HHB FlashMic DRM85

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  • Editors' rating
    8.5 Excellent

Pros

  • Broadcast-quality recordings
  • Easy to use
  • USB interface
  • Headphone jack with volume control
  • Extensive settings

Cons

  • Not the cheapest digital recorder on the market

It’s amazing nobody has thought of this before. HHB Communications’ FlashMic DRM85 is the world’s first professional digital recording microphone. It combines a high-quality Sennheiser omnidirectional condenser capsule with 1GB of built-in flash recording memory (18 hours recording time, depending on compression) to create a convenient and durable portable recording device that’s easy to operate and captures great-quality audio. This makes the microphone ideal for voice recording applications — broadcast and press interviewing in particular, as well as podcasts.

Don’t worry if you’re a technophobe. Because the FlashMic DRM85 doesn’t need fiddly cables or connectors, you can be recording almost instantly with just a single button-push. The FlashMic DRM85 records WAV linear or MPEG-2 encoded audio files, which can then be transferred quickly and easily via USB to Macintosh or Windows computers for editing and onward transmission. A Date/Time stamp is stored along with the file, with the internal real-time clock set and synchronised automatically by your host computer. There’s even a line-out port and volume dial to listen to captured audio directly, should you want to check your recording before processing.

The FlashMic is powered for around 6 hours by a pair of standard AA batteries (either primary or rechargeable cells can be fitted), with the remaining battery power displayed along with time, level and status information in a backlit LCD on the microphone body. In addition, a visual low battery warning alerts you to the imminent need to change batteries. The microphone can be operated straight out of the box using default settings, or you can create and store nine custom configurations using the bundled software.

The FlashMic Manager utility lets you view and edit the configuration parameters of the FlashMic. FlashMic Manager is an executable file which creates presets to set/reset/assign audio parameters, sample rate (48, 44.1, 32kHz), bit rate (768, 705.6, 512, 192, 160, 128Kbps), battery type, backlight (on/off/powersave), RTC, file info and filter configuration parameters. It also downloads the audio data from the FlashMic to the specified path on your computer.

Parameters including audio mode, AGC (automatic gain control) On/Off, record level, and HPF (high pass filter) On/Off can be individually adjusted to create the optimum configurations for typical applications. In addition, an 'Expert Mode' allows all variable parameters to be accessed directly from the FlashMic body. Another neat feature is its 10-second pre-recording buffer. This constantly records audio in 10-second bites, so that if you hit the record button too late, the microphone still captures the sound going back 10 seconds. You can even add cue points and markers on the fly, allowing you to go to those audio highlights immediately when you hit the edit suite.

With a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz and less than 0.1 percent total harmonic distortion at 16-bit/48kHz, the FlashMic makes recordings of the very highest quality — perhaps not quite what it would be with the same capsule combined with a good studio mic preamp. I’ve been using it for weeks to create podcasts and have yet to be disappointed with any recordings — both in one-to-one interviews and large press events. The FlashMic is even good for recording instruments, should you want to get your money’s worth when work's over.

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But the greatest benefit of the FlashMic is you don’t have to choose between a consumer device or a professional recorder and separate microphone. Combining a high-quality microphone and recorder in a single, familiar, easy-to-use system that stores the audio in easily transferable, industry-standard formats — and with no removable media to worry about — is a real boon. Transferring audio to your computer is also straightforward thanks to the USB port and supplied cable, allowing you to drag and drop files onto your computer for playback or editing.

To criticise, we're surprised there's no wireless option (or, at least, a timecode option). Of course, this would complicate the product, possibly making it too difficult for some to operate. It would also increase the cost. The battery status on the LCD can be a little erratic too - one minute it’ll have three bars and the next it’ll be clinging onto life. Nevertheless, if you have a need to make professional-sounding recordings either in your office or on the road, the FlashMic should be at the top of your list - if you have the budget.

 

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