Yesterday’s post talked about assembling a portable recording system around an iPhone (or Android device). As expected, I received a number of comments about “all-in-one” portable recorders like the models from Zoom H4 or the Sony PCM-D1 Portable 2-Channel Field Recorder. There are more than a dozen of these low to mid-priced units available from the usual vendors (Sweetwater or B&H). If you want to enter the realm of professional recording, you can check out machines from a company called Sound Devices or even Nagra…but at these prices ($3K – 10K), you’ve moved out of the amateur world.
I talked about portable recording using add-ons or accessories because you may already have a Smartphone. Buying another device and carrying around a second record with you is akin to having a dedicated digital camera. Yes, a Canon camera with all of its complexity and switchable lens etc will undoubtedly do a better job in the skilled hands of an experienced photographer than a cell phone but it’s another bulky device and requires additional knowledge.
A couple of years ago, my musician son asked for a portable recorder to record his band rehearsals and shows. Being a professional, I sought out a high quality setup at the local Guitar Center, purchased it and wrapped it up in gift paper. He expressed his thanks but took the setup back and replaced it with a Zoom H4 Mobile 4-Track Stereo Field Recorder…it was the right choice for him and actually cost a bunch less than what I thought would be the “best” rig. It always comes down to the best equipment FOR the job…not the best equipment period. The same is true for high-end audio playback systems as well, come to think of it.
The advantages of buying a dedicated portable digital recorder are many. They typically have swappable storage slots so that you can do a bunch of recording and then swap out the SD card. They allow you to choose from a multitude of sampling rates and formats…all they way up to 192 kHz/24-bit PCM. There are even handheld units that can capture DSD format audio from Korg. The unit is called the M2…although as I explained to the sales geeks from Korg at the NAMM event earlier this year, they do not have any way to edit or process what you record other than to output analog audio from the device. They jumped on the DSD bandwagon. I know both MA Recording and Blue Coast use Korg machines in their productions.
Other advantages include built-in microphones, limiters and other processing. They are rugged and even have the standard 5/8ths or 1/4″ threads on the bottom so you can mount them to a mic stand. Choosing one of these machines will set you back between $100 and $500.
So you choose. Do you want to have a completely separate device for recording in addition to your cell phone or is it better to strap on an extra set of mics and capture very good audio on your iPhone. Both methods work.
Tomorrow, I’ll step up to the world of professional devices.