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Equipment to Record a Loud Concert? October 22, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Podcast Audio Equipment, Technology.
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I got this question in an email:

For personal use only, I want to record rock bands that I see in clubs. I want something small that I can have on my body. I’d prefer to be able to use built-in microphones only but I’d be willing to do one external microphone if that would make a dramatic difference. I’m not looking for perfect recordings but I need something that would not distort at the high sound volumes. I just want to be able to later again listen to some incredible music performances that I witness in person. So, looking for recommendations from you for what would be appropriate.

Besides the obvious response of “you’re not allowed to record concerts” a mention of “copyright” and a warning that you could be fined if you try to do anything with the recording… here’s the scoop:

There are a bunch of great recorders out there that will do the trick. See:

The thing you have to do though, is use an external mic. Most built in microphones on recorders cannot handle the extremes of a concert (i.e. either very loud music and/or distance away from speakers and other people around talking/screaming).

If you want to do it right, I have a friend who swears by this little unit: Sony MZM200 HiMD Recorder, (add it to the list) but again, any recorder that you feel comfortable with that has a mic in will do. The important thing is the microphone.

Both omnidirectional and cardioid mics are capable of recording very loud music if you are close the speakers and not much is going on around you. If you’re back from the speakers, say 20 to 50+ feet, a cardioid would pick up less noise. If you will be even further back, 75+ feet, I’d go for a shotgun mic. I shotgun would be my pick for recording concerts… you can point it at the stage and be done with it.

I also know of people who carry a wireless mic around and clip it close to the sound source and walk away. The signal gets picked up by the mic and sent wirelessly to the recorder. When the speaker is done / concert is over, you go pick up the mic.

Whatever recorder or microphone you get, remember to always set the input levels yourself (don’t take the auto settings). Monitor the levels on the recorder to make sure it’s not getting overdriven or you’ll come out with a horrible recording. My advice is to set the levels at about 80% at the start of the concert and try not to touch it. Usually, a music set gets softer (which should be okay) and then louder… which would account for the other 20%. If you’re good with a mixer / editor afterward, then you can play with the levels between songs and normalize when you get home.

Hope this helps.

Comments»

1. Chris Church - February 10, 2008

Be sure to check out my ebay store Church Audio I make all kinds of mics for recording concerts.

2. Audio Equipment Speakers - February 15, 2009

Ok…I’m not sure I completely agree with someone recording a live performance…and they better watch out for security as I’m sure they will not like someone standing there with a mic for the whole concert. Now these were some great ideas about the mics to use.

3. kandy - May 13, 2010

Fantastic submit once again mate. I believe you’ve hit the nail about the head there. It does not ought to be challenging yet mose men and women fail to recognize the basics.

4. Chris Church - November 12, 2010

There are plenty of legitimate recordings of live concerts. For more information go to http://www.taperssection.com or church-audio.ca

5. Peter Skirrow - August 16, 2012

Take a look at the Lindos Electronics channel on Youtube for amazing sound using the Lindos Minisonic Mics (the Ipswich pub scene is an amazing demo of a loud live band just done to a camcorder with the right methods. Lindos do adaptors for many camcorders and also iPad or iPhone that take care of levels.

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