Comparing gear, and figuring out what's the best stuff, is tricky, or well nigh impossible. No-one has the money, time, or energy to do a comprehensive review of all the mics, or all the recorders, out there. So the best you can hope for is spot comparisons of what people have on hand.

And that's what this is — a quick and simple test of some mics, and some recorders, that I happen to have. I'm hoping this will be useful, not so much for the specific items under test, but to give people an idea of what kind of tradeoffs are available; for example, how external mics might improve your kit relative to built-in mics.

The Setup

An overview of the test setup.

The tests were done in a quiet piece of woodland (Foxmoss Wood, near Cawdor), away from most human-made sounds. There was a fresh fall of snow, which deadened the sound further. The goal was to see how these mics and recorders handle quiet sounds, and how well they can separate a quiet signal from the noise.

The recorders were set up on a tripod, with two AB mic pairs on clamps in front of it, and another tripod holding an ORTF pair. The mics were facing a small stream, and at a bit of a distance to make the sound quiet. All the mics had fur windshields, for fairness, though there really wasn't a breath of wind.

The tests were done in five groups, since there wasn't enough kit to do them all at once. As a result, it's possible that the background ambience could have changed between tests. There was essentially no wind other than occasional gusts, which I avoided for the tests, but it's still possible that there was some subtle change.

The recorders were set to have their meters close to -20dB, or as close as possible, which for some of the recorders wasn't terribly close. The recordings were then boosted in post to get them to -24LUFS. The amount of boost this required is shown in the tables on the test pages. No other processing has been applied, so be aware that the high frequencies will have been cut by the windshields used.

The Tests

There are a number of different aspects of the recorders and mics I compared on these tests. Each of these is covered on its own page: