Good Quality Field Recording on a Budget

I made this recording of a freight train near downtown Minneapolis today using an old third generation 20 gig iPod running Linux (more info at The microphone I used to capture the sound was an Audio Technica AT822 stereo condenser, list price of $419, but has them for about $250. The nice thing about the AT822 is that it comes with an XLR to 1/8″ stereo cable as well as a standard “Y” cable. This makes it easy to plug it into a hand held portable recording device like a DAT recorder or MiniDisc.

Unfortunately the iPod only records in mono via the headphone jack, but I was able to get a good strong signal into it via the left channel element, and record at a staggering 88.2kHz sampling rate! 96kHz is also supported. There is a way to get a stereo line level signal recorded through the dock connector, but I would need a preamp between the iPod and the mic so I may not bother unless I find something cheap, tiny and battery operated. I’ve ordered a replacement battery for the iPod, and I’m planning on keeping this small kit in my bike bag to make impromptu recordings. I would be interested in hearing about other examples of good quality field recording ACB readers have used. Anyone else have similar techniques?

iPod Recorded Freight Train

8 thoughts on “Good Quality Field Recording on a Budget

  1. I love my Zoom H2. The built-in mics have preformed great in a variety of environments, and the fact it records to SD card is a plus for me anyway, since I already had a pile for my camera.
    Amazon sells them for $176.

  2. I’ve been reading some great things about the the Zoom H2. I do a lot of work with the Fostex FR2-LE since I have access to them at my school. But having something with me at all times to record is becoming a bit of an obsession for me. My Sony PCMM1 DAT recorder isn’t it anymore because it decided to start eating tapes. Other than some archival recordings I haven’t transfered yet, I am ready to abandon the DAT format at this stage anyway.

  3. I’ll second the recommendation of the Zoom H2. My main remote rig is a Marantz PMD660 with a variety of mics, but I carry an H2 in my bag with me at all times and I’ve captured some great sounds with it.

    The only caveats I would offer is that the H2 is useless with external mics, much too noisy.

    Another option to consider is the Olympus LS-10. It’s pricier, but much more robust in terms of build quality and has both internal memory and an internal speaker, both of which I miss with the H2.

  4. I love my H2, goes with me everywhere.

    I use the external mic inputs all the time and haven’t found them too noisy or unusable. I made some binaural mics by gluing 6mm panasonic omni capsules to an old pair of earbud headphones. I need to get some fur to stop the wind noise, other than that the recordings are great.

  5. Hey poopoo, can you add a link to an mp3 snippet of the sound you are getting with your homemade mic in a comment? I’d love to hear what sort of quality you’re getting.

  6. Pingback: Audio Cookbook » Blog Archive » iPod Garbled Piano Recording

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