Week 1 - My first field recording rig (that's not just my handheld recorder)

A few months ago I decided I wanted to up my field recording gear to a better level than just taking my Sony PCM M10 hand recorder out on its lonesome. So I started doing a lot of research, asked questions, used my judgment, and ended up deciding on purchasing a Sennheiser MKH 8060 shotgun microphone, a Sound Devices Mixpre-D field mixer, a Rode Blimp microphone protector, and a KATA 3n1-33 DL modular backback to carry it all.

The idea behind the gear (gear which I plan on expanding as time goes) was to capture specific sounds out in the field in an isolated manner, which was something I felt was lacking from my M10 a lot of the time. I also planned to use it to capture some foley and monster vocals indoors with a cleaner, more focused signal than what the M10 was giving me.

The journey to the gear started with the Sennheirser MKH 8060, which I hesitated on whether to buy used or new. I found a pretty good deal on Ebay, but it was missing a couple of its accessories and the warranty. My hesitation was completely cleared when I found out Sweetwater was offering 24 month 0% interest financing, which made the mic come out to be about 50 dollars a month after my friendly Sweetwater rep knocked a small chunk off the original price. That led to me also getting a new Mixpre-D from them with the same financing deal, at 30 dollars a month.

I was lucky that my birthday was coming soon, which meant that Jane (my fiance) would get me the Rode Blimp and the KATA backpack as early birthday presents (she's pretty great).

The first bump in the road came in the form of a defective Mixpre-D. The headphone knob was acting weird, and my suspicions were confirmed when I realized that pressing it didn't activate the blue LED that's supposed to signal that the RETURN is active. I contacted Sound Devices and a really nice man by the name of Danny Greenwald emailed with me back and forth trying to troubleshoot the issue, until he finally came to the conclusion that yes, the device was actually defective. He gave me the option to send it in for repair but I opted to return it to Sweetwater for a new one instead. Sweetwater barely asked any questions and shipped me a new one right away, as long as I returned the defective one. Within 4 days I had my new one come in, which I tested to my happiness and satisfaction! Great customer support from both companies, for sure.

After dealing with that, my Rode Blimp came in, which thankfully seemed to be in perfect working order, and fit my Sennheiser MKH 8060 great.

By the way, the Mixpre-D uses batteries fairly fast. I believe two AA batteries will power it for roughly 4 hours, so it's definitely a good idea to invest in some rechargeable batteries. I went with some Eneloops and bought a Powerex recharging station, both from Amazon.

Next up, the KATA backpack. It's advertised as a photographer's backpack, but I found a blog by a field recordist who really likes it for carrying audio gear, so I went with it. It costs about 75 dollars, which compared to all the pro level custom audio bags out there which seem to start at 150 minimum, is actually a lot cheaper. It's a really nice high quality backpack that comes with a bunch of velcro modular cushions that you can arrange into your own personal maze inside the main body of the bag. I decided to remove all of those since I was going to need the majority of that space to fit my Rode Blimp, along the rest of the goodies. By default, the bag comes with a shelf-style pocket nested at the top, good for carrying certain things, pictured here:


But if you need more overall room, you can unzip it and strap it to the side, opening up the main body from top to bottom, like this:


The main body opens from either side, all through the bottom, and then onto the other side. Here is one of the sides open, showing the guts of the bag:


And here is a rough look into how it fits all the main components of the rig:


I'll end up using some of the modular cushions to isolate some of those pieces from each other so they don't bump around. It's also really cool that the straps in the back are modular too, which lets you carry it either as a normal, 2-strap backpack; a criss-cross around the back backpack, or it lets you unhook and hide away one of the straps, making it so just one strap goes across your chest, which also lets you swing the bag around and to the front if you ever have the need:


Now I'm trying to look for a smaller pouch/messenger type bag that I can throw the Mixpre-D and the M10 into, for whenever I want to walk around with them and record. On my next blog I'll talk about how to properly connect and calibrate the M10 to the Mixpre-D to be ready to record at proper levels!