Author : echo Date : 02-25-2001 on 08:41
I’ll be making a xcountry trip and I want to collect lots of sound. I’ll have an ibook. Any suggestions for a recording device? Affordability is important.
Author : beedge Date : 02-25-2001 on 09:50
supposedly there is a sony, and maybe a sharp,portable minidisc recorder w/ a usb port.but i just spent 20minutes not finding it.i did find cable&connecter kits that get sound froma computer to an md, the opposite direction you need to go,and which use analog-audio-in, optical-in, and windows software,neither of which the ibook has.so i think the beast you need n’existes pas.keep checking http://www.minidisc.org tho.but for now, the cheapest solution i can figure is:buy any decent portable md recorder:-$170-300; i know folk that like both sharps and sonys.then get roland ua-30 usb audio interface:-$230; comes w/ DeckLE which captues usb audio;-gets its power form usb port, so doesn’t need ac –but will wear down batteries quiker;
(also check the USB audio and PT Free & Hard Discs topicshere in TransomTalk/Tools).btw, where ya going? whatcha recording?
Author : Michael Poirier Date : 02-25-2001 on 18:25
Please don’t think I’m working for Sony or anything, but here’s a link to the minidisc recorder with USB compatability you’re talking about:http://www.sonystyle.com/sonystyle/4784/5334/7544/5552/7971.default.html#
I’m planning to get one of these soon, so I’ll try to drop by with a report about how well it works…
Author : david Date : 02-26-2001 on 07:13
Problem with the sony MZR-90 PC is that they only advertise W/Intel compatibility… Not clear that the Mac will recognize the device. Also, in the tech. specifications it talks about outputting to MD from the computer, but not about capture. Seems the concept is mainly about recording digital (read MP3) music from the machine to the MD recorder…
‘Seems kinda silly using the WinTel acronym… since all the Macs for the last 8 years or so have been using Intel processors. How about we just say PC or Microsoft?
Author : Michael Poirier Date : 03-03-2001 on 14:23
David, you’re absolutely right about the USB connection being a one-way thing, from PC to recorder only. I just got my Sony MD recorder yesterday and I’ve been playing with it fairly non-stop. The handbook only explains Windows USB installation, so it looks like Mac users couldn’t use the USB at all. Sorry! It is still a pretty nifty little recorder though…
Author : echo Date : 03-13-2001 on 16:07
so i think the beast you need n’existes pas.keep checking http://www.minidisc.org tho.-i think you’re right-
-$170-300; i know folk that like both sharps and sonys.then get (roland ua-30 usb audio interface:)-what’s that?-$230; comes w/ DeckLE which captues usb audio;-gets its power form usb port, so doesn’t need ac –but will wear down batteries quiker;-am ashamed of my audiovocab illiteracy
btw, where ya going? whatcha recording?[/quote]–taking xcountry trip with pals for a couple of months. hoping will birth some brilliant narrative. could happen.
Author : Dair Date : 03-13-2001 on 19:13
ok, just to contribute my limited experience:I have the Sharp MD 722, which I’ve already taken to Italy to record fabulous narratives, and have been happy w/it so far. I talked to a radio producer before buying, and she reccomended the Sharp because of its relative durability and "closed" configuration–whereas the comparable Sony had a more delicate "clamshell" loading/unloading mechanism. Since I knew I was going to be traveling, I went with the closed design.However. I have been unsuccessful in getting the sound from the MD into the imac using stereo miniplugs–never mind usb ports or firewire, and I have no idea if that’s even possible. In my youthful/inexperienced bliss, I’ve settled for the basic but handy editing capabilities of the MD itself for now…but I’m still working on the imac hookup.
Author : beedge Date : 03-13-2001 on 21:39
dair, see topic getting sound from MD to imac
Click on TOOLs in the nav bar above to check out our revised TOOLS section.
The main new good thing is that Jeff Towne is going to be writing a regular column and creating companion boards here. Read his first report on downloading and installing the FREE PRO TOOLS software.
Does anyone know what might cause a tape recorder to record with a nasty washing where you can hear the tape running over the spools? I’m listening to some tape I gathered recently and this seems to have happened only when I was walking. Luckily I didn’t record while I was walking the whole time but it still sucks that I may have lost some great tape.
It might also be Cable Rustle. This happens when the mic cable rubs on something, in this case, maybe your pants leg while walking. You need to keep that cable still. Were you wearing headphones while recording?
I was wearing headphones. I don’t think it was a cable rustle. Having taped some material w/ cable rustle in the past I’m well aware of what that sounds like on tape. This sound is different. Sounds like it’s something associated with the spools on the tape itself or the little thingys in the tape recorder that make the spools go round and round.
This question just came in from an old friend. It’s a generally interesting problem and I thought there might be some wisdom thrown at it here. George said it would be okay to post it. thanks.
>… I’m doing fine. Except for alittle print editing, my life has changed from producing to training horsesand writing about that. Primarily, I start colts under saddle for people andfix problems with older horses.
>Meanwhile, my wife is a doctoral student who is about to begin her research.She’ll be working with Navajo medicinemen regarding diabetes. She want torecord her sessions with them and is asking me what equipment to buy… andI’m a little out of it.
>I was thinking about recommending the now-old Sony D-8 portable dat machinebut thought that perhaps there is something newer available these days thatyou might suggest. Also, she’ll need mics. Considering these are elderlypeople who may be more self-conscious about being recordedthan the averagesource, for other reasons other than shyness, I’ve recommended lav mics soeveryone is on-mic and so they can kinda forget about being taped whenthings get rolling. Any suggestions? Finally, she’ll probably be recordingmany of these people at one time. Any ideas on something to plug the micsinto to simultaneously record five or more at once?
>The purpose of the recording is to create a record which one of herco-researchers, also Navajo, will translate and transcribe. But themedicinepeople want the record preserved for the future so I’ve told her tomake sure all these voices are on-mic and recorded on a quality, modernmedium, such as digital rather than analog.
>That’s it. Hope I’m not asking too much….
I’ve been staring at the Yamaha MD4S Multitrack Minidisc Recorder for about a year now. It’s small and lightweight, but it’s not ‘portable’ in that you would need to power the device from an external source. Combine it with some good unidirectionals on table mic stands. Set the levels low enough that it doesn’t pick up the sound from interview subject ‘A’ on mics ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ if you will need to isolate all of these voices later (and have the subjects spaced a good 2 yards or more from each other).
I’ve been wrangling with a similar yet different problem for quite a while. I’ve been trying to find a better way to tape our board meetings so that the woman who transcribes them, and produces the minutes, will have an easier job. Currently we use a 36 channel mixer board which dumps everything onto a 4 channel tape. On these 4 channels we have between 14 and 24 voices. We have the main mics set up with omni’s, 3 lavs for presentations, and 2 uni’s for the conference phone (no wiretapping allowable) and 2 for the podium. We have the omni’s on the board table hooked so that no adjacent mics are recording to the same track. So if 2 people wired on the same track are talking at once, we can use the tracks from the adjacent mics to isolate the individual voices (more complicated than it sounds, you can’t just go in order (1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4,etc), because if you did, you couldn’t try to isolate people on track 3 from each other by using 2 or 4, because everyone on track 3 would be adjacent to 2 and 4). I use 2 uni’s on the podium, and 2 on the conference phone because they share tracks with all of our mics and are subject to all of the problems that come with it. The omni’s don’t provide adequate ‘cover’ because of distance & levels, so the mics are doubled up and thrown onto different channels.
I’d love to set the whole thing up to isolate each voice to its own track, but I haven’t found a playback system that can handle that much datai andperform the functions required by our transcriber (footpedal support for playback, pause, rewind, placeholding, track changing, yada yada).
Recording groups of people speaking involves a series of compromises. If you use several mics and keep all the mics up, you will be sure to get everyone’s comments, but you will also have lots of distant, off-mic "roomy" sound, as well as extraneous breathing, rustling, coughing, etc. If you use several mics and ride the levels up and down, you are sure to miss the very beginnings of a speaker’s comments, and the ambience will shift, making later edits more difficult. If you use a single handheld mic, you will get a better sound on each speaker, but you have the same problem as riding mic levels, you may miss the beginnings of statements as you reposition the mic (and your arm will get very tired…) If you use a single stationary mic, you will have roomy, non-present sound. If you record to multitrack, with each mic assigned to its own channel, you can mix it later with almost ideal quality, but this would require a large, cumbersome, and expensive set-up.
Here are the compromises I would recommend: If practical, go handheld. Arrange people in a tight semi-circle with you in the center, and simply move the mic around. It helps to have a long-handled mic for this. You will have the problem of people starting to talk before you have them on-mic, but you have the advantage of holding a microphone, which people tend to understand on some level (or you can explain to them) must be in front of them before they "have the floor." This gets tiring.
If you can use a mic on each person, either on a stand, or in a pinch, lavaliers (I usually advise against lavs, because they don’t have the best sound quality due to their placement) run them into a mixer (the Mackie 1404 has 6 mic inputs, is only the size of a laptop, and sounds great) and pan half the mics all the way to the left, and the other half to the right. This very basic version of multitracking, using the recorder as a two-track machine rather than a stereo machine, effectively eliminates half of the microphones from the signal, so when someone is speaking, there are half as many mics that are picking up distant sound and breathing. In post-production, use only the channel that is active at the time.
You could just leave all the mics up, but it will sound very roomy and noisy. For better quality, ride the mics up and down as people speak. The downsides of this are that, no matter how good you are, you’ll miss the very beginning of people’s comments, and that the ambience will shift as you change the mix of mics, which can sound odd on its own, and can complicate editing down the road. Again, it’s a series of compromises. I like to leave all the mics about half-way up, and then I ride up the active mic to full level. That way I get some direct signal if someone interrupts or interjects, and it sounds better for that mic to come up from half-volume than from zero. And in the end, the listener is use to the sound of a voice starting from off-mic, it’s very similar to the phenomenon in documentaries of the respondent starting to reply before the interviewer can get the handheld mic in position. It’s not ideal, but it’s sonically understood.
Multitracking is the ideal solution for sound quality, but it’s not very practical. You would need to take individual outputs from each mic preamp (some mixers have "direct outs" for this purpose, or you could use stand-alone mic preamps) and route each mic to a channel on a mulitrack recorder. There are small, portable mulitracks, but be sure to check, many of them are capable of only 4 simultaneous record tracks, even though they can play-back 8 or more.
Even USB-based computer interfaces can usually only send 4 discrete channels of audio simultaneously. Firewire interfaces, like the MOTU 828 could send 8 or more tracks simultaneously to a laptop. This path is not inexpensive.
An ADAT or DA-88, which are 8-track recorders that record on videotape, can be used, but these machines are about 3 rack-spaces, and rather heavy, and require external mic pre-amps. And all of these multitrack solutions complicate your later production flow, requiring more of a real "mixdown."
So I recommend a single hand-held mic, or individual mics on stands, actively mixed to two discrete channels (left and right) of whatever medium, cassette, DAT, minidisc, etc.
A quick de-bunk: Andy wrote in his post:"Set the levels low enough that it doesn’t pick up the sound from interview subject ‘A’…."
Be very careful, the record level of the microphone will have no effect at all on whether it picks up extraneous noise, or other speakers. This is determined entirely by the pic-up pattern and placement of the mic. Try to use directional mics if you are trying to isolate the sounds, although this will exacerbate things if the subjects are off-mic. And try to position people so that they naturally isolate themselves: a circle, or semicircle, is a great arrangement, especially if you are using cardioid mics, as those mics will reject most of the sound from behind.
Setting the record level too low, in an attempt to reduce bleed from the other mics will only require that you increase that sound’s volume later in production, and you are right back where you started, except with more noise, if the level was set too low.
A quicker rebunk: The reason for this project was stated as>… my wife is a doctoral student who is about to begin her research. She’ll be working with Navajo medicinemen regarding diabetes. She want to record her sessions with them and is asking me what equipment to buy…
furthermore:>The purpose of the recording is to create a record which one of her co-researchers, also Navajo, will translate and transcribe. But the medicinepeople want the record preserved for the future so I’ve told her to make sure all these voices are on-mic and recorded on a quality, modern medium, such as digital rather than analog.
The difference between audio for transcription (of multiple people) vs audio for radio is quite vast. When you have multiple people talking at once, but isolated to individual channels, you drop your levels so that the ambient sound of the other voices do not sound like voices anymore. Those background voices degrade into a light fuzz. Fuzz is easier to ignore than voices when you are transcribing (even when the Fuzz comes out louder than the voices would have). Fuzz doesn’t play havoc with like-sounding words, or barely spoken words and syllables. This will be very important if she has a translator on-site who will be speaking simultaneously.
It takes as much practice and instinct to set the levels this way as it does to set the levels for radio. You have to find the point where the unwanted voices are just barely indistinguishable. The playback during transcription should be quite loud and coarse (to the point of being quite unpleasant) so that you can tell even the most subtle difference between words and meaning. ("Oh, it’s fine." and "Oh? It’s fine?")
The #1 goal in transcription is to never drop a word and to always be able to attribute that word to the proper person. These subjects should each have their own mics and channels. Also, the subjects happen to be colleagues and should feel free to interject and add to each other’s statements at will, not just when someone lets them ‘have the floor’. Oh, and they should all be sitting to discourage speaking through body language rather than through voice.
(side note: Purpose of the phonograph: Dictation?)
Well, I was trying to make more general comments, rather than addressing this specific situation, as perhaps I should have.
I think I see your point, that for transcribing, or purely archival purposes, that one should leave all the mics up. (Although I would argue that even for transcribing or archiving, riding the mics would make for a significantly more intelligible recording. And one wouldn’t lose any words when using the technique I describe above.) I still have nightmares about a former life in the oh-so-glamorous world of conference and convention audio-visual, in which I did way more tapings of meetings than I like to remember. They were sometimes speakers whose tapes would be sold, or shareholder meetings that would be transcribed for legal purposes, so I am familiar with the concerns of such situations. In that world we would sometimes just set levels and walk away, but it was always preferable for an operator to stay in the room and "operate" the mics, usually with that most elegant of mixers, the Shure 267, sometimes stacks of them.
And I apologize if I misinterpreted your meaning, but the way I read your sentence "Set the levels low enough that it doesn’t pick up the sound from interview subject ‘A’…." it doesn’t quite make sense to me. Can you please elaborate?
Your point that archival records and radio sound are very different is perfectly valid, but I would suggest that the purpose of both is to be maximally intelligible. And that radio techniques could be well-used in this context.
Sorry Andy, I don’t mean to seem like I’m arguing with you, I don’t think we are actually disagreeing, but I was hoping you could clarify a couple of things.
When you say "people talking at once, but isolated to individual channels" do you mean channels on a mixer, or channels on a multitrack?
And when you say "you drop your levels so that the ambient sound of the other voices do not sound like voices anymore" do you mean that you are turning down the other microphones, riding levels?
If so, how does one never miss a word?
"Those background voices degrade into a light fuzz" How exactly do you do this?
And how is this different than the interviewer pointing a mic at them instead (aside from the speaker having a visual cue that her voice is being recorded?)
You say that when recording for transcription,it must be clear so "you can tell even the most subtle difference between words and meaning. ("Oh, it’s fine." and "Oh? It’s fine?")" Isn’t this of paramount importance in radio recording too?
I’m not implying your techniques are wrong, I’m sure you know what you are doing. I’m just not getting it, and I’d like to.
>"Set the levels low enough that it doesn’t pick up the sound from interview subject ‘A’…." it doesn’t quite make sense to me. Can you please elaborate?
"… on mics b, c & d." What I was saying is that you want to isolate, as much as possible, interview subject A to mic A. You don’t want that person’s voice to come across on the other mics and therefore, the other tracks (as anything that may mix with/confusei exactlywhat was said).
On a lighter note, check out my famous nephew (various ages):1 2 3 4 5
This website & forum are just what I’ve been looking for. I’m researching possibilities for doing field recordings of various sounds which I will later edit on my computer to use in musical compositions. At the moment I’ve got an iMac. I have numerous DAT tapes with my compositions from college, so at first I started looking at portable DAT recorders (one of which I’ve already used). I figured I could use it to record new sounds and also back-up my old compositions onto CD (after resampling them of course). However I don’t have any audio interface at the moment. I like the idea of the MOTU 828, but it’s a bit steep. I don’t mean to whine, but why aren’t there any portable DAT or MiniDisc recorders with built-in FireWire. I’ve read about the HHB PortaDisc which has built-in USB. Is this a good machine? Okay, that’s probably enough questions for now. Thanks in advance for any replies.
Just had a thought: many (or maybe all) of Sony’s digital camcorders have iLink (FireWire) interfaces that can be used to capture video and audio with iMovie. (One I just found has USB as well.) I think that the audio could then be extracted and exported seperate from the video. The built-in mic on the camera might not give the best sound, but there should be an input for an external mic. My only concern would be that there might not be an option to set the recording level manually. Does anyone have any info on this?
I’m preparing to buy a MiniDisc recorder, and would appreciate some feedback on specific models, especially on their ease of interfacing with G3/G4 Macs. The Sony MZ R-700 seems to be a model that addresses the needs most of us share: external mic input and USB PC link. However, I remember someone’s posting about an MD with a PC link that only allowed PC-to-MD dumping, not vice-versa. Anyone know if that’s a problem with this model? Also, since some people have suggested that Sharp’s models are more durabably built, what would be a model with equivalent features to the above Sony? Any advice on what would be involved when transferring MD tracks to a Mac would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
As has been posted a few times in these forums, I’m reasonably sure that all the USB connections on the little portables are for dumping INTO the Minidisc, not back to the computer.
PLEASE someone correct me if I’m wrong. If you have actually transferred audio via USB on a non-HHB portable, please let us know which model and how you did it.
Same goes for the digital connections, there are so many different models, I’m getting dizzy trying to keep up, but I haven’t found a small, cheap portable with a digital audio out.
But I’d be thrilled to be wrong about this…
There are some simlar, but helpful discussions of many of these topics over at 1stperson.org with some very good info from Michael Johnson from KQED.
Check it out!
Try the iMic. 30 bucks. groovy little gismo that allows you to download MD files to desktop. you can get it at a decent MAC store.
I’m told Guitar Centers often stock the iMic too. At least that was the excuse the CompUSA weasels gave me when they didn’t have one…
Also, Edirol has a couple of not-too-expensive USB interfaces, one analog only and one digital only, each less than $100. The UA-1D (Digital)
The UA-1A (Analog)
Most of the little minidiscs don’t have digital out, so you would need the analog one.
They also have larger, more sophisticated, higher resolution models, the UA-3 and UA-5.
I’ll try to use one of these soon and let you know…
i just got a shure vp88 and i’m very excited about it.
i just needed to share that. thank you.
Let us know how it’s working, what you like and don’t, how it works with your rig as a whole, etc.
This may or may not be helpful. It depends greatly on budget capabilities. Most importantly though, it works. I have a Sony MD recorder with the standard one way USB interface. For a paltry $450+/-I bought a rack mount MD player with digital out (full compass). The Sony rack mount allows for coax digital out, optical out, or analog out. Plugs right into the sound card on my PC. Total cost:
Portable MD recorder (consumer type) $250MD recorder (rack mount studio quality) $450Total $700Again, it works great, the sound dumps directly into protools with ease.
Hi Hal, great solution!
I’ve been going into stores and turning around all the Sony minidisc units built for home-stereos, looking for one with a digital out, and have yet to find one. I guess yours is a pro unit with rack ears and everything? What’s the model number? $450 isn’t bad if you are doing a lot of work. Thanks for the tip!
Ben,Congratulations on your purchase of a VP88. I would be interested to learn how you chose this mic, and what you plan to use it for. I too am thinking of buying one. I’ve used one before for recording ambiences, but never for recording a mobile subject in a sound-rich setting.
I know a couple of good producers who use this mic, but also a very good technician who is warning me away from it (principally because of the initial expense and the ongoing requirement for phantom power or batteries).
For people not familiar with it, the Shure VP88 is an MS stereo mic that costs around $670 (Ben, yes?). It is fairly heavy. There are both cheaper and more expensive stereo mics available. So Ben, why this one?
a excerpt from the upcoming Transom FAQ:
Shure VP88 stereo condenser microphone (street $US670). This stereo condenser mic might soon become your one go-to friend in the field, the mic for all your remote audio situations, mono or stereo. It sounds nearly as good as a great mono omni condenser capsule. It is M-S (mid-side) stereo, which means no phase cancellation in mono. It has four stereo settings: separate mid and side tracks, or blended M-S in three levels of stereo width. It can be used as a mono mic by taking just the mid channel (using the separate M-S setting). It has decent rejection of handling and wind noise. It can run off batteries or phantom power (condenser mics generally sound better, but must always be powered).
Thanks Beedge. Would you ever use those stereo settings? Or would you always preserve options by recording in M/S and matrixing later for best effect? Similarly, the mic has a low-frequency roll-off setting. Is there some advantage to this versus using a bass cut later in the studio?
after 20years of mostly mono recording, i’m amazed at how often i now use stereo for even single voice, now that i have the 88. it seems to cut thru the mix better sometimes. even better than my nice akg451 omni condenser. for a single voice only, if there’s any chance of anything happening that might be interesting in stereo, i record using the low-width setting. the two channel combine into mono well (or you can just pull the chanel with the most signal), perhaps almost as well as pulling just the m of an m-s. and bascially i’m ust to lazy to do the post-recording processing that separated m-s requires, especially when the lo-width works so well in stereo or mono.
as to bass cut-off, use it in windy conditions or times when you know bass frequencies could screw up your recording. the bass cut-off on the mic saves the mic’s diaphram from maxxing (distorting), cuz if that happens, no amt of bass-cutting in studio is gonna get that sound back.
ya know what really made me get the 88. for the LewisClark bike/mc trip i wondered if there was one mic out there that was stereo but worked ok in mono, that sounded great but wasn’t too heavy and could run on internal batteries (i only use condensers — they just sound better, but was trying to avoid lugging my external phantom power pack w/ me). i’d heard the 88 the year before while doing a show on the Rainbow Gathering. one of the communications guys came up to me talking hi-end sonics. he sent me his recordings of part gatherings and i thot the sound was primo, especially considering the recording conditions: miles in the woods, at night, around campfires, hare krishna camps, etc. i asked him what mic: he said 88.
remembering that knew my bud john reiger uses an 88, i called and asked. he says that even tho he’s gotta caseful of mics, it’s the one he uses for almost everything. he predicted i’d do the same (and he was right.) JohnR is not only a great producer, but also an excellent sound engineer.
Scott Carrier used a Sony stereo mic. i called him and asked if he still liked it. he said his Sony died a year ago… now he has an 88, and likes it muchly. now Scott is probably my favorite producer, but he ain’t no technical wiz. so i figured if people with this range of technical mastery all had the same opinion, i’ll get the thing. very glad i did.
Thanks for this. I’m taking my borrowed vp88 on the road for 10 days tomorrow. I’ll see what she catches.
A while ago i was researching this mic and I stumbled across several postings on the web about the side channels of the VP88 being noisy, but the web being what it is, maybe it’s the same guy with one bad unit. I assume from the raves here that nobody’s having that problem? Again, it’s probably a fluke.
I don’t think it’s actually for sale yet, so I’m just getting excited by pictures, not real-world reviews, but the Rode NT4 looks promising. It’s got two cardiod condenser capsules in a fixed X-Y stereo pattern, with an internal battery, street price about US$450.
I use a Sony ECM-MS5, which is not made anymore, it seems, but does a great job with ambiences and music, but is only OK as an interview mic. It was pretty pricey new, but I’ve occasionally seen used ones for about $600. It is a mid-side mic with adjustable widths, but no un-matrixed M-S output. But even if it had it, i doubt i’d use the direct M-S outputs much, you can’t easily monitor the stereo image when recording that way, unless you are lucky enough to have a sophisticated preamp like the Grace Designs Lunatec that can send a matrixed output to the headphones. It would be nice to have the raw signals to work with later, but I’m usually OK committing to a sound in the field.
I’ve had a VP88 for about 10 years, and as my mic collection has grown around it I’ve become more aware of the self-noise of the ’88.
First, the accolades are well deserved – the mic is great sounding and versatile. The small condenser capsules are great at picking up high frequency transients – it makes a fine acoustic guitar or metal percussion mic. The figure 8 pickup pattern lends itself to a classic interviewing technique, both interviewer and subject face each other on opposite sides of the mic. No handling noise from moving the mic back and forth and no phase cancellation problems that sometime occur when using separate interview and and subject mics.
But, about the noise…
This is not a noisy mic, but its not sublimely quiet either. If I’m out doing location sound recording in a very quiet place or recording "room tone" indoors, I will hear the HF self-noise just slightly louder than the actual program content in the same frequency range.
Now, if I was still recording on 1/4" tape without noise reduction, I probably would not hear the self noise as it would be masked by the tape hiss. But with DATs, MDs and other digital media we’re getting used to hearing further down in the dynamic range and expect it to sound quiet down there.
So I’d say the VP88 is not quiet enough for a state-of-the-art ambient sound CD of hummingbirds on a still day. But it is quiet enough for radio by a long shot.
Mike gave permission to re-post this here. Interesting. He says he’ll keep us posted as they use them.
NEWSLINK Digest for Thursday, March 28, 2002.
1. No Moving Parts!
Subject: No Moving Parts!From: "Michael V. Marcotte" Date: Thu, 28 Mar 2002 08:08:08 -0800X-Message-Number: 1
KPBS is also making the big shift to portable recorders that use memorycards instead of tapes, dats, minidisks or tiny little men with pencils.
Like many stations we had stayed with the Sony cassette decks much longerthan we expected — because of their reliability. Passing on thetroublesome DAT phase. And then tiptoeing into the fleeting minidisk erawhen some aging Sony’s bit the dust.
Now for the price of a complete Sony kit — about $1500 — we can deploy thedurable Nagra RCX-220. Trusted brand: Nagra. No moving parts! (JohnMcChesney: "Now nothing can go wrong but the software!") Choose your memorycard (they go up to gigabytes and get cheaper by the day). Set yoursampling rate. Very simple operation. It’s impossible to record overmaterial by accident. Five AA cells or rechargeable cells last four hoursor more. Clean sound. No hum. Has a "plug-on" microphone (stereo ormono). (We found some reporters still prefer their RE-50′s or a shotgun…and that’s cool… you can just run unplug the attached mic and plug in amic cable instead.) The only mini-plug is for the headphones.
We did a fair bit of shopping and liked the simplicity and the expectedlife-span of these units. Okay… and the truth is we had a grant thatallowed us to reach for quality. I really don’t know whether these are sixtimes better than minidisks… but I’m guessing we’d go through six minidiskmachines during the life of each of these babies.
We’ll give each reporter two memory cards (for extra flexibility). Andrather than USB connections to desktop computers, we’ll put card readers inthe desktops so the reporter can simply yank the card from the portable deckand slip it into the card reader.
For more money, Nagra offers the ARES model with USB connections if youprefer. They also have a box (much more expensive) that does all yourdigital audio editing… and communicating… from the field.
You’ll want an engineer or loveable computer geek to think through all thecompatability questions with your computer operating system. We found thesales folks to be helpful and knowledgeable.
I could go on, but see for yourself:http://www.nagra.com/nagraaudio/pages/nagraaresp.htm
Wish us luck! We’ve been playing with the demo model for a month or two andwill get our new fleet any day now.
*****************************************Michael V. Marcotte, News DirectorKPBS FM/TVSan Diego, California 92182Ph: 619-594-8141Fx: 619-594-3787Em: MMarcotte@KPBS.org—> http://www.kpbs.org**************************************
There is an article on the nagra digital recorder on the radio world website at; rwonline.com/reference-room/product_evaluation/ss-nagra.shtml
I can’t recall if this resource is in any of our FAQs, but you should check out the website for Sonic Studios, which has a wealth of info on portable recording rigs. The guy who runs the place, Leonard Lombardo, makes headset microphones which are very cool, but the most simple and vital thing he makes are right angle molded mic cables — XLR to mini plug — with high quality lightweight cable, which are vital for making a good connection to minidiscs or dats. They’re $35 each, and worth it. He also sells full customized portable rigs. Good one stop shopping. In fact, APM just made an order today, which is why I’m thinking of it. Remarkably, though, Leonard doesn’t take credit cards.
Also, while I’m at it, another very useful site is minidisc.org.
Has anybody tried Sony’s ICD-MS515VTP Memory Stick Portable Digital Dictating Machine or a similar model? I’m interesting in buying one for field recordings as a journalist. I was considering buying a portable minidisc recorder, but this digital voice recorder sounds appealing. I am particularly interested in hearing about anyone’s experiences with the Dragon Naturally Speaking software that converts voice to text. Is the conversion accurate word for word? Will it work with Windows 98? Also, how is the quality of the voice recording? Do most radio stations have the ability to transfer the recording on the Memory Stick to their equipment? If you suggest I stick with a minidisc recorder, which one should I buy? I was leaning toward the Sony MZ-N707 Net MD.
Thanks for your advice.
Voice recognition is far from perfect, though it has evolved quite a bit. You have to train the program to recognize your voice by going through these long sessions where the computer displays a word and you say it. The more you do it, the more accurate it becomes (unless, like me, you have a tendency to slur into other accents when you’re bored). So it isn’t useful in automatically transcribing your recordings unless it is just you on them.
As for the dictating machine: A 700 MB CD can hold 80 minutes of CD quality sound. An 8 MB Memory Stick can hold 171 minutes of sound. That is an awful lot of compression. If my math is correct, and I’m simplifing this quite a bit, the memory stick will have 0.5% of the sound quality found on a CD. Minidiscs, when not in a "Long-Play" mode come fairly close to CD quality. Also, with minidiscs you have more options than just Hi and Lo for setting your mic levels.
Minidisc recorders are more of a personal choice. I chose a Sharp for its on-the-fly level adjustments. (As mentioned in the FAQ, you can basically ignore any consumer MD’s USB connectivity. That transfer only goes from computer to MD, not the other way around.)
Hello:I’ve been reading the articles on this wonderful site the last couple of hours and have concluded that the Shure SM 58 Vocal mic seems a good choice for me. I will be recording in the same small room where I have my computer. I’ve purchased the Cool Edit 2000 program, and have a good sound card. Now I wonder if I will need a preamp, as some people have told me. What do they do, exactly? I’m very much a newbie at all this and the most low-tech person you’ll ever meet, but learning. Thanks in advance for any help you can give me.Joan Hall Hoveyhttp://www.joanhallhovey.com
Microphones are very low-level sound sources, and so they need some "preamplification" to bring their volume up to a sufficient level to be effectively recorded to tape, or to a computer, or to be converted to digital audio. There’s lots more info in the "Analog Basics" column.
I’ve got a Minidisc that sounds all well and good but is enough of a pain in the butt to use and hook up that I’m thinking of going back to cassette and a high-quality tape.
Considering that both have to be loaded into my computer in real-time, anyone got any opinions about whether going back to cassette is a bad idea or not?
Other than the improved usability (sp?) of popping from track to track and quick erasing on the Minidisc, is the quality of a tape really, really that inferior when it comes to recording interviews? Doesn’t TAL do most of their recording on tape?
You can still get good sound out of a cassette, many folks do still use them. But, cassettes really are noisier than minidiscs and have a poorer high-frequency response, and are subject to wow and flutter.
Minidiscs are not much more convenient to use, except that they are smaller and don’t make you flip the tape. Minidiscs can be a bit trickier to operate, and can lose data, but most of those problems go away with a bit of practice.
Ultimately, it comes down to whether you are satisfied with the sound. I gave up on cassettes 13 years ago, using DATs almost exclusively, only recently using a minidisc on occasion. personally i wouldn’t go back. But that’s just me….
As my initial foray into professional field recording equipment, I had decided to go with the Marantz PMD 690 or the Denon DNF 20.
But, from what I can tell, my Apple PowerBook (Titanium 550 Mhz model) wouldn’t be able to read the proprietary formatting of the Marantz and the Denon PCMCIA cards (or "PC Cards").
Does anyone have any experience with this? Are these digital recorders incompatible with Macs?
Thanks for any insights.
This is a good question, we’re in the early days with this stuff. Those machines record in fairly universally recognizeable file formats: MP2, .wav. bwav.
But can the file strcture be read by a Mac? we’ll need somebody to try it to be sure. My experience in the past with simple things like floppies and ZIP drives is that Macs can often see the files on DOS-formatted discs, which these PCMCIA cards effectively are.
In the worst case scenario, the Marantz has a digital out, it’s realtime, so not as efficient as transferring files, but you can maintain the quality by using an interface with digital in. I’m not sure about the Denon, I’m having trouble finding specs.
If anyone is using these machines let us know!
I am interested in making a documentary with airable quality. I need to do field interviews, what type of equipment will I need? Do I have to use a digital recorder?
Brian, please explore the Tools Main Page. All of your questions have been answered in depth there. Be sure to read through The Toolbox, Basics, Microphones, and Recording/Interviewing sections.
I HAVE A REPORT ON TIME CODE WRITE AND THERE IS A PART WITCH IS UNCLEAR TO ME.
COULD YOU EXPLAIN TO ME WHAT IS THE ADDITIONNAL SYNCRONISATION PARRAMETER THAT WORD CLOCK ALOWS OVER HOUSE SYNC? AND IN WITCH SITUATION IS THIS IMPORTANT?
I saw several Sony md recorders with am/fm options. My project is personal, not professional, but I might want to incorporate it into visual work I do. Anyone tried these models?How the reception? Does it affect the recording, etc? thanks much
Im working on the start up of a new radio stations in France and am looking for info on recording equipment for the news room. When I worked in public radio in the US, I went from reel to reel to DAT to mini-disks. But apparently now there are such things as digital recorders… that record directly into mp3.. it would save lots of time to skip the analog step when dumping sound into ProTools.Has anyone heard of this and know if the sound quality is any good?? Thanks for the info.
Should Transom address how mini disc recorders seem to be far less available than they were a year ago?
Particularly the ones we need with a mic jack?
It’s slim pickins at Sony, Sweetwater, Crutchfield, Buy.com, etc.
I’m only guessing, but I suspect that many places are letting their supplies of old-style minidiscs run down, and perhaps Sony isn’t making any of the old ones, ramping up for the new HiMD machines.
Of course these new-style minidiscs are already overdue, originally promised in April of 2004 and I don’t see any models that can record for sale yet in June…rumor is late July…maybe….
I think it’s a little too early to call, but you might be right, even the HiMD might be too little too late, they might become very hard to find. Have you looked for a portable DAT machine lately? Also slim pickings.
Hard disc recorders or Flash-Memory recorders will certainly take over, but I still haven’t found any inexpensive ones that I like yet.
Time will tell. But yes, we’re keeping an eye on it. In the meantime, there are still some to be had at minidisco, many of them are Japanese models, but there are still some with English documentation.
thank you.for saving the day.i guess mine just chose an odd time to tear up.have ordered a new one from minidisco.
Hey, folks — struck by the sound bug, I’m just gearing up to do my very first interviews with the owner and employees of an impossibly folksy neighborhood cafe up the street from me. I’ve got a Sharp MD recorder, and a Beyer M58 for doing individual interviews, and the sound quality I’m getting into my Audacity on my Powerbook is just great… but I’m realising that I’d like to have a stereo rig for getting ambiance, diner noises, music in the place, etc.
My question is whether anyone’s had good luck getting this kind of ambiance from mini-capsules like those from http://www.core-sound.com/mics.html. After reading Jeff’s article on the different methods of stereo mics, I’m worried that I would need to get them positionedb just soto get a decent stereo image…
I love the versatility they promise, but since I’m new to this, I’m wondering whether I’d be safer just getting a stereo mic that’s prepositioned correctly, i.e. something like the VP88 or an NT-4 (though cheaper, hopefully.)
Thoughts? Anyone played with this?
you ask a good question about adhering to the conventional stereo mic placement techniques, and the short answer is no: you don’t HAVE to be in a perfect X-Y or MS or ORTF or spaced-omni formation in order to get useful stereo recordings. Those standardized techniques are very helpful for getting accurate stereo imaging and avoiding phase-coherence problems.
But creating a very accurate stereo representation of what you’re recording isn’t always crucial for a documentary, sometimes it’s OK, even desirable, to have a slightly exaggerated or unrealistic portrayal of the space. If you’re recording a symphony orchestra, folks really want a pretty true representation of what’s coming off the stage (even though it’s often sweetened or heightened to some degree….) But if you’re telling a story, sometimes setting the scene doesn’t require perfect accuracy, and a little hyper-realism can actually make your point better.
So yes, you can use little mics clipped to your hat or eyeglasses, or I’ve carried around tiny omnis, one in each hand moving the around until it sounds good. It’s important to listen carefully on good isolating headphones when you’re doing this, so you can hear if your placement sounds weird, or if it communicates your experience.
Where you can get in trouble is with phase-coherence, as I mentioned in the stereotypes column, improper placement of mics can lead to a sound cancelling itself out, partly or completely, when the left and right channels are mixed to mono (and this happens more than you think on the radio, so one wants to be careful not to make recordings with phase problems.) This is much more likely to happen when recording close-up sounds with two mics positioned apart from one another. Distant sounds are usually OK.
The benefit of a stero mic is that the mic elements are physically oriented in such a way that phase problems are rarely an issue. Many of the more popular mics are M-S (mid side) in design, which means that there’s a mic element for the middle, and another mic element creating the side image, so there’s always a nice solid middle. You can sometimes adjust the width of the image by turning a dial on the mic, changing the balance of mid and side mics. The Shure VP88 and all the Sony Mics that have MS in their names are mid-side mics, as are the Audio-Technica stereo Shotgum mics.
XY-mics, such as the Rode NT4, the AudioTechnica 822 and 825 and others, have two directional mic elements positioned right on top of each other, pointing in different directions, once again guaranteeing that there’s a good solid middle, and there won’t be phase problems.
Also, it’s just easier to carry and aim a single mic, so the stereo mic option is quite attractive.
But I’ve goten very good recordings with the (sadly now discontinued) Radio Shack stereo lavalier mics, by puling the cable apart, and holding the mic elements a few feet apart. And one can do the same thing with other small mics built like this. Clipping them to a hat or glasses makes for decent pseudo-binary recordings, with the "acoustic shadow" of your head creating good stereo differences in addition to the inherent time-delay of having the mics apart from one another. Just be careful with things that are very close to you whenever you are using a pair of mics distant from one another, even by a small distance, that can create a weird hollow phasey sound, while mics that are right on top of each other will give you a solid image.
The other thing to keep in mind is to try to stay stable, don’t move the stereo mic or stereo pair around abruptly, try to stay still or move very slowly and smoothly. Let things move past you. Otherwise it can sound really weird to have the streo image of a space moving around rapidly, and might make people nauseous.
Oh wait, this was going to be the short answer… anyway, yes you can get perfectly good stero recordings with two small mics, especially if it’s just going to be an ambience or scene setting element, rather than the main focus. Heck, you can even get some good primary audio with two small mics, just be careful, listen attentively, and use separated mics for distant sounds, use MS or XY for closer sounds (and distant sounds too.) And you might want to just get a stereo mic because it’s easier… Even the cheap-ish Sony mics, like the ECM-MS-907 and 957 are pretty good.
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