The sounds on were all recorded with fairly lo-fi, inexpensive equipment:

Sharp MD-SR60 minidisc recorderThe Singing Well, Backyard Hummingbirds

Sharp MD-SR60 Minidisc Recorder
Minidisc Recorder – Early 21st Century Marvel

This machine was quite an innovation in its day: CD-quality digital recording in your shirt pocket! The downsides of this model were: analog-only output (hence a “lossy” process), no file transfer to computer (you had to play the tracks and record them into the computer in real time). But I had a lot of fun recording with this little gizmo.

M-Audio MicroTrack IIWave Organ, SF Wonder

T-Microphone with MicroTrack II
Big Step Forward – CF recorder with digital out

Moving to a machine that records onto Compact Flash cards instead of removable media offers a few advantages:

  • no need to keep up with stacks of minidiscs,
  • recordings in .wav format are easy to transfer to the computer via a USB cable,
  • a 16 GB Compact Flash card can store about 2 hours of recordings, and
  • this machine has various inputs — 1/8-inch with phantom power, 1/4-inch (separate L & R inputs), and S/PDIF, and
  • output is digital, so transfers to the computer are (theoretically) lossless.


For convenience, these days I most often use a stereo T-microphone with the digital recorder:

MicroTrack II recorder with stereo T-mic
Ready to record!

If you’re more adventurous, you could use clip-on omnidirectional electret mics for binaural recordings:

Binaural mics clipped to hat for lifelike recordings
Believe me, you will look like a total dork wearing this rig!

iPhone 4 with RJDJ appHammering and Blue Jays, Space Piano No. 1

iPhone running RJDJ
Killer App: RJDJ

There are plenty of useful and fun audio apps for the iPhone, and RJDJ is one of the most enjoyable and versatile. The iPhone records with its own built-in microphone.

The videos below will give you a good idea of what RJDJ is all about – first, an overview by one of the RJDJ crew, and then a beautiful little video using RJDJ Eargasm:

And, no matter what you use, you want to be sure to protect your gear:

Otter Box
Store your gear in a waterproof box when traveling

Audacity interface - Mac OSX version
Audacity runs on PC, Mac, and Linux

When you’ve recorded something, you need to bring it into the computer for editing. The method of transferring the recordings into the computer will depend on the recorder you’re using, but nowadays the most common interface is a USB cable for copying the files over.

There are a number of software tools that do a good job with audio. The tool of choice for hobbyists (and even some pros) is Audacity. There are versions for both PC and Mac. You can use Audacity to trim out the boring parts, boost a weak signal, filter out noise (within limits), and do various other enhancements and tricks.

With just an inexpensive portable recorder and a microphone, you can start making your own recordings! A decent recorder + microphone(s) + storage media can be had for less than $500, probably even less than $300 if you shop around. So what are you waiting for? Join your fellow recording enthusiasts and have fun!

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