Power on the Go

One of the hallmarks of a good audio production is high-quality sound effects.  One of the best ways to build a library of first-rate SFX is to record and edit them yourself.  Recording your own SFX ensures that you have the right sound for your project (anyone else ever needed a coydog that growls, yips, yelps and whimpers?), that the SFX in your production are legitimately free and with the right equipment recording your own SFX is inexpensive.  While we do love our Sound Ideas library, there is something very satisfying about collecting your own sounds.

Matt recording river at the scoby dam

As a follow-up to last week’s article “Sound Effects by Rubber Onion“, we thought we would share one of our cheap and easy methods for making sure you have power for your recorders while collecting sounds in the field on the go.

Our on-the-go field recording kit is purposefully small.  We like to travel and never know what we might come across, so we pack this basic kit for those just-in-case situations.  First, we have the Zoom H4n, we have been impressed with the quality of this digital recorder for its price.

Zoom H4n
Anker External Battery

The drawback to this device is that it eats batteries like cookie monster eats cookies, and stamina mode, which extends battery life, limits your recordings to 44.1 kHz/16-bit.  Full professional battery packs cost in the hundreds.  So we came up with a solution; the Anker External Battery.  The external battery has USB ports, recharges quickly and is nearly the same size as the Zoom H4n.  We then use a USB Power cable to connect the recorder to the external battery.

H4n & Charger
Rubber bands

And then to make it really classy we hold the two together with a few rubber bands.  So now you’re ready to plug in your headphones and go.

h4n & Charger Front
h4n Charger Rubber Bands
H1 and Charger
H1 Attached to Charger

We have also done this with the Zoom H1.  The H1 requires a USB to mini USB cable to connect to the external battery and of course some snazzy rubber bands.

R24 & Charger Back
R24 and Charger

Next, just to see if we could, we tried hooking the external battery up to the Zoom R24 multitrack recorder.  In order to be portable, this recorder requires 6 AA batteries.  That’s a lot of batteries to be using up.  The external battery powers the R24 nicely.  The only drawback to this solution is we can’t wrap a rubber band around it.

Matt Recording at Scoby Dam

There are a variety of portable, hand-held recorders available.  Before adding the Zoom H4n to our kit we used the Zoom H2n almost exclusively.  Sony offers the PCM-M10 and Tascam has the DR-05.  Both of these recorders are comparable to the Zoom handheld in both size and price range.  As long as the recorder uses a 5-volt power supply these external batteries can be adapted for use with nearly any configuration.

This mini kit fits into a small camera bag and goes with us whenever we hit the road.  We do have a larger kit for planned field recording excursions, but this one makes sure we can nab sounds as we encounter them.  Another advantage of the hand-held setup is that you can conceal the recorder if you are out in crowded places (especially if you have a pair of these).  We all need a good variety of crowd sounds, but if you try to record a crowd they usually stop talking or start overacting.  The external battery can also be charged with a car charger, which makes it even more convenient for travel.

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