Earlier this year I spent a month travelling around Western Europe in a motorhome with my other half, and being the avid sound geek that I am I wanted to capture ambient sounds of some of the places that we visited along the way. I knew that space was going to be a bit of an issue in the motorhome, so I decided to look into taking along something small, inexpensive (that I wouldn’t mind so much if it got lost/stolen/damaged) and extremely portable that I could chuck into a backpack and take with me wherever we went and use to make recordings on the go.
I did a bit of research and decided to buy a Tascam iM2, a small device that plugs straight into my iPhone, something that I already had planned to take along. The Tascam iM2’s microphones, are arranged in an AB pattern and can make stereo recordings of up to 48 kHz and 16 bit. I used the iM2 in conjunction with the Rode Rec app, an app designed specifically for creating and editing field recordings.
One issue that I quickly came across whilst testing the iM2 before I headed off was that, as expected, it has a pretty low tolerance to wind, and as recording outside was one of the main things that I wanted to do with it, I decided to go about creating a homemade dead kitten. Below is a photo of the final product that I created out of some faux fur which I sewed together and then filled with some packing foam that I had shaped so that it fitted the iM2 perfectly. In use it was a vast improvement and it is definitely something I’d recommend making for anybody wanting to do any sort of outdoor recording with an iM2 or a similar device.
I used the Rode Rec App in conjunction with the iM2, and I found it to be surprisingly usable. It is a lot more user friendly than any field recorder I have used and without a doubt in my opinion its the best field recording app that is currently available on the App Store. Being able to easily rename and add geotags to recordings as well as creating thumbnail photos for them is very useful, as is the ability to back recordings up to either Dropbox, Soundcloud or to email them to yourself directly. I found processes such as trimming, normalising, and EQ’ing recordings all very painless and were things that I found myself experimenting with a lot, much to my other half's annoyance.
Below are a few short snippets of some of the recordings that I made in Europe using the Tascam iM2 along with short descriptions of where they are. Only minor processing has been done on each recording so you can get a pretty good idea for how the microphone sounds.
Beach, Coast Of Cavallino, Nr Venice, Italy
We camped a stones throw away from Venice on the coast of Cavallino for a couple of nights and were lucky enough to have this beach on our doorstep (or whatever it’s called in a motorhome). It was very busy in the day time, full of other badly sun burnt Brits and questionable gentlemen selling "genuine" Rolex watches for a few Euros, but in the evening it was pretty quiet and had a great restaurant on the edge of the beach where we had some incredible pizza.
Lake Garda, Sirmione, Italy
We spent a couple of days on the edge of Lake Garda, near a small town called Sirmione. It was my favourite place that we stayed the whole trip, in no small part because of the view we had over the lake which was incredible, but the fact that supplies of pizza and gelato ice cream were both delicious and plentiful were probably contributing factors too.
Cicadas, Nr Piazzale Michaelangelo, Florence, Italy
This recording was made a short distance from the Piazzale Michaelangelo in Florence, at about 2 in the afternoon on one of the hottest days. The view of Florence from the Piazzale Michaelangelo was incredible, well worth the trek up the never ending, near-vertical stairs that we had to climb in order to get there. The iM2 didn’t pick up the ambience from up there too well unfortunately as it was pretty quiet, but I wanted to get something from there anyway, so I settled on this recording of some noisy cicadas sitting in a tree nearby instead.s
Thunderstorm, Figline Valdarno, nr Florence, Italy
I recorded this when we were staying a short distance away from Florence, at a campsite in a small town called Figline Valdarno. The storms happened almost daily in Italy while we were there, usually for about an hour any time between 2pm and 4pm. The sun would always come straight out afterwards though so the storms didn’t do much to disrupt our routine of swimming and eating gelato and/or pizza by the pool when we weren’t out exploring.
Metro (Onboard), Amsterdam, Netherlands
This recording was made on a short journey on the Metro in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. I thought that the high-pitched tones that kick in when the metro starts travelling at higher speeds sounded pretty cool, and I might use this recording as reference material if I ever need to create audio for any futuristic sci-fi type vehicles. I was hoping to get an ambience recording of somewhere in the red light district, but after seeing some of the rather huge door men, I thought it was probably best to keep my phone in my pocket in case they thought I was trying to take photos of some of the working ladies. Apparently that’s frowned upon.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with most of the recordings that I made while I was away. The Tascam iM2 I’ve found to be a surprisingly capable device. Whereas obviously I wouldn’t recommend it as a replacement for a primary field recorder, its quality is good enough for capturing the odd spontaneous sound effect/ambience and its portability and ease of use means that I now take it with me everywhere. I would say that after spending a fair amount of time with it, the things to be weary of are that while it doesn't have the widest of stereo images, it does have a tendency to pick up rumble if you're not careful and it can struggle with recording very quiet sounds. However, I was still surprised with the quality of the recordings that it produced, some of which are very useable.
With the Rode Rec app, there are definitely some features that I feel are missing, being able to organise recordings into folders would be great and being able to see the thumbnail photos of each of your recordings on the main recordings page to help differentiate between them would also b euseful, especially as you can’t actually see the full name of a recording unless you open it. Overall though I was extremely happy with the Rode Rec app, it was well worth the £3.99 that I paid for it and in my humble opinion it’s currently the best field recording app on the App Store.
As for the trip itself, it was incredible, I’d recommend to anybody to try something like it at least once in your life. As this is my audio blog I deliberately haven’t gone into too much detail about where we went and what we got up to and I won’t be posting any photos here either, I’ll be saving that for social media, but take my word for it that it was well worth every penny that we spent and I cannot overstate how much fun we had. .