The best device is the one that's with you, when you need it. The dilemma: portability versus quality.
Invest in a high-end SLR camera and you will soon want a pocket camera - the one you always carry with you, and never miss a shot. But as you take a picture with your pocket camera, you wish you could rely on the better optics, the higher dynamic range, and shallow depth-of-field of your SLR. You know that feeling, right? Well, it is the same with digital audio recorders.
Over the years, I invested in premium portable field recorders and microphones. They offer indisputable sound, but are bulky to carry with you all the time. Like pocket cameras, there are pocket recorders too. Nowadays, they offer premium audio quality and an amazing battery life. Unfortunately, their built-in microphones are not yet up to my sound recording standards. External microphones are the solution, but you will realize that in the lower budget range, they won't perform much better than the built-in microphones. As soon as you are looking for audio quality, the issue of portability rises again. Why would you have a Dictaphone in your pocket, if you still need a bag for studio-grade microphones and a phantom-power supply?!
Based on this observation, I wondered if I could build my own microphones, ones that would be small enough to carry with me alongside a Dictaphone, but ones that offer a sound quality that would give me complete satisfaction. After many trials, the results were surprisingly good: my little Dictaphone started to sound damn close to my professional gear.
Next came the idea to start a small handmade production and offer these same microphones as matched pairs, to friends and website visitors who helped me to collect audio material for myNoise. Not only would this be a nice present, but it would help them to record even better audio material for me!
These microphones are entirely made by hand, and therefore not always available.
ICDSX1000_myNoise.mp3 • FR2LE_AT3032.mp3 • These are my studio tests. They compare my ultra-portable recording setup relying on a small Sony ICD-SX1000 Dictaphone and the myNoise microphones, with my professional field recording setup consisting of a Fostex F2-2LE and Audio Technica AT-3032. Various acoustic instruments have been recorded in order to cover most of the audible spectrum, in a very quiet recording studio. At the end, the recording becomes silent, so one can hear the self-noise present in each recording. The microphones were mounted one on top of the other, with each Left-Right pair spaced 20cm apart.
MyNoiseMics_Goats.mp3 • myNoise microphones are lightweight and easy to hang by their wiring, often from the lowest branches of a tree when I am in the field. Such a setup has been used to record goats resting (and eating) in a woodland in Southern France. Listen to the dynamic range and the absence of background noise - the slight hiss mostly comes from distant bees! Recorded using a Sony ICD-SX712 Dictaphone, a matched pair of myNoise mics, without any post-processing.
In order to connect these microphones to your recorder, you will need a simple Y Audio Cable: a stereo mini-jack plug (male) at one end, and two male RCA/Cinch plugs at the other. These cables are easily found in any shop selling audio goods. They come in various qualities, and lengths, and are often used to connect portable audio devices to hi-fi equipment.
You will also need a portable recorder, which sends plug-in power through its microphone input; most portable recorders nowadays do. I recommend the high-end Sony Dictaphone ICD-SX1000, which I personally use (the SX733 is nice too, as is the discontinued SX712) but any of the high-end Dictaphones featuring Plug-In Power (PIP) will work fine. Most portable 'prosumer' field recorders made by Olympus, Zoom, Tascam, Yamaha, Sony, and Roland will work too. The myNoise microphones can be directly plugged into cameras and video recorders, as long as Plug-In Power is present at their microphone input. Do not confuse Phantom Power (+48V) and Plug-In-Power (+5V). The myNoise microphones will not accept Phantom Power.
|Capsule||10mm Back Electret Condenser|
|Operating Voltage||3-10V Plug-In Power|
|Maximum Sound Level||115 dB SPL|
|Sensitivity (0 dB=1 V/Pa)||Higher than -31 dB (28 mv/Pa)|
|Frequency range||10 Hz ... 20 kHz|
|Self-Noise||Less than 15 dBA|
|Housing||Multijet Fusion PA12|
|Output Connector||RCA (Cinch)|
The best stereo recordings for headphone playback will be achieved by spacing the two microphones 20cm apart. You can try putting some sound absorbing objects in between to increase the stereo separation. If you are in the field, try placing the microphones on each side of a small tree trunk, on the ground, pointing upwards.
The microphones are provided with windshields made of acoustic foam. These windshields are quite large compared to the size of the microphone, and people will probably try fitting the microphones into the windshield as deeply as possible. Don't do that! Leave some air between the capsule and the foam: perhaps about 1cm. This air will act as a chamber/pressure buffer, and will increase the efficiency of the windshield in blocking wind noises. My tests have shown that doing this results in the performance obtained by a furry windshield, with less absorption in the high frequency range.