R16 vs Alesis HD24 for sound quality

Discuss the Zoom HD and R series. Please don't "post and run". Participate in the discussion. Thanks.
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yairisan
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R16 vs Alesis HD24 for sound quality

Post by yairisan » Thu Jul 18, 2019 2:49 am

I used to record on an Alesis HD24. Great machine, sounded fantastic. Over the years, I have downsized and have ended up with the Zoom R16. Still learning it, but recorded a practice session the other weekend using 7 of the 8 tracks. It recorded everything just fine, I pulled the recorded tracks into Audacity, and then (other than a little level adjustment) basically exported the mix with no effects to a stereo file (mp3).

Can't say I'm all that impressed with the sound, which sounds very flat to me. Sure, it's much better than a single point recording, but I miss the robust quality of the HD24. I'm wondering if this perceived difference is due to what are presumably (given the price) lacklustre preamps in the R16, or should I try recording at 24-bit to get closer to that HD24 sound?

Thoughts anyone? People rave about the R16 being able to create great mixes, but I can't see that being possible based on this initial experience. The raw tracks just lack dimension. Not terrible, but not great. I used good mics and was careful with levels.

Is the 24-bit option worth a try?
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Re: R16 vs Alesis HD24 for sound quality

Post by Wulfraed » Thu Jul 18, 2019 9:24 am

My first comment: don't judge using an MP3... Use a WAV format stereo file; part of MP3 compression is to toss out what the algorithm considers to be subaudible (some conversions essentially roll-off anything above 15kHz, which may mean losing lots of high harmonic content).

Try using one of the on-board mastering algorithms.

Did you monitor on the R16 during the recording session(s) (lacking details I don't know if you were running 7 inputs in parallel using the 8X mode; using one input and reassigning the track files between passes; or moving the mic/instrument jack between the inputs for each pass).
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Re: R16 vs Alesis HD24 for sound quality

Post by yairisan » Thu Jul 18, 2019 8:55 pm

Thanks for the reply.

I only did preliminary monitoring on headphones through the main amp that drives the main listening speakers, i.e., I mic'd each source (vocals x2, cahon (using two mics) DI acoustic guitar (fed from a TC Electronic Play Acoustic)). So 5 of the 8 tracks, actually—not 7, but anyway. So the monitoring feed was via the Zoom's stereo outs, into a power amp (and then its headphone out). I wasn't concentrating on 'quality' of sound as much as capturing the fundamentals of each instrument and keeping levels in check - it sounded OK, but always hard to judge. I've done things this way dozens of times on the HD24 and, even where it was deemed necessary to adjust mic position, the basic impression was that the HD24 had captured the sound as it was and returned it in all its glory (warts and all). It gave you the whole picture. The R16 is a different story - the captured sound is, for want of a better word, flat and lacking body. And further stacking tracks just ends up sounding pretty lifeless, like a cassette 4-track in comparison with the HD24.

Perhaps it's a case of apples and oranges. The HD24 is, after all, still considered a pro piece of gear, designed for just one thing: capturing sound. The R16 is for all intents and purposes a piece of home recording kit the size of a piece of A4 (and not that much heavier!) lol. I suspect it's those mic preamps. I shouldn't be expecting so much from such a piece of kit, I guess.
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Re: R16 vs Alesis HD24 for sound quality

Post by Jim_Fogle » Sun Jul 21, 2019 8:06 pm

My guess is it's a little of the difference in the pre-amps and a little of the difference in the analog to digital convertors. Finally the average audio signal level of the R16 maybe set lightly lower than the Alesis HD24 because of the difference in the way the two devices meters work.

It would be interesting to have a comparison between the Alesis HD24 and the Zoom Livetrack L-12 or L-20. It bet the difference would not be as noticeable.
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Re: R16 vs Alesis HD24 for sound quality

Post by yairisan » Sun Jul 21, 2019 9:36 pm

    Jim_Fogle wrote:
    Sun Jul 21, 2019 8:06 pm
    My guess is it's a little of the difference in the pre-amps and a little of the difference in the analog to digital convertors. Finally the average audio signal level of the R16 maybe set lightly lower than the Alesis HD24 because of the difference in the way the two devices meters work.

    It would be interesting to have a comparison between the Alesis HD24 and the Zoom Livetrack L-12 or L-20. It bet the difference would not be as noticeable.
    That would indeed be an interesting comparison. I did consider the Livetrack models, but ultimately the ultra-compact nature of the R16 won me over. As for your A/D converter observation, that may well be correct: I recall at least one review (SOS?) saying that the HD24 had surprisingly decent converters (especially given that there are 24 of them).
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    Re: R16 vs Alesis HD24 for sound quality

    Post by yairisan » Sun Jul 21, 2019 9:39 pm

    Wulfraed wrote:
    Thu Jul 18, 2019 9:24 am
    My first comment: don't judge using an MP3... Use a WAV format stereo file; part of MP3 compression is to toss out what the algorithm considers to be subaudible (some conversions essentially roll-off anything above 15kHz, which may mean losing lots of high harmonic content).

    Try using one of the on-board mastering algorithms.

    Did you monitor on the R16 during the recording session(s) (lacking details I don't know if you were running 7 inputs in parallel using the 8X mode; using one input and reassigning the track files between passes; or moving the mic/instrument jack between the inputs for each pass).
    On your advice, I ran off a WAV file of the same tracking session: it does sound better. (10x the file size, but it does provide a better stereo mix file.)

    Thanks for your comment.
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