Gear

The sounds on Okrasonic.com 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.

Zoom H4n

During a long hiatus from recording original content for Okrasonic.com, I acquired a nice upgrade: the Zoom H4n portable digital recorder. This device has a few notable features that distinguish it from my earlier recorders:

  • onboard X/Y microphones with selectable field (90 or 120 degrees);
  • dual XLR/TRS inputs that enable connecting external microphones, as well as instruments with a 1/4-in. cable;
  • 24-bit/96kHz high-resolution recording;
  • USB 2.0 port for line-out to computer;
  • stores files on an SD card of up to 32GB for hours of recording time;
  • audio interface mode for connecting external sound sources to a computer; and
  • onboard (low-quality) speaker, plus built-in audio effects.

Before long, I plan to make some new recordings with the Zoom and upload them to this blog.


Microphones

For convenience, I have often used a stereo T-microphone for remote recordings:

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!

Before long I plan to make some new recordings with it and post them on this blog.


iPhone with RjDj app – Hammering and Blue Jays, Space Piano No. 1

RjDj home screen

RjDj: Killer App

There are plenty of useful and fun audio apps for the iPhone, and RjDj (now sadly gone to the Great App Beyond) was one of the most enjoyable and versatile. The iPhone recorded its surreal sounds with its own built-in microphone.

There’s a nice appreciation of RjDj at Brandonn.com.

The videos below will give you a good idea of what RjDj was all about – first, an overview by one of the RjDj crew, and then a lovely little video with audio recorded using the RjDj “scene” called 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.

Izotope RX Elements interface

Izotope RX Elements

Another popular audio editing and cleanup application is Izotope RX. The basic Elements version goes on sale from time to time and may be well worth the small investment, for all the capabilities it offers. Features in RX Elements include de-hum, de-click, de-clip, de-noise, and a “Repair Assistant” module for easy audio fixes using scripted parameters.

I’ve only used RX Elements a couple of times, so I can’t speak to its utility as compared to Audacity, but I think it will be an important part of the toolkit for future projects.

 


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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