Is your recorder good enough for you?
I remember, back in 2006 or 2007 - after having some experience with stationary recording equipment (mixer, mics, stands and kilometers of cables - such kind of stuff) - I thought "gosh, how nice and easy would be, if I would have a small recording device, with great preams, good mics and nice setting". That was the first time, when I heard (or realized) the term "field recordings". So I began to do my research. Prices, quality, availability, comparisons and so on. Having not much money, the choice was limited of course, but more limiting was the lack of experience I think.
Every great review is designed to describe a device so detailed as possible, finding all pros, all cons, making benchmarks, comparisons and measuring the level of pleasure and satisfaction. That made a mess in my head! While "no device on market was satisfactory enough", my desire to have some portable recorder - grow. It was late autumn, and Christmas just before, so I wanted just to have sutch little tiny fellow to play with. I had plans, and dreams, what I will do, what record and so on.
I made following choice. If I buy expensive device (waiting longer and saving money), and I will be not happy with it - then I will lose a lot of money. If I buy a cheap device, then it would be no problem anyway, and "any" portable recorder will be better for talks and fun than none.
Researching, I found a series called "zoom". Sure, I was thinking about something, that will have two inputs powered with phantom +48V, but at that time - no device seemed to have, what producers claimed. So I resigned from external inputs, and thought that I will be happy with good internal mics.
Zoom h2 was half priced to h4, but they seemed to have similar equipment on board, since that was the same company. While people love h4, and will tell you, that h4 is better than h2 (I don't argue with that), zoom h2 had a very nice feature in comparison to his older brother. And it was not the 4 mics design. While h2 does not reflect ideally the sound shape of recorded instruments or vocals, it has much less hissing noise than h4, and has warm presence. Sounds ideally for ambience recordings.
So I purchased zoom h2. What happened next? Well... After few days of happiness from having a new gadget, disappointed then with its quality - I put the device deep deep into the box, and forgot about. Then - my thought was - "it is not good enough for me. Loss of money. Perhaps I will use it some day, but not today."
Here the real story begins. A year after or more, I found it, a little dusty but still fully functional. From what I saw, prices didn't change, but on sonic market (in the contraty to computer market) - prices don't change so dramatically and quickly.
While I had no cables and other stuff under my hand, and wanted to record something (chinese instruments, called wuhan or tamtam diplomatic gongs), I decided to use my forgotten h2. Of course first thing I had to do with recorded sound - was to clean it and adjust. To my surprise, after some software experimentations - slowly I began to change my mind about this cheap and hopeless zoom h2.
As you may guess, step by step, I began to re-discover this portable recorder from a totally different perspective. Many things depend on your knowledge/beliefs about sound, sound recording, processing, mixing, mastering, and so on. Many people believe, that mastering should mean - "don't touch the sound, because you lose quality". That's not entirely true. Everything depends on what kind of sound you have to work with, and what results you want to achieve.
Using my little cheap zoom h2, since then - I recorded successfully several audio CDs. Heart of God, Earth Winds, Shapes of Space, Gongs in space, even overtone singing in Cathedral Vision (yep, there are no instruments, no synths, voice recorded only) was taken by this little fellow. And now - it appears, that h2 works pretty well with natural ambiences, that I record for my Nabra-Sync 4D series. To my ears - after some job on sound (if you know what to do, and how to do it) - albums made with zoom h2 (River 4D and Brook 4D for example) - are really comparable to albums made of freesound samples recorded by much more expensive devices.
Is your portable recorder good enough for you?
Are you good enough for your portable recorder?
Whatever you have - first learn to use it. And the best way to do so - is to focus on concrete tasks or projects, that you must open/start, organize/develop, and close/finish. Trust me - you can make something of value, something that you will believe that is worth your job. I have friends, who are great musicians, composers, multi-instrumentalists, or just have great talent to catch something in sound and music. In comparison to them, I'm a simple soundworker with no-quality experience. But they don't believe in themselves or don't know how to get organized or don't believe, that this can be so easy.
Do the first step. Record. Then - don't forget to make the second step. Think about your sounds in frames of "project". Then - don't forget to make the third step. Fill your project with sounds. Next steps will follow you. You will learn how to adjust your sounds through experimentation. You will learn real knowledge - fighting with your beliefs about this knowledge. Don't be to pedantic. Perception of sound depends on hardware, but also on your mood. When I go back to my albums, and listen today, I mostly think - "gosh - did I really did this? Is this really mine? Unbelievable". Don't listen to closed-minded people, who stuck in their perceptual expectations; they actually can't perceive the real richness of sound (which can dramatically change, depending on your state of mind), they only hear what their brain produces for them (as a structure) in one limited way. Be happy with your creations they express your Inner You.
Then - but only when you are satisfied (and fulfilled) with what you have - spend your money on better recorder or additional equipment if you wish. It is you, who creates; the recorder is only a tool, which you must learn to use.
You can listen some of my excerpts here:
Thanks for youre comment
I agree with you. I have an even cheaper Zoom H1. Yes, if a device has drawbacks compared with expensive equipment.
But learning to work with him (it's a mail), I keep getting more fun. It is not the equipment ore the software to edit. It is the person who works with it.
It is a challenge with a low budget to get a reasonable result.
thanks for comment again
Agreed, broadly speaking you can't expect the gadget will do anything better than yourself. Yet it's in the human nature not to be completely satisfied with what one has, and to ambition the last, brand-new machine. Uselessly, perhaps, but I guess this fulfills some inner need for renovation. After all shifting gear is simpler than changing oneself... Who knows
That said, I must confess I don't have enough confidence in my skills to try to get any decent results with just a pair of cans and a rope Anyway, there are many possible relationships with the gear: hate it, love it, need it... That's part of the fun. I for one would give up recording if I'd lose fun
Edit: in a nutshell, I don't see it as a matter of being good of bad (either the gear or the recordist)
As has been suggested, it really doesn't matter what you use to record, just record anyway. After a while (and only IF you feel the need for something more pro), THEN you will know what other features are lacking for you.
I did it mostly backwards... Already have tons of pro gear in a studio, but got re-hooked on mobile recording. My Zoom H2 and I record tons of neat stuff and even if I could have all my fancy studio stuff with me in the field, I still wouldnt use them. Simplicity is everything. I also have an H4/N and a Zoom 16 track and an Edirol R4, etc etc, but mostly its just me and the H2
Now, when I get song ideas that involve a full drum kit and instrumentation, I do it in the studio. But there are a few times when I have still had the zoom going as well just in case it captures a better perspective...
From time to time, I get a little bit self-conscious about whether I might have done something a little bit differently and got better results, but NONE of my recording friends (including one or two studio geniuses) ever have a problem with the field recordings I bring home. They too already know that nothing is perfect, and recording in the wild is subject to things outside of your control.
I hate to sound TOO silly about it, but in reality, all recordings are perfect for the time they took place. The fact they happen at all is a miracle and a little piece of magic.
...and yet - I think I have reached the limit of possibilities of my zoom H2. (-;
But I'm not going to sell it. It is a very nice device for various applications.
What next? Listening to various FS recordings made with Sony PCM-D50, somewhat I feel mesmerized by them. Since connecting external mics is not a solution on-the-go, this one seems to be a good choice for sound quality. What do you think?
Very....inspirational! Just goes to show you it doesn't always take the best of everything to make something awesome. For a while now I've used the built-in recorder of my Mp3 player to record my sounds, and also the occasional use of a hand-made contact mike, along with a cheapo Sanyo Dynamic Microphone, that I plug into my laptop and lug around in a backpack for 'field recordings'. For obvious reasons, I'm looking to get a Zoom H1 soon...
Very....inspirational! I'm looking to get a Zoom H1 soon...
I am satisfied with my Zoom H1. One disadvantage: not noise free at a quiet environment with low level sounds. The microphone generates a very soft noise. Keep an eye on your signal to noise ratio. Often try and listen. But just as well as Zoom H2N. My next recorder a Sony MPC-D50. Once!
I finally made the "Fire 4D". Only a "humming" part I had to exchange into something "colder in feeling" (thanks freesound), to balance the recording, but - yes, it is Zoom H2 recording. (-;
Among other things, I have the Zoom H2, because of the noise warmth (H4 is hissing). Besides it works as a external USB microphone/soundcard. Sony - as far I know - does not works that way.