Wednesday, November 28, 2007

BBC Memoryshare - Jamming the Germans

BBC Memoryshare - Jamming the Germans

The 75th anniversary of BBC WS has started some very interesting recollections - including how the BBC was prepared to jam its own network in the event of a Nazi invasion of Britain.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Marantz PMD620 Digital Audio Recorder Update

John Bancroft provided us with a shot of the new PMD620 digital audio recorder on show in the US at the Podcast and New Media expo. It takes SD or SDHC memory cards and uses 2 standard AA batteries (you can use rechargeables if you want).
It seems the Marantz PMD620 Professional Handheld Field Recorder is now retailing in the US at just a few cents under US$400. The photo may lead you to believe otherwise, but this relatively small solid-state device is only slightly larger than a deck of cards. Records either MP3 or WAV files in 16- or 24-bit rez. The display screen uses OLEDs just like many cellphones, and it has two high-quality omnidirectional condenser mics built into the top. If you don't like those, you can plug in your own external mic, albeit with a 3.5 mm jack input, not XLR (Canon). If you want to check out all the specs, there here is the owners manual.

This is obviously going to be a serious competitor to the M-audio recorder which came out last year at around the 300 Euro mark. One immediate advantage is the fact that it uses ordinary AA batteries rather than built-in rechargeable cells. I think the case is a lot more studier on the Marantz than the somewhat flimsy plastic of the M-Audio. I always seem to find that the batteries on my M-audio are empty at the moment I need the thing, especially if it has not been used for a couple of weeks.

So could this also be the end of the Marantz 670? I sincerely hope so. Everyone I meet complains about the size of the thing and that (at least early models) have problems that the software shows a dead battery when there is still life left in them. I have never met anyone who got the claimed "7 hours" out of a single charge. The PMD620 at least shows that Marantz has been thinking about the reporter in the middle of nowhere who can usually find some AA batteries before they can find a reliable electricity supply. It has an advantage over the HHB Flashmic in recording in stereo and having a removable flash card. The built-in microphone of the HHB unit though is even more compact than the PMD620, and would probably win if you're part of a press scrum trying to get a quote out of a politician. Comments?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Logging the output of 50 radio stations

What do you do if you're the BBC World Service with just over 50 feeds leaving the building at some peak periods. You log the output on hard drives from this company. Comes in models with 8, 10 or 15 Terabyte raw capacity. Those vents are indeed for cooling fans.

Radio Comuniaria, Bajo Flores

This station has made a terrific contribution to a deprived neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I have been looking at what equipment these guys use out in the "real world".

Beyer 297 headset

Beyer 297
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Seeing more and more of these headphone/close microphone combinations being used in radio studios around the world...the latest siting in BBC World Service South-Asia broadcast centre. The microphone sounds great, providing it is not put too close or knocked out of the way - it needs to "look" at the mouth it is listening to. I find the response better than Sennheiser. Not sure why the data sheet says it is preliminary. Price? About 180 pounds sterling in the UK. I use one for HD-camera work when I am interviewing someone. My questions are on track 1 with these headphones, the interviewee wears a Sennheiser wireless lapel mike recorded on Track 2.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sony USB Sticks with Microphones

The Sony NW-DB105 and NW-DB103 in a shop window in Buenos Aires. The only difference is the storage capacity. In Euro the 1 GB works out at 80 Euro in BA, whereas in Europe it is 39 Euro in on-line shops. I am interested to see if such a device could be used for simple recordings by community radio stations. There would be a market for a simple "push to talk to record" device.