Hello. Sorry for the noob question.

I recently put up a post on here about the equipment I want to buy as a starter package. I want to start a small sound effects label with professional sounding sounds. I know (and believe) I can do this if my technique is proper, even if the equipment I am using isn't 'top professional quality'.

It looks like I'm settling on a Fostex FR2 LE recorder, a Rode NTG-3 shotgun microphone, a Rycote 18cm Softie kit (with pistol grip) and K&M mini boom pole (I was told the thread is stronger on this boom pole, than it is on the Rode boom pole - any other mini boom pole suggestions??). I do currently have a small Zoom H2 recorder for extreme portability - but the sound quality of it really is quite poor.

I feel this is a good kit and I'm hopefully getting it for just over £1000. Still alot of money in anyone's book! But this seems like a package.

I'm planning trips all around the UK already to start recording. And I am planning a trip to South East Asia with the main purpose of recording.

BUT... My budget just cannot cover getting a stereo microphone too. Unless I sacrifice the Rode NTG-3 for a cheaper shotgun and get a stereo microphone as well. I'm not sure this is wise, but maybe it is?

When it comes to using sound effects made by another, how important is stereo really? Of course, I understand that ambience should be recorded in stereo (or more channels) but I really want to get this project off the ground. But I also don't want to mess up my opportunities for not having a stereo microphone. I do have the Zoom H2, but it is a bit rubbish (the noise of it is the worst thing, all my Borneo recordings were rubbish because of this - though I didn't focus on sound on that trip).

For example, recording a bird call. Would that be in stereo? Or mono? Recording sounds of the jungle, stereo or mono? Etc. etc. Should I be worried about not having a stereo microphone in my starter package as I start to go on these missions of recording?

Many thanks, James

9 Answers 9


I'd suggest waiting on the boom pole and mount the rycote on a cheaper mic stand or camera tripod if cash is an issue. Use the cash to record MS, by picking up a cheaper figure-8 pattern mic to pair with your shotgun like an ambient emesser.

If that's too much cash, I'd say go ahead and record mono. A good mono recording is better than nothing at all. Besides, you'd be surprised how many fx editors just use one side of a stereo recording when cutting spot fx anyway. It gives the mixer much more control with panning on the dub stage.

Ambiences on the other hand, should almost always be recorded in stereo. A solution to this for you would be to create stereo ambiences in post from mono recordings. With a little editing and careful attention to phase and movement in the stereo field, it is possible to create a great stereo ambience from a mono recording. Just take different sections of the same mono recording and pan them left and right to make a dual mono stereo. The results can be surprisingly good if done with a bit of care.

Good luck.


Another suggestion is to forsake the Fostex for a bit and go for something with a matched pair of stereo mics attached to it, like the h4n (I absolutely love mine). It won't LOOK as professional, but it's a decent recorder in it's own right, and when you're out recording with your shotgun, you'll probably have it in a bag anyway.


A lot of it depends on the effect and the end use of that effect. Whenever I record ambience I use three channels: stereo Sanken CSS-5 and a mono CS3E into a Sound Devices 442 and 744t. All my bases are coved and I know I have flexibility in post.

When you a record an ambient track to be used as a base stereo or 5.1 is good. But, everything else should be in mono. You have no idea of how the panning or placement of that effect needs to be with the picture. Mono is far more useful than you could imagine!

As far as the Zoom is concerned, they aren't good recorders. Plain and simple. They are fine for their price point but they pale in comparison to Sound Devices, Zaxcom, or Aaton field gear. You get what you pay for.


If your aim is to sell your sound effects, then you should consider that people are snobbish - a lot of people will be put off buying your product if they see that it was recorded on a Fostex FR2-LE (or a Zoom). Whilst a Sound Devices recorder is expensive to buy, they can be hired by the day pretty cheaply from a lot of companies and give your product kudos. Likewise you can hire mic's very cheaply too - theatre sound hire company rates often work out more cheaply for a few weeks hire.

If you're recording FX then you should be recording in stereo. The film world may prefer fx in mono but everyone else prefers them in stereo. There are some reasonably good stereo rifle mics out there you can buy that aren't to expensive. I have the Audio Technica BP4029 which is great.

If you're on a budget then I wouldn't worry about the boom pole.

  • I hadn't thought about the brand of the recorder bringing down the perceived value of the recordings. Mar 22, 2011 at 16:54
  • I have been concerned with people being put off with sounds recorded on such a device. But when it comes to selling, I am a web developer/designer by trade and already have a platform together which will be open for others to sell sounds through it. I'm in a position where I want to learn so renting a device for a day here or or there doesn't appeal to me too much. But I do appreciate what your saying and it is worth thinking about. Mar 25, 2011 at 14:21
  • I think that the D/A on a zoom is much lower quality than a SD
    – ChrisSound
    Sep 3, 2011 at 19:25

Scrap the boom pole and get a small mic stand.

You want a proper blimp not a softie kit, England is windy! look into the Rode blimp.

You'll want ambiances in stereo, spot sounds are perfect as mono.

The recorder shouldn't matter too much, but the preamps will, so the FR2LE is great but you'll need preamps if you're really thinking of selling stuff on.

NTG-3 is great but I had My first one replaced with a later version (high serial #) as it wouldn't work in cold temperatures so the same things could be effected by high humidity in south asia.

It sounds like you're just starting out, and as much as I admire the determination to create a sfx label, take one step at a time and take it as a learning curve and learn yourself what you need, you probably won't sell any of the sounds you capture on your first venture considering how many professionals there already are out there.

The first solo project I recorded stereo ambiances in New York for a university project on an H4N, they sound great and I learnt a lot just using that for 3 weeks which has now lead me to move to the next stage and that's buying mics and new recorders and so forth.

If anything as you're British, try to capture as much British stuff as possible, it's hard to find British orientated ambiances and sfx... took me ages to find some British birds to fit a scene.


Do not compromise on sound quality. It's better to get excellent mono than middling mono and middling stereo. As far as fidelity goes, the Fostex FR2-LE is a great recorder that gives up nothing on sound quality to a SD unit... though it does compromise on build. Absolutely do not abandon the Fostex for a hand-held unit. You've noticed that the H2 is no match for the FR2-LE; the same is true for all the rest.

However, if you do need a hand-held unit as a second recorder, the Sony PCM-10 is the best for this purpose as it contains two omni mics and has the lowest noise floor of any unit its size. This might work for you if you can get this recorder close enough to your target. BTW, I have a series of article on this topic on my blog.

There are plenty of inexpensive microphone options for stereo recording, so long as you don't mind using two mics and not a single dual cap design. The AT4022 at $350 is one such choice.

  • @robin This is a great response. Thank you. It's given me confidence that the Fostex is the way to go. I do appreciate the build isn't great. I'm thinking combined with a decent Portabrace custom bag (eventually) it will help with protecting the unit. Also, I'm glad you said about the Sony PCM-10... That is exactly the handheld I was looking at and am thinking that selling the Zoom H2 to put towards that is the way to go. Mono is my major concern, it's spot effects etc that I do want to concentrate on. And with the Sony I can do stereo with that... It's quiet noise floor that is important. Mar 25, 2011 at 14:18

If budget is an issue, I would look on ebay. There's a couple of Audio Technica AT825 right now for as little as $1...


I would say stereo is more important than mono, if you are recording in the field while travelling. Mono is for when you are up close to the sound, and when there's no real spatial information to be gathered. Stereo, on the other hand, is everything when it comes to capturing ambiences.

I use stereo sound effects all the time. If I only need it in mono, I'll narrow the pan or just use one channel. I will not spend any money on buying an ambience sound effect, if it is in mono.

Get a good quality stereo mic as your first priority, and bring your Zoom H2 along to record some surround atmospheres. If it is loud, it will probably be quite nice on the H2, and it doesn't hurt to get more material...


I too would recommend the H4N. It certainly does a very good job all things considered. I don't own one, but I've used one for both ambiences and hard effects, and it really is awesome. Added bonus is the fact that it'll provide phantom power for your NTG-3.

Buy the Zaxcom and Sound Devices stuff when you have the bazillions of pounds that you will make off this first library. But you can't make any money if you don't have anything to record onto.

  • All my experiences with Zoom are that the noise floor of their units are poor. The XLRs are good... But after hearing sound comparisons, I don't have much confidence in the Zoom stuff. Thank you for replying, your opinion is appreciated. Mar 25, 2011 at 14:19

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