Friday, June 29, 2012

DIY high quality portable digital audio recorder!

This is something I recently did that I thought I'd share. How to get a high quality audio recorder, perfect for live gigs, practice and documenting performances for under $40! Last year I got a sweet little MP3 player called a Sansa Clip Plus. As a player, it's probably one of the better ones for very little money on the market. I noticed right away when I got it that it also had a voice recorder. I tried using it to record my performances using the built-in recorder, but like most other voice recorders, it was distorted and sounded horrible. Plus it only recorded at low sample rate.

I pretty much forgot about this feature until recently I relocated to Brooklyn, and portability is a necessity in New York City so I started thinking about ways I could use it again. I remembered that a few years ago when I still had my older Ipod, I had installed Rockbox on it, which is a third party firmware that allowed me to use the headphone input as a mic input. I used to use it pretty regularly to record my practices until I got rid of the ipod, but I wondered if Rockbox could do the same for my Clip Plus. I went to the Rockbox website, and sure enough the Clip Plus was a supported player to run Rockbox. I installed the firmware, which was slightly trickier than it was for the Ipod, because you need to have a copy of the original Sansa firmware, which was a bit of a task to locate.

Once I got Rockbox installed, I went into the recording options, and noticed that there was no option to use the headphone input as a line in like on the ipod. I was a little bummed at first, but went ahead and tried the built in mic, much to my surprise, it actually sounded pretty damn good! One of the biggest reasons is there is actually an adjustable recording level now, which it didn't have using the standard Sansa firmware. Also you can change the frequency from 16khz all the way to 48khz! You can select the format as well, either mp3, wav or aiff. I used wav at 44.1khz, which is CD quality. I adjusted the recording level, and a full volume band rehearsal recorded perfectly clear with no distortion!. The only quality issue is it sounds like there's some type of limiting on the signal, so it gives you a somewhat compressed sounding mix, but it's very good for what it is.

You can get the clip plus with the link above at a great price from amazon, download the rockbox installer and firmware linked above and have a tiny pocket sized audio recorder for under $40!
Below is a short clip of a recording made with my Clip Plus using the built-in microphone!

Another great thing about these is they have a mini-sd slot, so you can swap cards for recording and store up to 16gb!

1 comment:

  1. What's up with being able to use your headphones as a mic? I forget the exact context, but I think I used to do this in middle school. Do you know anything about that?