Hey now… what's that sound?

Some of us simply are more aurally than visually oriented. Whether we're on vacation or just going about our day, a few of us tend to use an audio recorder instead of a still or video camera to capture moments that catch our ear. The sounds might pour out of a busy market or a deserted warehouse. Who knows? Just about anywhere there's sound though, there's a story or, at least, a remnant of where we've been.

 Older portable recording technologies, like cassette tape or DAT decks, are quickly being replaced with much more affordable, high-fidelity, digital recording devices. Ranging in price from around US$ 350 to 1500, audio recording decks that use minidisc or flash memory cards are readily available and affordable by some audio freaks.

In the last year or two Marantz, Fostex, Edirol, and M-Audio have come out with flash-based recorders. Marantz's PMD series started the ball rolling. They were followed by Fostex's FR series. Edirol introduced their 4-channel deck this year.

Flash memory is wonderfully robust, and it's getting a lot of attention, both by manufacturers and consumers, but the minidisc hangs in there. Sony recently introduced their Hi-MD line of minidisc recorders. The “Hi” part refers to their ability to record high-fidelity (CD-quality) uncompressed sound; think WAV versus mp3. This allows Hi-MD to compete with flash.

The products differ in some key areas, for example, compatability with professional external mics, ease of cuing, usability, battery type, etc. But they are all capable of recording and storing about 90 minutes of CD-quality, uncompressed audio. (This is totally dependent on the flash storage capacity. Right now, 1 GB cards are about US$ 100.) 

Lots more people can and are doing the “found sound” thing now. And with podcasting, they have a wing of a chance of finding sympathetic and interested ears.

For my own, and maybe your, amusement, here's an audio collage that I scavenged from audio cassettes that I recorded around Rajasthan during “Millennium week”. (Ahhh, remember old Y2K?) The world is a big instrument and people are playing and recording it all the time. Enjoy

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