My Favorite Portable Recording Device

Oct 05 2007

Several months ago I happened upon a website where you can download free sound effects: The Freesound Project.

The Freesound Project, an internet community supporting free exchange of sounds by musicians, sound artists and researchers, has been launched by the Music Technology Group of Pompeu Fabra University. A web site located at allows anyone to participate by contributing and downloading sounds.

A competition they were running at the time, an audio capturing competition that is, offered up a grand prize for the winner, consisting of top-notch recording equipment. Thats when I found out about the MicroTrack 24/96, a most awesome compact recording device that essentially puts what used to require a backpack filled with recording equipment into the palm of your hand.

MicroTrack 24/96

This baby “records via balanced line inputs or built-in high-fidelity microphone preamps complete with phantom power for studio-quality microphones, ..combining quality beyond that of DAT recording with the convenience and cost-effectiveness of personal digital recorders for the ultimate solution in mobile recording.”

Figuring the FreeSound Project people knew what they were talking about, I still did a fair amount of research before submitting a $300 budget request. Everybody seems to agree. This thing is pretty good:

Mine came in the mail yesterday, and from the simple tests I’ve conducted, it’s going to be great not only for recording interviews and podcasts, but for capturing ambient sounds from events and performances on campus. And batteries.? Ha! Plugging the USB cable into a computer or the wall adaptor puts the unit into charging mode.

Maybe you’ve heard pieces of NPR’s Soundclips: Audio Experiences series? Well, just listening to things I’ve already recorded with the MicroTrack 24/96, …yeah it’s that good.

A little bit from a recent review of the 24/96:

So what’s a field recorder? Here’s my definition: a device that lets you make a recording in a field. As in: no electricity, no roads, no buildings, no shelter, no access to any gear that you cannot carry on your back. That means a field recorder should be small, lightweight, and rugged. It should have either a built-in microphone or decent microphone preamps; ideally it will have both. Phantom power (for driving condenser mics) is a plus, as are line inputs.

Recordings must be on a par with broadcast quality or better β€” no 8-bit voice recorders for me. The recorder must support both compressed and uncompressed audio; computer connectivity is a plus. It should be butt-simple to use so you don’t miss the perfect quote, ivorybill mating call, or amazing song while you fumble with the controls. It must have sufficient recording capacity to capture an extended speech or musical performance, and the battery should last a long, long time. Did I mention it should be small?

Because I love field recording β€” one of my first jobs was documenting the 1974 National Fiddle Championships for NPR β€” I jumped at the chance to review M-Audio’s new MicroTrack 24/96. That I had an extended trip planned to Maui with several interesting recording opportunities was icing on the cake.

beach recording

handheld recorder

M-Audio’s stereo T-mic does a good job for informal recording situations (hear some examples)

Not that this post is just, me bragging about my new toy. Well, yes. it is.

3 responses so far

  1. I had used one of these briefly when I was working on some podcasts at my last university ( My brother is a freelance journalist and swears by it.

  2. […] this case, a reporter and I met with the group at the creek. The reporter recorded interviews with my favorite portable recording device, and I walked around taking sub-par […]

  3. […] examples of what can be done. For the audio, check out his other post on the MicroTrack 24/96. Most of these were done with an Olympus VN-960PC, which does a decent job and has a USB […]

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