The Multichannel Field Recorder You Can Build Right Now

Field recorders, or backpackable audio recorders with a few XLR jacks and an SD card slot, are a niche device, and no matter what commercial field recorder you choose you’ll always compromise on what features you want versus what features you’ll get. [Ben Biles] didn’t feel like compromising so he built his own multichannel audio DSP field recorder. It has a four channel balanced master outputs, with two stereo headphone outputs, eight or more inputs, digital I/O, and enough routing for multitrack recording.

Mechanically, the design of the system is a 3D printed box studded on every side with various connectors and patch points. This is what you get when you want a lot of I/O, and yep, those are panel mount connectors so get ready to pony up on the price of your connectors. The analog front end is a backplane sort of thing on a piece of perfboard, containing an eight channel differential I/O.

Of course any audio recorder is awful to use unless there’s a great user interface, and for that you can’t get any better than a high-resolution touchscreen on a phone. This led [Ben] to use Bluetooth to connect to an app showing the gain, levels, a toggle for phantom power, and a checkbox for line or microphone. If that’s not enough there are also some MIDI knobs for volume, because MIDI is still great for user input. It’s everything you want in a portable recording rig, and yes, there is a soundcloud demo. You can also check out a demo video below.

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DIY EMG Uses An Audio Recorder

[Ericdsc] is looking to capture the electrical impulses of his muscles by using an EMG. He went through several prototypes to find the right recipe for sensors to pick up the electrical signal through his skin. Above you can see the version that worked best. Each sensor is made starting with a piece of duct tape and laying out a patch of stripped wire on it. A 5cmx1xm piece of aluminum foil then covers this, and second smaller piece of foil covers the cable’s shielding (not pictured here). This will stick to your skin to hold the sensor in place after applying a dab of sugar syrup to help make a good electrical connection.

In this case, an audio recorder is taking the measurements. [Ericdsc] had been having trouble sleeping and wanted to find out if he’s restless in bed. The audio recorder can log hours of data from the sensors which he can later analyze on the computer. Of course, it wouldn’t be hard to build your own amplifier circuit and process the signals in real-time. Maybe you want to convert that mind-controlled Pong game over to use abdominal control. You’ll have a six-pack in no time.

Record Sound Without A Microcontroller

For his A-level electronic course work, [Andrew] decided to build a digital sound recorder that doesn’t use a microcontroller.

[Andrew]’s build captures audio from an on board microphone at 8000 samples/second. The audio is digitized into 8-bit sound data and sent to an SRAM. The recording and playback functions are controlled entirely by 4000-series logic chips. He admits the sound quality is pretty poor; this is mostly due to the 8kHz sample rate. In some circles, though, a terrible sample rate is seen as being pretty cool so we’re not going to say [Andrew]’s build is useless.

There’s some pretty smart design choices in [Andrew]’s build, like a cut off filter on the microphone set at 4000 Hz (the Nyquist frequency of his system).  For the recording medium, he used an SRAM that can hold about half a megabyte of data. At 8000 samples/second,  [Andrew]’s build can store a little more than 60 seconds of audio. The build may not be a logic chip computer, but there’s not any question in our mind that [Andrew] learned something. Check out [Andrew]’s 66-page coursework report here (PDF warning).

Back From Belize Extra

Yesterday, I was standing on a tropical island off the coast of Belize. Vacation rocked with lots of SCUBA diving, spearfishing and snorkeling. I’m back home, shaking off the jet lag and clearing up my inbox. Thanks to [fabienne] for filling in and letting me unplug for a while!

[Darkrom] has set a new standard for Hack-A-Day readers… I haven’t seen it in person, but that looks like a legit Hack-A-Day tattoo.

[null] sent in a new use for a frequency generator, a spare car amp, a sub-woofer and a plastic coffee can – brass cartridge polishing.

[LoopyMind] sent in this Game Boy Advanced Movie Player IDE hack. It’s pretty much a direct CF to laptop drive cable with an external battery supply.

[Dingolishious] sent in a POE UPS/remote power control solution. Could be handy if you’re using many POE devices, or if you’re having power issues. He added an inexpensive remote power monitor/switch solution behind his UPS. It senses power outages and kicks out an email – and allows remote power cycling of his POE devices. Of course, if you’ve got a linux box behind the UPS, it can monitor the output from the UPS and send notifications.

[William] added a preamp stage to his iKEY usb recorder. looks like an interesting toy – it’ll record audio directly to a USB flash key. The pre-amp allows him to record in more challenging environments.

[Andrew] noted a simple mod to increase the deadly fire power of the ubiquitous airsoft pellet gun. It’s just a matter of reducing some extra space in the spring compression area.

Last but not least, [VIPER] modded his projector to use a 12v halogen headlight bulb. Not a bad idea – at one point I was pondering a 550 watt source four halogen as a possible replacement.