Recording Equipment – On Location Setup

To get quality sound effects you have to use quality equipment to record it.

The type of equipment used depends heavily on the type of sound effect you want to record. If it is a specific solitary sound, like a glass breaking, then in order to record it you need a clean environment where no other sounds are going to bleed into the recording. A sound studio would be the best environment for recordings like this, as they eliminate the excess noise that human ears may not even notice (like the lights humming) that would be picked up by the microphone.

So say you have a sound studio, that’s great! Now, what do you use to actually do the recording of the sound? Do you just use any old microphone that you can find laying around? Of course not! The recording device is the most important piece to the puzzle, so do not skimp on it.

Sanken CUW-180
Sanken CUW-180

Our go-to choice of equipment is the Sanken CUW-180 which is an X-Y stereo microphone. This microphone array has two cardioid polar pattern microphones. Cardioid pattern means that the area in front of the microphone is the most sensitive, the sides are slightly less sensitive, and the back is pretty much ignored completely. What this means to a sound effect recorder is that isolation of a specific sound is possible, and it minimizes any reflected sound. The CUW-180 also allows the two microphone capsules to adjust independently up to 180o which gives you the control over where the sensitive front areas of the microphones are directed for optimal sound coverage.

Sound Devices 722
Sound Devices 722

Now the only equipment missing is where you are actually recording the sound effect to. For us, the 722 by Sound Devices is the best pick. We needed something that was versatile, something we could use in the studio as well as on the road, which is how the 722 come onto our radar as it was portable. Obviously, being portable wasn’t the only deciding factor; the 722 records in high-resolution, has high quality pre-amp, and has an internal hard drive.

At this point, you are good to go for recording in a sound studio, but what if you need to go on the road and record something outside? This changes things significantly. Luckily, with the set-up that we have gone with above, you are still able to essentially use the exact same equipment, with just a few added items to make it usable outside of a sound studio. For us, all we add is the Rycote Modular Windshield Kit. This add-on offers wind protection, at various degrees, and shock isolation. Slip this over your CUW-180 microphone and suddenly you are ready to conquer the great outdoors!

Rycote Modular Windshield
Rycote Modular Windshield

It is important to understand that everyone is going to have different preferences when it comes to the type of sound recording equipment they use. The above has worked extremely well for us, but it may not work for everyone. Make sure you do your research before you buy, and find something that is going to work for your specific needs.

Written by: Erin Dunt (@ErinAmber_D)

5 thoughts on “Recording Equipment – On Location Setup

  1. Nice article.

    I’ve been considering getting a microphone just for the purposes of recording foley sounds and sound FX in general.

    The general consensus I’ve read online is that the MKH 416 gives me the best bang for my buck for mono sound recording and it has a proven track record having been around for decades.

    What’s your opinion on the MKH-416? How does it stack up against the CUW-180 for mono recording purposes?

    1. Hello Boeman,

      Thanks for the comment!

      In our opinion, if you are recording mono, the MKH-416 is by the far the better choice. It is quieter overall, great sound, and if mono is the goal the CUW-180 is not the mic. The CUW-180 is a great on location stereo mic where stereo image can be changed instantly, not to mention space savings on the road and handling.

      Hope this helps!

      1. Thanks for the reply!

        I should mention that audio engineering isn’t my primary trade but rather game development and as an independent developer, we often wear many hats; sound design being among them.

        I already own a Tascam DR-100 MKII recorder which is a nice unit but I’ve been wanting to step up my game for better quality audio. In fact, one of the reasons why I purchased the Tascam was because it can supply phantom power for external mics. As such, the MKH-416 will be my very first microphone. Thank you for confirming for me that the MKH-416 is the correct purchase.

        One other area of concern is the pre-amp. While the Tascam’s pre-amp is serviceable, I’ve been told I can get much better quality recordings with a dedicated pre-amp attached to the Tascam. I know the Sound Devices 722 in your blog article is highly rated but at the moment, $2000+ is beyond my budget. It is also worth pointing out that the 722 has been discontinued and is no longer being sold by retailers such as B&H Photo. Do you have any recommendations for a dedicated pre-amp unit?

        Thanks again!

        1. Hello Boeman,

          Game development must be a very interesting industry to be in. What kind of Games do you develop?

          I am glad we could help with your decision for the microphone!

          As for the pre-amp, we would suggest still looking at the Sound Devices line. We consulted our sound engineers with your question, and the MM-1 is what they suggested. It is at a much lower price point, and you get great quality for your money.

          Hopefully this will help you with your search!

  2. Sorry for the delayed reply!

    We currently develop strategic building simulation games in a play style similar to Sim City.

    As you might well imagine, we will be recording a lot of vehicles, mainly large tracked units for construction like back hoes and bulldozers as well as mixers and Mac trucks along with other civilian vehicles.

    We plan to scheduling recordings on a construction site with the MKH-416 on a suction cup attached to the side of the driver’s door on a few of the vehicles like pickup trucks.

    As you can imagine, there will be lots of dust and dirt kicked up during the recording sessions. Maybe maintenance and protection for audio gear might be ideal for your next blog.

    Thanks again for the help!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *