Audio: Hardware

Hardware for recording, transferring, or playing back sound

Quiet American on why to use Minidisc

Quiet American (who’s made field recordings all over the world) tells why he likes minidisc. He speaks to the needs of the traveller. If you’re making a decision what recorder to get, and you travel, bear what he says in mind:

The large capacity of [Hard Disc] recorders on the other hand is itself a double-edged sword. Convenience comes at the cost of the exposure of relying on a single mechanisms to safeguard hours (if not weeks or months) of one’s work. And drives are delicate mechanical mechanisms almost all of us have personally watched fail, even when not subjected to the rigors of travel.

[...]Mechanical failure is not the only risk. I have, sad to say, had a recorder stolen in the field. If I had been using a HD recorder instead of minidisc, I would have lost an entire trip’s worth of recordings, instead of a day’s worth. That’s something I will not soon forget.

But travel concerns aren’t the ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on July 18, 2006 in • AudioAudio: Hardware
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Latest Sony Minidisc MZ-RH1

A [p]review of the RH1 (called preview because it’s with a pre-release model). Overall, things look good. Most importantly: Both Mac and Windows users can upload recordings made with the minidisc to the computer over a USB connection using Sony’s Sonic-Stage software. Even better: Directly upload recordings made from older, low-density. The upshot, overall, looks good. With this model, both Mac and Windows users can record onto minidiscs and then directly upload to the computer via USB and Sony-supplied software. Highlights follow.

Sony MZ RH1, black Some background: In the olden days, there was something called “regular MD.” More recently (January 2004), Sony introduced a new format called Hi-MD. “Hi” stands for high-density. With the new format came a new 1GB Hi-MD disc, or old standard discs could be reformatted for double the capacity. Two years later, Sony is now onto the third generation Hi-MD portable recorders. (Some of the [p]review discusses 1st, 2nd, and now 3rd generation recorders.)

With the MZ-RH1, Sony has abandoned its old strategy concerning Hi-MD. The MZ-RH1 is no longer meant as a competitor for Mp3 players, but is aimed primarily at people looking to buy an MD with unequalled upload capability and an ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on July 10, 2006 in • AudioAudio: Hardware
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New recording equipment arrived

I took a whole weekend day out of that-which-was-tax-prep to research recording equipment, weigh the options (oh how I weighed them!) and make a purchase. The results showed up this week, and I’m preparing a big ol article about my “decisions, decisions” process. Stay tuned. UPDATE: There’s much backstory to cover here, and (what I fear might be) excessive technical information; I want to go gently, and prevent sending you into a jargon-induced eye-glaze coma. So it’s turning into a multi-part set of articles. First installment will be an overview of portable recorder types. Then I’ll get into my decisions for the purchase.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 21, 2006 in • AudioAudio: Hardware
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Rumors of a new minidisc coming soon

Engadget proclaims, MiniDisc lives! Hi-MD MZ-RH1 said to be coming soon, noting a discussion at’s forums about “how a rumored third-gen HiMD recorder that may be just around the corner.” The unit is “aimed solely at the live recording enthusiast” which, well, is good news for field recording, or oral history.

Here’s more from the post on that kicks off the discussion thread:

Rumors that it includes:

PC/Mac compatibility. Support for USB 2.0, Costs near $275-325USD (349Euro), Line in, mic in, headphone out, Aluminium body

Assumptions and speculation:

- Easy and nonrestrictive upload of any recorded tracks due to advancements in Sonicstage 3.4, which it will ship with.
- Adjustable mic sensitivity (as the levels are clearly displayed via unit).
- Ability to charge via USB, like second generation Hi-MD units.
- Ability to record in all of the new ATRAC3plus bitrates, e.g. 192kbps + 352kbps and PCM (wav)
- OLED display (clearly displayed on picture).
- Uses NiMH gumstick ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 11, 2006 in • AudioAudio: Hardware
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Vermont Folk Life Center’s Field Research Guides

Field Research, as in field recording, as in portable audio recording equipment. As in information about solid state field recorders, and digitizing and editing recorded audio. Very good information from the Vermont Folk Life Center.

I learned about the Vermont Folk Life Center from reading the Oral History mailing list. Andy Kovalos always has a good word on the ins and outs of digital tools. He recently wrote to the list and said that they’d re-vamped their field recording guides. These pages are definitely worth a read.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 04, 2006 in • AudioAudio: HardwareAudio: SoftwareDo it: YourselfLinks
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StoryCorps now has a Rent-A-Storykit

Boys and Girls, do try this at home!! Storycorps has a Rent a StoryKit. Minidisc recorder, two discs, microphone, headphone and users guide. $100/week. Requires $500 deposit.

This is pretty smart. They have the equipment, send it to you, tell you how to do the conversation, you do it, send it back, and they create the Audio CD and send that to you, and a copy goes to the American Folklife collection at the Library of Congress.

Why is it smart? All the benefit of the studio in the trailer experience, and you don’t have to go shopping for equipment and puzzling over the options. Also good if StoryCorps hasn’t come to town, or if StoryCorps came to town right after the holidays and by the time you found out about it, It Was Too Late.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 27, 2006 in • AudioAudio: HardwareDo it: Yourself
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More on M-Audio Microtrack

At What Caught My Eye: More on M-Audio Microtrack, with review highlights shared by Tim Locke at the BBC News. While the comments are generally positive, he notes a couple potential gotchas.

5. There’s no pause+record function - so you can’t tweak your record levels before starting recording.

6. Accidentally hitting the navigation button and inadvertantly pausing during a recording is a too easy.

And, finally, the Broadcast & Podcast Gadgets site is written from the Netherlands. His distance from it is not shared by me. M-Audio is headquartered in the city next door. (And I want to go get a tour there).

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on January 26, 2006 in • AudioAudio: Hardware
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M-Audio Microtrack 24/96 digital recorder

A new (and promising) digital recorder has arrived. (MSRP: $499.95; Street: $399) Compact, boy howdy, is it compact! 4.3 x 2.4 x 1.1 inches (11 x 6.1 x 2.8cm) With bells and whistles. Uses Flash memory, records uncompressed WAV files.

Connects to computer using USB. Comes with T-shaped small stereo electret microphones, connection stuff, earbuds. It’s mighty tempting. I was debating between the Edirol R-1 and the Marantz PMD 660 for my four-hundred-dolla’ audio flash memory splurge. But this lil’ baby is competition.

It’s got all kinds of connections for input:  stereo mini-plug, two 1/4” jacks (balanced) with mic/line switch (I like it!), and, if you want to, SPDIF for digital recording

I hope to try it out for a test drive. The offices of M-Audiohappen to be the next city away from over. 

The rumors on this puppy are nice.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 14, 2005 in • AudioAudio: Hardware
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Microtrack 24/96 Review

Andrew DeVigal at Interactive Narratives writes a review of the new-ish M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96. Brief upshot: “Though I haven’t used it rigorously yet, I have to say that I’m quite impressed and happy with the purchase.”

It’s about one-fourth the size of the PMD 660. Takes longer to boot up. But the size is sweet, according to Andrew DeVigal.

The size was the reason I waited for this unit. And I’m glad I did. It’s about the same dimension as my iPod but thicker. So it’s easy to handle. And the menu button as well as the scroll wheel (that’s what they call it but it feels more like a rocker) on the opposite side makes navigating through the files and settings easily accessible with a single (right) hand.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on October 20, 2005 in • AudioAudio: Hardware
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USB microphone

The Samson C01U USB Studio Condenser Mic is the first affordable studio condenser mic with a USB interface. $39

Blurbage from the Samsontech website describes it thus:

The C01U USB Studio Condenser Mic is the first affordable studio condenser mic with a USB interface.

For the first time ever, musicians who record music on computers have a simple, affordable way to capture high-quality vocal and acoustic instrument performances.

Seamless integration was the idea, and it was obtained by creating a studio condenser microphone that can be plugged into any computer with no in/out boxes, no expensive computer pre-amps, just a USB cable.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on October 07, 2005 in • AudioAudio: Hardware
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So Long, Minidisc?

Engadget highlights a Minidisc discussion forum thread that speculates on the future of the MD format, based on Sony’s corporate doings (or un-doings, or corporate restructures)

Is it finally the end of the road for the oft-maligned MiniDisc? It certainly seems that way, judging from the recent activity at the MiniDisc Community Forums. Though not exactly a hotbed of anti-MiniDisc activity, one member points out that at Sony’s recent corporate strategy meeting there was no mention of the format, and it was also a no-show in the company’s annual report, other than as an example of a dying format.

If MiniDisc is going to be abandoned, it’s sad. 15 years is the lifetime of the product cycle, according to the post that kicks of the speculation on the MiniDisc Community Forum thread. The small size and convenience and sound quality for field recordings has so ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on October 05, 2005 in • AudioAudio: HardwareDigitality
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Review of Marantz PMD660

At Akustyk (acoustic, get it?), a site for linguists, a review of the Marantz PMD 660. The review is geared toward linguists, but since they’re talking about quality of spoken word recordings, it’s a good one to pay attention to.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on September 15, 2005 in • AudioAudio: Hardware
(2) CommentsPermalink - Rip Your Records

This how-to article for PC users has many overlaps with digitizing audio recordings you make yourself of family oral history.

Rip your records

The article focuses on vinyl records, but the author tested different hardware and software that comes in handy for inputting family recordings. Of course, it’s likely that you won’t have family recordings on vinyl. But the sound cards, the audio input to computer and the process of digitizing them are very similar

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on May 03, 2005 in • AudioAudio: HardwareAudio: Software
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iPod recorder hack for higher fidelity recording on an iPod

A hack to increase the iPod’s recording quality from 8kHz (the current low, icky rate) up to 96kHz

ipod hackaday: how to record on your ipod (for free). [via Broadcast & Podcast Gadgets]

And you don’t need the Belkin or Griffin add-on microphones, either. Just plug in your own mic. Requires models that can use podzilla (open source software to port Linux onto the iPod). Works with 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation iPods.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 26, 2005 in • AudioAudio: Hardware
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Transom Tools: Marantz PMD 660

Review of the Marantz PMD 660, Solid-state digital recorder at

Jeff Towne: The Marantz PMD 660

But they [digital recorders] also require some shifts of paradigm: we no longer record onto a master tape or disc, which will then be saved in an archive. Instead, audio is recorded to a memory card, then transferred to a computer, after which the card is erased and used again.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 09, 2005 in • AudioAudio: Hardware
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