Field Recording Equipment Survey Hero

Do you remember your first field recording kit? Do remember the thrill of using your new gear to gather your first field recordings in the wild?

You’ll also probably remember how hard it was to choose the right recorder and microphone. We all had these questions at one time: Continue Reading…

Ian Rawes

Field recordings are often compared to photography. Why? Well, many feel sound effect recordings are an “audio snapshot,” a focused study of a specific event beyond the studio. Field recordist Des Coulam has written about this, as has Cities and Memory’s Stewart Fowkes.

There’s one key difference, though. It’s pretty easy to ground a photograph to a specific place on the planet after the fact – simply match the locations by eye. Audio tracks are more nebulous. Was that market recorded in northern Bangkok, or in the centre? For an inexperienced listener, that’s almost impossible to determine from sound alone. Field recordings are a more difficult to pin to location.

Relating a sound to a specific place isn’t a simple task, though. What’s the best way to show a sound clip in a space? A GPS list? A Google map? And what’s the best way for listeners to experience them? One field recordist has been a pioneer exploring these questions: Ian Rawes.

Rawes is the mind and ears behind the London Sound Survey. Since 2009, that website has plotted field recordings on a map of the English capital. Ian Rawes and his website have been featured on a number of publications including The Wire magazine, the BBC, The Guardian, and others.

I have admired Ian Rawes, his work, and his website for many years. In addition to adding field recordings on the London Sound Survey and sharing them with others, Rawes has explored the nature of sound maps themselves with fresh, interesting ideas.

I asked Ian Rawes if he would be interested in an interview about this, and the gear he uses to capture his field recordings. He kindly agreed. So, today Ian shares his ideas on sound maps as well as another provoking thought: how field recordings become a wormhole to transport a listener to another time and place.

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What skills are required to become a field recordist?

You may think it is a thorough knowledge of acoustics. Perhaps it is a complete familiarity of equipment and signal flow. It could be a network of contacts that allow you access to precious field recording subjects.

Yes, all of those skills combine to help a sound pro capture excellent sound effects.

There are other, less obvious skills needed to capture field recordings. Today’s guest reveals another talent successful recordists require. In today’s post, Stosh Tuszynski reflects upon the differences between recording designed effects in the studio and gathering ambiences in the streets of Chicago. He describes how his field recording craft has evolved, and details his carefully considered minimalist kit. And, most importantly, he shares with us a unique experience capturing an iconic sound from the Windy City that illustrates a hidden, yet important skill every field recordist requires: balancing opportunity with patience.

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A while ago I saw a new birdsong library appear on my Twitter feed. I auditioned the preview. The birdsong was masterfully isolated and particularly clear. That’s not easy for any field recordist accomplish.

That was my first introduction to George Vlad’s field recordings. What was even more interesting was when I learned Vlad’s experience followed an arc from sound design to nature field recording. He regularly posts images from his travels into the Scottish wilderness. He generously shares free sounds on the sound effects libraries subreddit. I was eager to learn more about his approach to field recording, and the equipment he chooses for the job.

So, today, George Vlad reveals a provocative idea through a special field recording captured in the Pentland hills near Edinburg: how every sound pro can find value being in quiet places, become inspired, and capture better sound fx by listening more, and recording much less.

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Trevor Cox Portrait

I’ve always been interested in field recording and travel. I first began to explore how those concepts combine in the first year of this blog, where I wrote about sound maps. Of course, sound maps are a media ‘mashup’ that pins onto a map a blend of field recordings, images, and text.

As I began researching that article, it didn’t take me long to discover the remarkable Sound Tourism website. That site adopts the sound map idea and takes it a step farther: its collection of field recordings is meant to help listeners discover the unique ‘sonic wonders’ of our planet, from a ‘sea organ’ to a ‘singing ringing tree.’

I was fascinated by the concept, and also intrigued by the field recordist behind the website as well. The project is hosted by Trevor Cox, a professor of acoustic engineering at the University of Salford. He is also a radio broadcaster, a lecturer, and an author of a number of audio books. In addition to working to improve sound in theatres and in recording studios, he is part of an intriguing initiative to make sound recordings better.

With his background in acoustics, I was interested in Professor Cox’s perspective on field recording and the equipment he uses to capture sounds beyond the studio. I asked if he would like to share his experiences with us.

So, today we will hear a fascinating mix of an initiative to improve audio recording, a globe-spanning collection of unusual sounds, and the impact of acoustics on field recordings.

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Today’s guest is Italian sound designer and field recordist Mattia Cellotto. I first discovered about Mattia when adding his libraries to my sister sound portal website, Sound Effects Search. I was captivated by the sounds and the album cover art, and even moreso when I read an interview of him on the A Sound Effect blog.

I was thrilled when Mattia reached out to me to share his field recording experiences with us here on the blog. In today’s post, Cellotto describes a thoughtful approach to the craft of field recording born out of patience and cultivating a controlled environment. The secret to his intriguing sound effect recordings? Mattia describes his desire to pursue characteristic sounds that led him to the Italian Alps using a unique microphone arrangement.

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PLC_in Big Sur

Readers first met today’s field recordist in an earlier article on this site. That post introduced Paul Col and his new crowdfunding-inspired website: CrowdsourceSFX.

Since that time Paul and I have kept in touch. He’s told me of the success of his website’s first sound libraries. He has also described to me field recording missions using a rare kit: ambisonic microphones.

We first heard about these flexible, multi-channel microphones from an earlier field recordist, John Leonard. Since that time, ambisonic field recording has become a bit of a buzzword in the community.

I asked Paul if he would like to share his field recording experiences with us. He kindly agreed. So, today Paul relates revealing experiences with this kit as well as his efforts pursuing a focused vocabulary of sound fx.

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Max Lachmann - Recording Switches on Me109

I first discovered field recordist Max Lachmann’s work when searching for vehicle sound libraries. His sound effects are hard to miss: he hosts almost 90 car, motorcycle, aircraft, and boat sound collections on the respected Pole Position Production website, which he runs with Bernard Löhr and Mats Lundgren. The Web shop also provides collections of weapons, military vehicles, and more.

Lachmann is recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on vehicle field recording. His sound fx include such elite vehicles as Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, and other luxury and sport cars. Capturing such tricky vehicles is exceptionally challenging, and requires contending with wind, overwhelmingly loud sound, and the complex mechanics of attaching equipment onto the vehicles themselves.

I was curious how Max captured such difficult subjects, and the kit locker he uses to get the job done. I emailed him and asked if he would like to share with us how he began field recording, how his craft evolved, and the role equipment plays in his work. Max graciously explained.

So, today Max Lachmann shares an insider perspective of a rare and specialized field recording discipline, a special tip to help capture valuable sound clips when they appear, and the story behind a rare exclusive field recording Max has shared just with us.

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A while back I was browsing field recordings on the fascinating American National Park Services website. There are dozens of field recordings from US parks, including some from Yellowstone National Park. One name kept appearing: Peter Comley.

It was a coincidence that not long after I heard from Peter through the blog. I learned that in addition to his work in game audio, Peter Comley has recorded nature sounds from Pacific Northwest to Indonesia to Belize. I was curious to know how equipment selection affected balancing nature field recording with his work in game audio.

So, in today’s post, Peter shares his thoughts about field recording gear, and how it helped him during a remarkable field recording mission in Yellowstone Park.

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Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

The majority of field recording mentioned on this site is for a practical purpose: you need a sound, you fetch it, and then you use it. But does that mean all field recording is only captured, cut, and lined up in commercial projects?

Of course not. Many field recordists capture audio beyond the studio for enjoyment alone. Others explore boundaries of the sonic world itself and express them not in games or episodic television, but present them in pure creativity as art itself.

Miguel Isaza is one of those people. He has founded industry-leading sound websites Designing Sound and Sonic Field. He is editor for sound for media, sound art and sound technology at the Spanish Hispasonic Web portal. He is well known for his artistic field recordings, which he releases on via Bandcamp and on his own label, Éter.

I approached Miguel and asked if he would like to share his philosophical approach to capturing field recordings. I was curious what role – if any – equipment plays in his deeply creative approach to capturing audio.

I was quite thrilled that he agreed. So, today Miguel Isaza shares how his field recording explorations of the sonic realm delve into an interconnected “sonic web” to create a unique listening experience that reveals a deeper understanding about the experience of field recording itself.

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