recorder test, part II

For now I decided to focus on the Sony PCM-D50 and what kind of recorder you get “out of the box”. I don’t have a new Edirol HR-09 to test and I wouldn’t recommend getting the old model. The Sony unit feels sturdy and seems well made, even more so than my old Sony minidisc machine that lasted 8 years (and still somewhat works). My dream is to have a modern electronic device that lasts more than 10 years. Is that so much to ask? I don’t think so since the first recordings I ever made (in the late 80’s) were on a reel-to-reel tape recorder that my father bought in the early 1960’s and still worked fine. Anyway, I went out today to make some “field recording” tests, particularly in quiet conditions. As you can see from the photos, everything is covered in snow, which heavily dampens nearly all sound reflections (I love this effect). On the first recording I’ll highlight the general capability of the built-in mics, which is that they are very sensitive and pick up distant sounds fairly well. For all these recordings the mics were placed in the 120 degree ‘open’ position.

General ambient sounds in the village with some close sounds coming from dripping drains (I even boosted the levels a bit):

The last two recordings reveal some problems. One big problem is that with really quiet sound sources you can’t hold the recorder without getting some form of body noise. Even when I put it on a tripod I had to be careful not to move at all otherwise it would pick up vibrations. Also some self-noise from the mics starts to appear. Ambient recording near frozen lake:

Even more problematic though, for recording is wind. While this is normal, one would think that the (totally over priced) wind screen would help. It could be that, the mics are so sensitive, any wind will affect them. That’s understandable to a certain extent, but the “wind” in this case was a light breeze, something you would expect on any normal day. The wind screen didn’t seem to help much. I turned on the low cut and limiter switches, but the recording is still seriously affected by the mics totally blowing out:

The solution of course is to use external microphones. No problem really except that you might want to occasionally take advantage of having built-in mics for certain spontaneous situations. The dilema here is if you can really depend on them if it’s not a perfect wind-less day.

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3 thoughts on “recorder test, part II

  • Daseul Lee

    Hello. My name is Daseul Lee. I’m an artist in Korea. I work about timespace.
    And I use photo, video, sound(I use a sony pcm-d50).

  • Erin Rickard

    Hello, ive been reading through your posts taking advice from what you have said. Im looking into purchasing my first recorder to start incorporating sound into my art installations. I have been looking at the Sony PCM-D50 which you have spoken about here, but also the Zoom H4W. One of my first impressions was that there would be a lot to learn and it may be complicated for me to learn with these devices – would you suggest a model like Sony PCM-D50 for someone starting to venture into sound experiments?
    Thank you for your very interesting and useful posts.