can you recommend a device for home audio/video recording?

January 27, 2019, 4:59 AM · Hi everyone! I've decided to make my audition recordings for summer music workshops/festivals on my own at home, as that's way less stressful for me than involving another person and trying to use their equipment. Can anyone recommend a good device to buy? Doesn't have to be professional level but good enough to accurately represent my level of playing, of course, and simple to use as technology is not my strong point. On the less expensive end of things would be great as well :)
Thanks for any input you might have!

Replies (33)

January 27, 2019, 9:07 AM · A cellphone.
Edited: January 28, 2019, 3:05 AM · The device my friend uses is a teenage daughter who knows how to use her iPad.

I've had a quick look at Sony cameras, but annoyingly the models available in the USA have different specs from those available in the UK. More specifically, external mics seem to be fine in the USA but anathema in the UK.

Zoom make various products.

January 28, 2019, 12:05 AM · If you have an iPhone from the last couple of years, it will shoot perfectly decent audio and video.

If you want a separate device, try a Zoom Q4n. It's not terribly expensive, and it's fine for anything that doesn't require a truly professional recording. (It's fine for auditions, etc.)

Edited: January 28, 2019, 3:03 AM · Iphone/ipad works flawlessly, even with it's internal mic.

I used the following rig a couple days ago and it worked wonders:

Microphone: RØDE NT2-A (€261)
Audio interface: Tascam iXZ (€46)

Mind you - RØDE is a piece of serious studio equipment and a professional tool that is used in pro studios across the world. It might seem expensive, but it's worth every penny. It works wonders for any intstrument or vocals.

I posted some recordings here
Mostly for assessing the instrument (not actual playing).

Edited: January 28, 2019, 3:10 AM · A $260 mic is very cheap (without wishing to sound like the "a $10,000 violin is cheap" brigade). In fact its cheapness would make me agree with you that it's worth every penny. I bookmarked a pair of Neumanns for $1200 for when I get serious, and there are people who would regard that as cheap.
January 28, 2019, 3:15 AM · One more note - you should be aware that not every cellphone is made equal. Most will not record anything above 12 or 16 khz. Combine that with a mediocre mike and you will get a less than optimal quality of recording.

Apple devices have a decent microphone and their audio circuits actually process input above the said frequencies. By measuring the frequency response of my Cahconne recording there is significant sound energy above 12KHz in violin sound, so you might want to capture that and most other cellphones will not cut it (even with a pro mike).

The reason for this is, that an interface like Tascam iXZ sends an analogue signal (which contains sound above 12KHz), but if your phone discards it - it's pointless to have a pro mike :)

The actual content of higher frequencies sampled at 44.1KHz (standard sampling rate for iPhone) is - however - debatable... But it makes for a mighty serious recording none the less.

January 28, 2019, 3:20 AM · Andrew Fryer - I did use Neumans, of course. I even had a vocal Neuman for live performances. But they are out of the league, especially price-wise.

Of course they are silkier and recordings just pop in the mix... But at the price - You simply can not beat Rode. Can not.

Edited: January 28, 2019, 4:36 AM · In case it's not common knowledge,
the maths of digital sampling (since at least the 70s) dictate that you decide the highest frequency you want to sample and the sampling rate should be twice that (i.e. it doesn't need to be any higher). So 44KhZ sampling rate in theory is good for audio at 22kHz. But I would suggest your mileage may vary - some people propose a higher sampling rate to sample 22kHz seriously. Otoh, no-one older than about 12 can hear 22kHz, so the maths become academic. (if you're wondering why the 44.1kHz standard, who knows - maybe it originally required only a cheap off-the-peg crystal oscillator). Some might assert you can't hear 22kHZ, but you can feel it. Recording engineeers call the highest frequencies "air". I don't know if you can feel it or if you simply feel loudspeakers are struggling with something.
So you are at the mercy of your digital device, be it smartphone or whatever. If the makers chose a sampling rate of 10kHZ, then you won't get audio above 5kHz.
January 28, 2019, 6:14 AM · I've heard me on a 'phone. It's awful.
I have a reasonable Sony video camera.
And I've heard our quartet on it.
Nearly as awful.
Most devices use auto-level and equalisation.
So your dynamic range is lost immediately.
Anything from the Zoom range should give good results.
For audio, not video, I use a pair of Rode mics into, and powered by, a Zoom H6.
January 28, 2019, 7:13 AM · How serious are the summer festivals you're applying for? Depending on your answer, I'd advise either a recent smartphone, or a Zoom.
Edited: January 28, 2019, 9:08 AM · I use a Shure MV88, which is a stereo condenser that plugs into the iphone lightning port. It’s small and I can keep it in my case, and my iPhone is always with me and charged.

The MV88 is a mid-side config with adjustable polar patterns. Can be used for just audio or audio+video.

January 28, 2019, 8:57 AM · Just note - Ipad and Iphone have the same high quality inputs and outputs. So whatever you have handy will do.
Edited: January 28, 2019, 10:45 AM · For summer chamber music festivals with amateurs, all the video is doing is helping them figure out your general playing level. A smartphone will do that just fine.

Do mount your phone on a tripod, though. The AmazonBasics tripods are cheap and work well.

January 28, 2019, 10:47 AM · I second the RØDE NT2-A. Great microphone.
January 28, 2019, 10:56 AM · I just looked up that Rode mike, curious about the value of picking one up for myself at the $260 price point. But note that it wasn't $260 -- it was GBP 261. Which is $343 US. On Amazon, this mike sells for $399.
January 28, 2019, 11:51 AM · Generally, instruments are recorded with small-diaphragm condensers because they are far more accurate. The other accurate option would be a ribbon microphone, but good ones are very expensive.

Rode NT2-A is a large-diaphragm condenser. While that would be flattering to voice/vocals, it wouldn't be my first voice for a violin. Large diaphragm microphones are generally selected because of their (sometimes flattering) inaccuracies and proximity characteristics, which wouldn't be useful here.

January 28, 2019, 11:55 AM · Sorry, I use the RODE for voice recordings, and I never recorded much violin with it. I guess I assumed it was good in general because it was an excellent voice mic - and my brother uses it for his voiceovers for his YouTube Channel.
Edited: January 28, 2019, 1:00 PM · You can have an nt2a studio pack for £215.

Or, going back to small condensers, you could have a pair of Rode NT5s relatively cheap.

I've got a Shure PG81.

Do a little bit of research.

January 28, 2019, 1:02 PM · As long as you disable any built-in amplification or noise filtering, your phone mic will be as good as on any camera you can buy for less than $800. Plus, the video will be more than good enough.
January 28, 2019, 5:04 PM · On the small vs large diaphragm mic for instruments:

Large diaphragm mic is probably sub optimal for close miking an instrument. But if you stand say 1m or more away from the mike, than large diaphragm is preferred.

And violin sounds somewhat better from a distance where the sound had some space to breathe. The closer you are to the mike, the more of your breathing, scratches, bow handling noise and finger tapping on the fingerboard will be heard.

And that is not what the audience hears, so close miking a violin makes it sound different (and pretty much very raw) than people are used to.

I use a DPA mic on stage (which has a tiny diaphragm) and while the sound is "passable" for live shows, it's absolutely abhorrent in studio.

Some of the most impressive recordings on YT I listened to recently was James Ehnes in studio setting (for example and you can see they a large diaphragm mike about 1m above the violin.
Safe to say they use pair of cannon small diaphragm mikes for the piano and an additional omni mike for capturing echo, but this is essentially it.

January 28, 2019, 5:07 PM · Thanks so much for the replies, everyone! The workshops I'm aiming for are targeted for a mix of amateurs/music students. Not super serious but not super laid-back either. Well, I recorded a bit with my phone tonight just to see, and it really doesn't sound bad to me. I dont have an iphone, it is a Nokia android smartphone. I think I will post a recording with the phone in a few days (when I get my Bach piece in better shape!) and see what you all think of the quality. Would really rather not have to spend upwards of $200 on equipment...!
Edited: January 28, 2019, 6:43 PM · Tony -- this advice is incorrect. First, the microphone used in the Ehnes recording is an AEA A440 Ribbon microphone, which I mention as being the most accurate type but also very expensive. For the record, the AEA A440 ribbon microphone goes for around $6,000. It was used on the Ehnes recording to capture the various Strads becuase it would provide the most accurate sound.

There is no situation, near or far, that a large diaphragm condenser would be more accurate to capture the sound of a violin than an SD condenser. The fact that you can't tell a classic ribbon mic like the AEA A440 from a LD condenser alone questions your microphone expertise, as the AEA is quite famous and is instantly recognizable in the Ehnes videos.

Edited: January 28, 2019, 10:07 PM · Focusrite Scarlett audio recording interfaces are pretty good, if you have a DAW to go through (Digital Audio Workstation). Reaper is good and inexpensive. Video, I have no idea.
Edited: January 29, 2019, 2:01 AM · Douglas Bevan - Yes you are right about the AEA A440. Had an other look and I was wrong.

I had no experience with ribbons yet... perhaps it's time. For now, I will take your advice and use rode NT5S, which we use for overheads and compare it to a large diaphragm condenser.

We are talking purity vs smoothness, not quality vs shitck. Small diaphragm mic will surely be more analytical and less colored than large diaphragm.

Ribbons are on a completely different side of the scale as far as pureness and analytics go. But DAMN they sound good on the violin.

Edited: January 30, 2019, 4:03 AM · Small diaphragm condensers seem to start cutting off a tone or two above a violin's low G, with about 3dB attenuation at that frequency (how you record a viola or a cello then is a more interesting question). 3dB are probably not a problem, especially if you have the mic to your left.

The idea behind close-mic'ing is to eliminate room acoustics. Most rooms have bad acoustics. Their level in the recording is proportional to the square of the distance between mic and sound source. So you close mic and get a raw sound, but then you add artificial, more pleasant acoustics instead if you have a DAW.

But that's all theory. Fiddlerman's videos all seem to be recorded at some distance from the mic and there's nothing wrong with any of them. Otoh, maybe in Florida room acoustics are harder than in the UK where we have more wallpaper and stuff. 40 years after the event I can still hear how bad a piano sounds in an English living room badly recorded! Having said that, I suspect that it is mostly the bass that is the worst problem - another argument against large diaphragms!

Obviously, experience is needed.

I'd like a clip-on mic, but I don't know yet which one is best.
And the scratching wasn't something I had given any thought to.
Also I'm not that familiar with compression, which is possibly something close-mic'ing requires.

January 30, 2019, 2:42 AM · I highly recommend stepping up your production value on whatever you send in, just for the piece of mind that your audition judges are hearing your true sound and don't get discouraged by poor audio or video.

I'm a short story writer as well as a musician and I would never send in a story to publishers that wasn't formatted correctly and looked nice and neat and presentable.

I have a Zoom camera that has two little condenser mics in it that I used to use to record rock concerts, but the camera doesn't work that well despite being 1080p. The mics work pretty well, though I haven't used it to record violin before.

If you're wanting good quality video, the best thing you can do is make sure you are well lit. I have a small twitch streaming setup with a simple logitech webcam and a couple clamp lights from Home Depot that work very well. Or you can just record in front of an open window during the day.

Another option for audio is using something like a Blue Snowball mic which is not too expensive and captures voice great, though again, I have not tried it with violin. But I will try it this weekend and let you know how it works!

January 30, 2019, 8:05 AM · I put in my vote for ribbons but there is no rule as such. Suffice it to say that most good studios use ribbons on strings. It's easy to recommend something like a Royer 121 but often people here are asking for microphones on a budget. Keep an eye out for 'stupid deal of the day'. I have bought several MXL microphones as spares or as potential mods and have been pleasantly surprised by some. The MXL R40 ribbon I picked up for about $60 (usually $160) and was actually quite good for the price. Is it a Royer? No, but I feel that a lot of people here are looking for a microphone in that kind of budget. I also found a Russian hand made clone of the Royer 121 for about $150 (Burd Igor) which is even better.
For the record, seeing as a lot of people are mentioning the Rode, I started my own recording with a Rode NT1 20 years ago. They are certainly good microphones for the money but wouldn't say they are the definitive microphones for violin. I could get a decent sound but needed to do a lot of post production. Much happier with ribbons these days. The pre-amp combination makes a big difference too. Ribbons capture the warmth of a violin and to me sound more woody. Something like a small diaphragm captures the more brassy side of the intstrument and some do a combination of two microphones and have the option to blend the two tracks. In my experience you can do a lot with eq. - if you want the ribbon recording to have more bite for instance, but you cannot boost frequencies that haven't been captured.
I did a microphone comparison for a previous post so you can see what you like:

These are raw recordings. Perhaps a better test would be to show how much you can boost the different frequencies with each.

Edited: January 30, 2019, 8:45 AM · I think the recording quality doesn't matter much at the level we're talking about, as long as it passes the threshold of acceptability.

Keep in mind that in audition videos, editing is strictly forbidden.

It would be instructive to see the video that Sylvie intends to submit.

January 30, 2019, 8:55 AM · Yeah, use a Zoom!

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