Recording frogs with phones - revisited

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chrish
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Recording frogs with phones - revisited

Post by chrish » April 14th, 2015, 10:57 am

A while back, I put together a post on choosing recorders for amphibian recording. At that time, I made a comparison of recording with a high quality PCM recorder, a moderately priced voice recorder and an Android phone. In that comparison, the phone came out rather badly.

Subsequently, I have listened to a lot of recordings from phones and have never really felt they matched the quality you could get from even an inexpensive voice recorder. This isn't surprising because the microphones in telephones are really only designed to capture the narrow range of frequencies of the human voice.

So, I got a new phone (LG G3) a few months back and was out recording frogs (as usual). Just to update my perceptions, I held my phone out the window right next to my $1K recording rig (Sennheiser K6/ME66 microphone into a Tascam DR-680 recorder). When I got home and compared the two recordings, I was shocked to see hom much better my phone recording was than any recordings I had made with older phones (Motorola Razr series, Iphone 4, etc).

Here is a few seconds of the two recordings back to back. It is exactly the same section of recording played twice. One is from the phone, the other from the semi-pro recording gear.

Can you hear the difference?



Another way to tell the difference is to look at the spectrogram to look for noise in the recording:

Image

Can you tell which one is which? Pretty tough.

The first recording is with the phone, the second with the Tascam/Sennheiser combo.
Clearly this phone can make good recordings if used well.

Here are a few tips to help make good recordings with a phone -
  1. Have a good phone and a good app.
  2. Get as close as you can to the calling frog or chorus.
  3. Block the wind from making noise on your phone.
  4. Hold the phone very still/carefully. Better yet, set it down on a surface so your movements don't get picked up as noise.
I like the Tascam PCM recorder app, but there are lots of others. Just make sure it is intended to capture more than just voice recordings.

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chris_mcmartin
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Re: Recording frogs with phones - revisited

Post by chris_mcmartin » April 14th, 2015, 2:51 pm

My HTC One S (3 years old) seems to do OK (but I don't have any other equipment with which to compare it, besides my Canon SX20IS). It's even better now that I've finally started filtering out non-amphibian frequencies thanks to your previous post (and I found out Adobe Audition can display spectrograms!).

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Nshepard
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Re: Recording frogs with phones - revisited

Post by Nshepard » April 14th, 2015, 4:50 pm

I was making voucher recordings last year when I was out surveying for several priority species. I found that my iphone 4s was getting pretty good recordings and in some cases better than decent recording gear used for analyzing frog calls. Now, I'm not saying my iphone 4s is better but it held its own when used appropriately - held close up to a decent chorus. Enough at least for voucher material.

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chrish
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Re: Recording frogs with phones - revisited

Post by chrish » April 14th, 2015, 8:43 pm

Nshepard wrote:I was making voucher recordings last year when I was out surveying for several priority species. I found that my iphone 4s was getting pretty good recordings and in some cases better than decent recording gear used for analyzing frog calls. Now, I'm not saying my iphone 4s is better but it held its own when used appropriately - held close up to a decent chorus. Enough at least for voucher material.
Absolutely! Just like with camera gear, good technique trumps good gear every time. If you can get close you can get some outstanding recordings with a good phone.

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