For this experiment, I used my Zoom H2n in its omnidirectional stereo setting to record sound in each different environment.
First, I recorded the outside environment:
It isn’t every day that I have the opportunity to sit and try to individually listen to each different soundscape that is happening around me, and to be conscious of each different layer of sound present in the environment in which we live. For this experiment, I sat on the steps of an apartment building on 12th St, off of 2nd Ave, and recorded for five minutes holding the recorder in my hand.
The first thing I noticed when listening was that New York City has a distinct roar, that sits behind all of the other sounds closer to your immediate vicinity. It sounds quite like the ocean, however it has much more low frequencies and has an unnatural overwhelming quality to it. The roar crescendos and decrescendos and occasionally, high frequency “wooshing“ seems to peak out over top of the dense mass of sound.
While I sat on the steps of the apartment building, many people walked past me, their shoes tapping on the concrete and their clothing and personal affects jingling and clinking together as they walk. Many people were talking to each other, or to their cellphones as they walked down the sidewalk. The human voice is a predominantly mid frequency sound, although it has both high and low frequencies.
Cars also passed me, their engines a constant low frequency rumble in the distance on 2nd Ave. As they accelerate in front of me, their engines become higher pitched as they crescendo. Bikes also passed me; their gears make a high-pitched clicking sound as they move by. As a sound moves closer to me they seem to get higher pitched in frequency.
In the background, I could hear the hum of AC units and generators, however they seem to blur with the roar of the city in the background.
As I was sitting on the steps, two women passed me to go into their apartments. The door closing behind them created a very loud low-mid frequency sound as it slammed, in part due to its proximity to me, and due to their mild discomfort with my presence on their doorstep.
After listening to my recording of 12th Street, I notice that the sounds further away from me were more difficult to hear. I attribute this to the gain of the microphone, as I set its gain fairly low when I started recording. However, the sounds very close to me, like the door, and the people and cars directly in front of me appeared to be much louder than they did when I listened to them before having recorded.
Also the wind created a low frequency sound, as it hit the grill of my microphone, although I can’t hear the wind normally, it’s presence and motion were picked up by the microphone.
Recording in Frederick Lowe Theatre and my bathroom:
Whenever I hear recordings of my voice, I notice that I sound very different than I do inside my head. Besides that, the size of the rooms in which I recorded was immediately made clear in the recordings. It was easy to hear which room was the larger room, because of the reverb tails of each word that I spoke. The large room had more high frequency noise, and my voice sounded clearer and less muddy than it did in the bathroom. In the bathroom, my voice sounded very damp and muffled, I assume because of the more frequent reflections of the sounds because of the small size of the room.
In the theatre, I could hear the sounds of people walking through the lobby, which I did not notice when I was doing the recording. In the bathroom, I could hear the high frequency buzzing of the light above me, and the tapping of my finger on the bottom of my microphone.
Overall, it is clear to see that microphones do not pick up sound the same way that human hearing does, and there are many other factors that may influence the way a recording sounds, such as environment, gain and microphone placement.