImager can go both directions.}
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Re: Zoom R16 crashing/hanging during recording

Post by serafin » Sat Aug 11, 2018 3:56 pm

Hi Wulfraed,

thanks for the detailed explanation. I think I got the main points and will follow your advice.

Thanks again for all the hints

Yours
Ser
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