Buyer's Guide

Should You Buy the Sony PCM-D100? by Chris Skyes

In this article I am going to talk about my opinions on the Sony PCM-D100, what I like about it, what I don’t, what it’s good for, and what it can do for you.

First, let’s get into what I like about it.

Noise

One of the most common things you’ll hear about this recorder is how great it is for recording quiet sound sources, due to it’s quality pre-amps and exceptional built-in microphones.

This comes in handy when recording outdoor ambiences, or when you make a mistake setting the levels, and you need to boost the signal a bit.

Now, if you do bring up the levels, you will eventually have hiss, as that happens with all recorders, but you’ll be able to pull more out of the PCM-D100 than many other recorders.

Internal Storage

In addition to having an SD card slot, you also have internal storage. This is great as once the internal storage is full, if you have an SD card inside the device, it will seamlessly continue to record onto the SD card.

If you underestimate how long you need to record for, and you’re about to run out of space, this function might just save you.

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Weight

Coming in at just around 390 grams, it’s actually just a bit lighter than the Zoom H6 with the XY capsule on (410g), heavier than the Zoom H5 with the XY capsule on (270g). and heavier than the Zoom H4n (280g).

Quick tip: For links to all the products I’ll be talking about, have a look at the end of the article
— Chris SKYES

High Definition Audio

Due to the quality of the pre-amps, and the built-in microphones, this recorder is well suited for a range of applications.

For example, you could record meetings, lectures, interviews, live events, acoustic instruments, and even concerts. I’ve actually recorded an ambience library with it. Feel free to listen to the sample down below.

A small note here, the Sony PCM-D100 does not have XLR inputs, which does not make it suitable for Podcasting, or interviews, unless you plan on recording the interviews using the built-in mics.

You can use some microphones with it, but the selection is not as wide as with a recorder that does have XLR inputs.

The PCM-D100 can record at various sample rates, between 44.1kHz, and 192kHz. I’ll briefly go ahead and tell you which one you should record at, depending on what you need it for.

44.1kHz - If you’re recording audio of a lecture, or a meeting, which will just be used for listening purposes, this would do just fine. Additionally, if you will record music which won’t be synced to picture, you can record at 44.1kHz as well.

48kHz - If you are recording audio for a video, including dialogue, you want to pick 48kHz. That is the standard for audio used in this context.

96kHz - If you are recording ambiences for use in film, you might want to switch to 96kHz. They’ll be converted back to 48kHz when used in a film project, but recording them at a higher sample rate will allow your files to have a bit of a longer shelf life.

192kHz - This is basically reserved for sound designers. If you need to record audio which will be highly processed, and stretched, you need to make sure you’re recording at this sample rate.

It’s a bit like shooting video at 60fps or 120fps. It takes up more space, but it allows you to slow it down more in post.

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Portable

One of the reasons I love my Sony PCM-D100, is that It allows me to get quality stereo recordings without having to set up, or carry multiple microphones, and mic stands. It’s easy to carry around, set-up. and tear down. It allows you to be stealthy, relatively speaking, and quick.

Battery

The battery life is great, some sources saying that you can record up to 12 hours of audio. Please do bare in mind that your experience may vary, depending on what sample rate you are recording at, and even the make of the batteries you are using.

The battery compartment is actually locked in place with a sliding lock. This ensures that it’s basically impossible for you to accidentally open the back, and kill the power in the middle of a recording.

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Adjustable

The built-in condenser microphones at the top of the recorder are adjustable from 90º to 120º. If you are fairly close to your sound source, you can adjust them to 90º (facing inwards), but if you are recording a natural ambience, or a live music event, set them to 120º (facing outwards) in order to achieve a wider, and more realistic sounding recording.

Durable

The Sony PCM-D100 is very durable, as evidenced by George Vlad’s Instagram post. Naturally, you want to do everything you can in order to take care of your recorders, but it’s good to know that it’s designed to last.

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Changing Levels

On the right hand side of the device, you will find a small wheel which allows you to change your gain level. The fact that it has white writing on top of the black wheel is fantastic, as it allows you to see the numbers more clearly in dimly lit situations.

In addition to that, accidentally changing levels is difficult, due to the latch that Sony has included. You can lift it, set your level, and then close it down, in order to ensure that you do not accidentally change them.

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Windshield

The box actually includes a windshield which is really good. This definitely sets the PCM-D100 apart from other portable recorders, who only include a foam windshield. That being said, it’s still investing in Rycote’s kit for it, which provides you a windshield, a grip, and a shockmount (links at the bottom of the article).

If you would like to hear what the default windshield sounds like, compared to the Rycote one, Paul Virostek of Airborne Audio has created a fantastic video on the subject.

 

Now that I’ve addressed some of the good things about the Sony PCM D100, I’d like to go into the one thing that I wasn’t a fan of.

Inputs

There are no XLR inputs on the device, which is a shame. I would have personally loved to be able to plug in a couple of microphones in the PCM-D100, when needed. That being said, I understand that compromises have to be made with any piece of equipment, and no device is perfect.

So…

Should you buy it? As always, it depends.

If you want to record a Podcast, and plug in multiple microphones, or if you want to be able to use your recording device as an audio interface, you might be better off with the Zoom H5 or Zoom H6 (you can read a comparison of the two recorders here).

If you want to record interviews, or location dialogue, same answer.

Instead, if you want to record pristine audio, using the built-in mics, with little to no hassle, the Sony PCM-D100 is for you. Whether you want to record quiet natural ambiances, live music events, meetings, lectures, or more, the PCM-D100 will allow you to get great audio quality, without the hassle of having to set anything up.

Product Links

Down below you will find all of the items I talked about in this article.


The Basic Gear You Need to Record Sound Effects (Part 1) by Chris Skyes

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In this article, we are going to talk about the basic equipment you need in order to start recording your own sound effects. The gear which I will recommend will be a balance between cost and quality, thus helping you get a good start in the world of sound effects.

This will be a two part series. In the first article, we will discuss microphones, recorders, and vital accessories. In the second article, we will go more in-depth on accessories, and discuss SD cards, external hard drives, useful things to have in your recording bag, and more!

In the interest of transparency, all of the gear links which will be present in this article are Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you purchase anything, it won’t cost you anything extra, but I’ll get a small commission.

Right, let’s begin! We’ll go through a few common set-ups that you might use when recording sound effects.

Quick tip: For links to all products mentioned in this article, have a look at the bottom of the page
— Chris SKYES

Hand-held recorder

Everyone starts off with one of these, mainly because they are uncomplicated, and quite affordable. You turn them on, press record, and point them at the sound source.

Sony PCM-D100

If you want a hand-held device which produces really clean recordings, it’s worth having a look at the Sony PCM-D100. The downside of it though is that it doesn’t have XLR inputs, which means that if you decide to invest in some shotgun microphones down the line, you won’t be able to plug them into it.

Here is a demo from British Suburbia, a library I recorded, and am still recording, using this device.

Zoom H6

If the sounds you’ll be recording are on the louder side, and you need a recorded which is not only built like a tank, but is also really upgradeable, have a look at the Zoom H6. It’s durable, has great battery life, loads of XLR inputs, and even a detachable microphone at the top.

If you’d like to learn more about the Zoom H6, I’ve written a more in-depth review of it here, or you can watch the YouTube video down below.

Here is a demo for Dormant Village, a library I recorded using this device.

Zoom H4n

This is the device many people start out with, including myself. It’s great for personal and student projects, though it’s not often used in a professional setting. The main reason is that the Zoom H4n isn’t well suited to record quiet sounds, is because of its level of self noise.

In other words, if you record something really quiet, and then boost the levels later, the background hiss will be noticeable.

All recording devices have some degree of hiss when you boost the signal really loud, but some have more than others.

That being said, if you want a device which is great to learn on, and is affordable, the Zoom H4n might just be right for you.

You can always sell it later down the line when you want to upgrade. If taken care of, it shouldn’t lose too much of its value.

Wind Protection

When it comes to hand-held recorders, they do tend to come with some form of wind protection, often in the form of a foam cover for the microphones. Whilst this does help to some degree indoors, if you want to do any sort of work outdoors, you will need to purchase wind protection.

Whilst the Sony PCM-D100 does provide you with a really good windshield out of the box, there are alternatives out there, and each affect your audio in different ways. Here is a YouTube video by Paul Virostek, demonstrating the difference between the Sony PCM-D100 windjammer, and the equivalent which Rycote makes.

It is important to specify that you shouldn’t try to save money on your windshields, as a cheaply made one will adversely affect the sound of your recordings. In other words, a cheap windshield will muffle the recording, which might make it unusable.

Companies like Rycote make excellent products, including the Sony PCM-D100 windjammer, Zoom H6 windjammer, and the Zoom H4n windjammer.

Shock-absorption

When handling the devices, you introduce noise into the recordings. Even if you try to stay completely still, some amount of noise will be introduced, making it a nightmare to edit out later on, or even rendering the recording useless.

To that effect, Rycote has a series of products aimed at this, and they include the windjammers mentioned above bundled with them. They make a shockmount for the Sony PCM-D100, one for the Zoom H6, and also one for the Zoom H4n.

Microphone and Recorder

Once you have decided which recorder you would like, it’s time to consider some microphones. Honestly, if you want quality for a relatively low price, Rode is probably the way to go.

Rode NTG-2

Rode makes the NTG series of shotgun microphones. I personally have and use the Rode NTG-2 all the time, and I love it. I’ve traveled with it, used it for years, and it still works. It’s hard as nails, sounds great, and it also looks really cool.

What more could you want?

Additionally, here is a demo for Shimmering Shards, a library recorded using the Rode NTG-2, and the Tascam DR-60DmkII.

Wind Protection and Shock Mounts

When handing such a microphone, you will inevitably need some kind of shock mount, in order to stop vibrations and handling noise from polluting your recordings. You will also need some sort of wind protection, as you will inevitably end up recording outside.

In addition to many types of microphones, Rode also produces a blimp, which is basically a handle, mounting system, and windshield in one. It’s called the Rode Blimp.

The blimp itself is relatively standard, which means you can fit a lot of different microphones from many companies inside of it. It is worth researching each microphone before you purchase it though, as some shotgun microphones are extra long, and require a different type of blimp.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a less expensive alternative, the PROAIM Blimp works really well. I’ve personally used it on many trips, and it has served me well.

Headphones

In order to monitor what it is that you are recording, you’re going to need a good pair of headphones. Now, everyone has a specific pair which they love and use all the time, but I personally use the Beyerdynamics DT 150.

They’re good quality headphones, very affordable, and they’re built like tanks. I’ve had the same pair for years, and it’s never given me any trouble. I’ve abused them, stuffed them in bags, and all the rest, but whenever I plug them in, they still work.

This is the end of part one. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter down below, in order to be notified when part two comes out!

Product Links

Down below you will find all of the items I talked about in this article.