[AUDIO] Recording equipment - information

As the title suggests; [AUDIO] Recording equipment - information,
I am about to purchase some recording gear and before I take the last step and actually buy it,…
what is your experience and (founded) opinion?

Intentions to purchase
Intention to obtain a field and studio recording basic set, for the obvious(?) recording in the field (outdoors) and the studio (indoors). Both voice, ambient and specific sounds.
For game and animation purposes.

Recording set

The basic set to capture audio. (Which Mike? ~ other then the obvious price difference)

What parts do I absolutely need, what is recommended and what is a waste of resources?

  • what cables?
  • spare parts?
  • what furries?
  • anything else?


    Everything will be used on a 100% Open Source pipeline based on Ubuntu.
  • Ubuntu
  • Blender
  • Audacity
  • Ardour
  • any other suggestion / recommendations

Besides comments and feedback on the above, I am also particular interested in experiences and the potential of the below pipeline functionality.

  • Zoom H4N in combination with the audio solutions (direct record / USB)
  • Blender in combination with the audio solutions

BTW now we are at this:
Any advice for a good field headset is welcome as well.

So feel free to jump in and share your thoughts and experience. :smiley:

[This thread on GameBlender]

through my experience(iv’e only dealt with studio) the mic doesn’t matter as much as the room does.
even something as simple as pinning blankets, towels, or any type of cloth(thicker usually the better) along the walls of the room will drastically improve sound quality(the cloth cancels out echos/reverb the the mic would usually pick up). if you live in a urban area it’s best to use a more central room of the building(to cancel out traffic noise).

after you get the setting, then the next best thing is the mic. but using the above, iv’e found that even a standard ipod mic(if you have one) does a reasonably good job. and you can always get rid of any left over noise in audacity.

however i haven’t worked with many mics. iv’e only used the ipod, and a few webcam mics.

if you use a computer for recording, it is good to try and either put it in another room, or put a few boxes around it(to block out fan noise).

hope this helps. and good luck

Thanks for your feedback, I appreciate it! :slight_smile:

For the studio (indoors) recording, I am aware of the need of a sound-conditioned room. :wink:
Which isn’t a problem. More interesting becomes it when you get to the next point:… setting up the hardware?

Also since this equipment is meant to produce high-end quality material, my current interest mainly goes out to the hardware performance in the field and to the actual pipeline (from recording to polished end result), also just for compatibility reasons in relation to the hardware.
So the recording device (the Zoom) for compatibility and both Mike’s (Zoom + NTG) for field results.

First of all this will be used for field recording, and then studio mastering.
For indoor use it is mainly the result it produces (voices / voice over).

BTW now we are at this: any advice for a good field headset is welcome as well. :slight_smile:

I don’t know anything about field recording gear, but I own a small recording studio and know a lot about recording audio in a studio setting. If you want good quality be prepared to spend £1000’s, recording sound is not a cheap hobby.

Audacity is an OK piece of software, but if you really want to get a polished sound you’re going to need something a little better. All the big names are very expensive, I’d recommend Reaper as something that’s cheap but very high quality and made by a small company. Also their VST plug-ins are awesome and will definitely help in getting a good final result. You’ll also need a good understanding of acoustic theory to make the most of any mixing and editing software.

Also to that list I’d add some decent studio monitors (by that I mean speakers), so that you can hear what you’ve recorded properly. But that’s not enough, you really need to learn how to place the speakers and set up your room to prevent standing waves, unwanted reflections and things like bass frequencies building up.

I’d avoid the zoom mic - they tend to make really shoddy products - as any guitarist that’s used a zoom effects unit will know. It might be worth looking at a Shure SM57/SM58 as they’re a good workhorse mic. Also, do you know if those mics you’ve listed require phantom power? And do you have a pre-amp that can provide phantom power? I think it’d be worth having at least one dynamic and one condenser mic. AKG are a brand worth checking out too. Though in order to get the best out of your mics you really need to know a lot about mic placement, properly placed mics make a massive difference to the sound quality.

In fact, you’ve not listed any pre-amps. Do you have one? Because that’d be the item to spend the most amount of money on. Cheap pre-amps sound awful. Mics don’t work without pre-amps, I’d go with Focusrite if you’ve got the cash, or Art if you want a reasonable budget pre-amp (they even do a valve one that’s pretty decent). Then after the pre-amp you need some kind of analogue to digital converter. Cheap ones will pass, but the expensive ones really shine. Without this I’m not really sure how you plan to get recorded sound onto you computer. In my studio we use M-Audios Delta 10/10 and it is awesome, can’t recommend it enough and should work well in most setups. Without pre-amps and DACs I’m not really sure how anything you’ve posted will be of use to you.

And you’re probably going to need XLR cables.

Ultimately, it is possible to get reasonable quality records with cheap-ish gear if really know what you’re doing. But the best gear in the world can’t help you if you don’t know how to use it effectively.

I don’t know why you need to consider Blender in your audio solutions as Blender will not come into the pipeline until the sounds recorded, mixed and mastered, then you just drop the finished sound in with your animation or import it into the BGE.

I could go on, but I really need to sleep. The best advice I can give you is to really do your homework (I spent several months learning about gear and acoustics before making any purchases). That way you avoid spending money on useless gear and already know how the whole setup is going to link together before you’ve even got it. This link might help.

But the best gear in the world can’t help you if you don’t know how to use it effectively.

couldn’t have said it better myself.

I can make some recommendations:

Mackie 402-VLZ3 mixer (~$100)
For just starting out, it’s an excellent choice. It has phantom power and pre-amps for mics of the same quality as you’d get in their larger boards. It’s also got hi-z inputs for plugging electric guitar or bass straight in. The sound through-put is very clean with almost non-existent colouring. It’s also small enough to take into the field if you can sort out a battery pack for it.

Audio Technica AT-2020 (~$100)
A surprisingly good condenser mic (uses phantom power mentioned above) for the money. It takes a really talented ear to hear the difference between this and a much more expensive mic (I’m talking in the $1000’s). Very clean. You might want to keep this in your studio, though, and use something else for field work (I can’t recommend anything specific, but the Shure SM-58 is definitely the rugged choice; I’ve seen people use 58’s to drive nails when they couldn’t find a hammer and they survived).

Pop Filter (Studio) (~$40)
Kills ‘P’ pops and the hissing ‘s’

EMU-0404 Sound Card (~$100)
Not the best, but good for starting out. Has ins/outs for analog audio and MIDI. It’s got some type of optical connections as well, but I’ve never used them and don’t remember even what they’re called.

As for cables, if you do buy the items I’ve mentioned and get them from a bricks-n-mortar music store (musician-music not listening-to-music) they’ll fix you up with all the proper cables. The whole thing should cost less than $500 even when you throw in a mic stand.

+1 RiViT, Mackie make excellent products! Their pre-amps have tons of headroom without introducing much noise. In my studio we’ve got a massive 32 channel, 8 bus mixing console for big recording projects and its fantastic. Also, the classic British EQ’s are pretty good are pretty good too.

I’d also like to add that a decent outboard compressor is a must for good quality audio. You can use VST compressors to even out the audio once you’ve recorded it, but you really need a nice even wave form to begin with. My normal chain for quick recording is: mic -> pre-amp -> compressor -> digital to analogue converter (DAC) -> PC. Again, with compressors you really need to know how to use them otherwise it will sound awful. Also, I use balanced connections on all my gear to remove hum. So you’ll need to know if the setup your getting is balanced or unbalanced as you can’t mix the two easily (most professional outboard equipment is balanced, but a DI unit is helpful for converting unbalanced signals into balanced ones).

Furthermore, eBay is a great resource for secondhand recording equipment. Just be wary of Chinese fakes (particularly with mics). I managed to pick up a great Alesis compressor for £40 on there! But you need to understand how the gear works and how wear-and-tear will affect it.

In short, you’ve got a lot of learning to do! But it’s all fun!

Thank you a lot for the extended recommendations and feedback.
It’s a lot to take in atm, so I will go over this once more after my initial reaction.

You really did seem to do your best to give me some solid advice, for which I am grateful for. :slight_smile:

About the studio:
The initial reactions seem to be focusing on analogue and studio recording (and pipeline) of mainly music?
Field recorders, like the Zoom H4N, record in a digital format and in this case it has USB to digitally transfer the data.
As backup it has a SD card, so when the USB compatibility fails with Audacity/Ardour, then the SD card would help out.
Yet I was hoping for some feedback regarding experience, and/or tips and advice, with such a connection with Ardour/Audacity.
To be sure: this advice request is for non-music field recording.

About the software:
I reject everything proprietary, not because of the cost of the licenses. I am only open for Open Source solutions, this is a principle of mine.
If Open Source lacks something, I either need to learn to live / work with it, or look for a solution to (help) improve the solution.
So I rather spend the license money to help out improving Open Source.

About the Blender pipeline:
The Blender integration is important because of the automation of sound integration (for instance using Brender).
Think in example of automated footstep (audio-animation) syncing, and auto lingual rendering and automated intro/outro implementation.

About the Mike’s:
They both, NTG-2 & NTG-3, do support P48, besides this does the 2 also supports p24 and AA. (See provided links)
The Zoom has a build in pre-amp, adjustable on the fly or auto leveled.

About the parts:
Yes obviously I need XLR cables, what type do you recommend and what to pay attention to?
Also the phantom power, which is/can be delivered by the Zoom H4N, any thoughts on this?
Do I need an external (portable!) phantom unit?
What headphones can you recommend (again: field recording)?

2nd page bump
Still interested in some more audio-heads feedback :slight_smile:

Also starting to wonder what others use for their audio (recording)?

Ok, seen further no reactions, and no information that affected my decision making I ordered the items as intended.

For those reading along and/or interested, my final decision came on the following items for field recording:

Zoom H4n + Remote (for handling free recording)
Røde NTG-2 + Røde Boompole + Røde Blimp + Røde DeadWombat + Røde Shockmount
Sennheiser HD 380 pro (as field monitor)

The field recorder is obviously for recording in the field (environmental sounds).
The remote helps to prevent the recording handling noises.
The NTG-2 is a Condenser Shotgun Microphone, I choose this above the NTG-3 for two reasons:
the money, the NTG-3 is more expensive, while in my research for the intended purposes I didn’t find enough reason in quality to choose the NTG-3. The NTG-3 however is a better mike, it is build with an other technique, which is more suitable for more intense conditions. But seen that the conditions I am likely to record aren’t that intensive and the quality of sound difference didn’t really affect the expected results, I went for the cheapest of the two.
In time who knows, but for know I stick to the NTG-2 and hope it was the correct decision.

The boompole is obviously meant to help by extending the reach, to be able to capture over a larger range (by panning and leading) and will hopefully help to decrease the distance between the mike and the source.

The blimp is the best windscreen I could possibly find for the money spend.

For the headphones, which will be used to monitor in the field, there were several choices which all had small differences in varying degrees. I choose for the Sennheiser HD 380 pro, based on my best guess which of my personal top 4 I would like the most. The Sennheiser HD 380 pro has a detachable coiled cable and has large ear covering shells which I prefer.
And it simply appeared both technically ok and looks comfortable in use, which had the most appeal to me, but from the other headphones I had to choose from could have been said exactly the same. I think it is very personal when it comes to choosing your headphones.

I hope this helps others out in their decision making process.

And if you are interested in my services, who knows I might be able to help out. :smiley:

If your going to be installing an OS you could try UbuntuStudio it comes prepackaged with a load of audio software.

Thanks for the feedback! I am aware of the little diamond in the rough: Ubuntu Studio. :slight_smile:
(although running on Ubuntu myself atm)

Received the majority of the gear (I decided to choose for an other headphone (based upon advice I received) and thus switched the headphone for an KRS - KNS 8400 and have to wait until these are available again).

As far as I can judge now from my so far limited experience: the overall quality is suberb!

I’ll probably will put an small update from my experience with the gear, once I have a little more experience with them in the field.
I look forward to dive in the fields and forests to undergo the first experiences with these. :slight_smile:

Further investigating an Audio set up (Field recording to Studio)

I did my first purchases, but the zoom…

Ok, I did purchase the Zoom H4n and returned it, due to a (for me) too high noise level.
After consulting the manufacturer and my supplier, this is what the zoom offers (too cheap pre-amps).

Well it was worth a shot and no review on the web did prepare me for this, it must be a difference in expectations I guess.

So now my supplier advised me to check out the following:
Marantz PMD 661

Is this an enough of an increase or still too low end?
What do you think / assume / know – recommend?

I also abandoned the Sennheiser headphone and exchanged it for a:
krk kns 8400 this is the best I could do (in terms of what I could find)
it will be delivered in a week or two (in backorder).

For (future) studio references:
I will slowly start to build up the required gear for the studio set up.

To start, I will need decent studio monitors, at this moment I am considering these:
KRK RP8G2 Rokit G2

And I am interested in a audio interface,… needs to function with Ubuntu(studio).
And preferably should only use default (none proprietary) cabling.
Also preferred, hard connections, instead of extending cables (like the M-Audio-Delta-1010-LT)
Any suggestions?

(now for a simple set up, not too many channels required - but you probably have a good idea of what you can recommend?
(4 - 8 should be sufficient I guess in terms of a little growth?)

I also encountered these, which do have my interest…:
(no comments required on these - just wanted to share info)
Sound Devices 302 mixer
Sound Devices 702T Portable Digital Recorder with Time Code

These are above my current budget for the time being, but wanted to share these for those interested, since I have a hard time finding good quality info myself and at the same time now I know I’ve posted it here, can this act as a nice future bookmark/reference. :wink:

Today I purchased the monitors for in the studio:

I can’t enjoy these yet, but after a demo in the showroom and from the information I could find, I have high expectations and look forward to put them to good use.

Rokit do good monitors. But remember, how you place them and the room they’re in make a huge difference to the sound. Look at some guides to placing studio monitors online. I spent an afternoon measuring out our control room and placing our monitors and then using a spectrum analyser to make corrections.

Zoom make rubbish budget products. Never liked them, never liked their sound and never had a good experience using them. Their guitar effect stuff sounds truly awful. As I said, you can’t skimp on pre-amps and expect to get a good sound. They’re the most expensive part of most setups and usually worth every extra £100 you spend on them.

I use an M-Audio Delta1010 and absolutely love it. I run a Mackie 36 channel, 8 bus console into it and I’ve yet to run out of ins and outs. I’ve never used the LT version, but from what I’ve read it should offer everything you need for a basic setup with low latencies. I run windows, so can’t say if M-Audio stuff works with Ubuntu, check the manual.

As previously stated: I strongly recommend building a solid home studio setup first. It’s easier to get a better sound with less expensive gear than field recording. Also, it gives you chance to practice recording techniques so that you get less noise & nonsense out in the field. The reason that reviews of the H4n didn’t mention high amounts of noise is probably because they knew what they were doing in the first place to reduce the noise.

Thanks for your reply.

Manuals usually do not mention linux at all.
Manufacturers and suppliers stay away from anything that is Open Source…
In part because they do not want to burn their hands on something they do not know, thus lack of experience. On the other hand because of dealership (contracts) which bind them to proprietary solutions (which bring in money and restrictions).

I found the following for compatibility with linux:

So I guess I will limit my search to these supported devices.

About the Zoom H4n,… the audio specialists here couldn’t remove the noise either (in their well equipped demo room, with high quality gear) even contacted Samson, they couldn’t remove it either. So it is not that I just didn’t know what I am doing, the “experts” couldn’t do a better job it either. :no:

So now the hunt for a better field recording solution continues :slight_smile:
But I haven’ t good a good clue yet where to aim at…

Meanwhile I am slowly building the required set up for in the studio.

Then I guess Zoom really do bite, that, or you got a faulty model.

Nah they tested a few models from the shelf and they all had the same result. That is why they contacted Samson,… but with no better luck.
And it happens with both internal and external Mike’s.

I was hoping for much better, and so convinced based on research that it was a good gamble.
I ain’t saying that the Zoom H4n is bad though, it just didn’t meet my expectations.

Now the hunt continues, but have no clue what the next step will be.
Especially since I do not feel the Marantz is what I look for (tabletop type device).

For the interface I am considering the Focusrite Saffire Pro 40.
It is reported to be functional under Ubuntu: Here is a tutorial for those interested to get it to work with Ubuntu.

Besides the monitors (KRK VXT6) not much will be actually be connected.
But potentially the NTG-2 can be used as a mic, and later on the field recorder may be connected.

But for the studio recordings (vocal) an other microphone then the NTG-2 is probably wise?
(I prefer to stick to the Rode brand)

So for now feedback / comments on the following is interesting:
1] Focusrite Saffire Pro 40
2] A good field recorder… (suggestions?)