LINGUIST List 7.931

Tue Jun 25 1996

Sum: Recording equipment

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. Douglas J. Glick, Sum: Recording Equipment

Message 1: Sum: Recording Equipment

Date: Mon, 24 Jun 1996 22:41:40 EDT
From: Douglas J. Glick <>
Subject: Sum: Recording Equipment

Not too long ago, I sent in a request for a colleague asking for
advice about and/or experience with recording equipment. Before
summarizing the responses received, I think it is interesting to note
that I received almost as many requests for the 'soon-to-be-released'
summary as actual bits of advice. Seems there is a real need for this
kind of information.

The following advice/experience was offered (edited, but in no particular

1. A very good quality cassette recorder is the Sony WM-D6C, which sells
for something like $200. There are also DAT (digital audio tape) recorders,
but I doubt that you will be able to hear the difference outside of studio

2. We've had good luck with Marantz portables.

3. If portability and fidelity are the criteria, then I suggest Sony's TCD-D8
Digital Audio Tape Corder, which is smaller and better than the old analog
WM-DC6. The TCD-D8 uses a standard size DAT tape. It's also one of the
least expensive DAT decks, and it's widely available. It's easy to use,
and it doesn't require much electricity. For superior digital recording,
it connects with Sony's "super bit mapping" SBM-1 high density linear A/D
converter, and the two units fit together nicely in a carrying case
20cmX16cmX4cm in size.There are two bad points about the TCD-D8. Because
of international silliness about the copyright protection of commercial
audio releases, multigenerational digital copying is not supported by this
deck. Also, the digital input/output ports are not easily connected to a
desktop computer's
digital data ports. One must purchase more expensive and less portable
decks to get these features. As for micro cassettes, Sony's micro DAT
format is very good and very small (about the size of a pack of long
cigarettes). Unfortunately, the cassettes are still somewhat expensive,
and, in my experience, hard to find in the shops.

4. For maximum quality, durability and portability a DAT recorder, eg the Sony
TCD D-7. The Sony Walkman Professional also gives very good quality
recordings, as
does the Marantz CP430 (or current equivalent model - it's been some time
since I have used one of these) ... Recently I've been using a Sony ECM
909a, which is ok for face to face but I wouldn't recomend it for rituals,
etc. In my experience, a micro-cassette recorder is not suitable for any of
this kind of work (though I've never tried a digital one).

5. I have used a portable (VERY) SONY casette player/recorder with an
internal mike and a port for an external mike - both for recording
conversations outside among teenagers, and for inside interviews. THe
quality is good enough for my purposes, which are conversation analysis
and discourse analysis ... It takes standard casettes, which I VASTLY
prefer to the mini ones - much easier to find compatible equipment with
standard casettes, plus they are cheaper than the mini ones and hold more
recording time. The recorder is a SONY walkman type (model number

6. It is relatively hard to recommend a specific item, but I would like to
give the following suggestions:
1) There are some models of portable DCC recorders from Philips on the
market. Philips gave up this concept (of DCC), therefore the recorders of
this standard are sold at very low prices now. DCC is a digital recording
system which uses special cassettes for recording, but it can play the
standard (analog) ones, too. Buy at least several cassettes, because
there are places, where they are hardly available.
2) Tascam offers very reliable (but quite expansive) portable DAT
recorders which offer a set of professional features and high sound
3) If the analog quality suits you, then Aiwa offers several personal
stereos with the recording capabilities. Note, however, that they usually
have Dolby for playback only. They are relatively cheap (half or less the
price of portable DCCs, about one tenth the price of portable DATs).
4) Sony minidisc seems to become a standard. It is a digital system which
gives similar recording quality as DCC, but now it is still more
expansive. Sony offers recording versions of Walkman, too, but, in my
opinion, it is not as good as Aiwa's.

7. I've been recording quite a lot of spoken language on a Sony TCS-430
stereo-walkman with built-in microphone in combination with an Aiwa
CM-S1 DAT-microphone. The built-in mike works rather well in
one-on-one conversations, but, since the mike is integrated in the
housing, it receives some of the mechanical noises from the motor.
The external mike is excellent; it picks up information even from a
rather great distance.
I'd strongly urge not to use recorders with micro-cassettes, because
a) the mikes are usually rather limited in range and quality and b)
the cassettes run at a relatively slow speed, i.e. relatively much
data has to find room on a short piece of tape and you can't use them
in an ordinary tape machine for transcription.

8. For high quality field recordings I recommend to use a DAT recorder, in
particular the Sony TCD-D8. This is a portable unit with the size of a
Walkman. In long play mode (that is, sampling frequency = 32kHz, i.e.
bandwidth = 16kHz), one can record 4 hours on a 120 min cassette, and 6 hours
on a 180 min cassette (Denon makes 180 min cassettes). The sound quality is
cd-like, except for the bandwidth. You will need a good microphone, though.

9. I'd like to strongly suggest the use of a headset microphone. Yes, this
may be slightly more intrusive than a microphone sitting on a table.
However, "room" microphones will not make recordings suitable for acoustic
analysis. Even if this is not the focus of why the recordings are being
made, it seems a pity to make 'single use' recordings that would be
unusable for phonetic/phonological
analysis. This is what happened to me as a graduate student.

10. We have an extensive library of field recordings here in our
linguistics lab the majority of which were recorded with Marantz PMD 430
(stereo) and PMD 422
(Mono) recorders. We've had great success with them--they have tremendous
fidelity, they're tough (they've withstood some pretty careless handling by
novice fieldworkers), and they're pretty affordable around US $420 for the
mono 422, US 500 for the stereo 430. As far as mics are concerned, we've
had good experiences with the Crown PZM conference mic ...

My colleague and I would like to thank the following people for their
thoughts on the matter:

Susan Meredith Burt, Bruce Connell, Joseph DeChicchis, Bethany Dumas,
Stefan Goes, Rebecca Heins, Michael M. T. Henderson, Maciej Karpinski,
Stavros Macrakis, Jason Miller, Deborah D. Kela Ruuskanen and Karl-Michael

Thanks again to all, Doug

Douglas J. Glick
Department of Anthropology (914) 437-5504 - Office
Maildrop 242 (914) 437-7287 - FAX
Vassar College
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601-6198
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