Archives For Downloadable Sounds

Via Rail Locomotive

I’ve enjoyed recording freight and passenger train sound effects over the past year. I wrote about my experiences capturing them here, and here.

Early in January I had a chance to record another engine. Last week, I finally cut it. And, while I was editing, I remembered an important trick: mastering your clips before you capture them makes field recording quick and easy, and invokes strong, valuable sound effects.


Doesn’t mastering follow field recording, chronologically?

Yes. I’ll explain, using the passenger train recordings as an example. First I’ll share how I cut the sound, and continue next week with ideas to help strengthen field recordings.

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Toronto Western Hospital Emergency

So, your wallet is light but you need to record the best sound effects possible. These days there are dozens of portable field recorders priced as low as $200.

But will a pocket audio recorder capture rich, evocative sound effects?

In the last two weeks I’ve been testing a new portable field recorder, the Sony PCM-D50, to answer this question.

I’ve been comparing how the D50’s field recordings respond in various environments: quiet and thick, saturated and sparse. I’ve been recording both atmospheric ambiences and specific sound effects.

Most of those recordings have appeared in my stealth and guerilla field recording review of the Sony D50 on the Airborne Sound blog. I have a microphone shootout planned for next week, so I’ve been contrasting the Sony D50’s built-in microphones with the onboard mics of the Zoom H4n recorder.

In this post I’ll try something a bit different. Instead of using the D50’s built-in microphones, I’ll see how the recorder pairs with an external microphone, Sonic Studio’s DSM binaural mic.

At the end of the post I’ll have some field recordings of hospital ambiences. You can judge if a budget recorder paired with an exterior microphone can capture good sound effects that are worth the cost.

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Freight Train

courtesy contemplative imaging

Freight train sound fx

I had freight train field recording on my mind for some time.  However I didn’t find an opportunity to record train sound effects for Airborne Sound until I found myself at a pub drinking Guinness.

One night late in the summer while sharing pints on a backyard patio, a massive rumble and groan swelled as a freight train whipped by, only meters from the pub. Other trains followed. They passed at different speeds, stopped, unlatched and exchanged cars with powerful clanking, grinding and shattering sounds.

I hadn’t noticed the tracks.  From my vantage on the upper patio I could now see tracks hidden behind dense trees, tucked between the neighbourhoods.  There was plenty of area to record, undisturbed and away from traffic.

I returned a number of times to the pub and found that the trains generally passed at the same time. It was a perfect opportunity.

Hear and download the freight train sound effects now.

I have added a “Lessons Learned” section to the Field Reports. It’s at the conclusion of the post.

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Union Station Great Hall

Train station sound effects

My goal while field recording sound effects for Airborne Sound is to record beyond simple sound clips and capture vivid, evocative sound. My favorite method for accomplishing this is with stealth recording.

While stealth recording the recordist is secretly immersed in an environment. They have the potential to capture sound effects of people and cultures in their most natural, comfortable state.

Hear and download binaural train station sound effects.
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CNE Ride: Swing Ride

Funfair Ambience Sound Effects


At the end of summer every year, the Canadian National Exhibition visits Toronto. This carnival fair signals the end of summer for Torontonians.

Home to such venerable attractions as the human cannonball, strong man show, air show and midway, the CNE also features B-list concerts, slippery home show salesmen and the show-stopping donut bacon cheeseburger (1,550 calories).

Donut Hamburger

Courtesy of ccaviness

I make a point to visit each year before the carnival packs up and disappears with the vestiges of summer.

Jump to and download the fair sound effects now.

I enjoy wandering the vast fairgrounds amongst the crowd, playing the odd game of chance and seeing the fair light up as dusk settles.

The CNE has a buzz to it. What creates this buzz? I’ve tried putting my finger on it. Unlike amusement parks, the CNE lasts only a few weeks. Maybe this impermanence contributes to it. The throngs, events, rides and games create an expressive atmosphere.

As readers of this blog know, I seek out evocative sound effects for my library at Carnivals are stuffed with unique and distinctive sounds. The crowds are excited, diverse and lively. Barkers entice with characteristic flair. Both the games and rides have unusual voices.

My goal was to capture the vividness of the fair with field recordings. The environment was rich. How hard could it be?

I quickly discovered how tricky it was recording evocative fairground ambiences in such a complex environment.

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Front Loading Garbage Truck

Courtesy of dmourati

Garbage truck sound effects


You might observe that garbage trucks are not the most uncommon thing in cities. You’d be right. Finding garbage truck sound effects in downtown Toronto isn’t a problem. That doesn’t make recording them easy. Despite the apparent mundane aspect of these sounds, capturing a field recording of these lumbering beasts has enough other unusual challenges to make it surprisingly tricky.
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