Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Gadget Bag: Field Audio Recorders
Add sound to your video and slideshows
The compact Marantz PMD661 features built-in stereo microphones, two XLR inputs with phantom power and a 1/8-inch jack for using external microphones. It also includes free PMD Mark Editor software, which is nice if you want to start getting a little more advanced with your audio work. The PMD661 records up to 96 kHz sample rates and 16- or 24-bit. A 1 GB SD card is included with the unit, and you can use SDHC cards as well. OP readers will find the bright OLED monitors easy to see even in bright conditions in the field. With an estimated street price of $599, the PMD661 has a good combination of capabilities for room to grow as you delve deeper into audio recording.
Its $249 estimated street price makes the Roland R-05 one of the most attractive field recorders for nature photographers who are beginning to experiment with sound. Its built-in stereo microphones record to SD cards, and it can operate for 16 hours on a fresh set of AA batteries. Audio files are in a convenient MP3 or WAV format, which makes them easy to use once you’ve downloaded to the computer.
Extensive built-in effects are among the most attractive features of the Roland R-44. Coming in at an estimated street price of $995, the R-44 is a more advanced unit that has a built-in limiter, low-cut filter, enhancer, DeEsser and other effects. At first glance, these effects might seem like overkill for a nature photographer or video shooter, but you’ll quickly see that they can be incredibly useful in the field where conditions can change in the blink of an eye. Two built-in microphones and four XLR inputs with phantom power give you almost unlimited options from simple recording to complex four-channel recording. You can plug the R-44 directly into your computer via USB 2.0 or you can record to SD/SDHC cards. The unit records at 16- or 24-bit, and sample rates go from 44.1 to 192 kHz.
With a pair of built-in Electret Condenser Microphones, the Sony PCM-D50 is one of the most popular portable recorders on the market. Broadcast journalists have relied on it for the same reasons that it’s a good choice for nature photographers: It’s compact, has built-in, high-quality microphones, is reasonably priced at an estimated street price of $499 and its native recording format is the universally accepted WAV. The built-in condenser mics can be set to X-Y recording or Wide Stereo. The PCM-D50 has 4 GB of built-in, solid-state memory that you download via USB 2.0, or you can use Memory Stick removable media.
Recording to CompactFlash cards, the Sound Devices 702 field recorder features a tough, ready-for-anything aluminum and stainless-steel chassis. At an estimated street price of $1,875, it’s at the high end of the recorders we’re looking at here. For that price, you’re getting a sophisticated recorder that can record uncompressed PCM files at 16- or 24-bit at sampling rates of up to 192 kHz, delivering extremely high-quality audio. Using Sound Devices’ next-generation microphone preamps, the 702 boasts low distortion and low noise. The unit doesn’t have built-in microphones. Instead, it has XLR inputs with phantom power for connecting high-quality microphones. It can record uncompressed files, as well as convenient MP3/MP2 files.
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