Directors' Toolbox

Capturing Your Concert: Simple Tips for Recording, Part 2

October 19, 2015

In this installment of Capturing Your Concert: Simple Tips for Recording, we are going take a look at handheld recorders which are designed specifically for recording audio.  This blog picks up where the last installment left off, so if you aren’t sure what we’re talking about, I would recommend that you take a few moments and check out the previous installment here.

Maybe you have tried the smartphone route, or maybe you have no interest in using your smartphone or tablet as a recording device.  No problem.  There are plenty of other options that can yield wonderful results and require a similar financial investment.  Remember, your gear is only going to take you so far in creating a high-quality recording.  Understanding how to use your gear and putting your microphones in good locations can benefit your recordings tremendously.

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H1 Handheld Recorder from Zoom

Handheld recorders are a convenient option for recording, as that is what they are designed to do — and they aren’t substantially larger than most smartphones or tablets on the market currently.  While features vary between models and manufacturers, most have the same fundamental design and offer pro audio options at an affordable price point.

A pair of microphones is used to capture the audio which is typically recorded onto an SD or Micro SD card.  The internal firmware provides the user the ability to record at least two channels of audio, which can often be monitored while you are recording and at the very least played back for review.  Other options might include on-board effects, such as reverb and compression which enhance the sound of your recordings, or the ability to select what file format you would like to record to.  MP3s are smaller files and take less time to upload and download, while much larger WAV (pronounced “wave”) files can offer a higher fidelity and greater editing capability later on.  Some devices have external mic preamps so that you can plug additional, perhaps more specialized microphones into them to increase the flexibility of your recording setup.  And as technology progresses, the companies that make these products are listening to their customers’ demands and starting to build Wi-Fi capability right into the devices, making it easier to share your recordings.

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H2n Stationary Recorder From Zoom

But what does all of that mean?

Great question.  It means that if you are looking for an incremental step up in recording quality, using a dedicated device designed for capturing audio is going to provide you with a lot more control over how you record.  In comparison, a smartphone or tablet-based recording setup may be all that you need.  With their typically lower barrier to entry, price tag and simple-to-use features, they may be the ideal solution for many people. If more control is what you want, it would be worth considering a more task-specific device like a handheld recorder.

At this point, you’re probably wondering, “That’s nice, but is all this really necessary?”

The answer is simple – it depends.

The fact is that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to recording.  Audio engineers have been arguing since they began recording audio about what the best gear was, and what the best settings were, and what the best configuration for your microphones should be, and on and on and on.  Some people want things to be as easy as pressing the record button.  Others want to have the ability to finesse their recordings to get as much out of them as possible.  And some would like something in between.  If you feel you fit into any of these categories, I hope the information we’ve presented helps you make an informed decision.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Frank Mahoney January 13, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    interesting information!

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