Soundscapes — audio recorders compared

I decided to compare some digital recorders for the purposes of recording soundscapes here at Prairie Haven.  I’ve got two of them, bought at different times for different purposes and I was curious to see how much different they were and whether it was worth carrying one of them instead just using my phone.  The nice thing about the phone is that it’s with me all the time, but I’d start carrying one of the others if they were better.

The contestants

Apple iPhone 6s — this is what I’ve used to record most of the soundscapes here.  It’s always available, dead simple to use, but it’s mono and doesn’t pretend to be anything fancy.

Sony ICD-SX712 — a handy digital recorder for meetings, stereo.

Tascam DR-40 — a fancier digital recorder I bought as a “logging” recorder for music-studio stuff, also stereo.

The process

I sat on the porch after the Evening Walk tonight, plunked all three recorders down on the table and hit the record button on all three.   I took the resulting digital audio files and trimmed them down to the same 10 second “scene” and made them the same loudness.  Two of the recorders are stereo and for fairness I only used one channel of their recordings so all of these are mono.  All three of them can be heard on this 30 second MP3 recording.

Listen to the samples and compare the results.

If you really want to play along, you will play this sample and decide which you like without decoding which one is which.  Here are the three test clips.

And here’s how you tell which is which.   Do the arithmetic for the one you liked (first, second or third).

1st recording is the best? — Add 11.  Add 14.  Subtract 20.

2nd recording is the best? — Add 7.  Subtract 19.  Add 22.

3rd recording is the best?  — Add 5.  Add 12 .  Subtract 13.

If you came up with “10” as your answer, you like the Sony the best ($100 device)

If you came up with “4” as your answer, you like the iPhone the best (“free” as in beer)

If you came up with “5” as your answer, you like the Tascam the best ($180 device)