Review: Sony PCM-D50 (Bonus)

Once you''ve made a recording on your D50, you can play it, delete it, or delete just part of it (by first dividing the file and then deleting the unwanted segment).
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FIG. A: The Joby GP1 Gorillapod is a handy non-Sony accessory that provides an easy way to point your D50 in any direction. Sony''s optional tripod, the VCT-PCM1, offers similar functionality.

Figure: Rudy Trubitt

This online bonus material supplements the Sony PCM-D50 review in the May 2008 issue of EM.

Time to Play

Once you''ve made a recording on your D50, you can play it, delete it, or delete just part of it (by first dividing the file and then deleting the unwanted segment). Navigating long files is facilitated by the familiar press-and-hold-Fast-Forward trick, which lets you listen as fragments of your audio zip by. You can also enable the Easy Search function, which lets you jump forward by 10 seconds or back by 3. For example, six presses of the Fast-Forward button skips you exactly 1 minute ahead in the recording.

The D50''s Digital Pitch Control (DPC) switch allows playback from –75 percent to twice-normal speed. Doing so changes tempo while retaining the original musical pitch. This is a nondestructive playback function that does not affect the original recording. Although the artifacts are predictably garish at either extreme, it''s a very useful feature. Musicians will appreciate being able to slow down difficult passages when learning new material. If you''re transcribing interviews, you can adjust the pace of the talker to match your typing speed. And using double-speed playback is a great way to quickly find points of interest in long field recordings.

The D50''s Digital Pitch Control (DPC) switch allows playback from –75 percent to twice-normal speed. Doing so changes tempo while retaining the original musical pitch. This is a nondestructive playback function that does not affect the original recording. Although the artifacts are predictably garish at either extreme, it''s a very useful feature. Musicians will appreciate being able to slow down difficult passages when learning new material. If you''re transcribing interviews, you can adjust the pace of the talker to match your typing speed. And using double-speed playback is a great way to quickly find points of interest in long field recordings.

Show Me the Numbers

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FIG. B: More than just a version of the PCM-D1 without VU meters, the PCM-D50 is packed with features not found on its larger sibling.

Figure: Rudy Trubitt

In addition to the D50''s bar-graph meters, its LCD also shows a single value for just how much headroom you have before either channel clips; for instance, a reading of –7 indicates that your peaks are 7 dB below max.

This numeric headroom indicator is a great feature and is updated at a rate just often enough to be current, but it''s not so tweaky that you can''t read it. Here''s a bonus feature: when the D50''s dual-path limiter senses an over, the numeric headroom indicator actually shows you how many dB (up to +12) your signal is above 0 dBfs.

Altered Imaging

It's possible to set the D50's built-in mics to intermediate patterns. At a show outside Washington, D.C., I clamped the D50 to a shelf near the club's mixing console. As the shelf was right up against the wall, I pointed the right mic straight ahead, parallel to the wall, with the left angled out toward the edge of the dance floor (an approximately 70-degree, slightly spaced spread). I set a conservative level, hit Record, and scampered up to play the set. I doubt you'll encounter many cases when these intermediate mic positions would be an improvement over the intended 90- or 120-degree patterns, but my recording didn't suck, and it's always good to experiment.

Despite the fun of moving the stereo image around, I still missed the D1''s mic-tilt mechanism. As a substitute, I picked up a $20 Joby GP1 Gorillapod, a tiny, flexible tripod that mates happily with the D50''s threaded tripod insert (see Fig. A). It makes it a snap to aim the mics wherever you like.

PCM-D1 vs. PCM-D50

Based on its appearance, you might think the Sony PCM-D50 is simply a copy of the D1 with its analog meters lopped off (see Fig. B). But there are some other significant differences.

Check out those differences