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Best settings to record bird song

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Old Saturday 16th June 2018, 09:27   #1
Louis_P
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Best settings to record bird song

Hello everyone I have connected up a microphone to my Raspberry Pi computer and was wondering what the best recording settings are for bird song. Here are my questions:

1. Is mono or stereo best (guessing stereo)
2. What is the best sampling rate (khz)?
3. What bit depth is best (I heard 21 bit is best and anything higher just has a higher signal to noise ratio)?

Thanks for any help,
Louis P
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Old Sunday 17th June 2018, 10:58   #2
iveljay
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A lot depends on what you intend to do with the recording and the quality of the analogue side of your kit. However that said you should take a look at the options available on the DR05 for example.

Recording/playback format
WAV: 44.1/48/96 kHz, 16/24-bit
MP3: 44.1/48 kHz, 32/64/96/128/192/256/320 kbps
Number of channels
2 channels (stereo)


These days we are used to listening with both ears, even though most mics are mono it is more comfortable to listen to it as if it were stereo.

One thing that can be important is your ability to interchange your recorded birdsong with other people. If you stick to the options available on the DR05 I have included above, then most people should have no difficulty with at least playing it back on their computer.

If its just for you then you can do what you like, in which case experiment to see what works best for you - you don't need to wait for real birds initially - you can record anything if you are simply judging recording for getting an acceptable signal to noise ratio for your particular setup.

Remember higher sampling rates etc = larger files, which is why I converted my original high quality WAV file down to a lower sampling rate compressed MP3 file so that I could download it to this forum. Appx 38 Mb down to 1 Mb in round figures.

If you have access to a Windows computer then downloading Audacity (which is free and pretty much on everyones computer) will allow you to get a lot more out of your recordings.

I'm afraid that this is fairly general in tone as, while I know what a Raspberry Pi is, I don't know much more about it and personally had enough of soldering together vast numbers of components in the 1970s to have a working computer with about 256 bytes of available storage, so havn't been motivated to get one myself, but completely understand why you have. 256 bytes may not seem a lot, but manually loading each location via a hex keypad with Z80 op codes was a bit labour intensive and then I trebled my memory size....

Have fun.
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Old Monday 18th June 2018, 06:54   #3
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Thanks for the detailed answer. I have tested my current kit and as I kinda expected it didn't work. However, I am considering getting this (https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/222966090...m=222966090855) instead and wiring the mic up to my Pi.
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Old Monday 18th June 2018, 09:35   #4
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If would not use the Raspberry Pi as it not easily configured to produce good field recordings unless you commit a lot of time to programming and the purchase of additional hardware.
Please check out the Bird Sound Recording section of this forum which contains lots of information on what you will need to start bird song recordings.
I suggest starting of with the recorder functionality in your mobile phone or a dedicated sound recorder such as the Zoom or Tascam models. Once you have a recorder that you are happy with, you can then add a suitable microphone.
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Old Monday 18th June 2018, 14:46   #5
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In the end I may buying a Tascam DR05 of ebay and the parabolic mic and then try out a Pi in the future. The coding is not that complicated. Add this (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Audio-Injec.../dp/B075V1VNDD) high quality audio board for just 12.50, plug in the mic, add a button and then you can record high quality wav files on the push of the button with the arecord command. Also, with this command I can change the settings of the microphone easily. Put all this in a python file and add a power banks and your audio recorder is made (sorry if this sounds like gobbledegook for some).
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Old Monday 18th June 2018, 22:57   #6
iveljay
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At first glance it seems good value for a parabolic microphone, certainly better than the child toy variety that seems to be advertised everywhere.

I suppose a lot depends on whether your main interest is whether you are out to learn how to develop the Raspberry Pi into functional items or just record birdsound. Speaking as one who has rebuilt everything from cars to cameras, doing things the easy way does have its attractions, but is not necessarily as much fun. Certainly I learnt a lot from my homebuilt computers.

Still - audio recording has its frustrations which ever way you do it and there is nothing to stop you doing both as you suggest. I have a soft spot for Tascam, having recorders from the DR05 up to a 32 track monster, especially as most of my other favourites have been discontinued.

Just remember - that if you use a directional sound collecting design like a parabolic, that small headphones or earphones are vital to make sure you are pointing it to pick up the best signal. The fact that you are getting a good signal on the meter doesn't mean to say you are recording what you expect, I once discovered that I was accidentally picking up a couple who were having a furious argument - who were completely inaudible from where I was standing.

Last edited by iveljay : Monday 18th June 2018 at 23:14.
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Old Tuesday 19th June 2018, 00:38   #7
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Thanks for the help again. I am looking at buying the DR05 or DR40 and am watching a few on Ebay. I already have some earphones that should be suitable.
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Old Tuesday 19th June 2018, 11:09   #8
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Perhaps unsurprisingly the first Tascam I bought was a DR40. Its still around. Its bigger, heavier and obviously a lot more capable than the DR05, both are straightforward and the DR40 has run faultlessly over 5 years.

The Tascam website is really useful and has lots of info.

Firmware updates for the DR40 up to V1.1 sorted out some of the handling quirks and are good to have, updates to V2.1 were fairly useful but not essential unless you really feel the need for really huge amounts of SDXC storage, after V2.1 they are merely additional languages for the menu.

My DR05 bought this year was up to date so is unchanged.

Most folks happily never bother with firmware changes as the recorders were useable with whatever they came with. Just make sure that if you do any firmware changes you use brand new batteries as any glitches during an upgrade kill the machine pretty permanently.
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Old Tuesday 19th June 2018, 11:27   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Louis_P View Post
In the end I may buying a Tascam DR05 of ebay and the parabolic mic and then try out a Pi in the future. The coding is not that complicated. Add this (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Audio-Injec.../dp/B075V1VNDD) high quality audio board for just 12.50, plug in the mic, add a button and then you can record high quality wav files on the push of the button with the arecord command. Also, with this command I can change the settings of the microphone easily. Put all this in a python file and add a power banks and your audio recorder is made (sorry if this sounds like gobbledegook for some).
Hm. The most challenging part, and the main reason why some recorders can cost wll above 500, can be the microphone preamplifier.

I don't doubt it will be fun to design a good microphone preamplifier. And you might end up making some money as well, good preamplifiers are in high demand.
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Old Tuesday 19th June 2018, 11:31   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iveljay View Post
Still - audio recording has its frustrations which ever way you do it and there is nothing to stop you doing both as you suggest. I have a soft spot for Tascam, having recorders from the DR05 up to a 32 track monster, especially as most of my other favourites have been discontinued.
Tascam has very good equipment indeed. Moreover, they have a healthy attitude regarding old hardware. I own an old US-2500 control surface and despite being discontinued they still have documentation available on their website.

The latest DSLR recorders they have released (DR-60, etc) are briliant.

The market has got very interesting however. Zoom released two recorders (F4 and F8) to launch an assault at the film production market with breakthrough prices, and Sound Devices has followed suit with the MixPre series.

Interesting times, suddenly preamps with dB gains the 70's and noise levels around -130 dB have become affordable (or at least not prohibitive!)
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Old Tuesday 19th June 2018, 14:43   #11
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After more research I have found out the Pi add on board only supports phono line in and electret microphones although I read it could be hacked to use 3.5mm jack. However, there are some high quality electret microphones out there to use. Not really my idea to make money but it is definitely a good idea to sell a few kits on Ebay if it is successful.
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Old Tuesday 19th June 2018, 16:47   #12
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I am quite surprised someone hasn't tried to make a portable recorder for birdwatching with a Pi before. There has been attempts at normal portable recorders with a Pi but I have heard of none completed.
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Old Tuesday 19th June 2018, 17:40   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Louis_P View Post
I am quite surprised someone hasn't tried to make a portable recorder for birdwatching with a Pi before. There has been attempts at normal portable recorders with a Pi but I have heard of none completed.
Making a good recorder is much more challenging than it seems. That's why the good ones command high prices :)

The challenges are many. Mechanical, powering, analog circuitry...
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Old Tuesday 19th June 2018, 19:32   #14
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I can imagine it is hard but a no one has even completed a simple one with a Pi as far as I know. It would take ages to custom design a 3D printable, laser cut case or injection moulded case, design custom circuit boards, get components, code it, put it all together and troubleshoot it, if you were trying to make a professional recorder. However, I will still try by keeping it simple using a case made from whatever I can find, use prototyping boards, use simple components and use simple python code which I can always add to. I will documents my progress but it will be a few months until I can afford all the basic equipment I need, after recently buying a new Zeiss Gavia scope.
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Old Wednesday 20th June 2018, 06:32   #15
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Originally Posted by Louis_P View Post
I can imagine it is hard but a no one has even completed a simple one with a Pi as far as I know. It would take ages to custom design a 3D printable, laser cut case or injection moulded case, design custom circuit boards, get components, code it, put it all together and troubleshoot it, if you were trying to make a professional recorder. However, I will still try by keeping it simple using a case made from whatever I can find, use prototyping boards, use simple components and use simple python code which I can always add to. I will documents my progress but it will be a few months until I can afford all the basic equipment I need, after recently buying a new Zeiss Gavia scope.
You will have fun, that's for sure. How are you planning to power it?
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Old Wednesday 20th June 2018, 15:36   #16
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Two aa batteries and a booster but eventually the plan would be to use a 3.7V lipo battery with a booster and charger built in.
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Old Thursday 21st June 2018, 07:18   #17
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Two aa batteries and a booster but eventually the plan would be to use a 3.7V lipo battery with a booster and charger built in.
I haven't measured the power consumption of a Pi but I guess it will be a challenge.
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Old Thursday 21st June 2018, 14:34   #18
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A Pi needs 5V so a booster would be needed for both these options. The batteries will probably need to be bigger or more numerous than a standard recorder due to this and will probably use around 300 mA.

Last edited by Louis_P : Thursday 21st June 2018 at 15:31.
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Old Thursday 21st June 2018, 18:52   #19
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Louis, have you seen this project https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wi...041-210X.12678
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Old Thursday 21st June 2018, 22:29   #20
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Wow! I havent seen it before. Unfortunately it is too bulky as I want a recorder I can place in my pocket, most importantly though the add on board used is not available anymore. Thanks for bringing this project to my attention though!
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Old Monday 16th July 2018, 00:19   #21
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Project update

I have been doing loads of research about making a Pi Portable Recorder and I am definitely still going to make one. Any updates will be found here - https://hackaday.io/project/159744-pi-portable-recorder. Please note this project is very much in its early stages but it is definitely possible and suggested types of preamp and Pi add on boards have been discussed here - https://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/v...?f=38&t=216911
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Old Monday 16th July 2018, 15:42   #22
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Louis,

IMHO here is almost no reason for recording birds in stereo. He bird's voice is mono and it leaves the bird's head directly from that tiny source called bill. Of course you can and have to listen to the recording with your two ears later, but there is neither a reason nor an advantage to do this with a stereo sound file.

But: Mono sound files mean half the size. That means you can raise the bit depth and sample rate without the need of larger stioage capacities.

Cheers!
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Old Monday 16th July 2018, 15:57   #23
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Okay thanks for the help. I was going on what was said in the first reply of this thread. Using mono would make it a lot easier to use a add on board and preamp. Also, good point with them being half the size. This would be make it easier for the small processor of the Pi Zero to write the audio to the SD card and could even allow the battery to last longer (less power for microphones, preamps and the Pi Zero).

I had a good idea for the preamp. I can add a digital potentiometer and easily control the gain of the preamp from the Pi. The plan is to use this (http://www.zen22142.zen.co.uk/Circui.../lf071_mic.htm) preamp and to use a NE5534 chip or possibly the TL071 if I use a 7.2V battery to power everything (using a buck down converter for the Pi).

Thanks,
LouisP

Last edited by Louis_P : Monday 16th July 2018 at 16:00.
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Old Tuesday 13th November 2018, 15:45   #24
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Update on this project - I have started to work on this a lot more. I have researched screens, audio chips etc. and have started to order components. I am now looking to buy the electret mic for the recorder. I have heard the EM172 is very good but works best with voltages around 5V. I am looking for an electret capsule which works well around 2.6V (actually 2.575V). Is the EM172 still good enough at this voltage or can anyone recommend a suitable replacement?

Thanks,
Louis P

Edit - I know the micbooster website (where Primo EM172) recommends to use 3V I swear I read somewhere 5V is better. It also says the capsules work from 2V so maybe the best way is just to try it and see how good my recordings are. Just need to assemble my boards first and buy a few more components.

Last edited by Louis_P : Tuesday 13th November 2018 at 15:59.
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