A potential client recently asked me to try and record in a retail store.  That kind of recording presents a unique set of challenges.  Retail stores don’t take kindly to recordists walking in with a huge zeppelin, lots of recording gear, cables, and there are corporate policies blah blah blah . . . . .  In order to pull off recording ambience in a place like that discretion and the ability to conceal one’s recording equipment is essential.  It has been a while since I have done any stealth recording and I wanted to put together a test run.

Normally I record with a Schoeps MS rig and a Sound Devices 744T, but you can’t hide those things under your coat and expect folks not to notice.  My “stealth” rig consists of a beautiful knit winter hat that my wife made, a pair of DPA 4060s, a jacket, and the Zoom H4 recorder.  Their recorder is a piece of junk compared to the Sound Devices unit, but when you need a small recorder that has xlr inputs and can fit in your pocket it’s not a bad option.

When lunch rolled around my buddy Rob helped me get setup.  We fed the tiny mic capsules through the fine knitting work of my wife, and ran the cables past my ears and down the back of my neck.  All the cables and recorder were concealed by my jacket.

The recording is a time compressed version of my lunch.  I went to a sandwich place that was rocking The Clash pretty hard while they made my roast beef sandwich.  Unfortunately, someone’s phone got a little close to my mics and you can make out a little bit of cell phone interference bleeding through within the first minute.  Once I left the shop I sat down in an indoor commissary area and recorded some ambience.

Can you find the mics?

All in all I think it was a pretty solid test.  I had to be careful not to move my head too quickly as it might unnaturally shift the stereo image.  The DPA connectors are also a bit delicate so you have to give yourself enough slack so you can move around without straining either the cable or the connector.  The setup feels a bit awkward when walking around, but that is not an issue when you’re sitting down.  Just look natural!


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  1. I trust that you and Rob, not being able to discuss the finer points of your roast beef sandwiches, had a pleasant lunch gazing at one another. Is that mayo or mustard I’m hearing?

    Great setup. The Zoom H4 is a nice, sturdy utility recorder. Picks up a lot of handling noise if you’re not careful.

    1. Roast beef on wheat with mayo, lettuce, and onions. Tasty. It would be much better with horseradish, but that place doesn’t seem to have it.

Michael Raphael February 19, 2009