Recording Equipment?

September 20, 2007 at 06:49 PM · I just got a recording of my junior degree recital and I wish I'd known then how my playing sounded or I would've focused more on different techniques in my practicing! Hopefully, to avoid having this happen again, I'm looking into purchasing some simple recording equipment so I can listen to myself play more objectively and have a better idea of what I should work on.

Does anybody else record their playing regularly and practice from it? Also, what equipment works best (for the best price, too)?

Replies (20)

September 20, 2007 at 08:21 PM · I recently purchased the Zoom, here at this link:

http://sharmusic.com/itemdy00.asp?T1=H4Z&Cat=

It works quite well. I also have some really nice omnidirectional mics that I use with Protools. The Zoom is also compatible with the Protools hardware and software.

But really, you can't beat the Zoom for the price. The quality is quite good, especially for the price.

September 21, 2007 at 06:40 PM · I don't record myself as often as I should, but I agree that's a very useful and valuable tool for practice. I use a minidisc recorder (from Sony). They're a bit expensive (I think around $200-$250), but if you have a decent mike the quality is quite good. In fact, I use this when I need to record an audition CD for music festivals or for a first round of an audition. The newer models also have a USB port so you can record directly into your computer (or easily transfer it). This is also helpful if you want to make a CD, or if you need to edit the recording in any way.

September 21, 2007 at 11:22 PM · A while ago there was a discussion on another stringed instrument list about recorders and a lot of people raved about the Edirol R-09 recorder.

I own a minidisc recorder and even though the sound is great I find the menu system and operating buttons really awkward to use when you want to start, stop and find something quickly which turn me off using it.

September 21, 2007 at 11:36 PM · I heard that both the mini disc recorder and the discs have been phased out and that they're hard to find.

I own a Marantz PMD660 and it's an excellent machine. Most recently, however, I have purchased a Marshall MXL USB.006, a USB microphone. It plugs into the computer and it's ready to go. It's easier and more convenient to use than anything else I've used. The sound is really good.

September 22, 2007 at 03:31 AM · I bought one of those Edirols for quick-recording of performances (comes in handy for auditioning violins from different shops as well!)

I must say, even to my picky ears it does a decent job. The mics are cheap, of course, but not as thin and tinny as I expected. -And the stereo pickup is just fine, within the limitations of an X-Y setup. You can mount it on a mic stand, which is convenient, and you can port the audio (later) into a software editor or DAW, for editing and eq / reverb enhancement.

Pretty great considering the cost.

------

USB mics & software can certainly work, but realize that no company is going to make a good quality USB mic. There is no market for that. A USB soundcard (with a mic preamp built in) is a different story.

Also note: If you plan to also use this recording setup as a real-time practicing aid, i.e. listening through it via headphones while you play (an excellent idea, BTW) then most USB systems will not suffice. The reason is that you want low latency. -That is, you want the sound that the mic picks-up to come back out of the computer (into your headphones) with as little delay as possible. Most (though not all) USB devices use the computer's built-in audio driver, which has HORRIBLE latency. You want something that uses an "ASIO" driver. That is the pro standard, and can be dialed down to 3 ms or less.

note: With Vista, there is some new native audio driver. I forget the name. It is probably better than the one in XP, but I doubt it's anywhere near as fast as ASIO. Might be worth checking, though.

September 22, 2007 at 02:17 AM · I've been using a Sony IC recorder (ICD-SX46) for ahwile now and love it. You can listen through head-phones or on the computer. The mic is good enough for feeback on what I sound like. Only cost me about $150.

September 22, 2007 at 03:38 PM · I have a Zoom H4 that I use for field recording, but at home I use my computer. I have a decent sound card (audigy or better will do), an inexpensive condenser mic and stand. I use Audacity software, which is free, but entirely adequate.

It's great for me because I can record my playing and get instant feedback - less than five seconds to start playback. Then I can try it again, focusing on what I want to improve. Better than a teacher sometimes. Infinite patience, and absolute honesty.

Most inexpensive mics are going to make you sound shrill, so you'll have to tinker with equalization until you get good balance.

September 22, 2007 at 04:15 PM · Somebody posted a recording that I thought had good sound quality for cheap.

http://www.violinist.com/blog/WilliamYap/spring%20arpeggios.mp3

I asked him about it and he said this:

"I use iRiver MP3 player and the mic that came with it. The iRiver model I got is H320 with 20G memory. If you need a larger memory, there is the H340 model, with 40G memory. If you get the right software, you can even convert DVD and watch it in iRiver. Visit mysticriver.com, there are lots of discussions and guides on how to use the MP3 player, and software you can download."

That was a year ago, so a used one is probably real cheap.

September 22, 2007 at 05:41 PM · There's a new Zoom recorder, H2, which is quite a bit cheaper than the H4 and would be completly adequate for the job.

Also, most computers will record, and most laptops even have a microphone built in. All you need is some recording software; Audacity is excellent, AND free.

September 22, 2007 at 05:55 PM · "Also, most computers will record, and most laptops even have a microphone built in. All you need is some recording software; Audacity is excellent, AND free. "

Yep. A better question is like what can you not record with :)

September 22, 2007 at 05:59 PM · Here is a review of the Zoom H2 and a link to the Zoom H4

"Among the great products previewed at NAMM, few got me as excited as the new Zoom H2 - the newest addition to Zoom's line of quality portable recorders!

I wasn't shy about my love of the Zoom H4 in my previous review; in my opinion, it still reins as the best value in portable recording out there. But at NAMM, I got a close-up look at the next generation: the Zoom H2."

http://homerecording.about.com/od/newproductfirstlooks/a/zoom_h2_review.htm

September 22, 2007 at 06:29 PM · if possible, videotaping can be more revealing, to correspond bowing with sound, etc.

September 28, 2007 at 06:55 PM · I use two microphones I built in the seventies, around electret condenser capsules that were new in those years. They have an inbuilt amplifier that gives off a line level output signal. So far, so good.

Those microphones are connected to the line inputs of my laptop computer's soundcard. The soundcard is a weak link: it adds lots of noise. After recording, I use a program, Music Cleaning Lab, to eliminate the noise again. (No doubt, Audacity could be fit to the task, using its internal programming language, Nyquist.) Having to clean up like this is less than ideal, because some of the recorded sound is probably thrown away as well.

Therefore I tried an external (USB) sound card, the Sweex SC004. It was a disaster: its input frequency response stops at 5 kHz. Even for my middle-aged ears that is not good enough.

So I'm stuck with the internal sound card plus cleaning. If anyone knows about an external sound card that is better and not too expensive, I'll be grateful.

September 30, 2007 at 07:07 PM · I just bought a zoom H2 for $200. It records mp3 or wav, it has built in mics and you can record dual channel or surround sound. It records onto a smart card that you can plug into your computer, or you can use USB. It fits in my case and so far its been really helpful. I think the sound quality is equal to that of a minidisc, or maybe even better!

October 2, 2007 at 05:12 AM · I just ordered a Zoom H2 from fellow string player Stephanie Wingfield at http://www.wingfieldaudio.com/index.html. (Perhaps you've seen her ads in Strings magazine.)

She carries a half-dozen portable recording devices and you can hear samples of each (recording cello and clarinet) at her site, along with reviews and commentary. Her price was suprisingly competetive, even with the likes of Amazon, and it was a refreshing change to deal with a real person who personally answers emails.

No affiliation, just a satisfied customer.

Ed

October 2, 2007 at 11:47 AM · Mini-disc players/recorders are great! I use a Sony model but there are plenty out there. There seem to be many kinds of mini-disc recorders on the market that have fancy bells and whistles. Mine is one of the more basic ones and that's all I need.

I always record myself a week before I'm going to play a concert. This allows me to hear things I might have neglected before.

October 2, 2007 at 12:54 PM · Coincidentally, I just read an article about this subject the other day at Doublestop Magazine that provides equipment suggestions. You can check it out here.

((And my apologies for the shameless self-promotion, as my articles flank the recording article. But the recording article really is fitting to this discussion and worth a read.))

October 3, 2007 at 08:52 PM · In response to Bert Meijers post, the Tascam US-122 is a great little USB external sound card (up to 24bit/48khz). It accepts line level inputs or can switch to XLR with phantom power supplied through the USB. It's been around a while now, and has been superseded by later models so you should be able to pick one up inexpensively. I've been using this particular audio interface for about 30 months now, several recordings on my site were done with it; the string quartet demos, and also the orchestral concert of Diffractions.

October 3, 2007 at 10:05 PM · I've owned a couple of minidisc players (Sony, Denon) in the past, but at this point I'd have to say they're obsolete. Not because they don't work, but because flash recorders are so much better. Being able to dump recordings on a computer for organization and editing is too valuable. I always tape and save my concertmaster solos at dress rehearsals for the unlikely event that I play in tune.

You never know--it could happen.

May 29, 2008 at 08:12 PM · A belated thank you to Nigel Keay for your advice. Due to personal circumstances I lost Violinist.com from view for a time.

I went to the shop, asked for the Tascam, and they no longer had it; sent me home with a Creative E-Mu 0202 USB box, which is fine, too.

I bought a pair of Behringer C2 mic's, too, but I don't like how they sound. The electrets (I bought new capsules and made new amps for them) sound better, but they are noisy.

That's the Law of Conservation of Chagrin, I suppose.

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