Roland CD-2e portable audio recorderThere was a time when recording a band rehearsal or orchestra performance was a huge hassle. Wires had to be rolled out, microphones hooked up, and then the actual recording equipment had to be hauled in (often in suitcases). Today portable recording devices are truly portable, and every bit as reliable and hi-fidelity as the larger recorders of old. Ranging in size from a stick of chewing gum up to about the size of a small shoebox, this next generation of portable recording devices works great in the classroom or in the field.


Basic Types of Portable (Field) Recording Devices:

On today’s market a musician can find three basic types of portable recording devices. The first type uses recordable CD media as an output medium. The second type of portable recording device uses flash memory such as the kind used in most digital cameras. The last type of field recording device is a hybrid of the first two, combining the flexibility of both types into one compact unit.

CD Based Portable Recording Devices:

Products such as the Superscope and the Roland CD-2 have been around for quite some time now and can be found in thousands of band and music rooms world-wide. These devices are about the size of a small shoe box and often have built in stereo microphones. Users can optionally plug in external microphones through XLR jacks built into the units. Some recorders even provide phantom power for driving condenser microphones that require an external power source.

Flash Based Portable Recording Devices:

Flash memory is a very cheap and compact way to store information, and the latest portable recording products have incorporated this solid state memory in place of internal CD-Rom burners. The compact size of the flash memory means that the device can be shrunk down as well. A new field recorder from Yamaha named the PockeTrak 2G is only slightly bigger than a pack of chewing gum yet has a large storage capacity and an excellent built in stereo microphone. Other similar units such as the very popular Edirol R-09 are also useful and fit into the palm of the hand or hang around the neck for easy transport. Audio is downloaded from the unit into a computer for processing, editing, and optional output to a recordable CD-Rom disc.

Flash and CD Based Hybrid Recording Devices:

The final option in portable digital recording is hybrid devices that use both types of storage media. Devices such as the Roland CD-2e record audio first to the flash memory installed in the device, then later burn that audio out to the CD after the recording session has completed. There are several benefits to this setup. First, there will be no ambient motor noise picked up by the microphones as the recorder burns the CD. Second, it is a failsafe backup. If the power goes off during a CD burning session the disc will be rendered useless, but if the music is already stored on the flash memory a second or multiple discs can easily be created using the same digitally stored data.

A user should weigh the benefits of size over portability when making any portable recording device purchase. With a little research it is very easy to find a recorder that will fit the needs of almost any ensemble recording situation.

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