Good field recording devices?
March 23, 2005 9:30 AM   Subscribe

I am a sort-of musician (lo-fi ambient-ish- real marketable stuff) and I want to start going out into the crazy world about me and recording various sounds. I'm looking for tips on a suitable microphone for field recording and, just as importantly, a good (quality + convenience) digital sound recording device so that I can come back and transfer my sounds without losing quality.
posted by xmutex to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am thinking you probably want a portable dat recorder. I will leave it to someone else to recommend what mic would be best for your purposes.
posted by wsg at 10:00 AM on March 23, 2005

I've been considering two portable WAV recorders: the Edirol R-1 or the Marantz PMD660.
posted by Dean King at 10:14 AM on March 23, 2005

Best answer: I wrestled with this for awhile, and ended up with a very portable (light, long lasting, durable) solution-- a minidisc recorder with binaural mics. I use a Sony MZ-N10 which I got from OutwardSound along with the Soundman mics. Pluses: very light, throw it in a bag and it's always there, rechargable, easy to use. Minuses: can't get digital sound off the tapes, unchangeable ATRAC3 compression (which sounds OK->good to me.) The mics are nice-- definitely more for 'field' recordings than rock concerts. The binaural effect is very noticeable and startling the first time you listen to it.

Another friend uses a iRiver IFP-799T digital player/recorder, which sounds great-- mic pres, different compression rates, direct digital back to the computer. It's a bit bigger and more expensive but if I had to do it over again I'd get that or something like it.

Your other options are portable DATs, which are usually a lot more $$$ and a bit bulkier, or microcasette or digital "voice recorders" which hardly ever have good quality audio. Or the disk-based Edirol or Marantz recorders listed above, but those'll set you back a lot more.
posted by neustile at 10:20 AM on March 23, 2005

Best answer: You might also find the gear page at useful.
posted by Dean King at 10:27 AM on March 23, 2005

For microphones you can't go far wrong with Giant Squid. Check out their testimonials. A set of those and a Minidisc recorder should be all you require. I can't advise on MD's however - purchasing them seems to be a whole other minefield.
posted by fire&wings at 11:03 AM on March 23, 2005

I should also say that the guys at Giant Squid are super helpful and should be able to give you a ton of in-depth advice as they did for me.
posted by fire&wings at 11:05 AM on March 23, 2005

Portable DATs have come down enough in price that buying one used may be a viable option (DAT heads DO have a finite lifetime, though, so you have to be careful, but my DAT is probably > 10 years and still works fine, and my friend's portable DAT which he purchased off ebay seems to have no problems.)

Aaron Ximm (Quiet American) has a great set of links about field recording, in addition to having some kickass tracks (i had the good fortune to see him play live at an outdoor once -- a great setting for his work).
posted by fishfucker at 11:11 AM on March 23, 2005

Can we get an idea of what your requirements are regarding run-time, size, environmental tolerance and ballpark price?
posted by mosch at 11:13 AM on March 23, 2005

Some of the new Hi-MD recorders can upload PCM wav's to the computer. You should check them out at, probably the greatest source of minidisc info out there. I'm going to buy one as soon as the prices go down a bit... I've used MD for the exact same purposes as you want to for years, but the real-time re-recording has always been a bummer. HI-MD should change all that.
posted by fake at 1:10 PM on March 23, 2005

As a suggestion for a specific mic, the Sony ECM-MS957 is great. It's the best mic I've ever tried for field recording. The ECM-MS957 isn't cheap, but it's a comfortably "prosumer" piece of equipment, and it sounds better than any other single-point stereo mic I've used. Sony has a more consumer-level version, the ECM-MS907 (at less than half the price), but the frequency response isn't as impressive, and it only has 3.5mm output, while the 957 has XLR (and comes with an XLR to 3.5mm converter cable).

In any case, I'd recommend the 957 without reservation for use in recording various crazy world sounds and soundscapes.

on preview: looks like beat me to the punch.
posted by drumcorpse at 1:15 AM on March 24, 2005

I doubt anyone's still reading, but has posted a review of the Marantz recorder I mentioned upthread. Includes four mic tests as mp3s.
posted by Dean King at 9:23 AM on April 6, 2005

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