What sound effects can your gear capture? Last week’s post presented a chart of decibel levels for common sound effects. The article explored how equipment selections affect capturing sound subjects at different loudnesses.

The chart is revealing for other reasons, too. Of course, it shows the level of sound created by things around us. It’s common sense that a power saw is louder than library crowd chatter. However, the chart becomes more interesting the narrower we look at these numbers. For example, a chainsaw is 10 dB louder than a power saw. Thunder is louder than a power saw, and about as loud as the chainsaw.

Why does this matter? Well, of course the list gives us a guide of how loud things are so we can judge if field recording equipment can capture sounds cleanly. It also invites us to think about sound more generally, too. The chainsaw is louder than the power saw by 10 dB. That is what the numbers show us. But what is it like to experience that difference? What does a 10 dB difference feel like?

So, today’s post will explore the chart with a different slant: how do sound effect levels affect hearing?

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I recently purchased some hi-fi earbuds for recreation listening when using my iPhone. While the headphones themselves are great, what I found particularly interesting was a flyer included in the headphones packaging.

The flyer includes a chart that lists the decibel level (dB) of various sound effects. We’ve seen these charts before. This one’s a bit different. I wanted to include this particular chart in a series to consider two important ideas. The first: how does gear affect field recordings you capture?

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I’ve been experimenting with a new field recording technique lately: recording four audio tracks to a MixPre-6 with a bonus summed stereo mix paired with a few handheld portable recorders thrown in as backup. The result of these multi-channel field recording sessions? My external hard drive is running out of space.

It’s true storage is pretty cheap. Just the same, I like getting a lot of mileage from of my terabytes. That’s why I make a backup of my raw field recordings in the space-saving FLAC format as soon as I return to the studio.

Earlier this week I converted some WAVs to FLAC and archived them to cloud storage. As I watched them upload, I began to think: what other reasons do people use these apps? What’s the best sound file conversion app? Will free sound file converters work well or is it better to pay for apps? Which allow batching and what file formats do they support?

So, to answer those questions, today’s post is dedicated to exploring sound file converter apps for MacOS and Windows.

Please note: I am very detailed. This article should take you about 11 minutes to read. Click the button below to email the article to yourself to read later.



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Sound Devices MixPre Chat: A New Tonebenders Podcast Episode

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Tonebenders co-host René Coronado on their excellent field recording and sound design podcast. It was the second time I had the opportunity to appear there. A few years ago I was on the show chatting about sound effects mastering and databasing.

This time, René and I chatted about the new Sound Devices MixPre models released earlier this year. We began the 75 minute chat discussing the MixPre-3 and MixPre-6. That conversation grew into a discussion about choosing equipment thoughtfully, and how one can intertwine their craft with gear choices for superior results.

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Field recording is often compared to photography. There are good reasons for this, too: both crafts sample our environment so they can share it, later. There is one key feature that separates the two, though: time. Photography freezes a specific moment in time and presents to others. On the other hand, field recording captures duration. It samples moments collectively as they evolve.

A recent project by nature field recordist Mark Ferguson explored this aspect in an interesting way. Ferguson was granted exclusive access to the 800 hectares of Slimbridge wetland wildlife reserve. Known for having the largest collection of captive wildfowl, Slimbridge also witnesses dozens of species migrate through the marsh. After repeated visits to the Trust and facing constant sonic challenges, Ferguson unveiled a project on his website that highlights the craft’s defining features from one special location: a sense of transition, the power of serendipity, and a revelation of experiences through sound.

Mark Ferguson tells us more in today’s article.

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The craft of field recording is a complex one. It requires nuanced skill and on-demand creativity that take years to cultivate.

Of course, capturing field recordings doesn’t end when you return home and start charging your batteries: the sound clips must be polished and organized before they can be shared with listeners. That’s why sound fx mastering and curation are important steps that complete the arc of sharing sound.

I’ve noticed there are a lot of questions about preparing field recordings for listeners. It’s understandable. Field recording itself is hard to learn. Mastering and curation are even more niche.

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iZotope’s RX noise-reduction software has received ample praise from throughout the pro audio community. It’s well deserved; RX’s suite of powerful tools can eliminate clicks and pops, remove buzz, and diminish noise.

There are dozens of these “modules.” In fact, it can take hundreds of hours to master them all. That’s why it was just last week that I discovered a new trick to help repair sound effects: the Find Similar tool.

Today’s post shares a quick trick to use the Find Similar function to help when mastering sound clips.

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Lately I was trying to find a microphone for a parabolic dish. I wanted a low-noise omnidirectional microphone under $1,000.

I looked in the regular forums. I browsed Facebook. I popped in and out of manufacturer websites. It took a lot of time to compare and contrast mic models, current prices, and technical specifications.

I thought: There must be an easier way to do this.

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It seems like everyone is on vacation during August. So, while everyone’s away I’ve taken the opportunity to post updates of older, popular posts.

The last to be updated is the Digital Sound Recorder Buyer’s Guide. It’s different from the larger Field Recording Gear Buyer’s Guide in that it focuses specifically on audio recorders. It also was designed to give field recordists tools to make informed choices by examining basic features, advanced features, fancy, bonus features, and extra considerations. There is also a section to discover audio recorder models in three price brackets.

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