a basic kit for stereo field recording

For quite a while I’ve been thinking about ways to capture stereo field recordings of high quality and low noise, in an inconspicuous and highly portable way, and with minimal hassle. Sennheisers stuffed into a Rycote Blimp and attached to a Sound Devices recorder or mixer would not make an ideal recording kit for me. Designing the right configuration becomes a deceptively simple task.

An iPhone affords a high level of discretion and portability, but its internal microphones are pretty lousy and distinctly mono. Acquiring a quality stereo field recording requires a few additional components. There are several commercially available products on the market, like the Rode iXY, which give adequate stereo field representations. But these kinds of devices can be noisy (self-noise, handling noise, etc), are limiting in their geometry and acoustic separation, offer no physical separation from the recording device, and/or can have poor frequency response. And while highly portable, an iPhone with a diddy on one end is substantially more conspicuous than one without.

The Scarlett 2i2 audio interface is class compliant and can plug into an iPhone via a USB hub and the USB Camera Adapter from Apple. The hub fools the iPhone into thinking the attached device has adequate power. The whole thing becomes mobile when powered with a USB battery pack with a Y cable. The newer USB 3 Camera Adapters from Apple have an auxiliary micro USB port for connecting an external power supply, thus avoiding the need for the Y cable. A larger battery pack (20,000 mAh) can run the Scarlett for a pretty long time (12+ hours with phantom power), and can also recharge the iPhone in the field if necessary. The phone does not charge with the Camera Adapter installed. The AudioShare app by Kymatica has a built-in recorder, and I love it for its file-handling aspects among other features. Its particularly fantastic for sharing files across platforms (ie Linux). So, I potentially have a high-quality, low-noise field recording rig from my existing inventory of electronic and audio gadgets.

The kit, microphone cables, and related gear (mics, wind mitigation, stereo separators, etc) will all fit quite nicely into a small gym bag or backpack, which are quite inconspicuous though somewhat less portable than only an iPhone (with or without an external stereo mic). When out recording, I’ve found that I need clear and easy access to the various components of the kit, and most frequently to the iPhone. XLR and USB connectors and cords can take up a surprising amount of room inside a bag, and sometimes it can take some effort to get things to fit neatly and accessibly in the bag without undue strain on the cords and connectors.


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