Some Very and not so Very Expensive Toys

I’ve decided I need a portable field recorder.
PCM-D1 Sony Professional Portable 24-bit Linear Audio Recorder imageI’ve had my eye on Sony’s 24-bit Linear PCM-D1 Audio Recorder ever since a friend in Tokyo picked one up. After hearing a few samples he recorded, I was amazed at the quality. He sent me a sound file of him recording the ambiance of a Tokyo cafe. A lady was singing and playing guitar while other guests mingled; every detail and feel of a live cafe was there.

The very small problem is—it sells for $2k.

Hence the next item…

PCMD50 Sony Professional Portable 24-bit Linear Audio Recorder imageLast month Sony came out with a baby sister model of the above: The PCMD50. The general specs are identical (up to 24 bit, 96kHz recording; 4 Gigs of Flash onboard memory). The only difference I’ve found from online reviews is it is made of slightly inferior materials. (the line input for example is plastic instead of metal) I’m sure the built in mics aren’t nearly as good, but again after hearing sound files people made of it, I’m impressed beyond impressed.

This little baby is only $500. Not bad and probably within reach, but do I really need this much?!

Recently I’ve realized I usually buy above what I really need. In the past, I’ve rationalized this by thinking I will come up with projects that would require the best of the best, but I rarely do. For my purposes a $300 video camera would be just as good as the $900 one I bought a few years ago. A used Super Nintendo that is falling apart would do just as fine as the Xbox 360 I bought last year… Well, maybe not.

Zoom H2 ImageFollowing this logic (the earlier logic), I’ve decided on this $188 model-the Zoom H2. At less than half the price of the ‘cheap’ Sony, the H2 seems to have everything I need. I’m having to buy a 4 Gig SD card which adds another $28 to the cost, but that is still half off the Sony.

As with the Sony, it can record anywhere powered by batteries and the sound files (WAV or MP3) can easily be sent to your computer via a USB cable. It records in WAV 96kHz/48kHz/44.1kHz at 16-bit or 24-bit, MP3 to 320kbps and Variable Bit Rate (VBR) data formats.

The worst thing I’ve heard about it is if you push the pre-amp up to maximum gain the hiss is pretty bad. It sounds decent if not darn good at mid-levels, though. I need ‘decent;’ ‘darn good’ would be nice, but not essential.

I’m expecting it to arrive in a week or so. I’ll play with it for a few days and then write a review here. For less than $200, if it delivers, this is something any webmaster who works with sound should have. (podcasting, adding silly audio comments to your blog, doing ‘serious’ interviews with your best friend or your dog, etc)

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