Saturday, December 09, 2006
I have trialled a pair of these headphones. They are truly the best of their breed, although they are also the most expensive. 69 quid on Regent Street. But the audio quality is simply amazing. Ideal for clandestine recordings in the field. They come with three sizes of earpieces to ensure a snug fit. But I am surprised that they didn't include two sets. The case for the headphones is clever too....neatly protects the headphones, though it closes with a magnetic clip which needs to be kept away from credit cards.
I am currently looking at this piece of software as one possibile solution for a radio station in West Africa. One challenge with the Open-Source project like this is that the developers cannot offer a 24 hour service, like other guys do for Linux. But I have met the people behind this project and know them to be passionate about getting it right.
Community radio stations in Sierra Leone and in other emerging democracies will be powered by the latest release of the free and open source Campcaster software, which was released on December 7th 2006. Campcaster is free and open source software that turns a PC running the free Linux operating system into an essential tool for radio broadcasting. In a user-friendly way, it enables both automated broadcast at preset dates and times, as well as allowing “live” playout from the studio. At the same time, it also enables the exchange of radio program material both online and off-line, and provides a stable, secure, extensible archive server for storing, searching and retrieving program content.
Campcaster 1.1, code-named “Freetown,” was built with conditions in difficult environments such as Sierra Leone in mind. It provides very stable playout, and because it runs on Linux, there are fewer problems with viruses, spyware and malware.
Campcaster's relevance is not limited to the developing world: stations in the developed world are starting to adapt the system to their own needs. For example, Vienna, Austria's Radio Orange is adapting Campcaster's playout system to work with its existing digital archive, while in Hungary, a network of independent radio stations is integrating Campcaster's storage server into its IKRA project, a generic public website engine for radio stations.
Because all of the Campcaster software is free and open source, stations are free to adapt it to their individual needs, but are strongly encouraged to share their efforts with others.
“Campcaster provides features that used to be only available in extremely expensive commercial radio systems,” says Sava Tatić, Managing Director of the Media Development Loan Fund's Center for Advanced Media, Prague (CAMP), which coordinates the Campware Initiative. “We believe there is a strong north-south aspect to using and extending Campcaster,” Tatić added. “Every time a station in North America or Europe adapts and extends Campcaster, stations in places like Sierra Leone benefit.”
An international team of software developers, user interface designers, media activists and radio professionals have worked for more than 12 months on the 1.1 “Freetown” release. Campware representatives have coordinated their work with the Cornet community radio network on the software, and members of the development team will travel to Freetown, Sierra Leone later this month to provide training to partners implementing and servicing Campcaster locally.
Campcaster 1.1 “Freetown” is the latest release from the Media Development Loan Fund's Campware Initiative, which creates free and open source tools for independent media in emerging democracies. Initial funding for Campcaster has been provided by a grant from the Open Society Institute. The tools are all free and available for download at the Campware website at www.campware.org. Developers and technically-minded users can visit the developers' page at http://code.campware.org/projects/campcaster.
Douglas Arellanes Head of Research and Development on the project tells me that he and programmer Ferenc Gerlits are now in Freetown, Sierra Leone to install Campcaster at the Cornet network of community radio stations. They already have confirmation that a number of other stations have already begun installing and extending Campcaster, and they will regularly update the Campware site as we hear about new implementations.
Next on their release program (in addition to bugfix releases) is Campcaster 1.2, which is code-named "Kotor" because they are planning to implement it at Skala Radio in Kotor, Montenegro. The main feature will be integration with Campsite, which will allow stations to create and manage news broadcasts in an effective and user-friendly manner.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
This recorder comes from the manufacturer of Zoom in Tokyo Japan. Don't bother trying to correspond with them, they simply refer you to dealers. In the Europe, that has proved to be disappointing, although detailed photos and the complete manual are up on the Samson site, who distribute Zoom products in the USA.
It is on sale in the US for US$299, which makes it cheaper than some microphones out there. In the US, a wall outlet power supply, camera stand mount, 128MB SD card are standard issue with the unit. That flash memory card will only give you about 12 minutes of recording time using the .wav file format. A 2 GB SD card should give about 200 minutes (3 hrs, 20 min) of std .wav record time although there is no mention of write speed for the SD memory is given.
Phantom Power is available at either 24V or 48V for external micrphones that need it. No hum or noise was noticed when using the phantom supply for the external microphones. Mic levels can be set via slide switches on the side of the H4 and finely adjusted in the input menu options.
The device also has a 4-track mode, but that has not yet been explored. Quality of the internal microphones is fine for interview work. The case is plastic (what do you expect for 299?) and the menu's take some getting used to. A better job than the M-audio, not as robust as the HHB Flash Microphone (but then it is 1/3rd of the price).
Sunday, December 03, 2006
B & G Building on opening night
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
The centre is certainly going to be a great place, not only for the Media experience, but for conferences. I am curious to see how the collections will grow. At the moment they have done a fantastic job of explaining the past and bring this into a contemporary context. The challenge will be to project into the future - showing how mobile technology will be part of the tool set for content producers of the future.
Apart from the challenges with the sound, I can thoroughly recommend a visit. Many of the interviews I made for Radio Nederland Wereldomroep on the future of media are shown in the exhibit "The Global Village". They turned out nicely.
Looking up from Atrium
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
The ceiling is like being in the cupboard under the stairs, in a very big cupboard. Inspiring when you see it in real life. The building is an acoustic engineer's nightmare though. The reflections from the walls mean that the sound in the Media Experience, especially accompanying what they describe as the world's biggest screen, is the only main disappointment.
Your personal guide
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
When you go into the media experience, you can choose one of the Netherlands news presenters to act as a guide. Three women and one man. Interesting that they each have a different text...not the same. They come from both public and commercial broadcasting. It is nicely done.
Early Podcast equipment
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
A relatively small part of the exhibition in Hilversum is a static display of equipment, like this domestic tape recorder from 1961. It reminds me of the Mission Impossible TV show. Those reel sizes were great for 10 minute messages at 3 3/4 ips speed. The rest are interactive exhibits.
Looking down on the Global Village
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
The world is one "media experience" richer. On December 1st, Queen Beatrix officially opened a new permanent exhibition which tells the story of Dutch broadcasting in a global context. Three floors of the new Netherlands Instiute for Sound and Vision have been dedicated to a public display of what both the commercial and public radio & TV stations mean to Dutch society. It is not a museum - it is indeed an experience.
Friday, November 10, 2006
I know this is off-topic, but I hope you'll fogive me.
So there I am, driving along the Randweg, a road on the southern side of the my home town, Huizen, in the Netherlands.
I came up to a roundabout that has been recently renovated and what did I see? A fifth-size replica of the world's first rotatable shortwave transmitting tower....slap bang in the middle of a new roundabout. Went back home to get the camera...just couldn't believe it. It was made of wood and stood on a site about 300 metres from the roundabout between 1937 until 22nd September 1958 when it was blown-up. Seems it took four attempts to knock the 63 metre high masts over. A new, more powerful site in Lopik, near Utrecht took over the transmissions of what was, by then, Radio Nederland Wereldomroep. The scale-model is just over 12 metres high.
As I was filming this new monument, I got mixed reactions from passers by. Some seem to be dead against it, probably because they hadn't a clue what it was. Some older folk, born and bred in this fishing village, were kinda proud of Huizen's link with the past. One kindly old gent offered to show me a set of old photos he'd kept. Another lady remember playing in the masts in 1958 when the towers were awaiting demolition. She also recalled how the turntable used to make a strange squeal like wheels on a railway engine as it spun round late in the afternoons and at night. The antenna strung between the masts was directional. By rotating it, the signal could be beamed in different directions, mainly to Asia, Africa and North America. The antenna, I believe, was actually tuned to a single frequency in the early days, 9590 kHz in the 31 metre band.
More pictures on my Flickr pages.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Tape Recorder Collection
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
Just taken a tour of a fascinating museum located in the gardens behind St Peter's Basilica. Its a collection of equipment used by reporters and broadcasters at Vatican Radio and also houses some standby medium and shortwave transmitters. Nice to see the old UHER sitting there. My first machine.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Monday, October 16, 2006
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
UK distributor Source Distribution has announced the availability of the new Røde Podcaster – which claims to be the world’s first broadcast quality USB microphone.
Based on Røde’s acclaimed Broadcaster microphone, like the NT2, the Podcaster delivers "studio-grade results through a tight cardioid response that seamlessly connects directly to PC or Mac with a single USB cable, avoiding the added cost and complexity of a separate computer audio interface".
Ideal for online broadcasters, the mic also provides a convenient solution for anyone who records audio directly to their computer, including journalists, voice-over artists, musicians, students and multi-media professionals.
The Podcaster is powered entirely from the USB bus, and uses high-grade A-D converters for optimum quality. It comes complete with an onboard high-output headphone amp for direct monitoring purposes, along with a dedicated volume control and a 3.5mm minijack headphone output. A green status LED indicates that the mic is active and ready for recording.
The microphone comes complete with a microphone stand mount and 5 metres of USB cable. Optional accessories available shortly include a suspension mount and an anglepoise table mounting arm.
To further enhance the Podcaster’s features, Røde has also developed optional downloadable software that allows the user to control the Podcaster’s recording level, to monitor levels via an LED level meter, and to mute the microphone when playing back recordings. This software is available from www.rodepodcaster.com - a dedicated site that also provides podcast hosting as well as offering a wealth of podcasting information and tips.
Oh, and the price? UK 149 pounds including UK VAT.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Thursday, October 05, 2006
So what is The Levelator? It's a piece of free software (for individual use) that runs on Windows or OS X (universal binary. It adjusts the audio levels within your podcast or other audio file for variations from one speaker to the next, for example. The softwave is written in Java. It's not a compressor, normalizer or limiter although it contains all three. It's much more than those tools, and it's much simpler to use. The interface is dirt-simple: Drag-and-drop any WAV or AIFF file onto The Leveler's application window, and a few moments later you'll find a new version which just sounds better.
My experiments show it's a kind of Optimod for podcasters or broadcasters or anyone with audio in a WAV file format. Note that MP3 is not supported (yet). Worth playing around with. Let us know here what your findings are.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Anyone had experience with the Tascam HD-P2, a portable Compact Flash audio recorder with timecode from video? Price should have been around US$1000, but I have yet to see it in Europe.
Up to 192 kHz / 24-bit
Absolutely silent (no transport noise it has been claimed), latched CF slot (so it doesn't pop out accidentally)
Broadcast WAVE recording
FireWire for connecting to PC/MAC for instant file access
Data loss protection (continually re-saves data)
XLR mic inputs with phantom power and analog peak limiting
Unbalanced RCA I/O plus S/PDIF digital I/O
Built-in mic and speaker
Runs on AA batteries for 5.5 hours
Timecode input, video clock input, input chasing
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Friday, September 01, 2006
Sony has launched a new type of Mini-DV tape, the Sony DVM85HD, that records for 85 minutes, that's 22 minutes longer than regular DV tapes. Must be a thinner tape, so I wonder what this has done to the drop-out ratio. Gizmodo reports that each tape will be sold in Japan for roughly $13 US dollars. The HD indicates the tapes are suitable for HD recorders. Current HD tapes in Holland cost nearer US dollars 20 for a standard length tape...may be I am being ripped off.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Apple had crippled earlier iPod version so they could only record audio in dictation quality (8k) depite a nice microphone inside the Belkin iTalk. Now the TuneTalk Stereo claims "CD Quality" for 70 bucks. We like the fact that you can connect an external stereo microphone to the TuneTalk as well. Is this going to be of use to journalists desperate for something to replace the MiniDisc?
It seems this device will be launched at the Apple Paris show on September 12th 2006 and find its way into the retail outlets in Europe towards the end of October. Belkin has no samples before that.
JK Audio is a US company making two versions of a small telephone hybrid. There are many stations in Africa who want to make use of phone calls from listeners, but make do with putting a microphone next to a speakerphone to put the voice of the caller on the air. This would seem to be a solution, although rather pricy at 150 US dollars. Know of similar, cheaper solutions?
Saturday, August 26, 2006
It is simply amazing how quickly we forget. Hours after the Asian Tsunami on December 26th 2004, the global media were full of amateur videos of the devastation caused to millions of lives across the Indian Ocean. Digital photos of those missing were plastered on noticeboards and ebsites. Sadly, too many became notice boards commemorating those who passed away. And many of the websites that covered the event are now frozen. For many, the Tsunami is tragic but over – and unlikely to happen again.
Actually, natural disasters are definitely going to happen again. A new cycle of more destructive hurricanes began in the Caribbean last year. North , Central and South America will certainly need to be better prepared. It is not if, it is simply a matter of when. Earthquakes too, are not going to go away. I have spent the last year editing a special wiki (with help from Andy Sennitt) which examined how broadcasters reacted to the Tsunami. It reveals a lot of brave efforts, but also a lot of missed opportunies for co-operation between those working for media and development.
We are also definitely not prepared for helping radio stations in the next disaster area - and that could be anywhere in the world.
So what to do? A practical suggestion is sitting on my corporate website.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
I found a very useful connector in an effort to rescue a hard drive that contained a lot of archived data and audio files. The laptop had died but the disk itself could be rescued. This little connector/cable allows you to take it out of the old computer and plug it into a laptop.
I have no connection with the company.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Monday, May 29, 2006
Now this trend is interesting. A 32GB flash drive being built into a lap-top...makes it lighter and more rugged. 100 GB solid-state drives are on the way. Looks like they will find their way into cameras rather quickly and we can get rid of tape at last. Good news for reporters carrying all their trash out in the field. When are we going to see these kind of prices for audio equipment though.....we're paying far too much for audio equipment.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
I predict that MiniDisc is still doomed. But, Sony's HD MiniDisc department seems to be hoping that the new MZ-RH1 will be a success. It is out in a few days in Japan - in May in Europe we're told by Gizmodo. This portable recorder can record using a Linear PCM-format, but also tackle MP3 as well as the proprietary standards that Sony has like atrac, atrac3 and atrac3plus. A new feature is that the device can be connected to an Apple Macintosh, as well as a Windows PC. Cost? Around 300 Euro in Japan. Now why on earth don't they come up with some smaller and lighter based on a hard disc or flash memory format? Problem is that no-one in the Sony Business centre is really interested in audio guys.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
I am hearing good things about a company located near Utrecht in the Netherlands. They call themselves Onyx and they do modifications to Marantz equipment, like the 670. Dutch broadcasters (especially the regional stations and the universities) seem to like them.
Onyx tell me they also used to offer an interesting flash recorder option that fitted into the base of the microphone (an earlier version of the HBB idea) which used a Korean flash recorder in the base. But Onyx tell me that despite what it says on their website, the Repoflash has been discontinued because the supply of mp3 recorders dried up. They are supporting the Marantz 660 as a suitable replacement. The 660 retails at just under 800 Euro (ex 19% VAT) in the Netherlands.
advanced audio technologies
3994 JA Houten
The Onyx site also describes a RepoPack (made mainly for the Dutch media market). It consists of a Marantz PMD670 recorder (with a special Onyx limiter modification which has a faster attack time and keeps the peaks below 0dB). They also market an Onyx protective reporter carrying-case, including a useful accessory pocket for microphone, cables, AC/DC adapter etc and a shoulder-length carry-strap.
Despite what it says (in mid March 06) on their website, Onyx used to market their own RB2000 rechargeable Ni-MH battery with a capacity of 2Ah (working time approx. 8 hours!), but since Marantz has dumped the original Ni-Cd batteries and also switched to Ni-MH batteries, they just use the Marantz batteries now.
I'm quoted 895 Euro for the PDM670, 125 Euro for the battery, and 150 Euro for the special case. All prices exclude 19% VAT. Flashcard prices extra. They can supply Compact Flash cards,recommending the Pretec high speed pro Compact Flash cards, available in most regular MB sizes.
Pity their website hasn't been updated since 2004. But they are well-known in the Dutch media business as reliable.
I'd probably better say who I am first. I work at Bournemouth University and look after the radio studios in the Media School. I'm also a part time student on the MA Radio Production course lead by Sean Street and Hugh Chignell.
We have over the last 2 years gone for the Marantz PMD 670. We now have over 30 of these. When we bought the first batch, the 660 had not been released, and on getting the second lot, there were a lot of very bad reviews for the 660, so we left these. We were due to be looking to replace our remaining MD machines this year, however as the solid state market is in a point of flux, we are leaving it for another year.
Reading through all of the technical reviews, the main problem with the 660 seems to be distortion on the mic inputs. It seems to be a design issue and not something that can be sorted with a firmware upgrade. There is a very good discussion on these issues on the Transom forum.
The Microtrack has had a lot of bad press due to the phantom power on the mic sockets. In the original spec, it was meant to be 48v. In the production model, this had fallen to 30 volts and some mics don't like this.
I've had a play with one of the HHB pre production Flash mics and I must say I like it. It is simple and easy to use. It has 1gig of memory on board and looks like a normal memory stick drive to any computer it is connected to. It also takes standard AA batteries so it is not too much of a problem on the road. However, there is a cost. The figures I have heard is about £700 a unit! Andrew Hingley at HHB should be able to tell you more.
One thing to look out for is the mics you use with the recorders. Out of all of the dynamic reporter mics on the market, the Audio Technica has the highest output and the Beyer M58 the lowest. There are also some Condenser mics out there as well that have a higher output level. Email me if you want more info, but the main issue is how well the mics drive the input stage of the recorders. The lower the mic output, the more gain you have to use and the more hiss you get.
Looking through the specs of ENG omni mics, there is a fair difference between different mics. There is a lot of mention about the low output levels of dynamic mics. However, some are a lot lower than others. From the specs on the manufacturers sites, the following a listed.
D230 2.5 mV/Pa (-52 dBV), 320 Ohms
AT804 -49 dB (3.5 mV), 600 Ohms
ATM10a -45 dB (5.6 mV), 270 Ohms
M58 1.3 mV/Pa ≡ -58 dBV, 200 Ohms
MCE58 4 mV/Pa, 370 Ohms
RE50N/D 2.0mV/Pa (-51dB), 150 Ohms
RE50 -55dB, 150 Ohms
635 -55dB, 150 Ohm
635n/D 2.0mV/Pa (-51dB), 150 Ohms
MD42 and 46 2.0mV/PA, 350 Ohms
K6 / ME62 31mV/PA, 200 Ohms
VP63A -51.5dBV/Pa (2.7mV), 300 Ohms
SM63 -56.5dBV/Pa (1.5mV), 150 Ohms
Looking through all of these specs, yes I know that they are not being tested under identical conditions, but it does show a fair difference in output levels. In the past, I have found the Beyer M58 to have a lower output level than the Audio Technica AT804 and where the 804 worked ok, the M58 was too low. Teac portable DATs are one example. The problem I have had with the AT804 is that it is very short. It is only 6 inches long compared to 10 inches for the M58. Audio Technica have now released the AT804L which is about 10 inches in length to allow them to fit into the market with the likes of the M58 and D230.
As mentioned before, Beyer have produced the MCE58 as an answer to the portable MD market. On their website they say "Its unbalanced output supplies a very high level which allows direct connection to mobile DAT and MD-machines." From what people have said, this is a good mic.
If you want a good high level from a mic, the Sennheiser K6 / ME62 has a very high output compared to other Dynamic and Condenser mics.
Personally, I have a Sharp SR50 and a couple of AKG D230 mics. It seems to work ok and I do have manual level control during recording. I've got 2 of the mic cables mentioned in my last post plus a Y splitter for the mics. This is a Stereo Minijack plug to 2 Minijack sockets to allow 2 mics to be connected.
Somebody mentioned about handling noise in an earlier post. I take it you are holding a loop of cable at the mic end. Loop the cable once and hold the loop against the mic with the same hand you are holding the mic with. This will reduce a lot of the handling noise. I let my students hear the mic cable being tapped about 12 inches down from the mic without the look and it picks up a lot of noise. With the loop, there is very little noise.
Monday, February 27, 2006
Been doing so early morning travelling recently and using the opportunity to examine the survey forms that over 500 of you were kind enough to return. It is clear that the freelance radio reporter market is angry with the equipment suppliers. All the current solutions for recording audio seem to have some flaw - from complicated menus to serious overpricing. Bear with me as I tabulate the results. Your input has been worth it.
Monday, February 06, 2006
How many of you have taken the plunge and invested in HD-Minidisc? Will it go the way of many Sony lines at the moment? Can you afford to take the risk? If you have, then Tim Locke advises you download SonicStage 3.4 (Windows) which seems to have come up with functionality that MiniDisc fans have always asked for. Now they come to the HD users only.
Sonicstage 3.4 strips away the illogical copyright protection which was put ONTO YOUR OWN RECORDINGS. It means anything now recorded through mic or line can be transferred to a PC and exported as an ordinary wav file instead of one of Sony's "special" codecs. It is not as simple as plugging in a USB drive, but it can be done at last. You need to register on the site (free) to download the new edition of Sonicstage.
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Thanks to the guys at CongressRadio in Germany for pointing out that XtremeMac are working on a piece of software called MicroMemo. I've signed up for more information to see whether they have managed to make any iPod record with 44 kHz quality.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Robert Freeman in London sent some nice wishes and says he thought of this blog will perusing this site The Sonosax flash recorder must be hand built since it has a Patek Phillipe price tag. Frankly I'd be scared of losing it.
The site is written in a sort of "Swinglish". In part the sales pitch is..
In our willing to offer sound engineers modern, powerful equipments perfectly tailored to their specific needs, and after almost a year of intensive research and development, taking benefit of the latest innovations of today's available technologies, SONOSAX is proud to introduce the MINIR82 , a robust, small sized hard disk and CompactFlash Card audio recorder specifically designed for on location recording.
Despite its reduced size, only 120 x 80 x 28 mm (4.75” x 3.15” x 1.1”) weighting only 430gr (1/2 pound) with 4xAA standard alkaline batteries, the MINIR82 offers all functionalities and features required in modern mobile sound recording.
Freely configurable from 2 to 8 tracks with recording capabilities from 44,1kHz to 192 kHz at 24bits, writing industry standard WAV and BWF Mono or Stereo audio files to either its internal 20 to 30Gb hard disk or to the CompactFlash card, equipped with two high quality microphone amplifiers with switchable limiters using state of the art SONOSAX technologies, 2 analog line inputs and 8 Digital Inputs ( 4xAES/EBU ), the MINIR82 will be your perfect companion whenever used as a stand alone recorder for ENG/Documentary applications or on a sound cart when used in conjunction with an outboard mixer such as the SONOSAX SX-ST for larger production sets. Of course, the MINIR82 offers full Time Code capability, including HDTV format, and can be used as master or slave.
Do you understand why manufacturers assign the product numbers they do? Not sure I would call a new device the MINIR82. But that applies to most equipment guys. They assume we're all armed with bits of paper as we wander around electronic equipment stores.
The Dutch distributor still claims there is no stock, so unable to provide one for review. In the meantime, Tim Locke who works at BBC News shares the following observations. In general, he is positive. But he notes:
1. The unit takes quite a while to boot up - around 20 seconds. A worry for reporters in a hurry..
2. Using the extra gain on the TRS inputs seems to add a "whine" when recording from the BBC's standard Beyer M58s microphones.
3. The inability to swop out batteries is a worry - they have bought an Ipod AA USB battery pack to mitigate against trouble - it would be good to bundle these like the mains ones supplied.
4. The promised mono recording firmware is not out yet, expected Feb 06. - currently they are either having to use hardwired solutions which are clumsy.
5. There's no pause+record function - so you can't tweak your record levels before starting recording.
6. Accidentally hitting the navigation button and inadvertantly pausing during a recording is a too easy.
7. Nav selector for menus can be too sensitive and overshoots intended selection.
8. There is no way to add track marks during recording.