Outside the Box - Portable Digital Recorders

by Dave MichelFebruary 4, 2013

I was recording a choir and small orchestra in the rear balcony of a large church. I also needed to record the spoken word from the leaders in the front of the church. Their sound system was in the sacristy, just off from the chancel. This is a very large church - probably a 400 ft. cable run from front to back (no tie lines). I have lots of long cables, but I sure didn't have enough cabling left to handle a run like that, and I didn't want to have a cable going down the aisle of the sanctuary. Then I remembered how expensive my favorite Audio-Technica bulk cabling was. Ouch!

Once I started thinking about money, a solution became clear. For the cost of a long cable, I could buy a stereo digital recorder and just patch it into the church's sound system. I got a Yamaha PockeTrak recorder for a bit over $100 at Guitar Center. No cables through the sanctuary, and I don't have to mess with wrapping and carrying an ultra long cable. No ground problems, 'cuz it's battery operated. It worked beautifully, and, now that I have it, it's great for non-critical jobs where the remote rig is overkill. 

Some things to consider if you use two recording systems running wild:

  • Make sure your unattended recording will be successful (full battery, plenty of recording space, proper conservative levels)
  • When mixing, it is easier to do initial time alignment with the main rig recording panned to one side and the portable recorder panned to the opposite side.
  • Record at an appropriate resolution - you don't need CD quality for voice. However, make sure the compressed format you choose will keep time alignment for the duration of your event. Heavily compressed formats sometimes will play "fast and loose" (pun intended) with time alignment, and you don't want phasing artifacts.

About the author


Dave is a recording engineer, musician and software developer in Minneapolis.

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