What is the ideal device for field recordings?
February 10, 2004 8:04 AM   Subscribe

The ideal recording device. I am looking for a compact audio recording device that has input/outputs for an external mic if necessary, and storage media that is digital. It will be used to make sound recordings of people and other sounds in public areas. The recorded sound should also be easily converted to mp3 or wav format.
posted by turbanhead to Technology (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've been curious about similar devices myself, turbanhead. Some good introductory information can be found via the Quiet American web site. The has several good sections discussing field-recording equipment. (The site itself contains wonderful examples of what can be done with such equipment.)
posted by jdroth at 9:00 AM on February 10, 2004

Most people doing this prefer MiniDisc.

It's about the only thing it's good for, IMHO. :-)
posted by shepd at 9:42 AM on February 10, 2004

The Quiet American links seem to be on point, specifically the MiniDisc v. DAT and microphone pages.
posted by sad_otter at 10:06 AM on February 10, 2004

I used to make binaural recordings using a MiniDisc recorder, which was a relatively cheap and easy solution at the time (circa 1996). But now I'm looking at the hard-drive based options out there.

The Nomad Jukebox 3 came out a while back, has a line input (no mic input), and records uncompressed WAV audio. It doesn't allow you to set the recording levels, which is a big problem. But that's so old that I'm sure there must be better options now.

The Archos line of MP3 players have also supported recording for a while, but as far as I can tell they only support recording directly to MP3, I'd prefer to record to an uncompressed (or lossless compression) format first and then encode to MP3 later if I wanted to.

The best option I know of at the moment is the iRiver iHP-140, which seems to have a mic-in jack, and allows you to record directly to WAV. It doesn't seem to allow you to monitor input levels, though, which is a problem.

Another possible product which I don't know enough about is the Philips HDD100.

Anyone else have more information about hard-disk based portable recorders?
posted by hashashin at 10:08 AM on February 10, 2004

My wife has a portable audio recording business, and she has a Marantz CDR300 which she mostly uses as a backup device. She records with her iBook so she isn't confined to 80 mins of a CD, but still runs the CDR as a precaution. I use the CDR300 to record DAT > CD because it can convert 48 to 44.1 on the fly. The unit also has all sorts of inputs and outputs that make it quite flexible.
posted by terrapin at 10:20 AM on February 10, 2004

I have the Sony MZ-R30 (which seems very similar to the Quiet American's recommentation of the MZ-R50) and this thing is a workhorse, it's been dropped, and generally treated roughly without ever suffering even a single second of downtime, and it also has a nice simple interface.

Microphones are important, I have only ever used the Sony ECM-MS907, and it's as sturdy as the recorder. ( I do wish it didn't require a AA battery but it's easy to change and lasts for quite a lot of use ) Also it works well with the trick mentioned by Douglas Adams of putting it inside a condom for underwater recording.

To keep the audio in digital, I use the Sony MDS-PC3 ( a desktop MD player with Digital Optical Out ) which then goes to a Roland UA-30, although if your soundcard has optical in (or an Apple G5), then you don't need that part.

This setup has recorded everything from loud rock bands to distant animal noises with excellent quality.
posted by milovoo at 11:49 AM on February 10, 2004

transom.org is an excellent resource for recording. Here's their "which minidisc should I buy?" guide, which includes their ideal recording device. Oh wait... is 'low price' part of 'ideal?' ;)

Of course, minidiscs require that you capture to your computer in real time, if you want to convert to MP3 (correct me if I'm wrong on that, someone, I would most dearly like to be wrong on that).

If you would like to work in MP3 natively, your options are more limited, especially if you are also picky about recording levels, controls, and quality. For decent quality, high capacity, dirt-simple operation and a native MP3 workspace, check out the Archos Jukebox Recorders. They're cheap, cross-platform, and, depending on what mic you use, probably good enough for any basic needs.
posted by scarabic at 12:33 PM on February 10, 2004

i'm using a sony mz-r50 minidisc with core sound binaural microphones. though it is kind of a time consuming process since i have to upload everything in real time to my powerbook, then correct sound levels and take out things such as coughing or sniffling, and then convert it to whatever format i want (mp3 for my webpage). if there were any easier way, i would probably update more frequently.

if you have an ipod you could also just buy the griffin iTalk which has an external mic input, but the quality won't be that high.
posted by alicila at 12:42 PM on February 10, 2004

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