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Solid state recorder for bird calls

Discussion in 'Hobby Electronics' started by L.A.T., Jun 7, 2007.

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  1. L.A.T.

    L.A.T. Guest

    A good friend spends a lot of time in the bush, photographing birds,
    particularly lyrebirds. He would love to be able to record their songs as
    Is there a solid-state device, or kit, that would be suitable to record a
    few minutes of quality sound at a time?
    Is there a way he could use his laptop to record quality sound? Could that
    be as simple as buying a good microphone?
    I really owe this man a favour or two, and if I could help him in this, he
    would be delighted.
    I have posted this to both groups because it is relevant to both, I think.
  2. Rod Speed

    Rod Speed Guest

    Yes, lots of those around.
    Yes, but its not very portable.
  3. A few minutes is nothing these days with modern storage capabilities
    and bit rate MP3 compression.
    Laptop is bulky. Many people use PDAs or MP3 players which can also

    The microphone and pre-amp is the thing that will drive the quality of
    your recording. You'll pay (or should pay) a lot more for these than
    the recorder itself. Presumably for such purposes you would need a
    long range directional microphone.
    You can get portable battery powered pre-amps designed for just such
    purposes too.

    Google for Portable Podcasting, should be plenty of info out there and
    gear recommendations.

  4. Moses Lim

    Moses Lim Guest

    I am no expert in sound recording but I do know that a good sensitive
    microphone is absolutely essential - particularly a uni-directional(??)
    one, in this case. I mean, if one cannot pick up the sound properly, one
    will not get a good recording, eh?? That's what I think, anyway :

    One would think that a laptop could be suitable (size and weight
    notwithstanding) to carry around cos it is fairly easy to get recording s/w
    which can record sound frequencies well over 40KHz. I have no idea of what
    frequencies a lyrebird can put out.

    I am told that an average humans can only hear up to 20KHz - I wouldn't have
    a clue as my hearing has been damaged due to excessive loud music in a
    misspent youth :)

    Anyway, that my 2 cents worth :)
  5. swanny

    swanny Guest

    I use a minidisc recorder for field recordings. The recorders are fairly cheap
    these days since mp3 seems to have taken over the consumer market.

    You can get small portable stereo condenser mics for most of these sort of
    portable recorders as well. These are sensitive enough to pick up a good image
    of this type of sound. I've used it for both frogs and birds with good results.
  6. Franc Zabkar

    Franc Zabkar Guest

    FWIW, Silicon Chip magazine published a "Sooper Snooper" project in

    It used a parabolic reflector (home made?).

    "This particular Sooper Snooper is the one you would use to listen in
    to distant conversations, bird calls, etc – anything in the open air
    which would normally be too far away or too faint to hear."

    - Franc Zabkar
  7. yeltz

    yeltz Guest

    What's your budget?
    The Edirol R09 will do the job and it accepts an external mic as well.
  8. Rod

    Rod Guest

    Flashmic is one piece that immediately comes to mind.,com_acat/method,category/id,53/
    However, to do it properly you really need a shotgun mic with portable
    recorder and a good set of headphones.
    Microphone - Sennheiser ME67 capsule with K6 power unit. Recorder like the
    Edirol or M-Audio, Marantz PMD671, and a set of Sennheiser HD25 headphones.

  9. L.A.T.

    L.A.T. Guest

    Thank you all for your responses.

    I have tried a USB microphone (a cheapie from Logitech) using the free
    package Audacity to record the sounds. It works well enough for me to give
    it a try with a little parabolic dish. Unfortunately Audacity doesn't
    provide much in the way of controlling the input level, saying that if
    clipping occurs, decrease the level from the input device. What I need, I
    think, is a volume control between the mic and the laptop. I have found a
    couple of kits that amplify a signal from a little mic to headphones, but
    neither has any means of controlling the signal level.
    Does anyone know of a module, or kit, that would go between a USB mic and
    the laptop and enable control of the signal level?
    Possibly screwed to the back of the small parabolic dish that I have ordered
    from Oatley.
    The Sooper Snooper kit from Oatley (Silicon Chip, September 2001) is about
    right, and a careful reading of the specs shows that a preset pot can be
    replaced with an external pot as a volume control. If I can't get something
    ready made I will try that.
  10. Swampfox

    Swampfox Guest

    I made one of these to adjust the balance levels
    between a cassette deck and PC sound card.
    You will need a resistor, linear pot, plastic case and
    female RCA jacks.
    Ask on and someone will provide the
    values for the resistor and pot.
    The whole lot will be under $10 and take half an hour
    to put together.
  11. Swampfox

    Swampfox Guest

    Another thought.
    Use the recording mixer controls of your sound card.
    Not sure how you configure this for a usb mic, but
    alternatively get a regular mic and use your
    soundcard's mic in socket.
  12. Rod Speed

    Rod Speed Guest

    There should be a level control on the mixer etc.
  13. No, mic inputs on PCs are horrible quality.
    If you want good quality then you need a proper external mic preamp
    and use the line-in sockets.

  14. L.A.T.

    L.A.T. Guest

    Audacity might not be the best choice. On reading Help and so on, I gather
    that it depends on the input device having an adequate output control
  15. L.A.T.

    L.A.T. Guest

    The helpful responses to my post have been most gratifying.
    The up-market suggestions are all beyond my means, mouth-watering though
    they are.
    I have ordered the Oatley Sooper Snooper kit and when it is up and running I
    will look at improving the microphone if that is an option. I think it will
    be possible to record to the laptop, and I think there must be a simpler
    piece of software than Audacity. One thing at a time. I will post again with
    my results, and thanks again.
  16. swanny

    swanny Guest

    Did you look at minidisc recorders on ebay? They are going for as low as $20.
    Transfer to PC can be done using optical on most units (s/pdif). 80 minutes per
    disc and the unit runs on AA batteries and is extremely light and portable.
    Using a small portable stereo condenser mic with it, the whole thing fits neatly
    into the camera bag or backpack.
  17. Franc Zabkar

    Franc Zabkar Guest

  18. Rod

    Rod Guest

    I've just downloaded a copy of Audacity, as I had never used it before. It
    looks rather simple to me, and I would suggest if your friend is serious he
    will need a decent editor. I think Audacity will fit the bill for recording
    and editing on a laptop. However, you will need a decent mic preamp. I
    would also suggest a long mic cable so the laptop can be kept well away from
    what you want to record.
  19. Rod

    Rod Guest

    Mic preamp you can make yourself
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