Conrad McCrypt DR3 Portable Recorder

Article last updated: October 04, 2015
Notice: tested with Firmware revision 1.2

► Related Article: Conrad DR3 in episode with broken 3.5 mm Audio Jack (1/8″ TRS) connector

Today I purchased Conrad DR3 portable recorder (sold under Conrad’s McCrypt brand for hobby and professional musicians), which is actually a rebranded Medeli DR3 (more info here http://www.medeli.com.hk/) for 79 EUR. It is an extremely versatile handheld device packed with lots of features for the price and only one major function in mind: recording your music on the go. I searched for a long time for a portable, yet, affordable recorder with professional built-in microphones and analog Line-in jack to be able to record my own acoustical instruments and sample field sounds to achieve more authentic vibe and artistic freedom. I supose I finally found it. Carring laptop computer with very limited battery power and lot of bulky cables with gear is not always the best option, especially if you don’t wish to look suspicious, weird or geeky and attract many YouTube paparazzi catchers.
Conrad McCrypt DR3 Portable Recorder

Conrad McCrypt DR3 Portable Recorder

For now, I’ll just say it almost fulfilled all my expectations with only one flaw (not such a big deal as it will turn out) and one minor annoyance which all could be remedied with a next firmware upgrade. I already spoked with Medeli engineer about those issues and got acknowledgment they will be considered for a change, but more on that soon with some tech stuff.

QUICK FEATURES

  • 24 bit/48 kHz WAV maximum recording quality
  • 16 bit/44.1 kHz WAV and 64/96/128/160/192/224/320k MP3 compression
  • -85 dB RMS noise floor (own measurement, very good dynamic range)
  • 2 Built-in High-quality Condenser Microphones in 90 degree XY position
  • 0-32 steps regulated MIC/LINE-IN gain
  • 0-32 steps VOLUME phones/speaker gain
  • HIGH-LOW MIC GAIN SWITCH (around +7 dB extra gain boost in HIGH position — own measurement)
  • Big LCD screen wth blue backlight very easy to read
  • USER REPLACABLE Nokia BP-4L 1500 mAh Li-Ion battery (10+ hours)
  • 16 GB SDHC memory card support (15.3 hours 24 bit/48 kHz rec time) (does NOT work with 32GB+ cards)
  • USB Audio mode (USB Sound card)
  • External Line-In (Stereo) input
  • External MIC input (not sure if it is stereo or mono, testing soon — update: seems like mono + DC power supply)
  • 200 Hz (-3 dB) low frequency cut-off filter (optinal, by default is always ON after Power ON)
  • 50 Hz (-3 dB) low frequency cut-off when above filter is OFF (this is the ‘issue’ I was talking about, but it is not a big deal, recordings with MICs do sound cleaner overall with it – cannot be truly turned OFF :( but can be easily compensated with good engineering curve EQ inside DAW)
  • Tuner utility (for tunning acoustical instruments like guitar, saxophone, violin etc.)
  • Display contrast adjustment 0-32 steps (around 15-16 is the best setting)
  • LED diode visual clipping detector (red color)

REC SOURCE

– MICs (internal or auto-switch to external if connected)
– LINE-IN
– Simultaneous MIC+LINE-IN in stereo | there is no separate 4 channels / quad track recording mode :-(

BONUS (HIDDEN) FEATURE

Undocummented in the manual, as a bonus it was revailed to me that DR3 can be used as an USB Audio device (!) aka Sound Card with Mic’s and Line inputs active simultaneously (or you can record only from MIC or LINE-IN source, you have to set this before special start-up procedure), so you can record directly onto a computer via USB streaming. To enter into this special mode hold [Effect] button then press and hold [Power] button. The device is now in USB Audio mode so you can plug it to a computer via USB cable and use favorite audio editor like Sound Forge, Cool Edit or open-source Wavosaur to record anything you normally would.

This is only experimental function, so many things are missing from it (device’s LCD is blank and lit up during this mode, without any information on it, and basically you can only control the GAIN of the MIC/LINE-IN via knob). You can adjust recording volume onto device itself. There is a possibility this mode exists on older DR2 model, which I also tested before deciding to get DR3.

Article Update (October 04, 2015): Apparently, this special mode built-in inside Conrad DR3 is not compatible with WINDOWS 7 Operating System. I will try to investigate this issue and get back if I find anything useful, but for now, it is working perfectly well under Windows XP (Windows 2003 should be fine, as well and possibly Windows Vista). The device is recognized and installed properly, but it is not listed and seen under Audio and Mixer settings. It remains to be seen if it can work under virtual machine running Windows XP.

4 Channel Sync Recording with Conrad DR3 + onboard PC audio card

You can also use this “Sound Card” mode for additional channels on the cheap during recording sessions. For example, say you have analog line-in on your computer (laptop, desktop) with following topology setup:

Source 1:
2 physical microphones (dynamic or condenser) >> connected to a MIC preamp >> connected to PC’s Line-In >> REC Software

And you need 2 additional MICs to achieve better stereo field, adjust later mix, or whatever. Conrad McCrypt can act as additional recording device to achieve a 4-channel microphone recording.

Source 2:
Conrad DR3 in USB Audio mode >> PC’s USB port >> REC Software

Or, instead of microphones, you can use your on-board line-in to connect INSTRUMENT 1 and Conrad DR3s line-in to connect INSTRUMENT 2 (stereo channels each, of course).

Since USB protocol is in perfect clock sync with your already existing audio card (on-board, or internal PCI/PCI-E, another USB Audio or whatever), you can use it inside FL Studio*, Cubase, Studio One, Cakewalk, Cool Edit (in Multi-Tracker view) etc. to record from additional USB Audio device microphones (or Line-In) channels. Later on, you can adjust mix with different mix and effects to achieve a better overall sound or just for comparison. Very handy!

*FL Studio (and possible other DAWs): simultaneous recording from multiple devices (for example, integrated on-board audio + USB Audio card) requires the use of ASIO4ALL drivers and special setup procedure. I have provided a brief tutorial about 4 channel recording below. For more information please consult FL Studio’s Help file and chapter “Recording with USB Microphones and Headsets”.

HOW TO RECORD 4-CHANNEL TRACKS WITH CONRAD DR3 + ONBOARD PC AUDIO IN FL STUDIO

1. Hold [Effect] button and press [Power] button on Conrad DR3

2. Connect it via USB audio cable to your PC. It will be automatically detected and installed under Windows as “USB Audio Device”

3. Install Asio4All drivers and select it as a default input/output device in FL Studio settings:

FL STUDIO ASIO4ALL Drivers Settings

FL STUDIO ASIO4ALL Drivers Settings

4. In your System Tray click on the Asio4All driver green Play icon, and when below ASIO control panel opens up, click on the “Power” icon below Realtek (or your sound card’s reference name) to enable additional “extra” inputs for new USB Audio device:

ASIO4ALL Extra Device Input Output Settings

ASIO4ALL Extra Device Input Output Settings

5. In FL Studio’s Mixer select input 1 as your onboard audio (Realtek HD Audio in my case), and on a different channel (#2 in below example) select USB Audio Device (= Conrad DR3):

FL STUDIO 4-Channel Recording with Realtek and USB Audio

FL STUDIO 4-Channel Recording with Realtek and USB Audio

6. “Arm” mixer channels you wish to record (stereo channels 1 and 2 above – see yellow-glowing diskette icon at the mixer’s bottom). For help about recording, check “Recording Audio” section in Fl Studio Help

7. Make sure that Recording Filter is checked to record Audio event (right-click on Record button at the top)

8. Hit Record button and FL Studio will automatically create new separate Audio tracks for respective inputs (you will see a blank pointer during recording, which is normal). Recorded tracks are saved in FL Studio\Data\Patches\Recorded path by default. I suggest you that you move them inside your local projects folder or save your project as ZIP archive, so that you never loose them. Recorded tracks will be in perfect clock sync, regardless of the fact that they are coming from 2 different physical devices (no jitter and out-of-sync issues!)

CONCLUSION

If you need an affordable high-quality portable digital audio recorder, this is one of the great candidates. Device offers much higher quality microphones in comparison to portable MP3 players/recorders, dictaphones and mobile phones/tablets with Linear PCM recording format resolution up to 48 kHz / 24 bit depth. That is absolutely fine for hobby and semi-professional musicians on the go.

Categories
Audio Computers Electronics

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