What Microphone should I use in Rural Ghana?
May 12, 2011 12:08 PM   Subscribe

What microphone should I use in rural Ghana?

This summer, I will be travelling to rural Ghana to work with a micro-finance NGO. Part of this trip will be capturing stories from the people our NGO serves.

I've convinced my coordinator to buy an audio recorder, as this would allow summer fellows like myself the opportunity to tell audio stories, and would allow our NGO to make high quality language tools (few exist for the region). I've also been playing with the idea of recording local music in the region.

The ideal recorder would be durable, relatively easy to use (this recorder will exist for use after I'm gone, for people who may not have recording experience), and would produce high quality audio in the field. I was not given a price range, just to be 'reasonable'.

What recording device should I advise the NGO to buy? Furthermore, any reccomendations about setup would be helpful. I have pro-tools experience, but buying and shipping pro-tools hardware seems like it would be really unnecessary.
posted by justalisteningman to Technology (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You want a Zoom. I think the H1 is fantastic, but the H4N is also awesome if you want to upgrade. Brilliant quality, easy to use and transfer files to a computer, records in wave or mp3, portable...best traveling recording equipment IMO.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:32 PM on May 12, 2011

ProTools would be a ridiculous overinvestment in this case, yes.

In the realm of portables, you have a few tiers available to you. The best ground-floor entry at the moment is the Sony PCM-M10. It's got a terrific signal/noise ratio and fits in the palm of your hand. Your next level up would be a PCM-D50, then the PCM-D1 at the top tier.

I've used Zooms and Edirols and I personally find them a bit too hissy for use in low-noise environments such as these.

I hope you are also planning on investing in a good mic, since the mic is, arguably, more important than the recorder. For person-to-person field recording of this kind, you'll want a shotgun condenser mic, preferably something on the order of an Audio Technica AT8035.

And, as always, look to Transom for in-depth reviews from professionals in the field.
posted by mykescipark at 12:36 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a Zoom H4N that Lutoslawski mentions. The basic functions are super easy to use, as is transferring files to a computer. As mykescipark says a good external mic will always improve your sound, but for a lot of uses the built in stereo mic setup on the Zoom and similar recorders will be fine.
posted by zoinks at 3:58 PM on May 12, 2011

I have had good results with the Edirol R-09HR. It is billed as a music recording device, but with a slight tweaking of the gain levels (all explained in the instructional booklet) you can get it to record voice with unparalleled clarity. It can record in both MP3 and WAV format at various quality levels. It uses SD cards for storage too, which is incredibly convenient. The only problem is the price, which is up around 300 dollars, but you can find it for less than 250 used on Amazon.
posted by Bachsir at 6:24 PM on May 12, 2011

Definitely take a look at the Sony PCM-d50 or -m10.

The PCM-d50 is significantly sturdier than the zoom, and it has this great feature that makes it almost impossible to overload and distort the levels. At any given time, it is recording two signals, one much lower than the other. If there is a sudden spike in the levels, it seamlessly blends the two together, which is extremely useful.
posted by umbĂș at 8:59 PM on May 12, 2011

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