Zoom H4n Handy Recorder
The Zoom H4n is the backbone of all my audio work. It acts as my field recorder and as a USB interface for recording on the computer. I’ve had great experiences with the built-in microphones, but also had great experiences plugging in other microphones in it. It can provide +24v or +48v phantom power if needed, along with Plug-in power for those mics that need it. It has a built-in effects processor capable of a myriad of effects, along with a limiter / compressor. You can record up to 4 tracks at once, including 2 XLR or line-in devices, as well as the two built-in microphones or anything you plug in the stereo 3.5mm input. I definitely recommend this recorder if you’re looking for something that will last you a very long time, with plenty of amazing features.
Zoom also offers the H1 recorder which is much cheaper than the H4n in price, but also offers great sound quality. It doesn’t support XLR microphones, though, and a few other features have been stripped down, but it works great as a field recorder, or also to plug a lavalier microphone into and hide it on your talent.
Audio Technica AT803 lapel microphone
After using the Neewer lavalier for about a year, I wanted to upgrade to a better microphone with XLR connectors. I find that the AT803 sounds much better, especially with the Zoom H4n since it uses the better preamps of the XLR connector instead of the 3.5mm. I love how you can put an AA battery in the power pack, or use phantom power, giving this more versatility. Being a powered microphone, it also gives this mic more volume, which means you don’t have to increase the input volume as much on the Zoom H4n, which means less preamp noise.
Purchase this microphone from Adorama: http://www.adorama.com/ATAT803.html?KBID=67818
Shure SM58 Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
One out of every two microphones found on stages is an SM58, and it is quite easy to understand why. The price is very affordable, running in the 100$ range, and the quality is quite good. The only issue it has is the output volume coming from it is a bit low, so ideally you would have to run it into a good preamp, channel strip or mixer to boost that volume up to a level that the H4n can easily work with. If you plug it in directly in the H4n, it will work, but you even with a rec level of 100, you will have to boost the volume quite a lot in post-production, and find a way to deal with the extra noise that boosting will create. This microphone is definitely not for everyone, but it is definitely worth trying out to see if it will work with your setup.
Neewer Lapel Microphone
Neewer sells these marvelous little lavalier microphones for a very cheap price. I decided to take the 2.88$ gamble (including shipping and taxes), and try it out. The sound quality is quite good, and the volume output is very nice when you provide it some Plug-in power by a device such as the Zoom H4n, or a laptop/computer/camera/etc. I definitely recommend this one.
Read the Studio JPIC review of this microphone: http://www.studiojpic.com/neewer-lavalier-microphone/
Purchase your own from eBay: Neewer lapel microphone (eBay link)
1/4″ 20-thread hot-shoe adapter
This little thingamajig is quite simple, yet even more practical. Offering a 1/4″ 20-thread bolt on one side, and a hot-shoe adapter on the other, this allows you to screw your Zoom H4n or other device on top of your camera using the flash hot-shoe that comes with your camera.
Purchase your own from eBay: 1/4″ 20-thread hot-shoe adapter
Apex HP-35 Closed Ear Dynamic Headphones
One of the many secrets of having great audio is being able to hear what is being recorded. I like how these are collapsible and easily fit in my camera bag. To my ear, the sound is good, and I like having closed ear headphones to focus on what is being recorded without being too much distracted by ambient noise. The audio quality is nothing too incredible, but for me they do the job well.
Don’t skimp out by getting a cheap XLR cable or any other cheap audio cable and thinking you can get away with it. The cable is probably as important as your microphone and your recorder. Get a good well-reputed cable, and stay away from the cables that seem too good to be true.
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