My Recording Technique

portrait of Lang with SASS by Andrew Skeouch

Microphone: The majority of my recordings have been made using a binaural-like microphone setup that yields rich and spacious 3D soundscapes that are natural and full of depth. When listened-to using headphones, my recordings produce a fully-dimensional experience, with sounds appearing to come from “all around,” just like in nature. Even when played using a conventional stereo speaker setup, the spatial sound cues are strong enough to create the sense that many animal sounds are coming from locations outside the speaker array. Go here for a technical discussion of binaural recording and listening.

My favorite “quasi-binaural” microphone design (pictured above) is referred to as a SASS, meaning “Stereo Ambient Sampling System.” The advantage of this system over other binaural-style mics is that it not only works well with headphone listening, but also produces excellent results with conventional speaker setups. Originally sold by Crown Audio, our SASS setups have been specially-modified to utilize super low-noise microphones. Recently, Crown Audio has been absorbed by Audio Technica and I’m not sure if the SASS setup is still be available. Go here for an informative article by recordist Vicki Powys that describes modified SASS setups as well as various homemade alternatives.

Note that early-on I compared recordings made with my SASS setup to recordings made using “Fritz,” the famous manakin-head mic made by Neumann. Our conclusion was that our modified SASS (with Sennheiser MKH20 mics installed) produced a pleasing binaural effect that clearly rivaled Fritz, but with the advantage of lighter weight, better wind resistance, and much better performance under inclement field conditions. While true binaural head-type mics theoretically yield more realistic 3D recordings, I did not hear a significant difference.

Sound Devices 722 digital tape recorderRecorder: For over ten years, I have recorded soundscapes using Sound Devices recorders, especially models 702 and 722. The quality of the preamps is supreme. I generally record at 24-bit with a sampling rate of 48kHz or 96kHz. Go here for more information about Sound Devices recorders.

Note: Since the early 1990s I have been using high-quality digital recorders in conjunction with modified SASS microphones. As as result, binaural recordings I made twenty years ago still sound every bit as good as recordings I am making today.

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