Recorder and Information
Information and Links
Here are sites of recording equipment and related topics, assembled with the intent of providing information relevant to the study of animal acoustic signals. The range of equipment is great, and the application(s) vary depending on the species and the recording condition(s).
As I've seen on the different list-serves that often discuss this issue, people have strong personal preferences, but the final choice really depends on a balance of your budget, your motives, and your own preferences. The single question shouldn't be: "what is the best recording set-up?", but rather a list of considerations, including: What are the intended and primary uses of the equipment? What species will I be recording? What is the frequency range of the signals to-be recorded? What are special environmental needs and limitations of gaining access to and recording the target species? What kinds of things will I be doing with the recordings? Will students be using this equipment in a teaching context or will it be used exclusively for research purposes, or a combination? What features do I want/need on a recorder? Do other aspects of my equipment influence my choice of recording equipment? As I discuss above with regard to software, first addressing these types of questions will help direct your choices. In addition, I would encourage you to ask whom ever you know who records animals about their experiences with the equipment they use.
The first step is to narrow down your choices for the various components available. The equipment set-up needed to capture sound recordings can be divided into two basic components: The recorder itself and the transducer or microphone. For recording equipment, five basic options are available: Reel-to-reel analog tape recorders (not frequently still used), "standard" cassette recorders (The "micro" cassette recorders are generally too poor in quality to be seriously considered), DAT recorders using DAT tape, mini-disk (MD) recorders, and direct-to-digital methods, either with digital recorders or with direct-to-computer systems. Each of these types of recorders has its own advantages and disadvantages, and I provide several sources (below) for discussions of these characteristics.
It is difficult for me to give any definitive answer to any questions, but I'd recommend doing some homework on the topic, either online or by talking with others. Two sources of archived discussions for equipment details are available: One is the Nature Recordists Discussion Group, which is a group devoted to recording natural sounds. The other is the archives for the Bioacoustics List-Serve, which discusses a variety of topics related to professional study of bioacoustics..
If you have suggestions, comments, or suggested sites, please send them.
Equipment ChoicesHere are several Sites that have discussions of the different recording options, various sources of information on recording equipment and field recording techniques, and useful information for learning about and deciding on equipment.
Bioacoustic Supply SpecialistsThere are two companies in the United States that specifically cater to the bioacoustics market. Both are very experienced with bioacoustics research and will address particular needs. They also have a lot of basic information about recording systems and components: Saul Mineroff Electronics has served the bioacoustics field for decades, providing both equipment and service. They have a new web site with online sales.
Many researchers rely on parabolic reflectors to amplify distant sound sources. For the hobbyist, a parabola is the single item that when added to a a reasonable microphone and tape recorder can greatly improve recorded natural sounds. Parabolas can also be obtained from either of the bioacoustics supply specialists listed above.
I should note that there are a good number of toy-quality
"listening dishes" available, and these aren't recommended for
good quality recording.
Information Unlimited: Science and Technology Store
Sound devices, including parabola
Natural Technology: Bird "listening" dish.
Information on Parabolic Reflectors
Underwater and Aquatic Recording
The "spy" companies offer (sometimes expensive) listening devices. Here are a couple of examples:MP229: Dan Gibson Parabolic Mic
If you find any links you think could be included here, please e-mail me! Also, I don't necessarily keep up to date on whether these links are outdated; if you find any that no longer work, let me know. Or, if I've mis-represented something, please inform me.Comments to: Steven L. Hopp