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Audio recorders anyone?

What are you photogs/journalists using to capture good quality sound/interviews right now?
Anyone using the new MD recorders, or miniDisc, or the Olympos DM flashcard recorders.

by Jason Geller at 2006-02-23 11:18:49 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) | Bookmark | | Report spam→

I am using an older iPod with a small Belkin microphone attachment (it does not work with the current generation of iPods which also show video) sound quality is okay – great for note taking, passable for multimedia web productions. I like it because I almost always have my iPod with me anyhow and it means I do not have to carry another piece of equipment. jack

by Jack Kurtz | 23 Feb 2006 11:02 | Phoenix, AZ, United States | | Report spam→
I heard that the sound quality is a bit lo-fi. Thanks for your 2 cents-J

by Jason Geller | 23 Feb 2006 11:02 | | Report spam→
I’m using a Marantz PMD-660. It’s the choice of a lot of photojournalists capturing audio. It’s not the cheapest option out there so it might exceed your budget, but it’s been working great for me. 

You can see my first project with it at:


by Tim Gruber | 23 Feb 2006 21:02 (ed. Feb 23 2006) | Janesville, WI, United States | | Report spam→
I also use the belkin mic on my Ipod, for the same reason as Jack. I haven’t used it to extensively yet and there are still things I would love to improve on, but I was very surprised at what it could actually pick up that I didn’t expect it to. I had done a smokejumper story this summer that I just recorded my voice talking about the rookie training program, but I wanted to try something that was more NPRish that would use natural sounds from scenes I was shooting. I don’t usually like doing a story on an event, but this Iditarod qualifying race seemed like something that my audio could help people understand what was going on better than just a dog-sledding picture. Since I was dealing with sound, I think some of the pictures suffered, but I also used some simply for the transition and correlating effect of the audio. Anyway, this story was all on an Ipod with Belkin mic if you want to see how it works. The interviews were conducted in high wind and outside (nowhere to go out of the wind at the finish line). There are some flaws, but it may give people an idea.

Race to the Sky

PS: Tim, I enjoyed the story, some interesting photos in there!

by Scott Poniewaz | 23 Feb 2006 23:02 | Missoula, Montana, United States | | Report spam→
The link is in there, just doesn’t seem to stand out, since I forgot a break tag, it is here: http://www.newwest.net/index.php/main/article/following_the_race_to_the_sky/

by Scott Poniewaz | 23 Feb 2006 23:02 | Missoula, Montana, United States | | Report spam→
I liked the clip.I think  I’m hearing a bit too much of hiss, but for the price and facility of keeping it down to one universal product that might be a worthy trade off. I am also worried about the maximum distance one can be away from who they are recording. Did you have to  put the ipod right up to the sledders?

by Jason Geller | 24 Feb 2006 06:02 | | Report spam→
    That was a great piece. The images were solid on their own but his voice really added another dimension that really revealed the melancholy of his life. I think $500 is out of my range right now, do you know how it compares to a miniDisc player/recorder?Thanks for the input.

by Jason Geller | 24 Feb 2006 09:02 | | Report spam→
That Marantz unit looks really nice for pro work.  Something to get started with might be the Zoom PS04 at about $200.  It’s more for musicians (has built-in effects, sounds, and so on) but you could just use it for straight recording work.  It can run on 4 AA batteries but uses SmartMedia cards instead of CF.  The Zoom MRS4B is a bit bigger but cheaper at $140.  It also uses 4 AAs and, unfortunately, SmartMedia cards.  Anything more expensive that that and I think you’d be better off saving up the $500 for the Marantz PMD660 or the M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 (at $400) or Edirol R1.

BTW, here’s a decent review of the PMD660: http://www.transom.org/tools/recording_interviewing/200503.pmd660.html

Here’s some feedback on the Zoom units:

And the M-Audio unit:

by Geoff Cheshire | 24 Feb 2006 12:02 (ed. Feb 24 2006) | Tucson, United States | | Report spam→
One other thing—there’s a fairly detailed review on Amazon from a professional user that doesn’t like the PMD660 and the reasons why: http://snipurl.com/mwos.  He mentions using an iRiver MP3 player to record speech instead.  The one he mentions is discontinued, but the T30 for $99 has line in recording.  (See this discussion: http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=58666).

There’s a Yahoo group you might be interested in called naturerecordists.  There’s a recent post discussing using an iRiver for field recordings.

by Geoff Cheshire | 24 Feb 2006 12:02 (ed. Feb 24 2006) | Tucson, United States | | Report spam→

Yes, there is some hiss, but like you said, its kind of a tradeoff not only for having it all in one compact package, but also cost, depending on if you have an iPod already or not. If you do, its just another $50 instead of $500 right now (I’m a poor college student with a student paper income). In regards to distance away, I was pretty surprised, because the first part with the starting line sound, I was probably 10-15 feet away. The end part countdown I was more like 20-25 feet away. I had to bump up the levels on the short one, but the longer one I didn’t…go figure. Part of the hiss could also just be my lack of sound technician skills at this point too, but something I’m going to work on now and see if I can’t get that hiss to go away.

I’m not in the market for a Marantz right now, but are these Zoom recorders better than MiniDisc’s? In addition to that, do people have any recommendations for good mic’s to get started out with if you do invest in either of these setups?

by Scott Poniewaz | 24 Feb 2006 15:02 | Missoula, Montana, United States | | Report spam→
hey jason. ive found the best resource for audio production at http://www.transom.org. they have a great section on how to produce a radio quality audio piece. the standard for audio production for npr are the sony mini disc recorders which arent very expensive, but i dont think you can tweak the levels on the fly, which makes it really important to know how to handle your mic. the most important piece of equiptment is the microphone, and if you are doing something serious with this, i would recommend you invest a little money in a decent mic. sennheiser puts out great shotgun mics, which would allow you to be a good five feet away from your subject and still get crystal clear sound with some ambient mixed in.. anyways, check out the transom site. its a great resource.


by Andres Gonzalez | 24 Feb 2006 15:02 | Lviv, Ukraine | | Report spam→
Just ran across this new unit from Edirol (Roland) that includes built-in mics for just under $400.


by Geoff Cheshire | 24 Feb 2006 16:02 (ed. Feb 24 2006) | Tucson, United States | | Report spam→
Geoff, that looks like pretty the device i’ve been waiting for. Most of the devices that record to solid-state have been big and expensive. 

thanks for the find!!!

by James Brickwood | 24 Feb 2006 17:02 | Sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
THanks guys. I wound up getting the the Sony minidisc player, the SONY MZ-M100. It lets you adjust the levels on the fly and sensitivity. It also came with some good studio headphones and a multi directional mic. It’s also Mac compatable. Here’s the link

by Jason Geller | 22 Mar 2006 14:03 | | Report spam→

how do you like the equipment you bought? i’m looking into buying a sony and was wondering your initial thoughts,


by Shreya Shah | 27 May 2006 10:05 | Atlanta, GA, United States | | Report spam→
i also wanted to add that i have the ipod, with iTalk, the belkin recording device…does plugging in a mic to the top of the iTalk help with sound capture?

also, wondering if people have noticed that the ipod makes a “recharging” noise, kind of boots back up, every 10-15 minutes. unfortunately, it records this noise too, as i’ve been noticing in the interview i’m listening to right now. has anyone found a way to prevent this from happening or from recording?

iAppreciate any iTips you may have.


by Shreya Shah | 27 May 2006 11:05 | Atlanta, GA, United States | | Report spam→
The M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 is all it promised. The sound quality- even with the included two-direction mic, is fantastic. It has instantaneous file transfer using a CF card (I use a 6 GB Microdrive and have virtually unlimited recording capacity as a result- I mean 200 hours @ MP3 quality or something ridiculous like this. Also, if you want to ramp it up to broadcast or sample-quality audio, it’s got the juice. With a Sennheiser mic extension it is really pro. I mean amazing. I understand it may be out of your pricerange, but wanted to weigh in.

My only issue with this device is battery life which may be more like 4 hours/charge than the 8 that M-Audio promises.

I have the Belkin iTalk and basically threw it away when I got this, though Jack is right, it is nice not to have to carry a bunch of extra stuff.

by Phil Psilos | 31 May 2006 03:05 | Chapel Hill, NC, United States | | Report spam→
Still got my old Sony MD recorder with a T-shaped mic which still doesn’t bother me all that much, due for an upgrade myself however, at least to something easier to transfer to the computer without I-mic & all the hassle that entails…. though Jason, you know there’s a ton of recent threads about this subject to refer to (I seem to remember James Brickwood’s very recent thread about sound recorders, the thread went on for days!)…. but have to admit that I’m sure I’ve asked questions on topics for which there’s been heaps of previous threads…. go through them sometime, LS is a wealth of info already there.



by Paul KISS | 31 May 2006 04:05 | Melbourne - St Kilda, Australia | | Report spam→
Eagerly waiting for the delivery of my Edirol R-09…


by [former member] | 31 May 2006 06:05 | Paris, France | | Report spam→
I’ve used the Marantz for quite awhile now, and although I love the portability and durability, it produces an annoying hiss that is a big pain in the butt to get rid of during production. Yes, it’s what the pros use. But, for a $500 piece of equipment, it’s a disappointment. Anyone else have this hiss problem or any tips getting around it?

by Karen | 31 May 2006 07:05 | NYC, United States | | Report spam→
I work with a guy from the BBC world service who uses a tiny Sony Hi-MD walkman hooked up to a proper mic. He says it’s the only way to go, so if it’s good enough for the BBC… get a proper mic and headphones though.

by Amy de Wit | 31 May 2006 08:05 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Samsung YV 120, digital sound recorder, I’m quite satisfied…so far. Not huge memory (256 MB) but for interviews and even soame environmental sounds its ok

by Rafal Milach | 31 May 2006 09:05 | Vienna, Austria | | Report spam→
John i placed an order for one back in February when they were expected to release it in the US in April, but cancelled it when the release date was pushed back to June [hopefully]. Got no money at the moment but as soon as it hits the OZ i’m re-placing my order.

It looks like the best out of the whole lot in the portability range.

by James Brickwood | 01 Jun 2006 02:06 | Sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
I’m with JohnV and James B on the Edirol / Roland R-09 – WAVE/MP3 Micro Recorder, but I just got an eMail from B&H in NY saying that it still isn’t in. They’re taking pre-orders and/or will eMail when it’s in. Whatever.

by John Robert Fulton Jr. | 01 Jun 2006 02:06 | Fort Worth, United States | | Report spam→
I use adobe audition from my laptop and plug in a mic for notes or recordings.

by Jesse Okuda | 06 Jun 2006 01:06 | kaplolei, hawaii, United States | | Report spam→
I use adobe audition from my laptop and plug in a mic for notes or recordings.

by Jesse Okuda | 06 Jun 2006 01:06 | kaplolei, hawaii, United States | | Report spam→
I got an eMail from B&H that the Edirol/Roland recorders are in stock, fyi.

by John Robert Fulton Jr. | 06 Jun 2006 02:06 | Fort Worth, United States | | Report spam→
Yeah i notice that too john. If you order one, let us know how you go!

by James Brickwood | 06 Jun 2006 03:06 | Sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
James—I have one on order and should receive it today or tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it works.

by John Robert Fulton Jr. | 07 Jun 2006 11:06 | Fort Worth, United States | | Report spam→
John, thanks for the reference to WOOFERS on a previous thread. I was well chuffed.

by Paul Treacy | 07 Jun 2006 11:06 | The Hamptons, United States | | Report spam→
Can anyone help with a reliable stockist for Marantz recorders in Thailand – Bangkok or Udon Thani? I am based in Vientiane, Lao PDR, and need to buy a whole kit for field recording of interviews, sometimes away from power source for several days. All feedback appreciated.

by Janet Pontin | 24 Sep 2007 19:09 | Vientiane, Laos | | Report spam→
I use the Zoom H4 – stunning broadcast sound quality.

by Michael Cockerham | 24 Sep 2007 20:09 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Thanks, Michael. Does anyone rate the Edirol R4?

by Janet Pontin | 26 Sep 2007 03:09 | Vientiane, Laos | | Report spam→
You might also want to check out the new Zoom H2 if it’s available now…



by Ben Curtis | 26 Sep 2007 07:09 | Brussels, Belgium | | Report spam→
I’ve been using the M-Audio Microtrack 24/96 which is great – but the battery life is rubbish, especially if you’re feeding phantom power to a mike.

by Dave Walsh | 26 Sep 2007 09:09 | Dublin, Ireland | | Report spam→
I’ve been collecting audio using the Edirol for a few months now. I’m finding it to be a very useful tool. I used to use a Sony Pro Walkman D6 and an Audio Technica mic. I loved that set up but it was a little too large to just carry around when you are photographing and as it used cassettes it would be a pain to get the audio onto the computer.

The Edirol on the other hand is so small and easy to use that you can just carry it in a pocket and pull it out in a second and start recording with three button pushes from being switched off. It is laying on my desk right now next to a Sekonic L-308S and they are about the same size, the Edirol is just a little bit thicker.

I did try using an external mic plugged into it but I didn’t think the sound quality increase was enough to make up for the extra fiddling around an external mic would cause.

I use 2GB cards in mine. I think it will take a 4GB card if you want.

I’m planning on eventualy using my audio for multi-media / podcasts. If you really want the highest quality for CD production I would perhaps consider a higher quality machine with an equally high quality mic. The Marantz mentioned above is one option, don’t know about the hiss, but their cassette records were some of the best, I think HHB make a great digital recorder too, which is what I would probably use if I needed the highest quality.

I’ve used sound recorders with external mics and head phones, and although that approach certainly produces broadcast quality recordings, for me it is just too impractical in the field to use along side a camera. The more I use the Edirol the more natual it is becoming to just pull it out and record some sounds or conversation without even thinking about it. It is so small that I even photograph at the same time as recording.

I’m certainly no expert on it, but I say go for the Edirol.

by Justin Partyka | 26 Sep 2007 21:09 | Norfolk, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Roland R-09, or the Marantz mentioned are the ( in post ) only two to get.

by Tony Reddrop | 27 Sep 2007 00:09 | Melbourne, Australia | | Report spam→
Here’s a good link on audio recorders on the snappertalk blog…


Anyone know where to buy the Samson Zoom H2 in the US?

by Charlie Mahoney | 14 Nov 2007 16:11 (ed. Nov 14 2007) | Barcelona, Spain | | Report spam→
Thanks for the blog mention Charlie :-)

I just bought the Zoom H-2 from Ace Photo Digital, via Amazon. There’s lots of other places that sell it, some with slightly cheaper prices, but for those of us outside the US it’s easier to buy via Amazon.

By the way, the recorder, in my limited experience, is fantastic…



by Ben Curtis | 14 Nov 2007 17:11 | Cairo, Egypt | | Report spam→
Charlie: it seems like the Zoom H2 is $200 everywhere online, but for that Focus Camera includes a 2GB card, four AA NiMHs and a charger for the same price.

i got mine there a couple of weeks back; first time ordering from them; fast ship and no problems. The extra SD card is made by Transcend, and the batteries are called Power2000 and are marked as 2700mah. The charger is slow, though, so I pop them in a different rapid charger instead.


by [former member] | 14 Nov 2007 17:11 | Philadelphia, Pa., United States | | Report spam→
You guys are great and no worries about the blog mention, Ben. You’ve got some great stuff there. I’ve even added you to my bookmark bar.

So those of you with the Zoom H2, are you using a separate microphone?

by Charlie Mahoney | 14 Nov 2007 17:11 | Barcelona, Spain | | Report spam→
I’ve been using the H2 at a bar/nightclub, and it’s been great overall (live band sounds amazing), but I’ll have to use a separate mic to isolate sounds or get details as the night goes on. Otherwise, for now, the 90/120 degree options work well in many situations. For interviews, I kinda jam it up close to someone’s mouth, but it doesn’t seem weird because it’s pretty small.

by [former member] | 14 Nov 2007 17:11 | Philadelphia, Pa., United States | | Report spam→
The less equipment to carry around the better. Good news!

by Charlie Mahoney | 14 Nov 2007 17:11 | Barcelona, Spain | | Report spam→
I’ve tried the H-2 (briefly) with the internal mics and with a Sennheiser ME66. Both work fine, just kind of different sounding. For me, I see myself using it with the internals due simply to the fact that the mic is like 3 times the size of the H-2, and this is much more convenient for someone who’s carrying 2 x DSLRS anyway. I have to say I was VERY impressed with the quality of the internal mics.

I’ve been playing around with the different settings. Surround 2ch could be useful for very omni-directional sound capture, otherwise the 90/120 is probably going to be used the most. Still learning its characteristics…

The only thing I find annoying is the long startup time – haven’t timed it but it feels like 10 secs. I may try with a different SD card, as I believe the units saves (and then presumably reads) its settings from the card.

By the way, there is new firmware out that adds compatibility with Mac OS X Leopard, if that’s what you use.

Regards, Ben

by Ben Curtis | 14 Nov 2007 18:11 | Cairo, Egypt | | Report spam→
A follow-on from the startup-time issue in my last post…

I think I may have found at least some explanation. At first I’d formatted the SD card (2GB 150x) in my laptop as FAT32. The H2 seemed to have no problem with that but I was getting 25-30 secs startup time (!). I then tried formatting it in the H2, and noticed it formatted it as FAT (not FAT32). Since then I’m getting a startup time of 6 secs – with the same card.

The most annoying thing for me is the way the settings are stored on the card, and you lose them every time you reformat (unless you manually backup the SYS folder and then restore afterwards). I mean, really… that is just so impractical.


by Ben Curtis | 15 Nov 2007 10:11 | Cairo, Egypt | | Report spam→
Ben-How much recording time do you get with a 2GB card. Since I’m going from the NIkon D80 to the Canon 5D, I might need to hold on to all the SD cards I have for the NIkon.

by Charlie Mahoney | 15 Nov 2007 10:11 | Barcelona, Spain | | Report spam→

With an empty 2GB SD card, it says I get:

WAV 44.1KHZ/16bit – 3hr 11min 58secs
WAV 44.1KHZ/24bit – 2hr 07min 58secs
WAV 96.0KHZ/16bit – 1hr 28min 11secs
WAV 96.0KHZ/24bit – 0hr 58min 47secs
MP3 192kbps – 23hr 31min 00secs
MP3 256kbps – 17hr 38min 15secs
MP3 320kbps – 14hr 06min 36secs
MP3 VBR – 35hr 36min 30secs

(though suspect the MP3 VBR depends on the type of sound being recorded)

From what I’ve read, there’s not much advantage in using the 24bit modes, but I’m not an expert.

Hope this helps,


by Ben Curtis | 15 Nov 2007 11:11 | Cairo, Egypt | | Report spam→
What’s recommended for best quality? I have 5 2gb SD cards and it looks like I won’t be needing them all for audio.

Thanks Ben.

by Charlie Mahoney | 15 Nov 2007 11:11 | Barcelona, Spain | | Report spam→
I’m planning to use WAV at 44.1khz/16bit, which I suspect is more than enough quality for me. You’ll find this forum a good place for answers….




by Ben Curtis | 15 Nov 2007 12:11 | Cairo, Egypt | | Report spam→
Hi folks, I’m resurrecting this old thread, as I’m thinking about replacing my M-Audio Microtrax, mainly because the battery is dire. I’m conisdering embarking on doing a battery transplant but I’m still worried about reliability.

The technology seems to have moved on a bit since the M-Audio or the Edirol/Roland R-09 came out, and I see the < href=“http://www.olympusamerica.com/cpg_section/product.asp?product=1350”>Olympus LS-10 PCM has become a bit of a leader – though it’s apparent weakness in wind, and lack of XTR connection are a downside.

There’s also the ZOOM H4 (which, curiously, looks like a taser!) but that too has been around a while.

Any thoughts?

by Dave Walsh | 15 May 2009 08:05 | Amsterdam, Netherlands | | Report spam→
Ooh, I just found a place in Dublin doing the H4 for a great price…

by Dave Walsh | 15 May 2009 09:05 | Amsterdam, Netherlands | | Report spam→
Have found the Sony PCM-D50, more expensive at around 500 euros/pounds/dollars.

by Dave Walsh | 15 May 2009 09:05 (ed. May 15 2009) | Dublin, Ireland | | Report spam→
Dave, I have an LS-10 and, generally speaking, I like it. Wind noise isn’t an issue if you use an external mic (highly recommended no matter which recorder you choose) or if you insist on using the built-in mics, Rycote now makes a very funky-looking softie that fits the LS-10.

The biggest downside of the LS-10, for me, is the lack of a track-mark function, but it’s not a deal-breaker.

One thing I really like is the big red light — flashing means you’re monitoring but not recording. On some recorders, that’s not obvious, and can lead to problems.

by [former member] | 15 May 2009 13:05 | Dharamsala, India | | Report spam→
Thanks Peter!

by Dave Walsh | 15 May 2009 20:05 | Dublin, Ireland | | Report spam→
NPR uses the Marantz, or at least did until 2008. They know their stuff. Another place to go is www.transom.org to get good information on audio collection.

by [former member] | 15 May 2009 22:05 | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→
I have been using the Sony MZ-RH1 since early 2007. Using the 1GB HI-MD disc, you can record up to 7 hours and 55 minutes. My laptop with the Vista can upload and download the recordings on the recorder with the Sony program. Now the Sony UK site says this is possible with a Mac as well. I like its compact size. Sony made a compact external stereo mic with a clip to go with the new MD, which is handy with a 1m length of the cord.

by Tomoko Yamamoto | 16 May 2009 06:05 (ed. May 16 2009) | Wien-Floridsdorf, Austria | | Report spam→

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Jason Geller, Photographer Jason Geller
Greenpoint , United States
Jack Kurtz, Photojournalist Jack Kurtz
Bangkok , Thailand
Tim Gruber, Photographer Tim Gruber
(New York City Photographer)
New York City , United States
Scott Poniewaz, India country director & Scott Poniewaz
India country director &
(Professional Globetrotter)
Dharamsala , India
Geoff Cheshire, Geoff Cheshire
Tucson , United States
Andres Gonzalez, Photographer Andres Gonzalez
Istanbul , Turkey ( AAA )
James Brickwood, Photographer James Brickwood
Sydney , Australia
Shreya Shah, Seeker Shreya Shah
Chicago, Il , United States
Phil Psilos, Part Time Pro Photographe Phil Psilos
Part Time Pro Photographe
Chapel Hill, Nc , United States
Paul KISS, Paul KISS
Melbourne , Australia
Karen, Multimedia Designer Karen
Multimedia Designer
Nyc , United States
Amy de Wit, Photographer Amy de Wit
[undisclosed location].
Rafal Milach, Photographer Rafal Milach
Warsaw , Poland
John Robert Fulton Jr., Photographs John Robert Fulton Jr.
Indianapolis, In , United States
Jesse Okuda, Photographer Jesse Okuda
(Available for assignments)
Waianae, Hawaii , United States
Paul  Treacy, Photographer Paul Treacy
London , United Kingdom ( LGW )
Janet Pontin, Janet Pontin
Vientiane , Laos
Michael Cockerham, Documentalistic Bystander Michael Cockerham
Documentalistic Bystander
(Image Matters)
Cologne , Germany
Ben Curtis, Photographer / Editor Ben Curtis
Photographer / Editor
[undisclosed location].
Dave Walsh, Writer, photographer Dave Walsh
Writer, photographer
(Energy and Environment)
Wexford , Ireland
Justin Partyka, Photographer Justin Partyka
Norfolk , United Kingdom
Tony Reddrop, Photographer Tony Reddrop
New Zealand , New Zealand
Charlie Mahoney, photojournalist Charlie Mahoney
Boston , United States ( BOS )
Tomoko Yamamoto, Multimedia Artist Tomoko Yamamoto
Multimedia Artist
Vienna , Austria


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