A good recording device?
December 19, 2007 6:13 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone help me select a high-quality recording device for fieldwork and speech analysis, please?

I am about to go to rural Peru to do some fieldwork in some pretty remote regions - the last thing left to buy is a suitable recording device. I sure could use some tips...

A colleague of mine had good experiences with an older Edirol model - I see that the R09 has been released - but I wonder if it is really the most ideal tool.

Anyone have any suggestions? The best solution would be a machine without moving parts, AA-battery powered, easily transfer to computer or external USB, have a great memory, and would not look too flashy.

I'd appreciate any ideas or reviews of Edirol R09...

Thanks a lot!
posted by mateuslee to Science & Nature (12 answers total)
I use an M-Audio MicroTrack II for field recording and sample gathering. It's pretty good at what it does and I've never had much cause to feel disappointment with it. I have little experience of other products in the field for an objective comparison though.
posted by benzo8 at 6:34 AM on December 19, 2007

Best answer: You should check out the Zoom H4. I've been using one for the last six months or so, and it's a terrific machine - a real "Swiss Army Knife" of audio.

It can run from AA batteries, and uses SD cards for storage - afaik up to 4GB cards are supported.

The H4 has its own condenser microphones, in an X-Y configuration. I've used them for recording everything from academic meetings and lectures, to (very loud) rehearsals of my band, an it holds its own very well.

As if this wasn't enough, it also has two XLR/Jack combo connectors for external microphones (it can even deliver phantom power) or line sources. It can also record in 4 track mode, be used as a USB audio interface for PC, and is fully class compliant - so transferring files is as easy as connecting via usb and then using drag-and-drop.

Zoom have recently introduced the H2, which is a smaller profile unit, albeit with less of the bells-and-whistles of the H4. This is more along the lines of the R-09, albeit a lot cheaper.
posted by coach_mcguirk at 7:12 AM on December 19, 2007

Oh, I forgot to say - another neat feature of the H4 is that it comes with an adaptor for a standard camera tripod attachment. I picked up a small tripod for a couple of pounds on Ebay, and it makes a perfect stand for it.
posted by coach_mcguirk at 7:14 AM on December 19, 2007

Reviews (with audio samples) - transom.org
Extensive guide from the Vermont Folklife Center

I've used the Microtrack 24/96 (cons: no removable batteries, slow connectivity with the computer) with decent results If I was buying something new at the moment, I'd probably go for the Marantz PMD620.
posted by imposster at 7:27 AM on December 19, 2007

This question should overlap with yours.

I also have a Zoom H4 and love it, but unless you want to use the 4-track mode, get the H2. I would have if it had been available when I bought mine. It's a hundred dollars cheaper, sounds great, and will do everything you need it to do.
posted by umbĂș at 7:47 AM on December 19, 2007

The Edirol is a worthy machine, but the recent Zoom models are very popular, and not without reason. Unless you need any very specific additional features, the H2 is a lot of bang for the buck. Seconding the Transom reviews.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:03 AM on December 19, 2007

The Zoom H4 is pretty good. If you're feeling rich, the Nagra Ares series are excellent - small, robust, easy to use, good sound quality, and a very good built in mike.
posted by Luddite at 8:42 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've used Edirol, Zoom, Marantz, and other brands regularly for several years. I have to say that the Edirol R-09 is my favorite machine for most purposes. It is tiny, very simple to operate, has excellent mic preamp quality (though not as good as Zoom's), and it sips battery juice very slowly. It feels flimsy in the hand -- the door that doubles as a battery/sd card hatch and a usb port hatch seems like it will break off every time you open it. Yet in many hours of hard use under tough conditions (including a recent stint in the arctic, albeit not outdoors, but still, carrying it around in -10 degree weather) it has held up beautifully, never had a random shutdown (a problem we have had with Zoom H22s, not H4s) and has made completely fine recordings. Mostly I use it for speech, and no handheld is going to be great for music without better mics. If music is your main thing, the Zoom H4 is worth a serious look because of a) 4 track capability; b) phantom powered XLR connectors as well as really good built-in mics and preamps, and c) a host of music specific goodies in the machine (including that it can be used as a USB audio interface). But in reality, I have found both Zooms -- H2 and H4 -- to have hard-to-navigate menu systems, and unacceptably small and unreadable screens on which you have to rely too much -- too much thumb-wheel navigation in on-the-go interview situations, especially. So I find myself grabbing the R-09 most of the time, and always happy with it. For more serious music recording we use a Marantz PMD-671, which is nice but too big for many purposes.

There are also a lot of accessories for the R-09, including a very handy table tripod.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:14 PM on December 19, 2007

PS -- I have done this recording for linguistic research, since that is your specific interest. And I've been very pleased with the sound quality on all of the units mentioned, so the other usability features have mattered more.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:15 PM on December 19, 2007

One more point -- the form factor of the R-09 is so tiny, it is a true shirt-pocket machine. The Zoom and Marantz "small" models are just big enough to not really be pocket machines, even the H2 being fairly bulky. I haven't used the M-Audio gear, so I'm not comparing it here. But I have a hate/love relationship with M-Audio, as in I hate all their gear under conditions of use inverse proportion to how much I love their products when I read their specs and see their prices.

Also, the earlier Edirol R01, no longer in production, was cool for its time but turned out to have some serious problems over time. I do not recommend buying one of these used or discounted, even if you find one new for cheap.

Finally, the R09 and the Zoom H2 do NOT have XLR mic inputs, and have limited functionality for setting recording levels (discrete rather than gradient choices). These are deal breakers for some people for serious recording.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:21 PM on December 19, 2007

Best answer: Another vote for the Edirol R-09. I've had mine for about six months and love it!
I like its decent battery life and non-proprietary batteries (it uses two AAs), its small size and unobtrusiveness, reliability (it never skips or stops during a recording, and it gives about 10 minutes worth of "low battery!" warning before it completely shuts off. And most importantly, it produces amazing quality recordings with the internal mics (I've never used an external mike with it, so I can't speak to that aspect).
posted by snowleopard at 8:48 PM on December 19, 2007

Oh, and if you want something utterly idiot proof, try the HHB Flashmic.
posted by Luddite at 12:40 PM on December 20, 2007

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