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What should a basic field recording gear package contain?
by Mark Griswold
Table of contents:
-   microphones
-   recording devices
-   accessories
-   sources

This is not a comprehensive list of available recording gear, but merely suggestions for a basic gear package to get started making field recordings.


Here is a
beginner's guide to using microphones. Here is a general microphone FAQ. One thing to keep in mind is that the sounds you may be recording might not be very loud. Look for microphones with low self noise.


Single point mics combine elements into a single, easy to handle package.

-   Sony ECM-MS907 is a starting point for consumer stereo mics. Its rugged, compact, and inexpensive, but has significant self noise.

-   Sony ECM-MS957 works well with consumer DAT and MiniDisc recorders. It has a 5 pin XLR connector, but comes with an adapter cable for 1/8" (3.5 mm) inputs. It runs off of an internal AA battery. The 957 offers far superior sound quality to the 907 for a reasonable price.

-   Audio Technica AT822 /AT825. The AT822 uses an internal AA battery. The AT825 is a professional XLR version of the same mic.

-   The Shure VP88 is a professional stereo mic with lower self-noise than the Audio Technica mics.

-   DIY (homemade) stereo mic

Binaural mics place two small elements near your ears.

-   OKM Soundman or similar.

-   DIY binaural mics


-   Sennheiser MKH s eries of mics sound wonderful, resist mositure, and are rugged. They are also fairly expensive!

-   AKG Blue Line offers interchangeable mic capsules.

-   Audio Technica offers a wide variety of models.

-   Sennheiser K6 line is lower cost.


These might not be the right tools to start your recording package with, but you may wish to consider them in the future.

-   Parabolic - for recording at extreme distance.

-   Hydrophone - for recording underwater.

-   Contact - to place directly on a vibrating object.

recording devices

portadisc (hhb)

This is a professional MiniDisc recorder with XLR inputs and digital outputs (look for the HHB PORTADISC MDP500 under PRODUCTS)

mini disc (

Here is a list of some consumer MD recorders to start looking. New consumer minidisc models are introduced frequently and some popular models are discontinued. Here is a collection of manuals so you can compare features.


-   MZ-R37

-   MZ-R55

-   MZ-R50


-   722

dat (dat-heads)

-   Sony TCD-D8 / D100 / M1. These are consumer recorders with a 3.5 mm input jack.

-   Tascam DA-P1. This is a professional DAT recorder with both XLR and RCA inputs. The XLR connections provide phantom power to the microphones.

laptop computer (with appropriate microphone input device) cassette if that's what you have available, then get out there and use it! Don't think that you have to have the newest, best possible gear to make a recording. Just get out there and record!



Over the ear

-   Sony 7506 - this very popular professional headphone has good frequency response and withstands a lot of abuse.

-   Sennheiser HD-280 offers isolation from ambient noise, allowing you to focus on your recording. They are on sale!

In-ear (ear buds)

-   Etymotic Research are the pioneers in high end ear buds. They also make a reasonably priced model.

-   Sony MDR EX70 is a lower cost isolating earbud.

-   Shure makes several models.


-   Foam windscreens are usually inadequate for outdoor recording. Your mic will often require additional wind protection.

-   Rycote and Lightwave make zeppelins that are priced for the professional market.

-   Homemade Zeppelin (download the pdf and see appendix A)

Homemade Wind Sock:
Buy 1/4 yard of fake fur from local fabric store. The longer the "hair", the better. Lay your mic (with its foam windscreen attached) on the fabric and trace the shape of the working end of the mic plus a little way up the other end. Give yourself room for the fabric to wrap around the foam ball and the handle, plus about a half inch for the seams. Cut two identical sections. Place the fur sides together and sew the seams. Turn the fur side out and pull the sock over the foam ball. Go record in a gale! The foam ball should be sufficient to hold the windscreen in place. If not, sew the windsock a bit smaller. For more complex mics & shock mounts, you may have to be a bit more creative.

shock mounts

The Audio Technica 8415 accepts a wide variety of microphones.

Plans for a homemade shockmount are in TapeOp issue #33.

Here is another design.

mic stands

With the proper thread adaptor, small photo tripods make excellent mic stands. They cost less, fold smaller, weigh less, and adapt to uneven ground better than conventional mic stands.

Here is a guide to thread adaptors. Search for "Mic Mounting Adaptors".


This list is not comprehensive, but these are places to start your gear shopping:

-   Markertek

-   Location Sound

-   Equipment Emporium

-   Trew Audio

-   TAI Audio

-   Oade Brothers

-   E-bay


-   Froogle

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