Archives For Gear

Sony PCM-D100 Angle

I've been meaning to write a review of the Sony's PCM-D100 portable audio recorder for some time now.

The D100 is the successor to Sony's popular PCM-D50 model. The D50 is known for its excellent sound quality, impressive battery life, and sturdy construction. How does the PCM-D100 (US$775) measure up to its older brother? This article will take a "deep dive" into the D100 to learn what's new, what's changed, and how it performs in the field. It also includes dozens of field recordings from the D100 and other recorders that you can download and experiment with yourself. So, settle in and join me to explore this popular portable audio recorder.

Please note, I'm very detailed. This is an in-depth review that will take approximately 24 minutes to read. If you prefer, click the link below to email yourself a copy to read later.

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Last year I compiled the advice from the pros in the “A Month of Field Recordists” into a compact post explaining how to choose the best gear yourself: the Field Recording Gear Buyer’s Guide.

Of course, no single kit is perfect for everyone. So, that article offered tips to help people choose gear that was best for them along the arc of their field recording gear.

Today, I’ve published an update. That page now includes more suggestions, including tips from the pros in the 2016 series, and community advice, too.

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Today’s post features the second of three articles about community field recording equipment. In the last article, we looked at what portable and dedicated audio recorders people prefer, and why. Now we will see what microphones the survey respondents liked, their dream field recording kits, their budget selections, and more.

Let’s get started.

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The posts last month taught us a lot about what gear field recordists use in the field. Those 23 interviews, as well as the 26 from the year before, gave us a comprehensive overview of what those field recording fans choose when capturing sound effects beyond the studio.

That series showed us how those 49 sound pros explore field recording. Last week’s post dissected their equipment preferences. Of course, there are field recording fans all over the globe performing the craft in their own way. I wanted to give everyone a chance to share their views. So, I set up a brief survey to learn what kit you use, what equipment you crave, and your advice for beginners. I curious to learn if pro choices matched the reality on the street.

Thank you very much to everyone who participated. And participate you did. There was lots of fascinating information, so much so that I’ll share your ideas in three, quick posts:

  1. Audio recorders.
  2. Microphones and favourite kits.
  3. Community tips.

Let’s get rolling.

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Last year we were given a rare treat: 26 field recordists came together to share their wisdom in a series I called “A Month of Field Recordists.” This year I revived the series. Twenty-three new people shared their insight in a second series of posts about field recording origins, equipment selections, and reflections on the craft.

My heartfelt thanks for everyone who spent their considerable time sharing their knowledge with the rest of us.

What choices were common? What portable recorders were mentioned again and again? Were there patterns in the microphones pros brought into the field?

Today we will find out.

Please note, I am very detailed. This post will take about 21 minutes to read. Click the button below to email the article to yourself to read later.

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Ian Rawes

Field recordings are often compared to photography. Why? Well, many feel sound effect recordings are an “audio snapshot,” a focused study of a specific event beyond the studio. Field recordist Des Coulam has written about this, as has Cities and Memory’s Stewart Fowkes.

There’s one key difference, though. It’s pretty easy to ground a photograph to a specific place on the planet after the fact – simply match the locations by eye. Audio tracks are more nebulous. Was that market recorded in northern Bangkok, or in the centre? For an inexperienced listener, that’s almost impossible to determine from sound alone. Field recordings are a more difficult to pin to location.

Relating a sound to a specific place isn’t a simple task, though. What’s the best way to show a sound clip in a space? A GPS list? A Google map? And what’s the best way for listeners to experience them? One field recordist has been a pioneer exploring these questions: Ian Rawes.

Rawes is the mind and ears behind the London Sound Survey. Since 2009, that website has plotted field recordings on a map of the English capital. Ian Rawes and his website have been featured on a number of publications including The Wire magazine, the BBC, The Guardian, and others.

I have admired Ian Rawes, his work, and his website for many years. In addition to adding field recordings on the London Sound Survey and sharing them with others, Rawes has explored the nature of sound maps themselves with fresh, interesting ideas.

I asked Ian Rawes if he would be interested in an interview about this, and the gear he uses to capture his field recordings. He kindly agreed. So, today Ian shares his ideas on sound maps as well as another provoking thought: how field recordings become a wormhole to transport a listener to another time and place.

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What skills are required to become a field recordist?

You may think it is a thorough knowledge of acoustics. Perhaps it is a complete familiarity of equipment and signal flow. It could be a network of contacts that allow you access to precious field recording subjects.

Yes, all of those skills combine to help a sound pro capture excellent sound effects.

There are other, less obvious skills needed to capture field recordings. Today’s guest reveals another talent successful recordists require. In today’s post, Stosh Tuszynski reflects upon the differences between recording designed effects in the studio and gathering ambiences in the streets of Chicago. He describes how his field recording craft has evolved, and details his carefully considered minimalist kit. And, most importantly, he shares with us a unique experience capturing an iconic sound from the Windy City that illustrates a hidden, yet important skill every field recordist requires: balancing opportunity with patience.

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A while ago I saw a new birdsong library appear on my Twitter feed. I auditioned the preview. The birdsong was masterfully isolated and particularly clear. That’s not easy for any field recordist accomplish.

That was my first introduction to George Vlad’s field recordings. What was even more interesting was when I learned Vlad’s experience followed an arc from sound design to nature field recording. He regularly posts images from his travels into the Scottish wilderness. He generously shares free sounds on the sound effects libraries subreddit. I was eager to learn more about his approach to field recording, and the equipment he chooses for the job.

So, today, George Vlad reveals a provocative idea through a special field recording captured in the Pentland hills near Edinburg: how every sound pro can find value being in quiet places, become inspired, and capture better sound fx by listening more, and recording much less.

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Trevor Cox Portrait

I’ve always been interested in field recording and travel. I first began to explore how those concepts combine in the first year of this blog, where I wrote about sound maps. Of course, sound maps are a media ‘mashup’ that pins onto a map a blend of field recordings, images, and text.

As I began researching that article, it didn’t take me long to discover the remarkable Sound Tourism website. That site adopts the sound map idea and takes it a step farther: its collection of field recordings is meant to help listeners discover the unique ‘sonic wonders’ of our planet, from a ‘sea organ’ to a ‘singing ringing tree.’

I was fascinated by the concept, and also intrigued by the field recordist behind the website as well. The project is hosted by Trevor Cox, a professor of acoustic engineering at the University of Salford. He is also a radio broadcaster, a lecturer, and an author of a number of audio books. In addition to working to improve sound in theatres and in recording studios, he is part of an intriguing initiative to make sound recordings better.

With his background in acoustics, I was interested in Professor Cox’s perspective on field recording and the equipment he uses to capture sounds beyond the studio. I asked if he would like to share his experiences with us.

So, today we will hear a fascinating mix of an initiative to improve audio recording, a globe-spanning collection of unusual sounds, and the impact of acoustics on field recordings.

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Today’s guest is Italian sound designer and field recordist Mattia Cellotto. I first discovered about Mattia when adding his libraries to my sister sound portal website, Sound Effects Search. I was captivated by the sounds and the album cover art, and even moreso when I read an interview of him on the A Sound Effect blog.

I was thrilled when Mattia reached out to me to share his field recording experiences with us here on the blog. In today’s post, Cellotto describes a thoughtful approach to the craft of field recording born out of patience and cultivating a controlled environment. The secret to his intriguing sound effect recordings? Mattia describes his desire to pursue characteristic sounds that led him to the Italian Alps using a unique microphone arrangement.

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