About a month ago I set out updating the field recording buying guides here on the site. About 20 minutes into reviewing prices and models, I knew this year’s update would be full of surprises.
Changes to field recoding gear typically occurs slowly. Microphones that debuted 30 years ago are still sold today. Audio recorders can have lifespans of a decade or more.
Things changed over the last 18 months. Popular models have been retired. New offerings have appeared on the scene. Let’s take a look at some of the recent field recording gear news.
Field Recording Equipment Buying Guides
First, let’s take a quick look at the buyer’s guides I mentioned:
- Field Recording Gear Buyer’s Guide – a detailed look at field recording kit with the aim of guiding you from your first kit to advanced equipment.
- Digital Audio Recorder Buyer’s Guide – a guide to deciding which features you need for your first digital audio recorder purchase.
- How to Record Sound Effects on a Budget – gear choices that won’t be hard on the wallet.
- Field Recording Choices: Start with Cheap Gear or Wait for Pro Kit? – explores the decision to begin recording immediately with cheaper beginner gear, or to save up for advanced, superior kit.
- The Unconventional Microphone Buyer’s Guide – a list of unusual microphones used for specialized field recording sessions.
- What Gear You Need to Record Sound Effects Worldwide (part 1 and part 2) – a focused look on my approach to recording and travel.
Of course, no two field recordists pursue precisely the same sounds. Each has their own approach, creative input, and distinct fans they share them with. That is why the aim for those posts is to help you explore what’s best for your own creative practice.
As a result, there’s a lot of different gear in there. So, what’s new?
What’s New – Recent Field Recording Equipment
A lot has changed in the last couple of years. Let’s rewind a bit to get some context.
Field Recording Audio Recorders
Looking back to 2019 there were two notable releases. In that year, Zoom first released its F6 ($699.99) model. Compact and boxy, it replaced the venerable F4 with a six-input offering that recorded in 32-bit. With a form-factor that appealed to DSLR filmmakers, it had an instant appeal to field recordists as well with its blend of bit rate advantage and number of channels, all for under $700.
Tascam updated their line of handheld recorders (DR-05X ($119.00), DR-07X (Price not available), DR-40X (Price not available)) in January of that year with a revised interface, better SD card support, and other features.
The same year saw a wave of updates from fan favourite Sound Devices. The American manufacturer released an update to all of its MixPre recorders, giving them a 32-bit upgrade. Their upper-tier 833 ($4,770) and Scorpio ($10,494) recorders were also announced, as was the 888 ($8,374) later that year. Whew!
Zoom continued with prolific releases in 2020 with the spidery 8-channel handheld Zoom H8 ($399.99), and upgrading the H6 to the H6 Black ($349.00), a version with fewer accessories and a lower price. Zaxcom released the Nova (up to 16 channels) ($5,495) the same year as well.
Field Recording Microphones
How about new microphones?
There’s been a lot of activity here, too. Let’s look at some of the standouts.
Rycote recently got into the microphone game with a pair of models: the HC-15 and HC-22 short and long hyper-cardiod shotguns ($779 each). With a self-noise of 8.5 dB and a price south of $1000, these microphones are sure to be popular.
Retired Field Recording Equipment
The last few years have seen quite a bit of field recording gear unceremoniously dropped from manufacturers’ catalogs.
The most surprising has been the change to Sony’s portable recorder lineup. Once the pinnacle of portable handheld audio recorders, the PCM-D100 has finally been discontinued. Their more recent models, the D10 and A10, have also been dropped. Some scattered stock do appear to remain on sale on various marketplaces. However, at the moment, Sony does not appear to be selling any pro or prosumer audio recorders at all.
Often compared as a runner-up to the PCM-D100, the Tascam DR-100MKIII has also been discontinued. Tascam’s catalog evolved as well, with the lower-end DR-22WL being retired. That remaining options for handheld recorders can be found at Zoom, or in Tascam’s lower-end lineup.
We also bid farewell to a number of “dedicated” field recorders, too. Sound Devices officially retired the 702, 722, and 633, as well as the MixPre-D. As mentioned, Zoom removed the F4 from their catalog to make room for the F6.
Field Recording Gear Upgrades
Not all gear vanished without a word. Instead, a number of earlier models received upgrades, facelifts, and feature enhancements. Let’s take a look.
- It was a while ago, however it’s worth mentioning the Zoom F8 was replaced with the Zoom F8n ($999.99).
- The Tascam DR-40 upgraded to the DR-40X (Price not available).
- The Telinga Universal parabolic kit changed to Telinga Modular.
Field Recording Kit Price Changes
I’ve been monitoring the prices over the years. Here’s a quick list of notable price changes to popular field recording equipment:
- Rode NTG4 – $245 to $339
- Tascam DR-60DMKII – $299 lowered to $166
- Tascam DR-70D – $499 lowered to $199
- Tascam DR-680MKII – $444 to $511
- Sound Devices MixPre-3 II – $680 to $752
- Sound Devices MixPre-6 II – $885 to $970
- Sound Devices 883 – $4,200 to $4,770
- Sound Devices 888 – $7,400 to $8,374
- Sound Devices Scorpio – $9,500 to $10,494
- Neumann KU 100 – $8,400 to $8,895
- Sennheiser MKH 8040 ST from $2,400 to $2,599
- DPA 4060 and DPA 4061 pair from $999 to $1,216
Have I missed a gear update? Please let me know.
Read the field recording gear buyer’s guides:
- Field Recording Gear Buyer’s Guide
- Digital Audio Recorder Buyer’s Guide
- How to Record Sound Effects on a Budget
- Field Recording Choices: Start with Cheap Gear or Wait for Pro Kit?
- The Unconventional Microphone Buyer’s Guide
- What Gear You Need to Record Sound Effects Worldwide (part 1 and part 2)