Good voice/sound recorders for the field

#1

i was thinking of getting a voice/sound recorder for the field. i’d like to be able to start recording at the beginning of a hike and keep recording all the way through. ideally, i’d like something that can pick up voices close in (voice notes, discussions, and, hopefully never, last words) and also be able to pick up ambient noises in the background (bird calls, frogs, cicadas, etc.), even in windy conditions or situations with traffic noise. ideally, it should record timestamps in metadata so that i can compare against photo timestamps. if it comes with a feature to easily bookmark or strip out only segments that have interesting noises and append appropriate timestamps, even better. i’d like something small that can be clipped on, can record a full day on a single charge and on a single memory card, and i’d like to spend <$200, if possible.

any suggestions for a recorder or other options for recording sounds?

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What's in your field kit?
#2

Perhaps have a look at this thread on Xeno-Canto - https://www.xeno-canto.org/forum/topic/20891 - for ideas.

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#3

If you have a phone you don’t need to go any further. iPhone, Android etc. all have good recording apps that use the microphone built in. If you are not trying to do professional recordings you don’t need to buy a secondary device just for that purpose. I record insects (cicadas, crickets, katydids), birds and mammals with my iPhone just fine. It picks up sounds that not everyone can hear which to me is evidence that it is more than decent.

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#4

what app do you use? Ive found the secondary/tertiary processing to be a pain and so i barely ever add sounds to inat

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#5

Take what I say with a grain of salt, because I’ve never tried to record audio in the field. It’s on my bucket list, though.

When I’ve talked to others about this kind of thing, I’ve always been recommended Zoom’s range of audio recorders, such as the H1n. And they also have a microphone that plugs into your smartphone.

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#6

Yes, @silversea_starsong, like Charlie I am interested in knowing if you use a recording app that allows you to upload directly to iNat. I have numerous recordings that I would love to use, but no pc/software to change formats.

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#7

I do a lot of recording and started using my iPhone and now use a Marantz recorder. I can only speak for iPhone, but the microphone input is pretty noisy compared to dedicated recorders. You can get ok recordings but I would use an app like Voice Recorder Pro and not the built in voice memo app. An app like this that allows you to control the microphone gain makes a huge difference. A small external microphone helps a lot too, I’ve has some good results with the R0DE VideoMic ME that fits directly onto a trrs connector on older iPhone and most Android phones, see https://amzn.to/2UG1e4B There is also an updated version the VideoMic ME-L that attaches directly to a lighting connector on an iPhone. I don’t believe the iNat app on a iphone allows access to a sound file for uploading.

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#8

@rcurtis and @charlie the app Voice Recorders Pro lets you record in in MP3 or RCM (WAV) and the files can be uploaded through the web interface. After I record I export via dropbox from my phone then edit on a desktop. I pick a clean clip, run a 250 Hz highpass to knock down wind noise and normalize (maximize the volume) and then upload.

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#9

hmm. well barring something really weird/special, i’m probably never going to bother unless it’s integrated into the app. Those are too many steps for a plant guy who does other stuff just incidentally for the most part

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#10

I use an Olympus WS-822 recorder with a Rode VideoMicro microphone, IMO, it works really well, the whole set up costs about $200 but definitely worth it.

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#11

@rcurtis @charlie My app is called Voice Record Pro on iPhone and sadly there is no direct upload to iNat. I submit to my SoundCloud account which I can then add from the web version of iNat. It is a bit annoying but I don’t usually take that many recordings for it to slow me down too much.

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#12

Here are some more technical recordings that I’ve been able to pull from my iPhone:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19934951
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/15860674
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/10768825

I have many more with wind interference…so it isn’t a magic solution if you want good recordings, environmental circumstances have a big impact. But that’s the same with any recorder.

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#13

I had the same interests of producing quality sound when I was doing a bit of research I decided that Zoom H1n with a windsock is the appropriate choice for myself. Review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hi5x5Go4eIY this is based on my current skill level with audio reproduction also the price is reasonably cheap. I have not persuaded the audio path as yet.

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#14

For audio recording there are two steps - the hardware/software to record and the software to improve/save.

Recording can be done on a variety of devices including dedicated equipment, cameras, phones etc. as discussed above. (I use my camera to record video and isolate the audio in the next step.)

Creating a good sound clip - one needs some software to make the clip really good and useful, especially if one records on non-dedicated devices in wind near a busy road. For this I wholeheartedly recommend Audacity (https://www.audacityteam.org/). It is free, open source and cross platform (on PCs (Mac, Win, Linux), not yet Android or iPhone).

It is super easy to use, and one can remove wind/traffic/camera noise, amplify, delete out unnecessary bits, and edit clips together. It can do a whole bunch of other stuff too which is not necessary for nature recording, but fun to play with should you be so inclined.

There is a good tutorial by an enthusiastic recorder of bird calls, Stein Ø. Nilsen - http://fuglesang-troms.no/audacity%20-%20a%20beginners%20guide.html

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#15

I use my phone and Audacity… a small learning curve, but worth while. One thing that helps for me, is I start the recording at the beginning of the trip, and then when I hear something interesting, I stop and restart the recording. When I get home, all I need to do is check the last couple of minutes of each recording to find the interesting stuff… that said, I don’t record a lot, but it is often easier to get a sound recording of a bird than it is to get a photo!

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#16

For voices the rode smartLav works well for longer recordings (even in wind) https://www.amazon.ca/Rode-smartLav-Lavalier-Microphone-Smartphones/dp/B00EO4A7L0 It does cut out most ambient noise but can pick up bird calls if close enough.

The Zoom H4n can also be found used for around 200$. A bit bulkier to carry around but it’s good for birds/insects (I don’t take mine out too often but it has been great for adding bird calls to film projects).

Rigging one of these up to a parabolic setup would awesome for observations.

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#17

I have the Røde smartlav microphone as well. It’s just a very portable mini-microphone that plugs into your phone’s headphone port, but like Jason said it is very efficient at eliminating ambient noise including wind.

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#18

Is it possible to do this using a Blackberry Curve, an old phone, but it does have a voice recorder? There are many times where I hear multiple birds, but either cannot get a photo or not enough photos to covey the numbers.

Ian

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#19

Is anyone aware of a recorder that could work with an Android phone with a USB-C port? I have a Google Pixel 2 and while the Røde smartlav microphones look nice, the extra step of hooking up the ‘dongle’ to the charging port and plugging in that way just doesn’t seem like it would work well in the field.

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#20

I put mine in my shirt pocket (chest) and it works a treat, just with the inbuilt phone mic…

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