Ambient ASF-1: first impressions

Next week I’ll be travelling to a remote location on the Outer Hebrides of Scotland to record the sounds of Julie Brook’s captivating ‘Firestacks’, above and underwater. A very exciting project in many ways, not least for the quality noise-pollution-free time I will be having but also because I get to use arguably the best underwater microphone in the market: Ambient Recording's ASF-1 a.k.a The Sound Fish.

Close up on the ASF-1 Stainless steel body (centre) and acoustic sensor with NBR membrane (right).

I received the microphone yesterday and went straight to the closest water feature to give it a test. I will say straight away that I was blown away by the quality. From feel to looks it is apparently clear this is a superior piece of kit. It ships with a default (thick) 10m long cable and I also got a 50m one as the location I'll be recording in is subject to high tides.

The Arney river from Arney bridge in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

ASF-1 (left) and JrF D-Series (right) going for a dip.

To a Field Recordist, the opportunity of hearing something you’ve never heard before or just hearing it like never before, is the ultimate reward. The ASF-1, with its low noise and wide frequency response, enables just that. My experience with underwater recording so far always left me with a feeling that something was missing. Frequencies mainly but also the sensation that water was an adverse and somehow inaccessible medium for sound. This hydrophone completely removes all those barriers. It gives, allow  me the pun, a fully immersive experience. Here's a few downloadable samples:

To sum up, in case it wasn’t clear enough: I’m completely sold. And if I had the money I’d get it straight away, times two. The total cost including underwater accessories would circle around £1500 per mic, so for the moment we’ll stick to renting it from these lovely people

PS - a short comparison A/B file with the JrF D-Series Hydrophones can be downloaded here - I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Praises to the D50

The other day I heard a robin tweeting away on the studio's front patio and so I planted my Sony D50 recorder as gently as possible in an attempt to record it. Of course, i scared him (her?) straight off but I thought that if I left the recorder in place for a while he might come back. I shut the sliding door and carried on with the day...

Two days later, as we were gearing up to go on a family stroll to the local hills I remembered about poor old D50. There it was, still on the patio, unmoved, still waiting for the robin to come back. With my eyes closed I switched it on, fearing for the worst. When i re-opened them it turned out the memory was full and there was still one bar of battery (albeit blinking). Hurrah! She was still alive! I downloaded the files onto the computer but there was no time to check if the unit was working properly so I took some fresh batteries and left for our walk in the hills. 

I'm very (very!) happy to say that the Sony D50 worked perfectly. Here's a recording of a leaves rustling to a subtle breeze in the hills.

The D50 had survived two nights out there. Luckily it has been the one and only week in the year where we have had no rain, I'm not even exaggerating, but still Ireland's autumn nights are very damp. I've carried this recorder around the world for more than 5 years and it has always delivered. It has overcome tank pass by splashes in England's wet winters, a year of 100% humidity conditions in tropical Sri Lanka, sub-zero temperatures in the Swiss Alpes, scorching 45+ degrees in the Andalusian summer, sand storms in Xinjiang's Taklamakan desert and torrential downpours in smoggy Beijing. The batteries (4x AAs) always last more than you expect them to, and the quality of the recordings is far above decent. 

All my respects to this little recorder, probably the best of its class.

To finish off here's a recording of another group of patio visitors, taken that same day.

Do you have a piece of kit that has survived the odds? Let us know below. Have a great week!

Farewell Don King

We’re busy recording everything we can lay our ears on this week, over in Spain. It’s pretty scorchio! Hope everyone’s had a great week and has something exciting planned for the weekend. I can’t wait to write about everything I’ve heard here when I get home to NI. Spain, I’ve missed you!

Photo credit to my friend Chabeli

In other news, have you seen the new Super-Softie Windshields from Rycote? I’m planning on trying them out as soon as I can lay my hands on some. I think it’s going to be the end of microphone aesthetics as we know it. The new stuff looks much slicker, but it’d be sad to say goodbye to the fluffy exteriors synonymous with sound for decades now…

My wife thinks most of them look like boxing promoter Don King

But it’s about time for an update. Will try and do a product review on them soon. Has anyone else started using them yet? What do you think?

Super Slick Rick

Super Slick Rick

Hope it’s a great weekend for everyone. Here’s some cool stuff to hit up…