stereo microphone setup for bird recording

To: john boyce <>
Subject: stereo microphone setup for bird recording
From: Syd Curtis <>
Date: Tue, 01 Jul 2003 22:18:51 +1000

      If you have the skill (which I have not!) to check the archives of


which is a mailing list in the USA, there should be a message dated 24 Aug.
2000, from one Bernie Krause of Wild Sanctuary.

It concerns a contract from Disney Imagineering.  Bernie had to record
different habitats in Costa Rica, and the contract required him to use an
Aachen Head supplied on loan by Disney.  It was claimed to be the best -
possibly, Bernie suggested, because it was the most expensive, at about
$25,000.  (That's twenty-five thousand $.)

In Costa Rica's high humidity, the mics in it failed after a quarter hour or
so.  Bernie took two Sony omni lavaliere mics (about $350 each), and hooked
them to a string tied around a tree trunk about the same diameter as a human

Disney's technician praised Bernie's recordings and said he'd never heard
the Aachen sound so good.

I've not tried stereo recording, and you'll probably get expert advice, but
the above indicates that it's worth experimenting.

Relevant to the above story, is a comment made today on <naturerecordists>
by Walter Knapp, a very experienced recordist, in discussing 24 bit
processing versus the more common 16 bit:

"The brain is quite deliberate in it's sound processing. We may call it
mistakes, but it's actually taking into account our attitudes, wishes,
and past experience about the sound.  So, if we just think 24 bit is
better, our brain will process sound to reinforce this attitude.

"As far as making errors in setting gain, that's a matter of experience.
I've been running recorders for over 50 years now. For me it's all
pretty much on autopilot, I have to deliberately think about it to set
it wrong. I did go through a transition as I reprogrammed the
"autopilot" to account for digital. I do not believe that 24 bit will
substitute for experience."

(I quote the second para simply to indicate the depth of the writer's

With Bernie's contract, Disney expected quality and therefore quality was
what the technician heard, not so much because of the quality of the mics
[or of the tree trunk :-) ], but because of the skill of the recordist.

For 30 years plus, I used a mono Sennheiser shotgun mic for recording
individual lyrebirds, initially to mono recorders, later to stereo recorders
using a Y-cord to feed the signal to both channels.  (The mic is no longer
as sensitive as I need, and being 30+ years, Sennheiser no longer support
it.)  This gives me a "pseudo" stereo recording, which I copy into a Mac
computer.  There I copy one channel to get a mono recording - it uses half
as much memory.

However, the Tascam recorder I use has separate recording level controls for
the two channels.  This can be used (though I don't) with one channel set at
a lower level than the other. Then if the higher one clips on an unexpected
very loud note, the other one may not, and it can be used as the one to copy
in the computer.

I must emphasise that my aim was for clean recordings of individual
lyrebirds, minimising echoes and background sound.  If one wants a recording
for habitat ambience or just for pleasant listening, then stereo seems to be
the way to go. 


> From: john boyce <>
S] stereo microphone setup for bird recording
> Hi everyone,
> has anyone ever tried using two mono mikes (unidirectional or
> supercardioid type) to make 'stereo' recordings of nature sounds. Is two
> mono mikes a good way to go or is it too complex to get the orientation
> of the mikes right to give reasonable stereo sound. Also what do people
> mostly do with a single mono shotgun mike (the most common setup I
> guess), do they record just a single channel and duplicate that channel
> later on at the computer stage or do you rewire the mike to give signal
> to both channels of the recorder. Any comments or help much appreciated.
> John Boyce
> Birding-Aus is on the Web at
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