Home > JoeRants > Audio Stuff, Pt 4 – Wish Lists!

Audio Stuff, Pt 4 – Wish Lists!

November 12, 2012

Wow, have I been away from the blog for a while. It’s been busy, and I’ll soon be putting up some stuff about the progress of Sympathy Pains (it’s coming along well, thanks for asking.). But a friend called today with some audio questions, and I thought I should get back to this topic. You can find Audio stuff part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.

So we’ve talked through how different audio recorders work, and setting them up with microphones. Today I thought we’d dig into the fun stuff – what to buy!

First off,  you do need a good recorder, and that’s been covered in the first three sections. We’ll talk about boom mics in the next one or two of these posts, and you’ll want a boom mic if you’re recording sound for film.

But what else? Item number one is a good pair of headphones. I own a pair of Sennheiser  HD280s, and I love them. The two things I look for in headphones are a flat frequency response (we’ll get to that in a second) and that they’re an over-the-ear model. Over-the-ear means exactly that – they completely cover your ear and help cut out sounds from the outside world. They also tend to be bigger, and a very simplistic rule is bigger is better. Not always true, but true enough for us.

The frequency response being flat just means that the phones reproduce the sound as accurately as possible, without favoring any sounds more than others. Cheaper headphones tend to not do this very well – I usually look for something in the $100+ range.

Don’t get me wrong – cheap headphones are better than no headphones, but my own headphone story is pretty revealing. I used to own a camera that was notorious for introducing a lot of noise into the audio channel. I always assumed that my camera just didn’t have that issue, because I never heard it. Then I got into sound and got a good pair of headphones. You can figure out the rest of the story – before I bought a good pair, my headphones weren’t good enough for me to hear the noise!

On a side note – I’d steer clear of any of the “named” / “branded” headphones (Dr. Dre Beats come to mind). Those headphones tend to be designed for music, and especially bass-heavy music. They’re good, but they tend to have a frequency response that isn’t real – it favors frequencies that make the music sound good, but don’t give you a good representation of what you’re actually recording. You want something that’s just overall good in all frequencies. Sony makes good ones, as does Sennheiser.

After getting a good pair of headphones, the other toys are pretty easy. You want a headphone splitter that gets your audio out to your boom operator (who should have his own headphones), and a headphone extension cable. You may also want a little in-line volume control or two, so that you can turn up the volume on the recorder to full, but turn it down separately for you and for your boom op. They make them with 1/8 inch connectors so you plug your headphones into the volume control, then into the splitter.

You can add a mixer into your setup, but I tend to avoid them whenever possible. Unless you’re using a good one, they just add one more place where things can go wrong. When you’re beginning in audio, nothing can cause more trouble than trying to add a mixer into the mix.

And really, that’s it. As I keep going with these posts, we’ll talk about lavaliere mics, and handheld mics, and lots of other things to add to the wish list, and those are important items, without being absolutely necessary.

So the list is:

  •   Audio Recorder (a good one with XLR inputs)
  •   Boom Mic (we’ll get to that)
  •   Splitter and extension cable

Not too bad, and not ridiculously expensive once you get past the initial expense of the recorder and mic.

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