Field Recorders – Pt 1

Nature recording is a very difficult pursuit. Weather conditions are always a consideration. Then the ever present noise from trains-planes-automobiles always tends to happen just when something interesting is going on. And to that list add wind and water sounds. Our brains filter out those extra sounds when we are in the environment but on a recording they are very noticeable.

I am frequently asked what equipment I would recommend. I am certainly no expert but I have used a variety of recorders and can share my thoughts. So I will post a series of 4 articles, each dealing with a different priced recorder. I will not do much of a review, as that material has been thoroughly covered by others and you can follow the provided links.

New small digital recorders are coming onto the market all of the time. It is nearly impossible to keep up with all the new advances. Other than the quality of the sound, record time and battery life are of high importance in nature recording. This new recorder is very good on both of these aspects.

Field Recorders under $230.

A great new entry into the lower price range is the Sony PCM-M10‏.


The manufacturers websites:

Sony PCM-M10

The user’s manual can be found at:

Users Manual

Excellent reviews can be read at:


Brad Linder’s blog: Sony introduces PCM-M10 handheld pro audio recorder

Brad Linder’s blog: Sony PCM-M10 handheld audio recorder reviewed

Broadcast Engineering: In review: Sony’s PCM-M10 handheld digital recorder

Everything Audio Network: Home Recording Review! Sony PCM-M10

Sony PCM-M10:A palm-sized, professional recorder with full-sized performance.

Wingfield Audio: Sony PCM-M10 Review

Forums discussing this recorder are:

The Taperssection Forums

Sony PCM-M10 audio recorder

Sony PCM-M10 (Part 2)

There are several videos posted on YouTube:

Sony PCM-M10 – Summer NAMM ’09

NAMM ’10 – Sony PCM-M10 Recorder & Digital Wireless Rackmount Systems

Recording media:

4GB of internal flash memory.

An additional 16GB of memory can be added with a Memory Stick Microâ„¢ (M2â„¢) or microSDHC (FAT32) card.

Maximum recordable time – In any card not all of the stated capacity is available for data. Using the 16 gb card the record time in .wav at 44.1kHz 16bit CD quality mode should be nearly 25 hr. 20 min.


Using two Sony LR6 (SG) (size AA) alkaline batteries up to 46 hours.


I recorded this sound file while walking near Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery in Cook County, Illinois.

Bachelors Grove Howl

Conclusion – I think this is a very good recorder and gets researchers into a nice, reasonably priced unit that has great battery life and recording times. Early reviews state that it’s sound quality is excellent and the unit retains the best features of its bigger siblings the Sony PCM-D1 and PCM-D50 while adding the versatility of mp3.


– built-in microphones
– easy to use
– great sound
– great battery life
– great recording time
– reasonable price


– no xlr ports

9 Responses to “Field Recorders – Pt 1”

  1. Joyce Eicher says:

    Mr. Courtney, I recently purchased a Sony PCM M10, and have been experimenting with some of the different recording settings. Could you give me your recommendations for the appropriate settings I should use for an overnight recording session? I did purchase a 16g microSDHC card to increase the memory. Is it better to use the Auto or Manual recording setting? Does the 44.1kHz 16bit mode provide good sound and allow for the most recording time? As I have heard you say in some of the interviews concerning sound recording, the wind does cause a great deal of noise, is there any to decrease the wind noise? I know that’s a lot of questions, but I’m not very knowledgeable about recorders. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks Joyce.

  2. stancourtney says:

    Hi Joyce,

    I always use the Manual setting. Using the 44.1kHz 16bit mode and a 16g microSDHC card will give you 25 hrs of continuous recording. That is great CD quality. I generally do not have much of a problem with wind. I am very careful about placement to keep it down wind. You can also use a foam windscreen to help cut down on wind noise but I don't use any.


  3. Jill says:

    Hi Stan,

    Since this has been out for a few years now, do you think a 32gb or larger memory storage may be used?


  4. stancourtney says:

    Yes, the 32 gb works fine, I use that size in all my units and can get 26 days of continuous recording.

  5. Marie says:

    Hi Mr. Courtney,

    Could you please advise me if there is anyway of setting up the PCM-M10 recorder so that it turns off and on when it hears noises but doesn’t run continuosly? I know very little about the recorder and was under the assumption that it was sound activated and then I found out it isn’t. If possible, I would like to leave it out in the field for several weeks without having to listen to all that data. Is that possible? Thanks for your help.

  6. stancourtney says:

    No, the Sony M-10 has no voice activated settings. There are many great sounds that would never be picked up from that type of setting. Currently I am leaving my recorders out for 49 days / 7 weeks. I use a sound editor to scan through the files.

  7. Guy says:

    Stan, what is your recommended recorder settings for field recordings? I believe the LPCM (lossless) would allow for the most extensive analysis of a recording (spectral content). But, files are large for long recording sessions (overnight, or longer). Do you use MP3 320kbps at all? Curious to learn your thoughts on this with the Sony PCM M10.

  8. stancourtney says:


    Excellent question. Most people use the highest setting possible that allows you to still record the required length of time. For long term recording with the Sony PCM-M10 I use MP3 128kbps. But I am recording for 7 weeks at a time.

  9. Guy says:

    Thanks. So I plan to use with my telinga parabola in the field. Short recording times, so I may just go ahead with LPCM. But, do you lose that much wtih MP3 320kbps? The file sizes sure are smaller… Thanks!

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