Mailing List Follow akustyk on Twitter
Akustyk links
Audio technology
Field recording
Reviews Home
Nady HM-10
Sanken COS-11D
AT BP892
Audix HT5
DPA 4066
Sennheiser HSP2
Shure Beta 53
Beyer Opus 55mkII
Sennheiser HMD25
Zoom H4N
Fostex FR-2LE
Marantz PMD660
UCA 202
Film Processing

Field recording starter kit recommendations

TutorialIf you would like to read about how to design a field recording setup, please, check out this post. It explains the details behind electrical and acoustic standards and specifications and offers some guidelines on how to mix and match field recording equipment for optimal results.

Below is a field recording starter kit. I have assumed that we all have budgetary constraints, so you should be able to piece together a really decent, and complete kit for less than $1,000. At the same time, the most expensive piece of equipment listed here retails for $1,000 but can be substituted by a cheaper, and perfectly viable model. I have personally tested all of the items below. If you're interested in more details, please, send me an email.





Fostex FR-2LE A really decent self-contained field recorder using CompactFlash (CF) solid state memory cards. It has low-noise, high-gain microphone pre-amplifiers and phantom power on board. The battery life is very good (8 hours) with four AA batteries. $500
TASCAM HD-P2 This is a really decent CompactFlash (CF) recorder with a SMTPE timecode capability. Really a bargain at $1000. $1000


It is an excellent DAT digital tape recorder. Very small and dependable. Get a used one cheaply on eBay and enjoy!



Digital and Analog Audio Computer Interface. It lets you digitize audio from tapes, microphones, as well as transfer digital signal from the SONY DAT recorder to a laptop. It's a digital I/O "Swiss Army Knife."


Digi I/O-A cable

Special active cable to connect the SONY tape recorder with other devices via the S/PDIF interface [IMAGE]. Available from



Headset microphones (all of these microphones are excellent for speech research)

Beyerdynamic Opus 55 Mk II This is my microphone of choice for detailed, unbiased speech recordings. Make sure to get it with the CV 18 in-line power adapter. Worldwide availability might be an issue. $400
Shure Beta 53 One of the three great close-talking microphones available today. It has great worldwide availability and good technical support. $500
Sennheiser HSP2 Excellent performance. Sturdy design. Very good worldwide availibility, service, and technical support. $500
DPA 4066 Excellent performance. Modular design makes it compatible with any wired or wireless system, including small field recorders with plug-in power. $700

Sennheiser HMD 25-1

Head-set microphone. Excellent quality. The best microphone I have ever used to record speech in noisy environments. The frequency response is not as flat as the omnidirectional microphones recommended here.


Lavalier and handheld microphones

Audio-Technica AT831b

Lavalier microphone. Good quality, unobtrusive. It comes with a very handy battery pack and high-pass filter. This microphone has a directional polar pattern so it is particularly suitable for noisy environments.


Beyerdynamic MCE58

The MCE 58 omnidirectional condenser microphone is an excellent choice for small digital recorders, such as DAT and CompactFlash reocrders. It is self-powered (1 AA battery), has medium sensitivity, and an unbalanced connection. It's designed for hand-holding.

Beyerdynamic M58 The M58 omnidirectional dynamic microphone is a ideal for hand-holding. It has a great sound and relatively flat frequency response. It requires a high-gain, low-noise pre-amplifier, so it is most suitable for professional-grade recorders. It is very sturdy and does not require power to run. $300

Adapters and cables

A96F Line Matching Transformer

The A96F transformer connects microphones with an XLR-type connector to the mini-plug inputs. It increases the signal level from the microphone, provides a balanced input, and prevents distortion due to the d.c. bias.[IMAGE]


Pre-amplifiers and mixers


Very small 2 channel mixer to mix 2 microphone feeds by Sound Devices. My favorite small field mixer and microphone pre-amplifier.


Laptop computers

IMB (now Lenovo) X-series notebook

Very small and light laptop. Despite the Lenovo takeover, the X-series ThinkPads are as good as they used to be under the IBM label. Get either Windows XP Pro or Windows 7 Pro.

$1000 - $2000


CF and SD cards SanDisk Extreme Pro series or Lexar Professional CF cards. Either will work just fine. Make sure you ask your recorder manufacturer tech support about CF and SD card compatibility $40

DAT tapes

60 Minute tapes work best, though you may want to buy 90 min. if your interviews are going to be that long. Generally, one tape per interview works best.


Connectors, gender changers, adapters, etc. I have been very happy with Hosa products. They make every audio and video cable accessory known to man. $20

Pelican Case

Those are, lightweight, heavy duty cases to carry your equipment in the field. They come in different sizes. They choice depends on how much equipment you want to put in them.