Just like the title says...

Obviously we are all nuts when it comes to sound and sound quality but how far does that go with recordings we use.

Do Handheld recorder recordings get used in your projects or are you too much of a snob for that?

I personally am snobby but I find that it limits me. On the other hand, it may be a good thing because better quality recordings are in my mixes.

18 Answers 18


You can't gaffer-tape a Schoeps ORTF rig to a windmill (which I did with my Zoom).

You can't easily take a rig into a 1.66-mile underground abandoned train tunnel and record without getting water on your mics (which I did with my Zoom).

You can't set up your rig on an airplane to get captain announces or the seatbelt sign or the take-off and landing without the stewardess seeing you and telling you to turn off your electrical device (which I did with my Zoom).

You can't walk around with 10 Gs worth of mics and recorders and record ambiences in Mexico, Russia, Columbia, Venezuela, Africa, etc. without getting robbed (but I did with a Zoom!)

You can't do lots of stuff that you can with a Zoom which makes it absolutely fantastic as a recorder. I have used many recordings I've gotten off it in my projects. I'm not saying I prefer it over a nice MK5 pair or a Neumann 191, but in certain instances I think it's a perfectly capable recorder and can yield usable results.

I've also used my zoom to grab wild dialogue lines on set with a second unit and they worked well.

Who the %&#* cares where the recording got transferred into electrical signal and then converted into 0s and 1s? If it sounds good, it's good. Period.

  • Four mile underground train tunnel. Where is said place? I've always been interested in recording deep dark places like this Nov 16, 2011 at 22:33
  • @Stavrosound On the border of Idaho and Montana there is a railroad track that has been converted into a mountain bike trail. LOL my memory slipped there, the tunnel is 1.66 miles long - not 4 - I lied. Sorry! It's still awesome. Check it out: skilookout.com/hiaw
    – Utopia
    Nov 16, 2011 at 23:02
  • 1
    Man, that place looks absolutely marvelous! :-D Nov 17, 2011 at 7:33

I like to use a simple analogy to professional photographers. My Sound Devices and Schoeps MS kit is my Hasselblad, studio-grade camera. My Sony PCM D-1 is my point and shoot camera (albeit a nice point and shoot).

Ansel Adams lugged a heavy camera rig around (with the help of an assistant) and captured some brilliant and detailed images, often by waiting hours just for the right light. Diane Arbus carried a small Leica point and shoot with her, and was able to spontaneously capture insightful images of urban life by being in the right place at the right time with a camera handy. Her pictures might not have had the clarity and sharpness of Adams, but they were of the moment. Both tools have their uses.

I love both of my recorders, but probably end up using the Sony more, simply due to portability, stealth, and ease of set-up. Just ran outside last night with it to capture a news helicopter circling overhead. I wouldn't have been able to capture that moment if I had to wire up XLR cables.


Use my H4N all the time... On the current TV show I'm doing (Les Bleus de Ramville for TFO here in the Great White North) all the BG's were recorded with it. As @Utopia said it's so small, and so stealthy I don't have issue carting it into places where bringing the full rig would bring undue attention - not from a legal perspective per se, but from curious folks walking up to your mics saying "Are you recording? Why? Is this for a Movie?" etc, etc. Plus I don't feel like I'm risking a fortune when I dangle it down from a highway overpass to get traffic bys! :) (which get used ALL the time).

I also use my iPhone and the excellent FiRE app as well as Soundcloud, all the time to grab great sounds wherever I am. A very cool squeaky bathroom stall I recorded on it (in all it's compressed glory) recently made it's way into a festival piece.

A great FX recording BTW, is not necessarily a function of the quality of the gear that was used, but of the quality of the sound, and it's appropriateness to the picture. Sometimes a really lo-fi sound is what's needed and right, rather than a super clean sound.


I use a Sony PCM-D50 and have gotten all kinds of useful stuff I wouldn't have without it. It's definitely better for ambiences than point sounds, but I've used it for both. There have been times where I need some particular sounds, and the only stuff that matches were ones recorded with that little piece of gear. Worth 3 times its weight in gold.


All the time. My Sony M10 was, at one point, the only mic I had access to. It just meant I had to be a bit more creative with mic-ing and editing the end result.


My Zoom is really the best piece of kit I own (I'm poor), but even if it wasn't I'd probably go to it A LOT. Because it's small enough to carry around in a large pocket, and it sounds decent. Finally, it's cheap enough that if it gets broken or stolen, I won't have to sell my car to get a new one.

You know what they say... the best camera you have is the one you have with you, and the same holds true for any recorder.


Of course I use recordings I've made with my handheld(s), otherwise what's the point?


I'm never without my M10. I've used my Zooms and M10 as supplemental recorders to get helo and combat sounds as well as ambiences in remote countries where a Sound Devices and mic might attract undue attention. Those sounds have all gotten a lot of use.

Even if a bunch of higher-end rigs are getting the bulk of your tracks, it's always nice to have some extra channels going. Sometimes the magic gets captured by the recorder you threw in as an afterthought.


I use mine all the time. It's what I've got and I'd rather have a fresh unique recording of a slightly lower quality than no sound at all.


I use it all the time, for the reasons cited above. Better to have a recording made with medium-quality gear than to sit around wishing you could have a recording with the super-nice gear you don't have with you. I just did a whole mess of field recording in D.C. with my Zoom while on vacation--there's just no way I could have lugged my Sound Devices and mics around all week; my traveling companion (and my back) would have killed me!


Yes, absolutely! I use it (and all the other guys where I work too) all the time. I think the quality obviously can't be compared to a sennheiser or schoeps kit, but it really depends on the sounds your recording. And most of the time I have my small recorder in a pocket, not my big kit, and I got great, unique recordings with my small Zoom: things that were almost impossible to record with the full rig. I think a lot of time the sound you're recording is more important than how you're recording it: recording that unique moment, much more than the quality or a perfect (technically) recording. Obviously when the recording allows me, I use and enjoy using my main kit, but one of the greatest new tool we have now are those small pocketable recorders! My 2 cents


Ive used recordings I've made a lot that were done with my Zoom. Its great for grabbing spontaneous things that you'd miss otherwise. And it's small enough to go unnoticed for capturing interesting ambiences ( as long as the pres don't have to work toooo hard ). Using some stuff on a film I'm working on at the moment. Will be getting a Sony D50 soon though. Unless anything new and improved comes out soon! ;)


I have a D50 and a ZOOM used them both for "big" films. I like the noise floor of the D50 better but I'm not afraid to throw the H4N in the ring.


love my d50, and prior h4. They both have captured sounds that have played in big film trailers, as well TV. Second best piece of gear I own.

Amazing days for the wandering sound collector.


It gets used all the time!


I have used recordings done with my zoom on 3 films and some tv drama and shorts. (ambiences with the built in mics and fx + wild foley with a shotgun) Now i mostly use my sound devises recorder and sennheiser mics, so i keep my zoom in my bag together with a bunch of different contact mics only, in case i come across something interesting.


I used my H4N on two features this past summer and I use it all the time for SFX gathering. Sure it doesn't sound as good as recorder that Sound Devices or Fostex puts out, but you can still get some good recordings out of it.


Few minutes before reading this article, i was having a discussion of testing an Zoom H4n and recorder+2 mic combination for the same sound source .I am benefited a lot from all your feed backs.Thanks to the website and its members.

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