High sound quality P&S?

Started Feb 4, 2012 | Discussions
Simon97
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High sound quality P&S?
Feb 4, 2012

I'm seeking a P&S with good sound quality in the video mode.

I consider SQ to be good bit and sampling rate, frequency response and dynamic range. I had the Canon S95, it had good SQ, but lacked DR in the audio.

DR really adds realism to the audio, but most P&S really compress the audio. Camera doesn't have to have stereo sound.

Is there such a camera or am I barking up the wrong tree?

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Keto
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Re: High sound quality P&S?
In reply to Simon97, Feb 4, 2012

I've never heard any decent audio from a point & shoot, even DSLRs need either an add on mike or a completely separate way to record audio.

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Roger99
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Re: High sound quality P&S?
In reply to Simon97, Feb 4, 2012

I had pretty fair results on this a while back with a Canon S2 being stereo and presenting good clarity and presence. How they have evolved past that I don't know.

Most of the time though it's all a bit of a trade off with in camera mics and the necessity to notch out camera body noise (my assumption). I'd be looking for something that will allow the use of external microphones if they exist in a compact. (DSLRs have gone that way thank the designers) That would give you a bit of control over input dynamics even making possible some inline processing and eq. It's bulky but doable with mike inputs. As it stands with incam solutions the sound system seems frustratingly to be a bit of an afterthought with manufacturers but having said that, they do pretty well in that little box.

EDIT: Another way to go would be to get a minidisc recorder to capture audio separately and stripe it in later. I have done it and it gives far better results but you have to be addicted to overlook the added gadget. All depends on the project I guess.

Simon97 wrote:

I'm seeking a P&S with good sound quality in the video mode.

I consider SQ to be good bit and sampling rate, frequency response and dynamic range. I had the Canon S95, it had good SQ, but lacked DR in the audio.

DR really adds realism to the audio, but most P&S really compress the audio. Camera doesn't have to have stereo sound.

Is there such a camera or am I barking up the wrong tree?

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...oh, and I see by the lack of responses that I am right yet again.

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sherwoodpete
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Re: High sound quality P&S?
In reply to Roger99, Feb 4, 2012

Roger99 wrote:

EDIT: Another way to go would be to get a minidisc recorder to capture audio separately and stripe it in later. I have done it and it gives far better results but you have to be addicted to overlook the added gadget. All depends on the project I guess.

I've been down that route. Nowadays I'd recommend a solid-state digital recorder which can deliver quality better than the older compressed minidisc, such as products by Zoom or Edirol for example.

Regards,
Peter

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sherwoodpete
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Re: High sound quality P&S?
In reply to Simon97, Feb 4, 2012

Simon97 wrote:

I'm seeking a P&S with good sound quality in the video mode.

I consider SQ to be good bit and sampling rate, frequency response and dynamic range. I had the Canon S95, it had good SQ, but lacked DR in the audio.

DR really adds realism to the audio, but most P&S really compress the audio. Camera doesn't have to have stereo sound.

Is there such a camera or am I barking up the wrong tree?

It's difficult to get the information directly from camera reviews (though I've requested Dpreview add details more than once).

For example, some cameras use 8-bit audio sampled at 8000 Hz. Others may use 16bit audio at 16kHz, with a few using CD-quality 16-bit at 44kHz.

And that's just the way it is sampled and stored. In addition, there is the type of signal compression used, to cover the wide dynamic range of real-world sounds. Some cameras compress strongly, while other simply clip the louder signals. Both are compromises, nether is good, but clipping renders the audio unusable.

The only way to get an idea of the sound capabilities is to seek out and download video samples from various camera reviews. It's unfortunate as this may mean downloading many megabytes of data just to find the ten or twenty bytes of technical information which were not listed in the spec.

But you do of course have a chance to listen to the audio too, which can be quite revealing. Some cameras cannot zoom or focus during video, in order to avoid mechanical noise being captured.

I've used an ordinary Panasonic TZ65 which delivered basic but acceptable audio, and does allow both zoom and autofocus during filming without too much harm.

You could certainly look out for a camera with an external microphone socket, which I think applies mostly to higher end cameras such as DSLRs. That is probably a simple compromise which will give good results.

Personally I've used a separate audio recorder, the Zoom H4 to capture sound. This has built-in mics of pretty good quality, but if you want better, has XLR and 1/4 inch jack socket inputs. And then - horror of horrors - I manually synchronised the audio with the video. To many people this is the last thing on earth they'd want to do, but with practice it is not too difficult.

Regards,
Peter

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Roger99
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Re: High sound quality P&S?
In reply to sherwoodpete, Feb 4, 2012

sherwoodpete wrote:

Roger99 wrote:

EDIT: Another way to go would be to get a minidisc recorder to capture audio separately and stripe it in later. I have done it and it gives far better results but you have to be addicted to overlook the added gadget. All depends on the project I guess.

I've been down that route. Nowadays I'd recommend a solid-state digital recorder which can deliver quality better than the older compressed minidisc, such as products by Zoom or Edirol for example.

Regards,
Peter

Well, gotta agree with you there, not having tried either of your suggestions, but I have to pick at one point. The compression on the minidisc is only a 2 to 1 compression and is a numeric data stream rather than audio data compression so the signal is not really altered BUT the sampling rate is only 44100 hz (CD quality) and I would expect newer technologies to go to better rates than this. 96khz would be a good starting point for a mastering rate IMHO. I'd imagine the Edirol options would beat this at least.
--

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain an idea without necessarily accepting it. -Aristotle

The one serious conviction one should hold is that nothing should be taken too seriously.
...oh, and I see by the lack of responses that I am right yet again.

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Roger99
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Re: High sound quality P&S?
In reply to sherwoodpete, Feb 4, 2012

I don't think I have had a camera with a top rate less than 44khz in the last eight years or so. I wouldn't call it that rare but yeah dynamics compression must be going on in these things. Sure sounds like it at times.
--

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain an idea without necessarily accepting it. -Aristotle

The one serious conviction one should hold is that nothing should be taken too seriously.
...oh, and I see by the lack of responses that I am right yet again.

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sherwoodpete
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Re: High sound quality P&S?
In reply to Roger99, Feb 4, 2012

Roger99 wrote:

sherwoodpete wrote:

Roger99 wrote:

EDIT: Another way to go would be to get a minidisc recorder to capture audio separately and stripe it in later. I have done it and it gives far better results but you have to be addicted to overlook the added gadget. All depends on the project I guess.

I've been down that route. Nowadays I'd recommend a solid-state digital recorder which can deliver quality better than the older compressed minidisc, such as products by Zoom or Edirol for example.

Regards,
Peter

Well, gotta agree with you there, not having tried either of your suggestions, but I have to pick at one point. The compression on the minidisc is only a 2 to 1 compression and is a numeric data stream rather than audio data compression so the signal is not really altered BUT the sampling rate is only 44100 hz (CD quality) and I would expect newer technologies to go to better rates than this. 96khz would be a good starting point for a mastering rate IMHO. I'd imagine the Edirol options would beat this at least.
--

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain an idea without necessarily accepting it. -Aristotle

The one serious conviction one should hold is that nothing should be taken too seriously.
...oh, and I see by the lack of responses that I am right yet again.

My own experience was with an oid version of Minidisc which if I remember correctly had a 5:1 compression. I know there were later improvements, so I may be misrepresenting it.

My Zoom H4 (which is now getting old by technology standards) can do up to 24-bit 96kHz stereo uncompressed. But the thing I like best is the straight unadulterated recording, with no dynamic range compression.

There are options for lower sampling rate, MP3 compression at various rates. There is also the option to apply limiting or compression of the dynamic range which can serve a purpose when required.

I've not explored all the brands, I think Sony, Olympus and Yamaha also produce these kinds of audio recorders.

Regards,
Peter

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sherwoodpete
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Re: High sound quality P&S?
In reply to Roger99, Feb 4, 2012

Roger99 wrote:

I don't think I have had a camera with a top rate less than 44khz in the last eight years or so. I wouldn't call it that rare but yeah dynamics compression must be going on in these things. Sure sounds like it at times.

Perhaps I'm just using older technology. I used a Fuji F30 for years (it sampled at 16kHz if I remember rightly).

The sound was quite acceptable - until I compared it with something better. The compression of dynamics is very strong, meaning it always sounds loud when played back, but it can really take the life out of a musical performance by crushing the dynamics.

Regards,
Peter

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Roger99
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Re: High sound quality P&S?
In reply to sherwoodpete, Feb 4, 2012

sherwoodpete wrote:

Roger99 wrote:

I don't think I have had a camera with a top rate less than 44khz in the last eight years or so. I wouldn't call it that rare but yeah dynamics compression must be going on in these things. Sure sounds like it at times.

Perhaps I'm just using older technology. I used a Fuji F30 for years (it sampled at 16kHz if I remember rightly).

The sound was quite acceptable - until I compared it with something better. The compression of dynamics is very strong, meaning it always sounds loud when played back, but it can really take the life out of a musical performance by crushing the dynamics.

Regards,
Peter

Yeah they lose the brightness and definition out of the top end and that's where all the directional and resonant information lives. It can sort of work in isolation until compared to better sources. Its like comparing mp3 players to a reasonable stereo system. They sound great until you realize what you're missing.
--

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain an idea without necessarily accepting it. -Aristotle

The one serious conviction one should hold is that nothing should be taken too seriously.
...oh, and I see by the lack of responses that I am right yet again.

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Simon97
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Re: High sound quality P&S?
In reply to Simon97, Feb 6, 2012

Thanks for the feedback. I now have a Sony DSC-S90 which was an entry level camera when it was released six-some years ago. It records mono at 41KHz, 16bit and sounds okay except for the DR compression.

A couple things I notice is when using movie maker to edit, it does something to the audio that makes the sound a bit lower in quality. Same with Video spin (name IIRC). The sampling and bit rate of the audio is the same in the completed output, so I don't understand why it degrades. It is really noticeable on my older Canon cameras that use a crappy 12Khz sampling rate. It goes from bad to worse.

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sherwoodpete
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Re: High sound quality P&S?
In reply to Simon97, Feb 6, 2012

Simon97 wrote:

Thanks for the feedback. I now have a Sony DSC-S90 which was an entry level camera when it was released six-some years ago. It records mono at 41KHz, 16bit and sounds okay except for the DR compression.

A couple things I notice is when using movie maker to edit, it does something to the audio that makes the sound a bit lower in quality. Same with Video spin (name IIRC). The sampling and bit rate of the audio is the same in the completed output, so I don't understand why it degrades. It is really noticeable on my older Canon cameras that use a crappy 12Khz sampling rate. It goes from bad to worse.

Regarding the loss of quality when editing, you mentioned sampling rate and bit rate. I would think that the choice of compression type and bit-rate would be the important factors. e.g. AAC or MP3 or WMA etc. If you have a choice, then you certainly want to keep the bit rate up.

We all have our favourite ways of working, I've recently been using Avidemux to save the final version of my video, and selecting AAC as the audio codec. On other occasions I've saved video with uncompressed PCM audio, but that can result in the audio content requiring as much space as the video data.

Regards,
Peter

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Simon97
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Re: High sound quality P&S?
In reply to sherwoodpete, Feb 6, 2012

I checked some videos with VLC player to see the codec used.
Input shows 32Khz sampling rate and 64Kb/s rate MPEG audio.
Outout shows 44.1Khz sampling rate 16 bits per sample WMA.

I guess I wasn't quite right saying the output was the same format and all, but the output shows audible degradation in the sound even though it should be higher quality. I guess something goes on in the conversion.

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sherwoodpete
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Lossy psychoacoustic compression
In reply to Simon97, Feb 8, 2012

Simon97 wrote:

I checked some videos with VLC player to see the codec used.
Input shows 32Khz sampling rate and 64Kb/s rate MPEG audio.
Outout shows 44.1Khz sampling rate 16 bits per sample WMA.

I guess I wasn't quite right saying the output was the same format and all, but the output shows audible degradation in the sound even though it should be higher quality. I guess something goes on in the conversion.

I suspect the problem is re-compression of audo which has already been compressed.

Depending on the camera, the audio track will usually have been compressed with some algorithm or other, generally a type of lossy compression.

When editing and re-saving the video (depending on the software used) the audio will be compressed again. However the compression algorithms are usually designed with psychoacoustic compression, based upon ignoring differences in real-world signals which the human ear+brain find indistinguishable. When the input to the compressor is not straight, unprocessed audio (for which the algorithm was not designed), the results may be poor.

For that reason, either the original signal should be recorded without using lossy compression, or subsequent processing should avoid attempting to re-compress the audio.

Some software can do basic edits while copying the original audio unchanged, though this may not always be possible. Alternatively, keeping the final audio at a very low compression ratio (larger file size) should reduce quality losses.

Note: saving the final audio at a different sampling rate than the original recording will involve resampling, which may degrade the audio slightly. Increasing the sampling rate e.g. from 32kHz to 44.1kHz certainly cannot improve the quality.

Regards,
Peter

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