Gear Review: Lectrosonics PDR Body Pack Recoder
A few days ago, Lectrosonics made waves on the Internet (or at least in my nerdy corner of the Internet) when it announced a tiny digital body pack recorder. I had a job on election night that this thing was perfect for, so I managed to convince a dealer to overnight me one of the precious few Lectro had given them. (Shoutout to the awesome people at TAI Audio in Orlando!) Below are some thoughts I had while using it that I'm jotting down during some down time on set.
My initial impression when taking it out of the box was how truly tiny it is. I expected it to be about the size of the company's SMQV transmitter, but it's significantly smaller. It does have the same rock solid build-quality though. It's exactly what you'd want out of this product. It has a 5pin Leno for timecode, a connector for the Lectro wired lavs you already use, a slot for the Micro SD (a 16GB card is included, a small screen with membrane buttons like those on the SM series, and the battery compartment. The battery compartment seemed flimsy at first sight, but after testing it for a while I'm confident it'll hold up and not pop open on talent.
When I powered the unit on and played with it, I found that it was all really simple to use, especially in comparison with the Zaxcom ZFR100, which is the other body pack recorder I've used in the past. In defense of Zax, though, that's a really old model, and I haven't used the newer versions. Jamming timecode, recording, and changing settings were all easy enough that I didn't feel the need to read the manual before starting to use it.
I used this unit with the Lectrosonics MC70 cable they released alongside it, which is an 1/8" to TA5 cable to connect the line out to a transmitter. It worked well, and I was able to get audio into an SMQV that, after adjusting gain, sounded identical to plugging straight into the SMQV in a side by side. One issue that I had was, despite the 1/8" out of the PDR being a locking connection, the MC70 does not lock on the 1/8" side. This is my biggest complaint, which can obviously be remedied by having a custom cable made, but having already paid $65 for a cable designed for this exact purpose, I found it a little annoying.
Setting it up on talent was really easy. You power up, press record, and you're off to the races. I will say that these things really need lithium batteries. The store I stopped by on the way to set didn't have any, so I had to use Alkaline and change them every couple hours. It's kind of a bummer that when it powers down you lose your pass-through to the transmitter, but that's to be expected. A really nice feature is that it's easy to recover files in-unit if batteries die during recording. When you power it back up, you just follow the prompts on screen to recover the file. The timecode does need to be rejammed every time the battery dies it seems. But besides that, it holds time really well as far as I could tell.
Overall, I would've preferred a slightly bigger form factor if it meant using a AA battery or even just 2 AAAs, but the reported 6 hours you get out of a lithium battery should be sufficient for most needs.
It's also nice that it records .wav files straight up, whereas the ZFR files have to go through Zaxconvert computer software before being usable.
Another small problem I encountered was the lack of belt clip. Lectro has assured me that they're putting the finishing touches on one though, and that they'll send them to all PDR owners for free.
All in all, I hope they continue to expand on recorders. A stereo version would be a welcome addition, for instance.
I really like the functionality of this unit. It's simple and it just works, which is on par with what we've come to expect from Lectrosonics. It's something I'd trust sending into a tough situation where I can't follow with my recorder.