Bogdan

Travelling kit for ambient recording (silent source)

111 posts in this topic

u seem picking only the noise floo and sensitive , but how abt the sound quality o chaacteistics of the mic u seems igrone

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Thank you guys for your contribution. Glad to receive so many inputs :)  What I was trying to avoid (renting SD/Z4 and testing them myself) seems to be my only convincing option. You were right to suggest it. I hoped someone miraculously attached these comparative samples here... learn more about my possibilities and save some extra bucks along the way. You helped me realise it's best testing these recorders myself, even at a cost. It's an investment. I'll have a look at the other suggested recorders.

So right now I would love to hear more suggestions about what mics I could use in this context. This spectrum seems to be more unclear to me than the recorders' spectrum. I most likely want to invest in an appropriate stereo mic (or a pair) before I go (up to $1300). 

So far AT BP4025 looks like a sensible choice. I could also get my hands on 1 MKH 30 or 40. But most people use them in pairs. This is above my budget.

19 hours ago, Christian Spaeth said:

I would get a 416 or 816 with wind protection and record mono into a SD 702. 

I already have the NTG3 as a shotgun. Other patterns would give me more flexibility maybe?

I wouldn't mind selling my NTG3, if other patterns helped me more in what I want to achieve... I can simply use the G2 for interviews.

Ideally I would like to have a range of mics  which allow me to record a wide  space with decent dynamic range and also mono sources (a thud, a frog...). Surround is probably too much to hope for within this budget, unless I get more inexpensive mics and create a 360 setup.

----------------------------------------

Meanwhile, I'll  answer some more of your comments directly.

Just as there is no 24 bit recording...SD uses this marketing tool as well. 

4 hours ago, Constantin said:

Would you care to expand on this a little bit, please?

I should've not mention this lol. This could be a different topic in itself. I said it only to suggest that specs are often used as a marketing tool, and SD is no exception. In reality what most human ears can hear is not congruent with what a device 'offers'. Without going in too much detail, most literature agrees that the max dynamic range of a 16-bit file is 96db and a 24-bit audio could theoretically encode max 144db.  We all know the specs of our devices. Their DR can make them aprox 19-20-bits.  If you want more details, you can check your ability to hear here for example: http://www.avsforum.com/forum/91-audio-theory-setup-chat/2370801-test-your-ability-hear-high-res-audio.html.

I hope this topic will not go into this conversation.

1 hour ago, joinwooHK said:

u seem picking only the noise floo and sensitive , but how abt the sound quality o chaacteistics of the mic u seems igrone

You're right! As I said I don't have much knowledge about mics and testing them in the context I wish...is virtually impossible. This is why I'd love to hear some suggestions and maybe hear some samples. What I know for certain is that I wish to have mics with low inherent noise because I will actively look for quiet spaces. Also high sensitivity because:

I've just seen Microcosmos (1996) and I was blown...away ..away. Most likely this kind of work is above my budget for now. Yet, it seems like my ideal scenario. The film reminded me my of why I want to travel and what I want to do. I'd love to record minute details, sounds that are disregarded by most people. I want to record something that is not conventional... Or to capture conventional sounds in unconventional circumstances. The internet is full of birds and frogs and cricket sounds already. My personality is all about finding the unconventional and bring it to the surface...

So what mics do you suggest for ambient recording? Would also love to hear why you recommend them and how it would help me in the context I mentioned. 

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4 hours ago, Tom Visser said:

One man band, sounds like your mostly going to be slinging a camera around.  Separate sound system seems like it will slow you down and in some cases if it's not convenient enough to wield, risks not being used at all in certain instances.  If your using something like a Sony A7 series or new GH4, they both have decent XLR audio options (i own an XLR-K1M and K2M for my A7s and it does a good enough job for my one man band forays).

I will take days out when I will just listen and record the soundscape around me. I can see the limitation in trying to do both at the same time. There is space for that as well. For me focusing on one at a time (film/sound) is essential in capturing more depth.

17 hours ago, Wandering Ear said:

Sounds like a really fun trip.  Personally I think your ability to search out and find unique sounds, and how you go about recording them will have a much greater impact on your final product than what recorder you use.  There is no substitute for good mics imo.   You may find your needs evolving throughout the trip, and you can always ship another piece of gear in whenever you are in a city.  I would suggest not spending your efforts trying to nail down the minutia of differences between a zoom and an SD, and spend your time planning your trip and searching out places to go with unique sound scapes and beautiful scenery.  Some of the best places I've ever been took a lot of effort to find and get to, and even if you capture those moments less than perfectly, you will still have a better end result because the experience will be unique.

Totally agree! There is a 'perfectionism' side of me I haven't yet tamed :))

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I agree with Wandering Ear in that the sound itself is more important than the noise floor of equipment. My first 'tour' was with my then quite new Sony Pro, a bag of That's cassettes and a borrowed Sony ECM 50 tie mic. Those recordings are still as fascinating to me at least as much as the professional recordings I've done since with Bruel & Kjaer, Schoeps and Sennheiser mics into Sound Devices and Cantar recorders. The 7 series recorders are a pleasure to use and if you got one you'd no doubt be very happy with it (and like my Walkman maybe never want to part with it even when eventually managing to 'upgrade') - however, an F4 or even a DR 70 would quite probably serve you well (and I've found I can usually pick up AA batteries even in Tibetan village stores whilst recharging other battery types can often prove impossible ... meaning you can't record anything and HAVE to just sit down and listen to the world).

Secondly, out of my 30+ mic collection my most often used are a pair of DPA 4060 omni lavs and a pair of Senn 8040s. The 4060s go on every trip now, even if I only take a little pocket recorder (with 'OK' preamps rather than 'good' ones). They can be set up as binaurals, widened out into spaced omnis and hung in the most ridiculous setups (from trees, over cliff tops, whatever). They would be my first choice, and 'upgrade' (or rather sideways-grade since you'll never stop using the 4060s) to quieter mics (MKH 20s for instance) when you have more money. Also you'll learn by doing, so a year of recording MS will teach you good MS technique, a year of recording with paired cardioids  (various angles like eg ORTF) will make you eventually know what you're doing and why. But I'd maybe be happy with a pair of Line Audios (and softies/rycote of some sort) as well. You'll eventually learn the recording side of things whilst (back to the start) hopefully get some interesting recordings of the world's noise.

best, Jez

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9 hours ago, Bogdan said:

Just as there is no 24 bit recording...SD uses this marketing tool as well. 

I should've not mention this lol. This could be a different topic in itself. I said it only to suggest that specs are often used as a marketing tool, and SD is no exception. In reality what most human ears can hear is not congruent with what a device 'offers'. Without going in too much detail, most literature agrees that the max dynamic range of a 16-bit file is 96db and a 24-bit audio could theoretically encode max 144db.  We all know the specs of our devices. Their DR can make them aprox 19-20-bits.  

Maybe you shouldn't have mentioned it, but since you did... 

But I'm not going into the discussion of 16 vs 24 bit, which I thought has been dead for ten years, but apparently not. But any manufacturer claiming to record their files at 24 bit is not lying, nor is it a marketing gimmick - at least in the case of our usual suspects. It is simply a fact. Are they making full use of the 24 bits? No. (And who is?) Are they claiming that? No. Where is the marketing tool?

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22 minutes ago, Constantin said:

Maybe you shouldn't have mentioned it, but since you did... 

But I'm not going into the discussion of 16 vs 24 bit, which I thought has been dead for ten years, but apparently not. But any manufacturer claiming to record their files at 24 bit is not lying, nor is it a marketing gimmick - at least in the case of our usual suspects. It is simply a fact. Are they making full use of the 24 bits? No. (And who is?) Are they claiming that? No. Where is the marketing tool?

Haha OK! You win, it's not marketing...Yet I bet not many consumers know what it even means. 24-bit sounds so PRO though :))

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Haha OK! You win, it's not marketing...Yet I bet not many consumers know what it even means. 24-bit sounds so PRO though :))

That's possible. Good thing Sound Devices don't make consumer gear

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On 7.4.2017 at 11:59 PM, Constantin said:

I think you should try to increase your budget and buy better gear. This seems like a lifetime project, and you don't want to be disappointed by bad gear. Look at a used 788 or a Sonosax recorder, and get a very good stereo pair.

look for a used Sonosax SX-R4 (not SX-R4+!). It has 4 very good preamps (imho better than SD7xx), same footprint as Zoom F4, lightweight (under 1 kg), very power efficient compared to SD or Zoom, can also run on AA Batteries... and it's got a successor model that can do a lot more things you don't need for your project. So People might want to get rid their old SX-R4.

There was a post on JW sound on Facebook a few days ago, where sombody mentioned he had an option to buy a SX-R4 for a 1000 $, asking for advice

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1 hour ago, axel said:

(snip) ... People might want to get rid their old SX-R4.

There was a post on JW sound on Facebook a few days ago, where sombody mentioned he had an option to buy a SX-R4 for a 1000 $, asking for advice

Someone needs advice on THAT? Cripes, the rare recent times I've seen the (older) R4 for sale in UK it's been asking around two and a half grand UK. I would jump hoops for an R4 the price of a F8.

I stick with my advice to buy non-uber grade (but decent stuff that won't be regretted). But IF an R4 came up for a grand or less, yes JUMP at the chance to buy the ultimate 'traveller's recorder' ... So when are all you R4+ owners going to have a clearout of your old R4 units? If you're offering at this price please call me first!

Jez

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3 hours ago, axel said:

look for a used Sonosax SX-R4 (not SX-R4+!).

Thank you! I'm hooked :)) Somehow there's something missing in both Z4 and SD7xx. Sonosax sounds amazing.....sonosax....SX...rrrrrfourrr ..yea I see why "plus" ruins it.

It sounds as if I don't even need to read the specs :))

 

2 hours ago, The Immoral Mr Teas said:

So when are all you R4+ owners going to have a clearout of your old R4 units? If you're offering at this price please call me first!

Jez

Hey...watch it...this is my thread :)) hahha. Well yes, I'm also interested. I also live in UK. Import taxes are like 20% from the states :(.

What a strange world....

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5 hours ago, Bogdan said:

Thank you! I'm hooked :)) Somehow there's something missing in both Z4 and SD7xx. Sonosax sounds amazing.....sonosax....SX...rrrrrfourrr ..yea I see why "plus" ruins it.

It sounds as if I don't even need to read the specs :))

 

Hey...watch it...this is my thread :)) hahha. Well yes, I'm also interested. I also live in UK. Import taxes are like 20% from the states :(.

What a strange world....

Hi Bogdan, I'm from the North East, know Edinburgh well. I'm quite a fan of Sonosax as a company but haven't used their products - although my friends have. Both the R4 and the more recent R4+ are in many respects my 'ideal' machines, since my recording is often multichannel and as often as possible somewhere beautiful (aurally) like the Himalayas. I love the fact that Sonosax listened to R4 owners (and want-to-be owners like myself) in making the R4+ system a different ballgame. Sadly they are both some way beyond your £1600 spend but that is still a considerable amount of money to put together some excellent equipment to record noises - 'silence', ambiences, odd noises, whatever.

I don't want to say it's not about the product because it is. For years I lusted over a Nagra and now I have two (and some wonderous accessories) ... I even carried my IV-S across China which raised eyebrows with local quality-loving techs everywhere ... and still crave more (as many other here do -check out Joseph's thread on 'Images of Interest').

I do exactly what you're talking about doing - my 'silences' recorded a few years back in the East Himalayas have been used in countless films and I've met artists who are aiming to do the same or similar for different reasons. My reason in 2008 for recording silent atmos was to get some 'sound effect gold' (= work) - but it followed a personal detour to record a solar eclipse in a (somewhat) remote location (= idiocy). Two different things. I love omnis and use Bruel and Kjaer, which are expensive. I'd generally recommend Sennheiser MKH 20s or 8020s if you really plan to specialise in atmos (nature) recording in remote locations, also expensive. I think a pair of DPA 4060s, although on paper a noisier option, is in your price range and you'll be shocked how good they sound compared to what you've already used. They're also far from cheap but good value. There's a general perceptual thing that happens that as channels increase (from one to two to beyond) that you notice less the increased 'noise' than the increased signal. I continue to record multichannel with 4060s because they do the job well, quickly and easily. It might be worth your while buying FOUR of the cheaper Line Audios (or equivalent) and being able to record quad ambiences (I think they're wide omnis?), and/or 2-4 DPA 4060s, and/or a mono channel of the (bulletproof for Asian moisture) MKH series of whatever pattern. I don't believe I ever regretted any of the mics I bought - I used them all, sold a couple, lent out a couple but the recordings are there, listened to and used in work. It's more important to just start recording then decide with experience based on what kind of thing and environment how to alter and proceed with recording technique. It also has a great deal to do with the 'release' format (if you start doing art installations, get radio commissions or move into some other kind of production). You might find binaural, MS, ambisonics, or more spaced techniques (or even mono) dictate how you want to capture a soundscape - I am not averse to recording something in two 'opposite' techniques for posterity or merely to learn.

If you can get a cheap enough 7 series, go with it, it will not disappoint. If you find a cheap Sonosax throw a party! But an F4 (or in my mind the F8 if you can use the extra channels) will almost certainly not be a bad investment from a cut of a £1600 budget. And for that matter, the cheaper lighter Tascam DR70 looks a great unit also for travelling. Then you could possibly buy a pair of MKH8040s (or 8020s if wanting to invest early in omnis), or four DPA4060s for surround, or two 4060s and a single Sennheiser ... Too many options, I know - we're mostly all in the same boat!

'Travel' recording is a very different thing in many ways from other professional production etc recording. If you're in a van, you may be able to set up solar and engine-based battery charging regimes. When you get in the wild, or just out of town, you have to be sure you can do the recharges, file backups and the rest. And don't forget to budget for the other essentials - mic stands (tall enough, as lightweight as possible, possibly multiple if going spaced), cabling (again ideally lightweight which might mean making your own, and the ever important safety in redundancy - maybe just one extra if walking but more is good if driving) and windshields ... 'softie' type might well be enough if you can decide to record when conditions are right - if you decide on handheld, recording in bad conditions or when wishing to hit record as and when you'll want to have a decent Zeppelin or whatever.

Hey, PM me if you wish. I headed out alone across Siberian USSR (with the walkman etc) as a teenager. I never stop reconfiguring the 'travel bag'. I can certainly recommend both quiet and noisy places out East! 

Jez Adamson

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In the conversation as it pertains to theTascam DR-70D, the newer DR-701D which I purchased for myself, supposedly has much better / quieter preamps.

I too like omnis for atmospheres.  Ever try Jeklin disk?  It's something of a hybrid of spaced AB and coincident XY, but uses a small spacing and a physical baffle to provide separation rather than capsule polar patterns.  I feel it retains the richness and depth of AB while gaining some more directivity / imaging.  I've had success with mounting 4060 on the curved brim of a baseball cap, which allows for pretty unobtrusive walks through crowded spaces - I imagine it borrows somewhat from the AB / Jeklin / binaural world maybe not better than each in its own right, but remains covert and inconspicuous.

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6 hours ago, The Immoral Mr Teas said:

Hi Bogdan, I'm from the North East, know Edinburgh well...

I think a pair of DPA 4060s, although on paper a noisier option, is in your price range and you'll be shocked how good they sound compared to what you've already used.

Wow, thanks Jez for sharing so much! A wonderful article and a juicy morning read :) I'm sure many will find it useful as this thread is easy to find. It's great to hear people talking from their 'alone in the wild' experience. I will most likely expand my budget a bit, just to hit the road with the essentials.

I was a bit 'scared' of the DPA4060s noise. But there's almost no thread or article about ambient recording without their presence :))

I will carefully check all your suggestions and I will contact you when I feel it's needed, possibly to share more adventures.

Currently rewatching many inspirational wildlife documentaries...Microcosmos, Life, Planet Earth, Human Planet etc. I'm amazed by what people can achieve in terms of sound/image.

6 hours ago, Tom Visser said:

In the conversation as it pertains to theTascam DR-70D, the newer DR-701D which I purchased for myself, supposedly has much better / quieter preamps.

I too like omnis for atmospheres.  Ever try Jeklin disk?  

Hey Tom. I've also considered Dr-701D indeed. Seems to be Zoom's alternative :)

Jeklin disk looks like something I will most definitely try in all possible combinations :))

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11 hours ago, soundmanjohn said:

Thanks John, Going to read it tonight. Already registered.

Meanwhile I found two samples....of some random birds, one with Zoom F4, one with SD 722.

Most likely apples and oranges... but worth a try :))

https://soundcloud.com/colin-hunter/dawn-chorus-nernier-haute-savoie-france. SD 722 DPA 4060

https://soundcloud.com/user-152608475/forest-on-the-outskirts-of-the-city  Zoom F4 DPA 4060 

That hiss on Zoom... Was someone trying to take the "hiss" at zoom? Any comments?

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I like the idea of the stereo 4060s for ambiance recording. Then with a tiny recorder you can have an extremely small footprint stereo recording. You can also get the adaptor so you can use a 4060 with your G2 for dialogue. Portability and easy set up are key. Also they are very easy to protect against wind, which is essential.  

The less equipment you need to carry the better. When you can fit your multi track recorder in a fanny pack or your pocket it makes things very easy. Also discreet, you want to try and attract as little attention to your equipment as possible. Specially if your going to be alone. 

Great article by soundmanjohn, awesome stuff. 

IMG_6818.JPG

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There are so many ways to tackle this one. As someone who has done a lot of sound recording in the field I can say the mic choice is probably the most important. Then, it's down to reliability of the recorders, as well as their mic-pre's. 

If you are recording really quiet things, like nature at night, or a desert in the middle of the day, you want the quietest stuff you can get. Whatever it costs, it costs. You are spending so much time and energy on this, it's probably best to do it right. When it comes to budgeting, I've been telling people for years this:

Don't approach it from the "I have 'x' amount of dollars to spend on equipment, what's the best I can get for 'x' amount?". It needs to be approached from the idea of "I'm going to do a project that requires certain things of me, what is the equipment that is most appropriate for this project and what does it cost?", and then budget from there. If the equipment costs more than you have now, then save up for it. 

That's just me, though. I'll fully admit that in the right hands, great results can be had from lower end equipment. 

As far as what to have; With all the time you'll have you really can go pretty nuts on this one. I really like the idea David Waelder had of having a small handheld/pocket recorder. I know people that have a real small recorder on them at all times because, as they say "you never know when you'll need to record something". In your situation, it could be invaluable. I've become a fan of the Tascam DR-701D. It's a very capable recorder in a very small package, and can integrate into a small camera rig easily for simple double system audio. I'm also a big fan of the Sound Devices 7-series or Zaxcom recorders for critical recordings where absolute minimal self noise is critical. 

One thing that hasn't been mentioned is a stereo boom pole. I've used this ALL THE TIME for situations where carrying around and setting up a tripod mic stand can be cumbersome. A wired stereo boom pole can act as a monopod for you and keep cable mess to a minimum. Of course, it wouldn't always be appropriate to use something like this, but if you find yourself hiking through a jungle and find a nice spot to record, it'll be great. It can also give you extra reach if you want to get up into a tree or close to a running river or who knows what. It's a tool you'll find yourself reaching for more and more the more you use it. 

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On 12/04/2017 at 5:33 AM, AnuarYahya said:

http://micbooster.com/clippy-em172-microphones/99-xlr-stereo-clippy-em172-microphone.html

these look like an interesting option. Very low self noise, and very cheap. 

Nice find. If I didn't own an OKM pair I'd give these things a go. LoPro XLRs probably not suitable for most users but they would help keep the footprint of a compact set-up to a minimum. The OKM pair I have are terminated in a mini jack but I have an adapter box of theirs (A3-XLR), so they go easily into a DSLR's or a handheld's 3.5 or a bigger recorder with XLRs. This worked nicely with my busman/tascam DR680 - which is of it's time but had some nice features regarding ganging channels, O/Ps and ISOs. Btw are you travelling with monitors (to listen back without HPs)? 

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4 hours ago, The Immoral Mr Teas said:

Freq response 60 Hz ?

very true. you realistically need many mics for different scenarios. 

 

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12 hours ago, daniel said:

Btw are you travelling with monitors (to listen back without HPs)? 

Not sure if you're asking me, but I'll definitely monitor my sound until I feel it's not needed anymore.

16 hours ago, AnuarYahya said:

http://micbooster.com/clippy-em172-microphones/99-xlr-stereo-clippy-em172-microphone.html

these look like an interesting option. Very low self noise, and very cheap. 

I've considered these long time ago. I will get a pair of capsules and make them myself. I own a gas soldering iron...very portable. I think it's a must have for anybody travelling. I repaired many broken cables...especially for my headphones.

One technical question though... These capsules, by default require PIP (Plug-in power). How can you power a PIP mic from a recorder like SD..or Sonosax..or F4..or D701? without going into Macgyver mode of DIY conversion to XLR?...Its optimal power is 9v.

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22 hours ago, dfisk said:

Don't approach it from the "I have 'x' amount of dollars to spend on equipment, what's the best I can get for 'x' amount?". It needs to be approached from the idea of "I'm going to do a project that requires certain things of me, what is the equipment that is most appropriate for this project and what does it cost?", and then budget from there. If the equipment costs more than you have now, then save up for it. 

Thanks for your useful tips!  Something inside of me resonates with what you are suggesting here. I suppose unconsciously I don't trust my passion for recording sound 100%. I love listening 100%. Without this confidence I will always have doubts in investing most of my savings and hope it will pay off.  I don't even know if my journey will even be about recording sound as means to sustainability.

Life is always full of surprises. I might end up sucked into a colony of underground aliens and forget about my sound intention entirely :)). I suppose in that case it won't matter what gear I've had anyway :p.

On 11/04/2017 at 9:56 PM, AnuarYahya said:

You can also get the adaptor so you can use a 4060 with your G2 for dialogue.

You mean I could sell the default G2 mics and use the DPA's instead? :)

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I've been making field recordings in very quiet Florida swamps and forests with a simple rig that's about in your budget range: a Sound Devices MixPre-D, small with terrific preamps, an Audio Technica AT4025 x\y stereo mic, compact and rugged, Rycote Baby Ball wind protection, and tiny Sony M10 recorder. It all fits in small canvas shoulder bag, runs for hours on lithium AAs, and although X/Y may not give me the broadest stereo field, it's very nice for a small kit. You mentioned frogs in stereo ... the closest are 2 yards away, others 100 yards.

 

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3 hours ago, Bogdan said:

 

You mean I could sell the default G2 mics and use the DPA's instead? :)

yes I believe so. I think the DAD 6034 is the adaptor for that. 

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