Sound Effect Recording: Noise Floor vs. Stereo Image?


Good day!

I was wondering if anyone doing sound effect recording could help me with a bit of insight.

I’ve been doing music for a while now and I’m currently looking to get into Sound Effects.

For starters I wanted to get a budget (max 200$) All-in-One solution for field recording. I’ve read about a bunch of Portable Digital Recorders like the Zoom H4n, Roland R-05 and Sony PCM-M10.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that there’s almost always a compromise between Stereo Image and Noise levels, with the PCM-M10 having the lowest noise levels in the budget, but with arguably poor stereo image, and the Zooms being pretty noisy (by comparison), but with great stereo.

My question is:

In your experience, what matters more in Sound Effects recording? A great stereo image or low noise for those lighter sounds?

Thanks in advance for any input!


I’d say a lot of sound effects are recorded in mono to begin with (makes things easier to place). I think stereo recording can be useful for some ambient/larger/spaced sounds, but personally I’d lean more towards a lower noise floor.


Thanks a lot! Really appreciate the insight!


You don’t have to worry a lot about noise because you always trim the effect afterwards (fade in, fade out) anyway.

An exception would be ambient sounds (bird tweets, whale song etc) but in most cases it’s not the equipment that matters most but rather the distance to the material and the room/outdoor acoustics.

I use a Zoom H2 for field recordings and it has never failed me. Stereo image is nice but optional and you can always fake it post rec with stereo imaging plugins or chorus effects.

Once you’ve recorded and trimmed, use EQ and compression to create a rich, vibrant sound and you’re done.



Thanks a lot for the reply!

I’ve ordered a Zoom H4n in the end because, as opposed to any alternatives like the Sony or Roland, it can be connected to the PC as a regular mic (something that I also really needed).

Incredibly handy feature which makes it perfectly clear why Zoom are the most popular models of this type of item.

Thanks again and all the best!