Field recording



I use my wife’s zoom H2n recorder. She is a historian and uses it for aural history projects and sometimes lectures. Its quite good at these tasks- but then so are I phones now so she hasn’t asked for it back for ages. I think it has about 5 mics in it. they are all very mediocre and disappointing. OK for grabbing unusual samples out in the field if your happy to use plugins on them. Its very handy for frivolous-non serious use. I only need a dead cat when outdoors. I use a rode video mic pro into it now…its a lot better but the preamps (also mediocre) still don’t get the quality I want for recordings, they are sort of undynamic. Yes quiet sounds are pretty crap when captured.this set up is ok for louder sounds and could do a passable live recording or a rehearsal tape. I do like its shape and its robust ness. I have a higher end pricey recorder now and the usi mics- really happy with these but i rarely have it all with me- its just not a carry everywhere set up .
Molas advice seems good to me… the Sony’s do seem to have better reviews from audio people. I think the higher up zooms do get better as well but I haven’t tried them. I would say build up to being serious - and dont neglect being frivolous as well.


Curious if anyone knows of a thunderbolt/iOS audio interface that provides Plug In Power to external mics.


Curious if this will do the trick…

edit: looking into it more i may just need a TRS - TRRS adapter.


Just a heads up: Preamps are going to be pretty much comparable unless you invest in a dedicated recorder. The other two problems will be consistent regardless of your kit. You’re right that omni mics are less susceptible to wind noise but know that they’re far from invulnerable (and sometimes you’re going to want some directionality). Handling noise is a similar problem: you’re going to want to invest in “holders” - whether that’s a pod or a shockmount for an ext. mic - regardless of whether you’re using a dedicated or a handy recorder. Another note would be that if you use ext. mics without the powered xlr inputs you’re probably going to be disappointed with the results (unless you’re recording a particularly loud environment/sound); if you’re getting some Usis then it sounds like you’re ready to upgrade if you ask me.

I have an H1N which I use exclusively as a dictaphone, but you’re right that it’s not as “handy” as the term makes it out to be - you can’t just carry it around and hope to get good results. @WhiteNoise When I said start with a handy recorder, I should have specified that I mean a handy recorder that has both built-in mics AS WELL AS xlr inputs for you to experiment with.


Thanks thats the H1n off my potential list for sure.



I feel like I should balance my comments up for the H1n…

  • It’s not bad value for money. It is really cheap and you get what you pay for.
  • The UI is super duper easy, and it does have a knob for level rather than rocker switches.
  • The built in microphone is perfectly fine for indoor use with loudish sounds (i.e. rehearsal, as dictaphone), but it is a bit susceptible to wind noise even indoors. Either careful placement or a small foam will help.
  • My 17 month old loves playing with it…


Yes I think you get what you pay for but with the law of diminishing returns above a certain level. I will wait and think about what I actually need before jumping in but the noise via handling seems to be a feature of these devices and I know that would wreck my head.


The H2n is also a pretty good deal ($150 or cheaper) - it’s ultra-compact–maybe resembling small-ish, rounded smartphone. Handling noise isn’t an issue, with a steady hand, after you’ve adjusted the gain input. A good way to avoid wind noise in a tight spot is to hold it beneath your shirt / hoodie, etc. (if you wear loose clothing) - I’ve got some great ‘flags rustling in the wind’ (serious winds!) audio this way. It’s cheap, easy to use.

Looking at Marantz PMD recorders right now, it’s surprising how much they’ve dropped in price over the last six-seven years, as the PMD660/661 models used to be at least $5-600, and they’re less than 50% of that, nowadays. Anybody familiar with the mid-grade / quality Marantz, or Edirol digital recorders?


Such a shame that Sony discontinued the PCM-M10. It sounded different as the mics were omni.

Worth considering if you ever see one going for cheap…


i’d stay clear of the PMD660 (see this post (threading the thread onto itself…)). It is outdated. The PMD661 is probably very different. I used an Edirol R1 at some point, it was good as far as i can remember. Not sure how/if the subsequent Edirol recorders have drawn on it.


For a handheld Zoom h1n/Sony Pcm m10 replacer I very much recommend the Olympus LS-P4. It is a really great small little recorder. Ridiculously long battery time (they say 42 hours) with the included rechargeable battery. Micro Sd, included usb port. 2.1 microphones with one to cover the subs. And I have not had a problem with handeling noise. Get a fur to cover it for wind.

I bought it to be my carry-everyday-recorder and then I have a bigger setup for more planned projects.


These kind of tests are interesting, especially for comparing tone / frequency response:

I’d like to hear one of these that was more in the field - examples of recording quiet environments or non-instrumental sounds. Anyone ever seen one?


I’ve not seen a comparison that focuses on field recording in quiet locations, but is a great place to listen to field recording gear in all sorts of scenarios.
I used a Zoom H5 to record this very subtle scene for example:
The H5 and XY module is pretty good in quiet environments IMHO.


Hey, folks.

I just wanted to share the recent fruits of a field recording organization of which I’m a part here in Austin, Texas. Last weekend, Phonography Austin presented the first of what we’re calling our annual reports. The event last Saturday evening consisted of various members presenting field recordings they made within the previous year and then a group performance—a live, improvised collage of sorts. The companion compilation, a digital release on our Bandcamp page, includes twelve field recordings from Austin-based artists.

Here’s the link to that compilation, which is free to download:

At the risk of expressing conceit, I’ll say I’m proud to have curated this compilation. And as someone who does not consider himself a proficient designer, I’m happy (and surprised) that I didn’t totally screw up making the album artwork.

Phonography Austin is a relatively new organization dedicated to the exploration of phonography (the creation and presentation of field recordings as art objects) and acoustic ecology (the study of the effects of the acoustic environment on those living within it). This first annual report is our second compilation and really just the beginning of projects we have planned for 2019 and beyond.

I hope you enjoy, and feel free to share your thoughts—good or critical.


Don’t get the 661! unless you want mine. It doesn’t do Phantom Power on batteries. It does do phantom with the wall plug, but how useful is that? Every time I try to use phantom is hard resets the entire device and then you have to go through a bunch of menus to reset everything, and then you can’t use any mics that require power. Avoid! Their support is super-horrible too.



My friend / band mate has been using a 660 for years. He uses it to record a lot of his homemade techno / dance music / mixes, unnameable, electro-acoustic “blues” etc., and the results are often decent, if highly idiosyncratic, which I mostly attribute to his music. I believe he uses external mic’s every once in a while, and he used a lot of recorded audio (field recordings) for our last show in November, in a library. He manipulated the results somewhat, but the end-result was really good/complimentary, and we succeeded in creating a sort of meta- and hyperreal “synthetic environment” within the library (a very large space), with two sets of monitors and various electronic elements (modular synthesizer, sampler, etc.)

We’ve also had (this one) really good shows where we tried recording with the 660, but the results were blown-out and clipped–the gain/input was set too high, or some sort of user error. But he’s been pushing on w/it, for over a decade, making some pretty far out, AFX/Ceephax/Vibert/Railway Raver, et al-inspired, electro- acid techno music, etc. The quality of the material transcends the questionable / shoddy medium. That, or the internal mic’s / direct recording interface (add’l pre-amp etc.) ‘color’ the music in a weirdly good way, even while it’s digital, which doesn’t make sense. I just chalk it up to his unusual and genuine approach.

I’ve heard some really nice examples of audio recorded with Edirol-brand digital recorders, and they do seem (price-wise) like high-end recording gear, it’s just difficult to designate funds / priorities (right now), when you’re learning and building modular - the recording aspect takes a back seat.


I see its free to download but name your price option is there which makes me uncomfortable about downloading it for free. How much do you expect people to pay for this proiject?


curious about whether or not my DIY mics would work with my phone so i did some digging and experimenting. after using several adapters to get the mic signal to the correct portion of a TRRS plug it works! though the adapting is pretty particular…

i’ll explain: i wired my mics individually with TRS plugs. i wired the signal to both the tip and the ring with the hope that if i used one of them in a stereo recorder i would effectively get a mono recording. i’m curious if that was a mistake and will have to test with it more in the future. To make stereo recordings with both mics i searched out a dual mono female 1/8" to stereo male 1/8" adapter (which took longer to find than i expected).

The TRRS connector on the iPhone uses the CTIA (or AHJ) TRRS standard which is, from tip to sleeve: Left Audio, Right Audio, Ground, Mic. I purchased an adapter that broke out the headphone and mic connections of a TRRS plug into separate jacks. I initially used both mics into the dual mono-stereo adapter, into the mic jack on the TRRS adapter, into the headset to lightning adapter, into the phone.

it worked but that’s a lot of adapters. happy with this result and anxious to put it to use i grabbed a single mic and went off to a show i was hoping to record as a test. what i failed to realize was that my wiring for fake mono on stereo recording devices would cause problems with that adapter set up.

the jack in the TRRS adapter is expecting a tip-sleeve mic plug, which is kind of standard for crappy computer mics. my plug has the same signal on tip and sleeve from the same wire so when i plugged it into the tip-sleeve plug, which grounds on the sleeve, the mic signal on the ring shorted to ground and killed it. with the dual-stereo adapter it worked because the signal on the tip was decoupled from the ring and sleeve.

with all of that information gathered i’m going to wire a mic to work directly, with the only adapter being the lightning to TRRS. i have a couple TRRS plugs so it should be as simple as wiring the mic to the sleeve connector and nothing else. i won’t be able to monitor what i’m recording while using that setup but it will be super convenient for carrying around and grabbing random samples/recordings at unexpected times.

just waiting on my bulk cable at this point, i’ll post an update once i try it out.


No expectations, really—except that folks would either download it for free or donate to the organization if they really liked what we were doing for any particular reason.

It was not my intention to create discomfort. “Name Your Price” was left as an option just in case anyone felt like donating/pitching in.

I encourage and welcome you to download it for free. No strings attached!


Thanks. I didnt mean discomfort drectly to you but in general when you see “Name your price” its very difficult to interpret what an artist means. I personally prefer if it says something like 3 Euros 5 Euros etc or more so at least you have an idea. I will give it a listen and thank you for taking time to respond to my question.