Equipment: Digital audio recording in the field

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In my rush to pack for Japan, I forgot to bring my usual digital audio recorder. I decided to pick up a new one in Japan since there were several options that weren't available yet in the United States.

I decided to not go with my previous Roland- Edirol or Samson-Zoom choices. Those companies make great digital recorders designed mainly for studio recording, but I don't need XLR jacks this time around since I'm not shooting any video. My main frustrations  with the R-09 and Zoom H4 as field recorders were their comparatively large size and the short battery life, surely there must be better options now.

Oh, I should note everything I'm mentioning is only available in Japan. I'm not sure when or if they will ever make it to the states.



Olympus: I first looked at the Olympus Voice Trek data recorder series. These are highly rated by journalists and fieldworkers alike. Many of my graduate students use their sub-$100 series. On the higher end,  I liked the DS-750, it had almost everything I wanted including the ability to recharge its NiMH AAA batteries itself, when plugged into USB.  4GB internal memory, linear PCM 48 kHz / 16 bit recording. The price, Y17,000 or around US$200.

Unfortunately, I'm the type of geekette that always has to have best of class. In the Olympus lineup, that meant the new LS-11 which just came out.  Much better mics than the DS-750, 96 kHz / 24 bit,  more internal memory (8GB) and a wireless remote control. Drool.  Street price, Y36000 or US$400. Gulp.  And while the two AAs would power it for an amazing 22.5 hours, there was no internal recharging capability like the lesser DS-750. Well, harumph.




Sanyo, which is not known for its audio recorders in the USA, had some very nice models. I wish they sold them in the USA because I think they would be a huge hit among field recorders.  I ended up settling on the newest, latest, biggest, baddest model: the Sanyo Xacti ICR-PS605RM (egad, what a mouthful).

The PS605RM has 6 ... count 'em ... 6 mics.  Four mics in a W-XY configuration and two that are omnidirectional. This allows for a wide variety of recording modes. When recording with the 4 W-XY mics, the frequency range is 40 Hz to an amazing 47,000 Hz -- digitizing at a 96 kHz sampling rate at 16 or 24 bits. Although no one except your dog might be able to hear pure tones above 25 kHz, there is some small evidence that even ordinary people can "sense" such ultrasonic overtones in musical instruments. Total overkill, the way I like it.

Although it doesn't look like it, the PS605RM is actually smaller than the Olympus models and is powered by a single rechargeable AAA battery (enclosed), which keeps it chugging for 26 hours in MP3 mode (15 in linear PCM). Incredible.

No fancy wireless remote, but there is a nice binaural mic option which I'm going to try.

Also, the Xacti can recharge directly from the computer with a slide-out full-size USB A plug. So no cables needed for downloading files or for recharging. The only thing I forget more often than batteries is the darn USB cable, so this is great.  It can also take a 16 GB micro SDHC card if the internal 4GB isn't enough.

It comes in a nice bundle with a windscreen and tripod/clip adapter.

We'll see how it functions in some field tests this summer. I especially want to plan with the binaural mics, since I want to make some recordings that show Tokyo as a blind person would hear it.

The cost was just over Y30,000 or around US$350. A tad expensive. The next lower model was a full Y10,000 cheaper. But it didn't have the Klingon shaver look....


p.s. The binaural mic is the Sanyo HM-250 -- around $75 but unfortunately only available... yes... you guessed it... in Japan.

p.p.s. And I haven't forgetten iPhones, more after the jump.


iPods and iPhones: In case you wanted to record with your iPhone or iPod touch, there is an interesting mic dongle that is... again... Japan only.  It's the Logitech LIC-IREC03P retailing for around Y6300 (US$80). Why didn't I get it?  I've run out of juice on my iPhone too many times to trust it -- and I have a tendency to lose any and all dongles.






I have the Olympus LS-10, the microphone quality is top-notch and the ergonomics excellent. Carrying an extra pair of Eneloops is not such a hardship.

I also have the Yamaha Pocketrak 2G, but can't really recommend it. While the sound quality is quite good for that compact a device, the controls and screen are just too small to be ergonomic.

Blue microphones makes an iPod Touch microphone called the Mikey. The second-generation model should be out soon, and will feature improved shielding for iPhones.

One new model that looks promising in terms of user interface is the new Samson Zoom H1, due in July. Finally someone figured out a recorder should have a big "record" button and all other functions should be moved out of the way.

Oh Japan. That LS-11 is less than $300 on Amazon.

Hey man! Great review on those mics! I would love to get a Voice-Trek DS-750, but my fear about buying it in Japan is the language. Does it have english support?

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This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on June 10, 2010 9:36 AM.

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