Archives For Gear

Are you just beginning field recording? Unsure of what gear to use to start capturing sound effects beyond the studio? New field recordists face a common dilemma: is it best to buy cheap gear and begin recording now, or wait and invest in a superior kit later?

It isn’t an easy question to answer. In fact, the previous post was dedicated to exploring both approaches. That article was designed to help people new to field recording choose what’s best for them.

Still having trouble deciding? You’re not alone. The truth is that the decision is inherently challenging because of what I call the gear gap.

What is this? Today’s article explains. It explores an unusual intersection of circuitry and craft. It’s an aspect of field recording that beginners and pros alike often forget, and manufacturers have yet to grasp.

This post is designed to further explore the thought process behind gear selection. It’s meant to help people think about both field recording gear strategies – fast and cheap, and slow and pricey – and why these challenging decisions exist.

Want more than theory? No problem. The next post will offer concrete gear suggestions for beginners to help bridge the gear gap and make satisfying equipment choices.

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I’ve seen a growing trend occurring during the past six months. More people are becoming interested in field recording. While that’s exciting, there’s a fascinating theme to the emails I’ve received: the writers know nothing about sound.

Who are these people? They’re photographers, videographers, and hobbyists. We all love heading outdoors to capture the cool sound we hear. It’s encouraging to see the appeal of field recording is spreading beyond classically trained sound pros. These new people are a bit bewildered, though. Why?

They’re not sure what gear to choose. I wrote the Field Recording Gear Buyer’s Guide a while ago. That post aimed to help people browse options and lead them through gear choices. However, it did not answer a few common questions that keep appearing in my email inbox:

  • Is it better to start with inexpensive field recording gear or save for a pro kit?
  • How can you use pro microphones with inexpensive portable recorders?
  • Is it possible to record excellent sound effects using cheap equipment?
  • How can you capture pure nature recordings with novice gear?

So, this month will feature a series that tries to decipher the relationship between equipment, capturing remarkable field recordings, and the kit needed to get the job done.

Today’s post explores the first question: is it better to buy cheap gear now, or wait and buy expensive, better gear, later?

Please note: I explore this idea in detail. This article should take you about 10 minutes to read. Click the button below to email the article to yourself to read later.

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Earlier this year I wrote about the release of Todd-AO’s new noise reduction software Absentia DX. The app was designed by sound supervisor Rob Nokes to eliminate the manual labour he found his team needed to clean tracks on the Hollywood films and television shows they edit.

At that time, I wondered if the app could be used to fix field recordings. Of course, it is designed to clean dialogue. That’s a completely different task than repairing sound fx. However, despite working on sounds for which the software was not designed, DX fared well, especially with its hum removal.

Nokes’ team have not been idle.

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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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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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A few months ago I published a new list of field recording equipment. It wasn’t the first time I examined gear choices for sound pros. My first stab at it was the Field Recording Gear Buyer’s Guide. That helped people new to the craft explore gear options in an evolution from basic kits to intricate, expensive microphone, preamp, and digital recorder combos. Thanks to you, that post remains one of the most popular articles on the site.

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Is it that time again?

iZotope recently released the latest version of their suite of audio repair tools, RX 6. New numbered releases of the widely respected software have been revealed at regular intervals. RX 4 arrived August 2014. Just over a year later, RX 5 was released September 2015. RX 6 has waited longer than that gap of 13 months, being unveiled in April of this year, 19 months after the last version.

What has the wait brought us? Today’s post will take a first look at new features and changes to the industry leading audio repair software.

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A while back I wrote a review of a popular community portable audio recorder, the Sony PCM-D100.

At that time, a number of people mentioned that there a number of better options than the stock windjammer that is shipped with the D100. So, I decided to buy the Sony PCM-D100 Rycote windjammer ($34.50) and try it myself.

So, today’s post introduces a new feature I’ve been meaning to add to a site: a video article: Sony PCM-D100 Windjammer Test: Sony vs. Rycote.

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