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Jonathan Mosen: [music] I’m Jonathan Mosen, and this is Mosen At Large the show that’s got the blind community talking. On the show this week, what constitutes literacy in a blindness context? Listeners have sent in some handy travel tips and Gary O’Donoghue reviews the Zoom F3 digital field recorder.
Singers: Mosen At Large podcast.
Jonathan: More responses coming in inspired by Episode 191, and our interview with NFB president Mark Riccobono starting off with this one from Everette Bacon who says, “Hi, Jonathan, I wanted to express some thoughts to you regarding your most recent podcast and your interview with Mark Riccobono. First of all, I appreciate your willingness to interview Mark, and I appreciate the time you put into crafting your topics and questions. I will admit that this is the first time I have ever listened to your podcast.
I would also state that I am the current elected secretary of the national board of directors, and I am an affiliate president for Utah. Mark is my president, and I am also proud to call him my friend, your approach to the interview struck me as somewhat adversarial. I felt that many of your questions came from the perspectives of detractors and naysayers of the NFB and our way we manage our organization.
I expected some questions along this line, but I did not expect for the majority of the interview to be this way. I was also disappointed in the lack of acknowledgment or even appreciation of the way Mark attempted to answer your questions. Mark is definitely capable of speaking for himself and speaking for the organization as a whole, I feel that in your research for this interview, you really attempted to bring about a ‘gotcha moment’, and I don’t feel you were always fair and impartial to Mark and the NFB.
I realized that the NFB does not lack for controversy amongst the blind community, but as Mark so eloquently stated, we do not attempt to defend ourselves and our organization by feeding the trolls. I think your attempt to get at whatever truths you wanted to bring about, ended up feeding those trolls. These are my opinions and I will stand by them. I do again thank you for the way you ended the interview by focusing on the most recent presidential report and allowing Mark to elaborate on some of our important efforts. I thank you for your time in reading this.” Wwell, thank you for writing in, Everett. I appreciate your email. Onto the next email now, and in Episode 191, we discussed the importance of Braille and NFB’s approach towards Braille, and we’ve got a follow-up email from last week’s discussion with Joe who says, “Thank you for giving so much time last week to my emails concerning your interview with Mark Riccobono. I respectfully take issue with your definition of literacy of a visually impaired person as the idea of one taking in the information directly without an intermediary, like a reader or talking computer.
When you are reading Braille, you are putting your finger on dots that were created by a computer that translates the text or print file into Braille and sends it to a Braille printer or Braille display. These devices that make these translations are no less than an intermediary than a talking computer or person reading aloud. Is it really worth splitting hairs here? Rather than using a pejorative like a literate to describe a person who doesn’t read Braille can’t we accept the facts that Braille doesn’t work for everyone?
A few years ago, I attended a cocktail party where the featured guest was the late Henry Grunwald who spent much of his career as the managing editor of Time magazine. At the event then Mr. Grunwald was in his late 70s and he talked about a book he had just written and his recent affliction with macular degeneration.
He said that the first half of the book was written out by him, but because of the macular degeneration, he dictated the second half. Jonathan, I ask you did Mr. Grunwald suddenly become illiterate when he composed the second half of his book? I think it would be offensive and disgraceful to say that Mr. Grunwald who spent his life writing died an illiterate man because he could not read and write Braille.
Every year, thousands of elderly people lose their ability to read due to macular degeneration or diabetes. These people are having a hard enough time adjusting to their new circumstances. Why make them feel even more isolated than they already do by calling them illiterate? I suggest that we remove the word illiterate from our vocabulary and substitute it with non-Braille user, just as we should stop using the word blind for ignorant.”
Thanks for writing in again, Joe. This is exactly what I predicted last week when I said it’s hard to have this conversation without offending people because some people choose to interpret the word illiterate as a pejorative. Whereas I don’t, I just simply use it as a fact. That doesn’t mean I think any less of anybody who doesn’t read or write, there can be many reasons why this has come about and age-related vision loss is probably the most common but not always. Sometimes it’s because kids in our schools were not given access to literacy at a critical time because they had sufficient sight even when the prognosis was that their site will deteriorate. That’s the only reason why I’m continuing with this discussion because if we don’t confront the literacy crisis and call it what it is, we risk harming the next generation of blind people.
This argument that somehow talking computers and talking books are sufficient won the day for a while, and there was a deterioration in the literacy of blind children over a period until blind people got their act together and said, enough is enough. The data are clear that 90% of Braille readers are employed so the unemployment rate among Braille readers is much closer to the general unemployment rate of the population compared with the unemployment of the blind community as a whole. It comes up sometimes, but thankfully we don’t hear the talking computers are making Braille obsolete argument as often as we once did. When we did, I used to say this too many blind people over the generations have been victims of a ghastly social experiment. We have been deemed so unworthy that our education has not been resourced properly.
Now we’ve talked a lot about the social consequences of attending schools for the blind and schools for the blind are largely out of fashion but what has happened is that as kids have started to go to the mainstream, there hasn’t been the necessary commensurate increase in resourcing of the literacy of blind children. The reason why I call this a social experiment is I say this to policy makers with whom I have this discussion. If it’s okay for blind kids not to be taught to read, to have machines that read to them or other people that read to them, why isn’t it okay for sighted kids to be given the same treatment? Why don’t we just stop teaching sighted kids to read altogether and get them to have their iPads speak to them and they can dictate their answers into their iPad and have them read them back? Let’s give everybody an iPad and then we don’t have to teach literacy at all.
Of course, understandably people throw up their hands in horror as they should. Literacy is the key to one of the most important doors that there is, and I will not shy away from constantly repeating that blind children are worthy. If it’s deemed essential for sighted children to be in front of literate teachers in the form of literacy that works for sighted people then blind people should always be in front of teachers who are literate in terms of blindness, and that is Braille. Anything less is making a determination that blind children are second-class children, and there’s no way I am accepting that. Braille is not a language, it’s a way of making language accessible. It doesn’t matter whether the language is coming on a Braille embosser or a print printer or a Braille display or a print monitor. The fact is that when it appears in whatever form that it does, a human is decoding that information and turning it into language.
For example, if I was not literate in Braille, given that I am blind and print illiterate, how would I be dealing with your email right now? Probably the only way I could do it would be to use text-to-speech and play the message, and you’d hear the text-to-speech engine reading it rather than me. Am I reading it? No, absolutely not. That would completely change the whole nature of this podcast. A text-to-speech engine is not going to have the level of inflection or speed up when that’s warranted, slow down when that’s warranted, convey the emotion of what’s being read.
Over the last few weeks, we have talked about among other things, abuse at schools for the blind, and some people have written in with their experiences. I have read them. Do you think that it would sound the same, that it would be nearly as impactful if the only choice I had were to let a text-to-speech engine rip and read that email? Absolutely not. It wouldn’t be as good. Sometimes when I’m reading an email, I may pause and insert my own comments. Sometimes to help the correspondent, sometimes to be a little bit frivolous and fun, for any number of reasons. I wouldn’t do that if I had a text-to-speech engine reading the thing, it wouldn’t be as easy. It wouldn’t flow the way it flows now. Me not being able to read would completely change the nature of this podcast for the worse.
Earlier this week, I delivered a speech of about 15 or 20 minutes in front of a large gathering of politicians and other people and I read that from Braille. If I couldn’t read it myself, I would have someone else read it to me or the politicians would sit there and have a computer read it to them. Is that the same? Absolutely it is not. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other ways to get the job done, of course, that may well work for the individual.
For example, I interviewed a news reader in Australia on FSCast when I was hosting that and the way that she worked was that she would hear eloquence speaking at just the right speed in her headphones when she was reciting a news bulletin. She would then repeat that back into the microphone and so as far as the audience were concerned, all they heard was somebody reciting the news. Is somebody reading the news in that situation? I don’t think they are, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that sighted people are getting the news and they’re getting the news fluently and she’s really competently doing it. I absolutely accept that.
There are legitimate reasons why some people cannot learn Braille. It could be a learning disability. It could be that it just does not compute. It doesn’t make them any less intelligent, but where possible surely it is preferable for anybody who is able to read. What about the ability to identify various items quickly or to read labels on doors at hotels and other places? Or the big kicker, of course, reading a bedtime story to one’s children? Would it be the same for those children if a computer read that story to them? No, it would not. The computer wouldn’t be able to put on the funny voices for all the different characters. The computer wouldn’t put that unique inflection that only dad does.
I think the issue here is that you may be in your own mind drawing a synonym between illiteracy and lack of intelligence. I don’t for a moment draw that similarity at all. You talked about Henry Grunwald for example and, was he illiterate when he put the second half of his book together because he dictated it and couldn’t read it back himself? Humankind has a long history of oral traditions and stories, myths and legends, family histories they’ve been passed from generation to generation orally. Sometimes these things change with the passage of time and the telling of tales. Super intelligent, yes, but illiterate, yes.
If you are dictating to someone and you don’t have the means of writing down what you’ve written and reading it back, yes, that’s what literacy means. You can have a productive life without being able to read and write, many people have, as you said in last week’s message, but it does us no favor to sugarcoat it just because we are fearful of offending people by telling the truth. If you’re literate, you can write something down and read back yourself what it is that you have written.
I don’t accept the comparison between ableist language using blind to mean ignorant stupid and this question, because we are not changing the definition of the word here, we’re sticking to the literal definition of the word literacy. I think a more fitting parallel would be people who say I’m not blind because they view blind as a pejorative just as you are viewing illiterate as a pejorative and so they might say, I’m not blind, I just don’t see or I just don’t see so well.
Another email on this subject Marissa writes in and says, “Hi, Jonathan. I wanted to echo what a listener mentioned about Braille. I learned some Braille. I can read very slowly Grade 1 Braille. I can write Grade 1 Braille as well. I myself have been a large print user all my life and am legally blind. I have nothing against Braille. However, what I do feel a little bit annoyed by is that not everybody is able to learn Braille.
I don’t agree with the NFB saying you are illiterate if you don’t know Braille, that puts people at a disadvantage. I read large print, and if I must regular print, but using magnification aids. I also listen to articles, et cetera, using a screen reader. I do not count that as reading. I simply count it as comprehending what is being read to me. However, I am capable of reading. It may not be Braille, but I’m not illiterate. I write with a pen and the computer not illiterate there either.”
Thanks, Marissa. In a way we’re agreeing because you are talking about reading print and that you have sufficient vision to make that work for you. I don’t think the NFB has ever said you’re illiterate if you don’t know Braille. They’re saying, if you don’t have the means to read and write independently, then that is illiteracy but in your case, you seem to be making it work with print. No arguments there. You also have said what I’ve been saying too, which is that if the screen reader is reading to you, that’s not you reading, that’s the computer reading to you.
Tim: Hello, Jonathan, this is Tim from North Carolina. I was intrigued by your definition of reading and I would tend to agree with it and so that would mean that if you’re listening to a recording, you’re actually listening to somebody reading to you as you’ve said. If you’re reading print and reading Braille, then you are actually reading but it got me to thinking, is there something you can hear that could fit in that definition of reading? I’m wondering what you think about Morse code. If somebody sent you a document in Morse code if you knew the code, you’re actually decoding the letter so is not that a way of reading by listening because you’re decoding the letters and putting them into language?
Jonathan: That’s a really good question, Tim. It’s something I hadn’t thought about before, but sitting here cogitating on it. My view, I would agree with that too because your brain is doing the decoding. It’s not that you are being read to, it’s that you are receiving data. Whether that data be squiggles, as I said last week, before your eyes or dots under your fingers or dots and dashes in your ears, your brain is the one that’s actually encoding that and turning it into language.
You also make me think that the Optacon deserves an honorable mention. Many people these days might take a picture of some printed text and read that on their Braille display. Sometimes at a pinch, if I’m at a meeting and they haven’t provided accessible formats, my inclination is to say no accessible formats, no meeting with me, but sometimes you’ve got to be a bit pragmatic and so sometimes I will take a picture of a document with my phone and I’ll read it on my Braille display while the meeting is taking place.
Of course in days of yore, there was a way for blind people to read print and that was the Optacon. Those who got good at the Optacon, and I was a child when the Optacon was big and I never particularly did get good at it, really protect them. I know of several people who hoard Optacon and Optacon parts because if the Optacon ever died and they couldn’t get them working again, it would represent a significant deterioration of their quality of life.
Now, there may be many people listening to this podcast who have never heard of an Optacon so I’ll try and describe it. It was a product that was released by Telesensory and it came out in the 1970s. The way it would work is that you’d have a camera that was cabled to this device, on that device kind of a boxy thing was a tactile array. You would rest a fingertip on the tactile array and when you ran your camera over text, it would appear in print on that tactile array.
You would have to be print literate and it occurs to me that this could bring literacy back for a lot of people that Joe was talking about earlier, people who’ve gone blind later in life. There’s so much going on, various age-related disabilities they may not necessarily want to learn Braille. That’s a choice that they have the right to make because, at this stage of life, they may make a determination for them personally, which is absolutely their right that the benefits just don’t outweigh the considerable time it might take to come up to speed. If there were a machine produced in the 2020s that allowed people to read printed material on tactile array, it seems to me that that could restore literacy to a lot of people who are very print literate but can’t see it anymore. It’s curious to me that the Optacon has not been revived in some sort of more modern form.
Kevin: Hi, Mosen At Large listeners. This is Kevin from Malaysia. I am a native blind person, meaning I’m blind since birth. I understand that you’re not trying to lamp all the reading experience here, we are, especially focusing on the literacy for the blind people. You are not also trying to judge any of other people’s experience of reading things in many other ways. We are not talking about personal experience. We are not talking about what you gain or what you’d lose. We are talking about a very crucial point of literacy. I’m agreeing for the most part with you that reading is about decoding the symbol and forming words in our brain by doing that. I also learned a lot because after reading your email, I go to Wikipedia, which I understand that it is a utmost place to understand the world of knowledge on reading.
When we see how Wikipedia defines reading there refers to Collins, Oxford, and Merriam-Webster saying that reading, and I’m using the third reference, which is reproduce mentally or vocally the written word or printed by following the symbols. This is very inclusive indeed and they’re using touch as one of the inclusive word here. Let me just try to frame where we might have some more discussion. One, is on the understanding that blindness is spectrum and literacy is also spectrum. Many blind people may intersect with other impairments, such as neurodiversity, intellectual disability, and of course physical disability. Literacy is a spectrum. Why I say that is because literacy is enabled by technology. Anthropologically technology just means something that make our effort less.
For example, in the early days of writing, most of the literate, which is very less, only read. They are considered literate because they read, they do not know how to write. Considering my case of not knowing how to read my native first language, which is Tamil, I use NVDA eSpeak to read many blog post of literary figures. I also read many scholarly work sometimes and commentaries and news from Tamil language by using eSpeak.
I do not have the socioeconomic capability to afford Braille display, but I know how to read Braille because I learn my Braille reading in my primary school. I can read Braille in Malay and English, but then I can speak and read. I consider reading because sometimes when people send me messages in Tamil, I go to Google translate and listen to it. I may be excluded because I could not put symbols together. Let’s say if you come to me and you spell some Tamil word, I have a very hard time to put it together. I would like to understand better on why then if this literacy if it is a spectrum and you agree with it, if you are not, then you may state why, but if you agree with it, why can’t we expand that?
I’m not sure whether we have– because I know there is a journal of blind and visually impaired, which is a very interesting journal that I just came across when understanding this topic better. Surprisingly, from a perusal on Google scholar, there are no studies or little studies on intercourse between literacy and different modalities or reading method of blind people or disabled people. I am hopeful that I am wrong because this is a crucial topic.
We know Amanda Gough have done something on compensatory sound. I hope Jonathan can, if possible, share the link to the master’s thesis if she would like to share it to the public. We understand that the neuronal pathway that’s relating to sight, there are many, but one of them which is always quoted is the pathway or the neural connection called V1 works interestingly, in the same way when we read Braille. What happened is that the reading part is not really the organ, which is hand or eyes, but the brain.
David Eagleman is a very interesting scientist that tries to apply this brain theory in multiple way, by using synesthetic understanding where people can hear colors or see sound, so this kind of thing. There are many emerging technology on that, so why don’t we bring in reading into that? We know that language is far more ancient technology as compared to alphabets or writing. Writing is pretty new even, language can be innate but writing is a quiet skill for our kids.
Jonathan: Thank you very much for a great thoughtful contribution, Kevin. I appreciate you taking the time to put it together. I do view this a bit differently. I don’t think that literacy is a spectrum. I think that literacy is about being able to write something down and read back what you have written down personally, and to read back obviously what other people have written down. I also agree with you that there are technologies that are making information available to a much wider group of people and I celebrate that.
Even if you don’t know Braille and you don’t know print, and you don’t have a means of reading something yourself, you can still use a screen reader or some other technology to go to a website and have the morning newspaper read to you by that technology and that’s absolutely fantastic. We know that information is power and there are all ways to unlock it and sure, neuroplasticity is an amazing thing. There has been a bit of research that indicates that in people who’ve been blind for a long time, either since birth or childhood, the brain gets rewired and all the power that might have been used for your visual cortex gets rewired to do other things, but that doesn’t change what the nature of literacy is.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say that you go into a meeting and you sit there and there are say five or six people around that meeting table, conveying incredibly complex concepts to you and you are just one of those people who can sit there, you may not be able to read it back or take notes even, but you can absorb this. You are one of these people who picks up stuff really quickly. It may be that one of the things that has assisted you to get to that point is neuroplasticity a rewiring of the visual cortex or whatever, so you have more capacity to absorb information than you otherwise would when you’re not blind.
Now you may not be able to get up and read your own presentation in that meeting, but you may be able to convey these concepts in a way that leaves people awe struck with your ability to master such complex concepts so quickly and without any reference to text. Now, are you reading? No, you’re not. Are you functioning well in that environment? Absolutely. I’m not saying that if you are illiterate, you can’t function in a really meaningful way. The same is true of people with neurodiversity, who, for whatever reason can’t read or write, they make great contributions to a workplace. Absolutely they do, but for the sake of our children, I think it’s absolutely essential to say that if you have the capacity, if there is nothing preventing, it is preferable to be literate than not.
Let me draw another parallel outside the literacy debate that I think is relevant to try and illustrate the point here. One of the big frustrations that many blind people face, is you read a job ad and you think, this job has got me written all over it. I can do this job and at the bottom, it says a driver’s license is required. Now you are not going to contact that employer and say, even though I’m blind, I can drive to work, because you can’t. But you might contact the employer and say, even though I’m blind, I’m so used to being blind and I have techniques adapted, I can get there on time every day using alternative methods. I might catch an Uber, I might have good access to public transport I will get there. If there are appointments that I have to get to on this job, I will get there on time. I will have a roster of drivers. I will do what it takes. There are other ways of getting the job done.
That’s what you’re doing if you’re having someone read to you or you’re having a machine read to you as well. You are not reading just as you are not driving, but you are using alternative techniques to absorb and process information. By the way, when we get our self-driving cars and I hope I live long enough to get mine, I won’t consider me to be driving. The car is driving me. I am not doing what it takes to drive that vehicle. It is driving itself just as a screen reader is reading to me. I am not reading when I use my text-to-speech engine. Indeed, this is the point that NFB made when they did their blind driver challenge. They developed systems which genuinely allow a blind person to know what’s going on around them through tactile feedback so they are in control of the vehicle. This is a very similar concept to the difference between you being in control of what you are reading, your brain doing that work, and a machine or another human reading to you.
Male Speaker 1: What’s on your mind? Send an email with a recording of your voice, or just write it down. Jonathan@mushroomfm.com. That’s J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com. Or phone our listener line. The number in the United States is 864-60 MOSEN. That’s 864-606-6736.
Scott: Good day, Jonathan and listeners. Scott Rutkowski from Sydney, Australia here. I just wanted to make some comments on the noise-canceling headphones that was brought up in the last podcast. I own the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones. I got to say, I’ve owned these for I think over a year or a few months. Now I’ve had many noise-canceling headphones in the past. Started back with the noise-canceling Bose with the cable on the earphones. I forgot which ones they were, but they ran on one triple A battery. They were pretty cool. I think they were the same ones that Jonathan had the QuietComfort IIs I think. I can’t remember if they were the ones or not.
I’ve also got the Bose QuietComfort the ones that came out before the 45s. They’re not too bad, but I have to say, I really like the Sony WH-1000XM4s that I’ve owned for a long time. They do have the voice guidance when you pair them. They’ve also got the low battery indicator when you get down to 20% and 10%, and then they tell you to charge me. They’ve also got the prompts for when you are in a quiet place, and you want to tell it to measure the noise around you so it can optimize the noise canceling experience to your ears.
The Sony app has to be the most accessible app along with the Bose Connect app that I’ve ever used. Everything just works and the 30 hours battery life is unbelievable. Put it this way, when I actually use the XM4s on the treadmill, it blocks out every single thing around. You don’t hear the motor of the treadmill or any other sound nearby, and nobody can get your attention. It’s actually very, very cool. It put you into a world of your own, and I really love the plush padding.
I’ve actually looked at the XM5s, very similar designs. They’re quite pricey. They’re about at the moment here in Australia, they’re $548, but hopefully, they’ll have a special on those very shortly. We only got those here at the end of June this year. They’ll have a cheaper price possibly toward the end of the year. The other thing that’s nice about the XM5s even though they don’t fall down, I love the case with its magnetic flap, where you can store the accessories that come with the headphones. Very cool. Definitely, all the XM4s are nice. The XM5s do come with eight microphones in total. Each headphone or ear cup comes with four microphones. I actually listened to a YouTube video of a call test, you wouldn’t even know that the person was wearing Bluetooth headphones.
Definitely, I would take a look at those, they’re cheaper in the United States. I’ve forgotten the price off the top of my head. I like the fact when you turn them on, it says power on, you hear a beep then it says “Bluetooth connected,” so that they’re actually connected with your device. You can connect up to two devices to the headphones at the same time. You can’t use them together, but you can switch from one to the other seamlessly, that actually has to be turned on in the settings within the Sony headphones connect app. The firmware updates are totally accessible through the app. If you’re looking for some really nice noise-canceling headphones, I would seriously consider the Sony range.
Gina Harper: Hi, Jonathan, in Mosen At Large. This is Gina Harper from California. I sound awful because I was just at the NFB convention, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and a number of my friends and I got COVID. I have been feeling really badly. Thankfully, I was able to get the antiviral medicine. The issue was that my home test showed negative three times, and then my daughter who has a lot of wisdom said, “Mom, go to the doctor and get a PCR test.” I did that, and that revealed that I was positive, so I’m mostly laying low. I wanted to send in this recording about travel, to add to the conversation and I didn’t want to miss the girl who was going to Mexico, her travel window.
Mike and I have a lot of ticks and trips that I plan to share. First thing is we never check our luggage except for two exceptions. One is when we go skiing because we have to check our boots and our skis. Just might as well check everything. The other is when we go to Hawaii, which is an annual event, we bring food and spices and things like that, so we don’t have to buy everything from scratch. We do have to check those so we check everything. The reason we don’t check our bags is because we don’t want to lose track of them. In each piece of luggage, including computer bag and purse, we either have an AirTag or a Tile. I prefer the Tiles they’re much louder, but just depending on what we have, we keep those things in our luggage.
Mike is a real stickler for following the rules as regards liquids and I am not a real stickler. In the US this has never come back to bite me. An example would be if I face moisturizer in a five-ounce bottle, but I have used half of it, I would put it in my bathroom pouch. I have never been asked to throw anything away in the US. In the UK however, the TSA guy in the UK and I did not have a good interaction. He made me throw away a bunch of things, which made me very sad and he did actually ask me if I thought I was special and I did say, “Yes.” I’m sure that didn’t help matters. Anyway, I have a certain methodology. I have two bathroom-type bags. One is a plastic pretty sealed safe bag with a zipper, so I put any liquids in there. Then I have a mesh bag that I put solids like a razor, tweezers, deodorant, just to keep things organized, but nothing in there can spill. That has served me well. Nothing has ever spilled, but I just do it that way to be safe.
As far as packing some of my tricks and tips are I mostly bring hiking shoes in addition to other shoes. I shove socks and underwear and different things in the hiking boots because that’s just wasted space. They don’t collapse, you can’t press them down, so you might as well fill them with items. I also bring hiking sticks that are collapsible and they break into two pieces so I can go hiking and they do fit in my travel-size luggage. I’m always grateful to have those.
Another technique that I do is I have the suitcase open and say, I have a long sleeve shirt. I open the long sleeve shirt in my suitcase with the arms going out of the edges, just as I’m packing it, so I’m acting as though it’s a human body in the suitcase. I keep piling things in there, and then at the end, I take the arms that are dangling out of the suitcase. I wrap them around the top. This technique has really helped when it comes to things get wrinkled and things fit a lot better that way. Then every once in a while, as I’m packing, I check for any little empty spaces and I do add little things in there, like headphones or different things that I want to put wherever there’s a nook and cranny that isn’t being used. That’s how we manage to get everything in these suitcases and to have the right size suitcases.
The other thing is I finally come to a wonderful outfit that I use for traveling that I want to share. This is more of a woman tip. I experience that in the airports. If it’s hot outside, the airport is freezing. If it’s freezing outside, I’m sweating to death in the airport. I have really cute exercise leggings that I wear on my legs and I have a really cute exercise dress that looks like a sleeveless dress down to my knees, very fashionable intended for exercise but looks really cute. Then I take a long sleeve sweatshirt and I tie it around my waist so I don’t have to have it in my suitcase or anywhere else. That’s because there are times when the airplane is really cold or the airport is really cold. If it’s really cold, I have that sweatshirt around my waist. If it’s hot, I have a sleeveless dress on. That has proven to be great and I’m always very comfortable.
I do carry a fanny pack, but it’s not a traditional Fanny pack it’s really made for running because I like things flexible, not hard, not like a leather fanny pack and I buckle it around my waist. It has a zipper and I put my phone in it, my milestone, which is a recorder I use, my AirPods, a mask if I need one, and lip gloss, very important on the lip gloss. What I like about that fanny pack is that I always have easy access to my stuff, and I don’t have to have a bag that I have to have easy access to on the airplane.
The other thing is Mike and I do each have a technology bag that goes in our computer bag or our suitcase and a smaller pouch that we grab technology like chargers and cords that we need specifically on the airplane so it’s not a very big bag. Another thing that Mike and I have is we have these neoprene handle grips and they’ve velcro and you wrap them around your handle. The unique thing is that they come in all different colors so we have bright orange or bright pink. The benefit of this is when we put our luggage or computer bag overhead and when it’s time to deplane if there’s other people in the way, or people are handing each other different bags, then we can identify the bag super easily by ours is the dark blue computer bag with the neoprene handle that is bright orange. It’s a wonderful identifier. We can also feel it really well when we’re feeling different bags because so many of the bags feel the same it’s just a good identifier. Hope all this helps. Take care, have fun and safe travels.
Singers: Mosen At Large podcast.
Gary O’Donoghue: Hello, this is Gary O’Donoghue and this is a review and demonstration of the Zoom F3 two-channel 32-bit floating point field recorder from a blindness perspective. Oh, yes. Cue the cheesy music.
Okay. The zoom F3 field recorder 32-bit floating point field recorder just been released this year by Zoom. It’s a very small form factor and it’s, as I say, 32-bit floating point. I’m not going to demonstrate the advantages of 32-bit floating point during this review. I did that on an episode of Jonathan’s Mosen At Large podcast Episode 35. If you want to hear how you can bring up very quiet recordings without raising the sound floor and bring down over-modded clipped recordings and restore them, go back to Episode 35 and you’ll hear me demonstrate the advantage of 32-bit floating point.
I will just say this, that I believe the 32-bit floating point is a real advantage for us blind people in not having to set accurate or particularly accurate gain levels. Indeed on this recorder, there is no gain controlled. There is no record volume, believe it or not, you cannot set the gain. There is a complication to that which I’ll mention later on, but you cannot set the input gain.
Having said that I’m going to divide this into three parts I think. I’m going to give you a physical description of the recorder. Then going to spend a little bit of time just talking about the menu structure which I have mapped not because it’s particularly accessible using the unit itself but it will be good I think for people to know where stuff is or have an idea of where stuff is, if they need to use sighted help to do things. There are a couple of things that we can do in the menu structure on the machine itself, such as put it into the mode where it’s recognized as a drive when you plug it into your PC or as an audio interface. I’ll show you how to get to those points in the menu with very few button presses.
Then the third part of the review, I’m going to look at the app that comes along with the field recorder. This does require an extra Bluetooth adapter that does not come with the unit. It’s an extra $39, the BTA1, Bluetooth adapter from Zoom. It’s the same adapter that plugs into the F6 if you have that already. That will allow you to drive some of the menus, only some of the menus from an iOS or an Android app. There is an Android app this time around. The F3, I bought it for $349 on Amazon that’s the most recent price I’ve seen.
Without any more messing around, let’s get onto Part 1 and a physical description of the unit. Just before I start the physical description, I’m going to give you a brief description of my setup for recording this demo. I know some people are interested in those things. I am recording this into REAPER on a laptop PC, an HP laptop. I’ve got the Vocaster Two from Focusrite audio interface plugged into that via USBC, obviously.
I have got a Electro-Voice RE27 dynamic broadcast microphone plugged into Channel 1, that’s what I’m speaking to you on now. I have got a cable coming out of the headphone jack of the F3 and that’s going to a male XLR jack on the other end, which is going into Channel 2 of the Focusrite. Not because I’m going to play you anything, but I want you to be able to hear some bleeps and things that are going to be quite useful that come out of the unit. Then I’ve got a cable from my iPhone with the little dongle adapter plugged into the audio auxiliary input on the Focusrite so that when I come to show you the app you can hear that through on the recording as well. That’s the setup as of the moment. I’ve got another microphone plugged into the– I’m going to go over to this one, you can probably– maybe you’ll be able to hear it. It’s the Shure KSMA that’s plugged into the F3, so I can demonstrate that as well at some point.
Let’s get onto the physical description of the unit. The first thing to say is that it is small. It sits in your hand quite comfortably. It’s very sort of boxy in shape. It is almost square, I would say. Although it is wider and longer than it is tall off the desk. What it also has on the bottom side is two rails, I would call them, on opposite sides of the unit. If you imagine they are the length of the unit itself and they are made of metal and they’re quite close to the unit and you could thread, and this is partly what they’re intended for, you could thread a belt through them and hang this off your belt and mount it in other ways as well but that is clearly one of the intentions of these metal rails.
The dimensions are units 3 inches by 3 inches by 1.9 inches that’s about 7 1/2 centimeters by about 4.8 centimeters again by about 7 1/2 centimeters. Its weight is 8 1/2 ounces so just over half a pound, which is about 242 grams. Now I’m going to talk about the unit from the perspective of laying it on the desk with the rails to the left and the right, pointing vertically away from me and towards me. What you feel on the top of the unit is a small LED screen or LCD screen, whichever it is. That’s what I’m going to call the top of the unit so they’re going to be a left-hand side, a right-hand side, a front side, which is facing towards me, and a backside, which is facing away from me.
I’m going to start on the top of the unit. Apart from the LED screen, all that’s on the top of the unit are four very small buttons underneath the screen. They are very close together. They are, as I say, very small and if you have dexterity issues, this may be an issue for you. I have to take a lot of care when I’m trying to press one of the middle ones, or as opposed to one of the end ones, which are pretty straightforward. These buttons do various things in terms of navigating the menus. If you’re doing that on the unit, rather than through the app. They also do various things in terms of changing settings for each input channel which is very tricky accessibly on the unit I’m afraid in an accessible way because there seems to be a timing issue. You have to do certain things in a certain length of time for it to happen but I’ll get into that a bit more later on.
On the front of the unit, so the bit facing towards me as it’s on the desk. Going from the left there is a 3.5-millimeter line out jack that is obviously allows you to play the output into a camera or into a mixer or something like that. It has a limiter on that line-out jack which can be set in the menus although not through the app sadly. Then there is a 3.5-millimeter headphone out jack which is what I’ve got a cable plugged to at the moment going to the Vocaster. Then to the right of that is a rocker switch which is the headphone volume. It’s split in two, you can feel two sides of this rocker and the bit of the rocker towards the headphone jack itself is the volume down and the bit away from it is the volume up.
Now I’m going round the corner of the machine and the corners stick out slightly. I don’t know if what I mean by a flying buttress on a building where the corners are elongated outwards slightly. This has that design. It’s like they have little towers each corner. I’m going round the unit now onto the right-hand side. The first thing you come to towards the top of the unit on the right-hand side is the Bluetooth adapter socket. Now, this comes with a rubber stopper in it which is not attached to the unit. You get your fingernail under it and pull it out and it comes out. I’ve already lost it. Goodness knows. That’s not a very good design but that’s where you put the Bluetooth adapter.
Next going further to the right of that, so towards the back of the machine as I’ve got it on the desk in front of me is a indented square button which is the power button. About two to three seconds held in to switch on and off. When you’re switching it on you can hear a little click in your headphones that tells you it’s coming on if you’ve got headphones plugged in. Of course, if your channels are armed and you have a microphone plugged in then you will hear the mic or mics come live in your cans as another indication that you’ve turned it on properly.
I’m now going to the back side of the unit and this is where the two XLR sockets are. Again from my perspective with the unit on the desk and these XLR facing them away from me, the one on the left is Channel 1 and the one on the right is Channel 2. As you would expect and they’re locking XLRs with the buttons that you know about. Then we’re going to come around to the left-hand side of the unit. On the left-hand side the first thing you come to is a USBC port and that’s for obviously data transfer to a PC. You can also power the unit through that USBC port. You do not get a power supply with the F3 in the box but I imagine quite a lot of standard USBC power supplies would work. You don’t want to give it too much power, I don’t think and also power banks can power it. I’ve done that. I have powered it from a power bank, that works.
Next on that left-hand side coming towards myself coming back towards the front of the machine is a little door with a bold tactile line on the top of it which is the micro SD slot. It’s one of those that pulls downwards. I’m not going to take it out because the unit is on and when the card’s in there you press the card in slightly and it springs. It’s on a spring-loaded thing to pull it out. Again it only goes in one way.
These microSD cards are very tiny so that may be an issue for some people quite fiddly but they do take they say up to 1 terabyte believe it or not. I’m not sure why you would put one in that large because I think I’ve got 128 gig one in here and it’s giving me something like potentially 90 hours recording depending on whether you’re doing mono or stereo, et cetera. Whether you want to pay all that money for a terabyte, who knows? So that’s that.
Now, this is quite difficult to describe. On the above where that USBC and micro SD card slot is on a edge above it are three other buttons. Now, these are at 45 degrees to that side and 45 degrees to the top. They’re on a sloping edge between the top of the unit and the left-hand side of the unit. Again they’re reasonably small buttons although one of them is larger. Going from further most away from me from towards the back of the machine the first one is a play button. The second one down is a stop button and the third longer button is a menu button. Play, stop, and menu on that edge again quite small. Then on the underside of the unit is a battery door as you’d expect and a mounting thread if you wanted to put it on a boom pole or a camera or anything like that a standard thread mount. It looks to mean like a quarter inch could be 3’8. I’m not sure. It’s one of those standard screw threads. That is essentially the description of it.
In terms of the power, it takes two AA batteries. I’ve seen some claims from Zoom that it can record up to eight hours. I think there’s quite a lot of skepticism around that it could actually do that much, to be honest. It can also take obviously an IMH rechargeable batteries which is what I’ve got in it at the moment or lithium. You can tell it in the menus which batteries you are using. If you have a USB power supply plugged in which I do at the moment that takes precedent over the AA batteries and they will kick in if that USBC power supply is taken away.
This is preempting my discussion of the app. One downside of this unit is that while it shows you in the app itself what batteries you’re using or what batteries it’s set to nickel metal, hydroiodide, or alkaline it doesn’t tell you how much you’ve lost or how much is left on the batteries, unlike the F6 which doesn’t actually give you a percentage but gives you a voltage which does give you an idea of how much is left. That’s a bit of a downside.
Having said that there is an audible warning for low battery on this machine and that is four beeps in your headphones. When batteries are low it will beep four times in your headphones. I don’t know if that keeps repeating. I imagine it does. I’ve heard it once but I haven’t tested it further than that. Four beeps is a battery low signal. While we’re on the topic of beeps, this does beep when you put it into record which I’m going to demonstrate to you now if you listen carefully I’m going to slide the one control I’ve forgotten to describe to you which is the record control of course which is rather silly. On the opposite side of the screen to where we talked about those three buttons that are on the 45-degree angle side there is one more button which is the record button. It’s one of those classic slider switches that you get on many digital recorders. It has a lock position towards me. If I pull it towards me that’s a lock position. The middle position is neutral and if I slide it away–
If I unmute that channel it would help I think. Let me unmute that channel. Unmuting that channel. You heard that double beep. That was me stopping recording. Now I’m going to slide the switch up again. That beep tells me it started recording. Slide it up again. Stopped recording. Sorry, this other mic has now come live, I’m unmuted to that channel. One beep for starting recording, two beeps for stopping recording. Then you’ll get those four beeps in your headphones. I’m just going to mute this channel again because we’re recording on two mics here which is a bit– Four beeps for the battery.
You’ll also get a three-beep sound which is very useful and that occurs if you don’t have a live channel. If both your channels are switched off and you’re in mono or stereo but the channels are switched off and unarmed to use the technical phrase you’ll get a three bleep saying well you’re not recording anything. You’ll also get a three beep if your SD card is absent and you’ll get a three beep if the SD card has a problem with it. There’s actually some very useful audio cues here. One for recording, two for stopping recording, three for there’s a problem, and four for low battery. The volume of those beeps can be changed in the output menu. It’s called headphone alert volume and you can change that from very loud in your headphones to very quiet, not accessibly particularly because that’s not available in the app. That is basically the description of the unit. It is very tiny. It is very, very portable.
It’s made of metal aluminum and some plastic. It feels very robust to me, I haven’t dropped it. It really is something that could go in your bag without you being able to tell you’ve got it with you. Obviously what it doesn’t have is a 3.5-millimeter microphone input, so you can’t plug in your favorite little mic. It does require proper XLR mics. These XLRs, they’re not the combination jacks where you get somewhere you can have XLR or a 6.3 Jack going into the middle of it. These are just microphone XLRs. That is the only interface. You cannot plug in, for example, those zoom clip on mics to this recorder.
It doesn’t take those unlike the F1 recorders. It can’t do that. This is specifically designed really for field news gathering, interviewing. It’s a semiprofessional piece of kit in that sense, and so it has none of those other interfaces I’m afraid. I think that does it for the physical description of the unit, what I’m going to do in a moment then is take your– I’ll give you a little tour of the menu structure just so you get an idea of what’s available in that, and after that, we’ll get on to the app.
I’m going to talk a little bit about the menu structure on the F3. Not because much of it is accessible. Some of it is accessible through the app, but not all of it and that’s a pattern we’ve seen on other digital recorders, including the F6, but I want you to know where things are if you have to get help. When you start up with the machine, you do have to get some help to set the language, the date and time, that kind of thing, particularly because date and time is one of the ways of naming files. It automatically names files that way, so you probably want that set properly.
Physically, if you were doing this on the unit itself, once the machine was on, you’d press the long button I referred to on the left-hand side on that 45-degree edge, the long button, the menu button. You would then use the middle two of the four buttons under the LCD screen to go up and down the menu. When I mean down, I mean going vertically down. The right hand of the middle two takes you down. The left hand of the middle two takes you up in the menus. The rightmost of the four is the enter key to select an option or go into a menu. The leftmost of the four is the back button to step up a level.
In most places just pressing the menu will take you back to the home screen. As I say, if for some functions where, for example, putting it into the audio interface mode or some such, where we can have such a limited number of steps that is possible to use those menus, that is the way you would do it. I’m just going to give you an overview of the menu. If effectively there are six top level menus which, I’m going to describe, the first one is the finder, which is what Zoom calls the directory of files you go in there. This is actually on the app. Look at your files and select them, play them that way, and delete them even.
The second level menu is recording, and again, that is one of the menus that is available on the app. The third level is output. That isn’t available on the app. Inside that menu is a couple of other menus. The first one says HP alert volume, that’s what it says on the screen. That’s what I mentioned before about how loud are those indicator tones in your headphones for recording, stopping recording, problem with your card, or battery low. How loud do you want that to be? You go in there and you can change those. That, again, is using the buttons on the middle, but I wouldn’t try and do that myself, because I think I would get confused.
If you want to know the mid buttons, the left one takes it quieter once you go into that menu, and the right most one makes it louder, and then enter would select that particular level. Then the second part of this output menu is called line out level. Again, that’s for changing how loud the output is from the line out jack. The third level is line out limiter. That’s switching the limiter on and off for the line out jack. The fourth is line out delay. That may be if you are trying to jam the signal to a camera or something like that. It’s probably not something that we do particularly in audio, but that can be useful when you are using it in conjunction with a camera.
The fourth top level menu is USB audio interface. Inside that menu, the first option is PC Mac. Again, you just hit enter on that. The second option is tablet. If you want to use it as an audio interface, you’d go to the fourth level menu. You’d press the long key. You’d go down to– three presses downwards would get you to USB audio interface. Then you’d hit the rightmost of those four buttons to go into that, and the option you’d land on is PC/Mac. If you wanted to connect it to a PC or Mac–
If you wanted to connect it to a tablet or an iPhone, I haven’t tried it with the iPhone yet, I imagine it would work, then you’d go down once, which would be the rightmost of the two middle buttons, the right of the two middle, and then enter. Then the fifth top level option is USB file transfer. This is quite handy, I think, because if you imagine you can press the menu button when you’ve got your machine on, you can go up twice, so the left hand one of the two middle buttons of the four. Go up once, that will be system, which is the last entry on the top level menu.
Up again and you’ll get to USB file transfer, and then you just hit enter on that. It’s in that mode ready to come up as a drive on your computer. I think that’s something we’d all use quite a lot. I do also take the micro SD card out and put it into an adapter, and put that into the side of the PC. That’s another way around, but this is a quick way of getting at your material. Into the menu, up twice with the left hand one of the two middle buttons. Hit enter, which is the rightmost of the four, and you’d be in USB file transfer mode. As I said, the sixth level is system.
This isn’t on the app annoyingly, there must be some technical restriction with this because none of the apps seem to allow you to do this stuff with the system. The first option in there is language. The second one is date and time. The third one is LCD, that’ll be about brightness, I imagine. The fourth one is power. That’s where you can select what battery you are using which helps, if you could see it, reflect a more accurate remaining battery level on the screen, and also auto power off options in there. The first option is battery type, then it’s auto power off.
Then the next option is SD card. This is still within the system menu. Within SD card, the SD card format. There’s quick test you can test whether the card is compatible. There’s full test, which takes longer. Then in the system, there’s a Bluetooth function. That allows you to use the Bluetooth dongle, not just for running the app, but it can also be used for jamming time code with another piece of kit. Which, again, is for something, for people who are using it with cameras. Within the system menu is also a factory reset and a version number so you know what firmware you are on.
That’s really an overview of the menus. As I said, I will demonstrate this shortly. The app only reflects some of those menus, but some important ones. It does allow us to switch on and off the different inputs and select our recording format, and turn on and off phantom power and all that sort of thing. I’ll show you that in the next time. Just bear in mind, what we’ve not talked about at any stage here is a record level button knob, slider, anything.
There is nothing to change the input gain of the microphones you plug into this device. There is a caveat to that, which I will go into at the end, because it’s complicated. It’s quite extraordinary having a recorder in your hand and not having a level knob to fiddle with and twiddle with. That’s it for this section. Onto the app next.
Now we’re going to look at the F3 Control app which is available in the iOS app store. It’s all also available on Android. Though I don’t have Android, so I haven’t tried that, I’m afraid. Anyone with some observations on that, I’d be really interested to hear from them. As I said at the outset, if you’re going to use the F3 Control app, you do need the extra BTA-1 Bluetooth adapter, which is an additional $39. It’s the same adapter as fits in the F6. Of course you need to download the F3 Control app from the app store. Now there’s some good news here, which is that it’s very straightforward to connect the phone to the audio recorder, to the F3.
More straightforward actually than it was on the F6. Because if you plug in the Bluetooth adapter, switch on the machine, it pops straight up to a Bluetooth menu. With two button presses there, you can start the process of connecting to your app very easily. I think that’s some progress, something they perhaps could learn for the firmware on the F6. I’ve got the little Bluetooth adapter in my hand. As I said, there’s a slot on the right-hand side of the machine, which is normally with a rubber plug in it, which you get out with your fingernail. I’ve lost the rubber plug. The machine is switched off, by the way.
I’m going to push the slots into place only in one orientation. I’m going to press the on switch, which is the button next to the Bluetooth adapter, the recessed square button. I’m going to hold it for about three seconds. [silence] Pretty much straight away, according to the limited sighted help I’ve had with this, you come up to a menu. What you want to do is you want to go use the four buttons under the LCD, and you want to use the one to the right of the middle two, the right-hand one of the middle two to go down once. Then you want to press the enter button, which is the rightmost of the four buttons. I’m going to press that. My phone’s just locked itself. I’m going to unlock my phone.
Computer: Look F3 control, double-tap to open.
Gary: I’m going to open the F3 Control app.
Computer: F3 control. Bluetooth devices. [unintelligible [01:13:22].
Gary: It’s already popped up. It’s found it in the list. Quite often it says searching for a while, empty list, but that’s got it. I’m going to double-tap on that there, which is basically a serial number.
Computer: Alert, connecting.
Gary: You can hear it say alert, connecting. This can take a little time.
Computer: Connecting. Connecting.
Gary: I’m swiping back and forth.
Gary: Still connecting. The microphone has come live. You can probably hear on that note. What I’m tapping on there is the KSM8, which is plugged into the F3. I’m just going to mute that for a moment. We can just listen to the iPhone.
Computer: Connecting. Connecting. Connecting.
Gary: Still says connecting.
Computer: X512 here. possibly settings.
Gary: We’re into the app. Now what I’m going to do to start with is I’m just going to take you to the top of the screen and swipe through every element on the front page of this app. Just so you can hear what’s there to begin with before we talk explore it and talk about it.
Computer: Zero hours, zero minutes, and zero seconds.
Gary: That’s the very top of the screen. I’m just going to swipe right from now on.
Computer: 91 hours, 10 minutes, and two seconds. Name 140822_016_01 X512 [unintelligible [01:14:36] one button. Zoom in button. X512. Here button, possibly zoom out button. Two button. Zoom in button. X64. Here, button. Possibly zoom out button. Line out. [unintelligible [01:14:50] pad button. FF off button. Mark off button. Stop off button. Play off button. Stay tuned off button Menu button. Mark button. Mark button.
Gary: That’s the end of that main screen. What we’re going to do, I’m going to talk through very briefly this screen. We’re going to come back to this screen. I’m just going to talk through it very briefly as things stand. Then we’re going to be going to the menu, which is towards the bottom. I’m going to go do a 14, four-finger single tap. Go to the top of the screen.
Computer: Zero hours, zero minutes, and zero seconds.
Gary: First element is how long has it been recording for? If I put the machine into record, you won’t have heard it bleep because it’s the channel’s not active. If I go–
Computer: 0 hours, 0 minutes, and 10 seconds.
Gary: You can hear that–
Computer: 91 hours, 0 minutes, and 13 seconds.
Gary: Giving you the amount of elapsed time that I’ve been recording already. I’ve switched off the recording. I’m going to swipe right.
Computer: 91 hours, 9 minutes, and 41 seconds.
Gary: That’s the amount of space I’ve got on the SD card as is. That is taking into account the current settings. Do I have both? Am I recording a stereo file? Am I recording two mono files? Am I recording one mono file? That’s what it’s telling me is left, given whichever configuration I’ve got set. Next.
Gary: Name. This is the file name, the current file name.
Gary: That’s the date. That’s the 14th, that’s today, Sunday. That’s the naming convention I mentioned to you before. Now–
Gary: Format, it says.
Computer: 48 kilohertz/32-bit float.
Gary: 48 kilohertz 32-bit float. It’s always going to say 32-bit float because this recorder does nothing else. It only records in 32-bit float. It doesn’t record an MP3, doesn’t record in flack or anything else, just in 32-bit float. You can change the kilohertz value from 44.1 right up to 192, for those of you who do sound design. Although even at those lower kilohertz rates, with 32-bit float you can boost volumes. You can get that definition right up to 192. The one thing that’s missing from this, and I’m just going to unplug the power supply from the side of the F3 at the moment, I’m going to go back to the top.
Computer: Zero hours [unintelligible [01:17:15]
Gary: Now, after the-
Computer: Zero hours, zero minutes, and zero seconds.
Gary: -recording time, it’s got the kind of battery I’m using. When the AC was plugged in, it didn’t say anything. Now it’s gone switch to battery, it tells me I’ve got it set to NIMH, but it doesn’t give me any voltage. It goes straight onto.
Gary: 91 hours, nine minutes and 41 seconds.
Gary: The amount of time relapsed remain. I’m just going to plug the power back in. That’s quite boring because say on the F6, you get a bit of an indication of where you are with the voltage levels. I’m putting that back in, and I’m picking up my phone. I’m swiping right again.
Computer: Zoom in button two. Zoom up here. Zoom in. Zero hours, zero minutes. 91 hours, 9 minutes. Name. 140. Format. [unintelligible [01:18:00] one button.
Gary: One button. What we’re into now are the channels. I’m going to come back to these. Bear with me.
Computer: Zoom in button
Gary: Zoom in for channel one.
Gary: That’s the amount of the how much it’s zoomed in. I’ll explain that later. Here is a menu for the channel one.
Computer: Zoom out button. Two button.
Gary: Zoom out, and two is the button for arming and arming channel two.
Computer: Zoom in button.
Gary: The zoom ratio.
Gary: That’s the zoom ratio itself.
Computer: Here button. Possibly settings.
Gary: Menu for channel two.
Computer: Zoom out button.
Gary: Zoom out.
Computer: Line out.
Gary: There’s a line out button.
Computer: Rue off pad button.
Gary: Rue off pad that is rewind effectively. That’s a transport control.
Computer: FF off button.
Gary: Fast forward is another transport control.
Computer: Rec off button.
Gary: You can start recording from the app itself.
Computer: Stop off button.
Gary: You can stop. Obviously
Computer: Play off button.
Gary: You can play.
Computer: Slate turn off button.
Gary: Slate tone. If I do a double-tap and hold with one finger, mind your ears. I was very quiet. Let me turn that up. Still very quiet. One more moment. Anyway, there’s a slate tone, which I’m failing to demonstrate very effectively, which you can send out to line up levels on a separate machine.
Computer: Menu button.
Gary: Then there’s a menu-
Computer: Mark button.
Gary: -and a mark. You can put markers on your recording while it’s recording. You have to do this from the app, interestingly. There is no way of doing this from the machine itself. What I haven’t tested is whether or not those marks are readable in something like Reaper, or which digital audio workstations they are readable in. I haven’t seen any literature about which is compatible. As I say, interesting, you can only add those marks from the app. I’m going to go back to the menu here.
Computer: Menu button.
Gary: I want to go through that before I go through the channel settings on this screen.
Computer: Finder button.
Gary: I’ve double-tapped on the menu, and we’ve come to finder, which is the top option.
Computer: Menu return button.
Gary: At the very top option here is a menu return, which is a back button. Then-
Computer: Menu heading. Finder button.
Gary: -finder. That’s where you would explore all the tracks. I’m not going to go through that at the moment because that’s quite dull, but effectively it’s going through project folders and file names. I haven’t explored the extent to which you can delete and erase. I don’t know at this stage whether that’s possible. That’s something I’ll have to look into. Next item there.
Computer: Recording button.
Gary: That’s the recording menu and-
Computer: Date/time button.
Computer: Versions button.
Computer: Versions button.
Gary: That’s the last thing on that screen. Let’s have a look–
Computer: Date/time. Recording button.
Gary: Have a look at the recording menu.
Computer: Recording. Recording button. Menu return button. Recording. Heading. Rec-file name. Date button.
Gary: Rec file name is set to date at the moment. Let’s have a look in there.
Computer: Rec file name. Heading. Selected. Date. User define name button.
Gary: User define name, that allows you to– You could give it a project name, for example, and then it would serially name the takes within that project, 001, et cetera.
Computer: User define name button. Selected. Date. User define name button.
Gary: That’s the last one in that menu. I’m going to go to the top of the screen.
Computer: Menu return button.
Gary: Go back.
Computer: Menu return. Rec file name. Date button. Sample 8 48 kilohertz button.
Gary: Sample rate 48 Kilohertz. Let’s have a look in here.
Computer: Sample rate. Menu return. Sample 8. Heading. 44.1 kilohertz selected. 48 kilohertz. 88.2 kilohertz. 96 kilohertz. 192 Kilohertz. 192 Kilohertz.
Gary: That’s all your options in there. From 44.1 to 192. I’m going to go back.
Computer: Menu return button. Menu return. 2012. Status bar item. Sound marker off button. Free rec on button. Menu return. Sample rate 48 Kilohertz. Sound marker off button. Free rec on button. File format mono button. Sample rate 48 Kilohertz button.
Gary: There we go. Sorry, got a bit confused there. Sample rate 48 kilohertz. Next option is-
Computer: File Format mono button.
Gary: File format. We’re going to go in here.
Computer: File Format. Menu return button. File format. Heading selected. Mono. Stereo. Stereo.
Gary: Only two options, mono and stereo. If you set it to stereo, it’s going to record the channels, the one on two inputs, into a stereo file left and right. If you set it to mono, then it might still record two channels but as separate files, or if only one of them is armed, it’ll record that one channel as a separate mono file. It’s stereo, dual mono, I suppose, and single-channel mono.
Computer: Menu return button. Menu return. Sound marker off button. Pre rec on. Sound marker. File format. Mono button. Pre rec on button.
Gary: Pre rec is very good. This has a pre rec function. For those who don’t know, that means if you’ve got your machine switched on and your mic is armed, your channel is listening, your mic is listening in that sense, if you miss the beginning of something and you press the record button, there’s a buffer storing an amount of information depending on the kilohertz setting you’ve got so that you don’t miss the first few seconds of something if you’re just a bit slow on the buttons.
At 48 kilohertz, which I’ve got at the moment, that’s a six-second pre record buffer. I can be six seconds late in pressing record, and still have that thing that started six seconds previously. Absolutely marvelous. Imagine you’re at an event and you’re going do something with the material afterward, and you want to catch that moment where the person says, “So, welcome ladies and gentlemen,” and you press the button as he’s saying, “Gentlemen,” you will have that material because it’s in the buffer. The amount of buffer diminishes– Let’s have a look inside, shall we?
Computer: Pre rec. Menu-return button. Pre rec. Heading off. Selected on.
Gary: It says on.
Computer: Selected on. Selected on.
Gary: It doesn’t say in here. Basically, it does diminish. I think at 96, it may be down to three seconds, and at 192 it might be down to one second. At 48 it’s six seconds, at 44.1 it’s six seconds.
Computer: Menu return button. Menu return. Pre rec on button.
Gary: The next item in this recording menu is-
Computer: Sound marker off button.
Gary: -sound marker. This is an interesting function. It’s got nothing to do with the headphone alert tones I mentioned before. This would actually put a marker on the recording. Quite a noisy bleep-type thing, and you can actually configure what it is. I assume that’s so you can find it. Certainly, if you were visually looking at a wave file, you could spin through something very quickly and find a mark. It must be, I think, equivalent to a different form of actual marker that we saw on the main screen. Anyway, I don’t have that switched on.
Computer: Sound marker off button. Sound marker off button.
Gary: That’s the last item in the recording menu. I’m going to go back up.
Computer: Menu return button. Menu return. Recording. Date/time button.
Gary: I’m not going to look at the date and time at the moment. Those pickers are tricky.
Computer: Versions button.
Gary: Versions is where you find the firmware version. Let’s go back to the main screen.
Computer: Menu return button. Menu return. Zero hours, zero minutes, and zero seconds.
Gary: I want to talk about the input setting. What you’ve got to remember here is that what we did there in the menu, the recording settings there, they’re overall recording settings for the machine. What is our kilohertz, mono, stereo, all that sort of thing? What we’re going to look at now is the specific settings for individual channels, the two channels, and whether they’re set to microphone or line, or phantom power. Let’s swipe through again, this information at the top.
Computer: 91 hours. Name. 1408249. 48 Kilohertz. One button.
Gary: Now, when it says one button, this is both useful and unuseful. This is the button that arms that input. I’m going to demonstrate this in a second. I’m going to mute the main microphone on this recording. I’m going to mute the big mic here. You can still hear me because I’m now talking into the microphone that’s plugged into the Zoom F3, which is the Shure KSM8, and that’s going through the Vocaster into a separate track on Reaper. I’m focused on this-
Computer: One button.
Gary: -one button. Now, if I start counting, I’m going to count continuously and I’m going to do one finger single tap on that button as I do it. One, two, three.
Computer: One. One.
Gary: Seven, eight, nine.
Computer: One. One.
Gary: 14, 15. You’ll have heard by counting come in and out, and I’m double-tapping on that number one button, and that is muting or unmuting, or arming and unarming that input. I’m plugged into number one with this sure KSM8. The bad thing about it is that the status doesn’t tell you what the status is on the app. If I swipe back and then–
Computer: 48 kilo– One button.
Gary: It just says one button, it doesn’t say switched on, switched off, which it really should be able to do. I don’t know what the visual representation on the screen is. I imagine green and red, or something like that. It doesn’t tell you, but you hear it in your count. What you were hearing when I was counting and my voice was coming in and out, was the output from the headphone jack of the F3.
You would be able to know in the app whether your mic was armed or not because you’d hear it or not hear it by double-tapping on that button. I’m just going to switch back to my main microphone. I’m just going to mute the F3’s microphone for the moment. Two microphones recording at the same time isn’t always a great idea. That’s the arming button. These controls are mirrored for channels one and two. I’m going to swipe right.
Computer: Zoom in button.
Gary: Zoom in. In fact, I’m going to come back to that.
Computer: X512. Gear button. Possibly. Settings.
Gary: We’re going to go to the gear button first. Gear button’s, a bit like hamburger buttons, they mean settings or menus, don’t they, when they’re not labeled properly? This is the settings for channel one. We’re going to go in here.
Computer: Button. Menu return button.
Gary: There’s a back button at the top, effectively, swiping right.
Computer: TR1 settings. Heading.
Gary: TR1 settings. Track one settings.
Computer: Button. Source. Button.
Gary: Unlabeled button, but the label for it is underneath.
Gary: That’s the pattern with these Zoom recorders actually. The thing that you want to go into, which is generally unlabeled, is then followed by the descriptor of it. If we go back up to the thing that says button–
Gary: Go in there.
Computer: Selected. Mic.
Gary: You can see that mic is selected.
Computer: Mic plus 48V.
Gary: Or Mic plus 48V.
Gary: Or Line.
Computer: Line plus 48V.
Gary: Or Line plus 48 volts.
Computer: Line plus 48V.
Gary: This is the different ways I can configure this first input. I can have it as a pure mic setting. That’s what I’ve got it on at the moment, because what’s plugged into it is a dynamic microphone that doesn’t require phantom power. I could change that to a powered microphone and give it 48 volts phantom power, or I could change it to a line input if I’m taking the feed off a mixing desk or playing something out of my iPhone that I want to record on the F3 straight into it.
Computer: Line plus 48V.
Gary: Some bizarrely, believe it or not, some line-out devices that you might play to, do require voltage. I’ve never come across that, but-
Computer: Line plus 48V.
Gary: -there it is.
Computer: Menu return button.
Gary: You can go back a level.
Computer: Menu return button.
Gary: That button–
Computer: Phantom voltage button. Mic. Source. button.
Gary: You get the button that’s where you go to change those settings, the descriptor-
Gary: -source. Then what is it actually set to?
Gary: Mic? That tells you, without going into the settings, what it’s currently set to. Now if I swipe out, it’s going to say button again.
Gary: Then what’s the descriptor?
Computer: Phantom voltage.
Gary: Phantom voltage.
Computer: Plus 48V.
Gary: Currently it’s 48 volts is selected. Misleading, because we’re not using phantom power at the moment, but if we switched on phantom power, what voltage would it be using? 48, and the choices are 24 or 48. We won’t need to go into that.
Gary: Now the button, here’s the descriptor for that.
Gary: HPF, high pass filter.
Computer: 80 hertz.
Gary: Currently sets to 80 hertz. In there, there’s a whole range of settings. What’s a high pass filter? It allows you to cut the lower end of the signal out when you’re recording. That can be very useful if there are a lot of rumble, if there’s wind outside. You can make improved recordings by putting in an 80 or a 100 hertz filter, high pass filter on that.
If you’re interviewing someone on a train or on a plane, or in a car, you can actually transform the recording by using a high pass filter from something that just sounds bassy and rumbly, and boomy to something that sounds completely normal. I tend to put an 80 hertz filter on whatever I’m doing. You don’t lose a lot of human voice below that anyway. That’s where you can change that.
Gary: Now the button, another descriptor.
Computer: Invert phase.
Gary: Invert phase. This is complicated when you’ve got two microphones and they interfere with one another. It’s not something I understand particularly, but that is where you can invert the phase.
Gary: It’s off at the moment.
Gary: Now the button descriptor.
Computer: Input delay.
Gary: Input delay.
Computer: 0.0 milliseconds.
Gary: That’s currently set to 0.0. Input delay is something you might use at some point. If you imagine, for example, that you have a wired microphone plugged into channel one of your F3, and you have a wireless receiver plugged into channel two, and a wireless mic pinned on a guest you’re interviewing. Say you’re doing a walk and talk with a guest, and you’re holding the recorder and your own microphone, and you’ve got one of these new cheap wireless microphone systems. You’ve clipped that onto your guest so that they’re hands-free and you don’t have to wave the mic around all the time.
You’ve got the receiver plugged into channel two. The signal from the wireless mic, and your mic, arrive in the recorder at different times. The wireless mic is slower by several milliseconds usually. Is that a problem? You think, the human ear can’t hear that. Actually, it would be a problem. For example, if a door slammed, it would sound very strange if there was even a few milliseconds difference between the recording that’s coming into your mic and the recording that’s coming into their mic, getting to the recorder. Your recording is going to get there much quicker.
Your signal’s going to get there quicker. The wireless signal’s going to take longer. Wireless manufacturers publish the latency, how much latency there is in their system. You can set it to a certain number of milliseconds, and then a combination of wired and wireless mics will sound like they’re happening at the same time. Normal. Can be very useful, particularly, as I say, in this era where a lot of people are getting these quite cheap wireless systems that are actually pretty good, some of them, and using them to do interviews and vlogs, and what have you. Let’s see.
Computer: Zoom in button. One button. X512. Zoom out button. Zoom out button. Possibly search.
Gary: Then we’re into the zoom-
Computer: X512. One zoom. 0.0 milliseconds.
Gary: -functions, which are also on the front page. I’m going to talk about those now.
Computer: Menu return. Button. Menu return. Zero hours, zero minutes, and zero seconds.
Gary: As I said to you, if I swipe through here–
Computer: FF make off. Stop off. Make off FF [unintelligible [01:35:14] next zoom, two. Zoom out button. Two button.
Gary: There’s a two, and then there’s exactly the same for channel two. There’s-
Computer: Zoom in. X64 gear button. Zoom out button.
Gary: -a gear button so you can go in and change the settings. What are these zoom buttons? This is complicated, I think. I certainly find it complicated. I don’t fully understand it. When you’re recording on the F3, there are no level meters at all. We’ve said there’s no recording level control. There is none on the machine. There are no level meters on the machine to tell you if you are clipping or not. What it does do, is it does show you a waveform on the display, either for one channel or two channels, or if it’s a stereo, I think they’re one and above the other.
That waveform can be very crunched, where the ups and downs are very difficult to see, or they can be very pronounced. That’s about the amplitude of the signal. You might think, “What is that? That’s a visual thing.” It’s not actually just a visual thing. I said there was no gain control on this machine, and there isn’t. There is no gain control, no input gain, but you can change the amplitude of the signal that ends up being recorded.
The way I understand this is that it’s a fader effectively at the very end of the process. The signal’s been through all the AD converters, been through all the electronics, et cetera. It’s a fully formed signal. It is what it is. The amplitude of it can be changed at the last moment. You can hear that in your headphones. I’m going to do a little demonstration here. I’m going to turn off the main mic. I’ve turned back on the KSM8, which is plugged into channel one.
Computer: Gear X64 zoom in button. Two button. Zoom in button.
Gary: I’m going to use the zoom buttons on channel one, which is life. You’re listening to me on channel one. Now listen to this.
Computer: Zoom in button.
Gary: Now I’ve muted my main mic. I’m talking to you on the KSM8, which is plugged into the F3. You’re hearing the headphone output from that. I’m looking at channel one.
Computer: One button. Zoom in button.
Gary: There’s the zoom in button.
Gary: The zoom ratio at the moment is 1,024.
Computer: Gear. Zoom out button.
Gary: If I zoom out, listen to the level, zoom.
Computer: Zoom out.
Gary: I’m zooming out.
Computer: Zoom out.
Gary: Zooming out.
Computer: Zoom out.
Gary: Then quieter.
Computer: Zoom out. Zoom out. Zoom out.
Gary: You probably can’t hear me now.
Computer: Gear. Zoom. One button. Zoom in button.
Gary: I’m zooming in.
Computer: Zoom in.
Gary: I’m starting to zoom in.
Computer: Zoom in. Zoom in.
Gary: I’m starting to zoom in. Starting to zoom in. Starting to zoom in. I’m in the maximum there. You heard my level going up and down out of the head from the volume, and that is what would be recorded. Again, I’m not an expert on this, but I see this as a last ditch fader. That’s not going to make any difference whatsoever to you taking that file into the DAW. It will sound louder or quieter, but it’s a fully formed file and it can be cut down or raised up to get it to the right level. The zoom thing is useful because it reassures you you’re hearing something in your headphones. If the zoom is really low, if it’s X1, if I go–
Computer: Zoom in button. X1024.
Gary: At the moment, it’s at 1,024, which is the maximum. I think there are 11 steps or 10 steps. If I took it down to X1, and put my cans on and started recording, I really wouldn’t hear anything in my cans. I’d still be recording. It’s still recording a perfectly fine file that I could use in post-production. I wouldn’t have the reassurance of knowing that I was hearing a live mic. That’s the reason I use the zoom. That’s not a very satisfactory discussion or description, but it is something to do with the amplitude at the very end of the process.
I just want to add a little note to this about the zoom ratio on the wavelength, on the inputs. Zoom is a confusing term, given the recorder’s name, but it really is the size of the wavelength that you’re recording and what it looks like on the screen, and the level which is recorded into the recorder. You can change this on the unit itself. I think I have worked out how to do that. I’m not confident because this took me a long, long time. I mentioned the four buttons at the bottom of the LCD screen. I’ve unplugged the Bluetooth adapter, by the way. What you’re hearing again is the output of the headphone jack. I’m speaking into this KSM8 sure microphone.
It’s plugged into channel one. In this case, what I’ve worked out is that two leftmost buttons of the four under the LCD can be used to change that amplitude that we changed with the zoom buttons on the channel, on the app itself. Timing seems to be an issue here because these buttons are also used to set some of those input settings for each channel and that I haven’t worked out at an accessible way of doing. Again, I think timing can be an issue. I think things go off after a certain amount. What I have worked out is that taking channel one, so I’m taking the leftmost two buttons below the LCD.
If I press the leftmost button, then pause ever so slightly and impress it again, it will take the amplitude down. I’m going to do that a couple of times and you’ll hear my level go down. I’m going to count and try and press, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. I’m pretty low now. I hope you can still hear me. I’m going to press that left button and then I’ll give a little pause and press the one to its right. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17. This is a bit hit and miss because it’s not happening each time, because I have to let something happen then, went up then, and it seems to be an amount of time I have to leave it before it’ll do it.
Incredibly inaccessible and not helpful. It is possible. For a long time when I was fiddling with the recorder, I couldn’t hear any mics. This was when I discovered this thing about the zoom ratio. Anyway, I’m going to cut this mic now and go back to my proper mic. I’m back on the RE27 now. That’s a very frustrating thing about the zoom. What is worth saying is that if you get your channel armed, and the amplitude at a level where you can hear it in your cans, it does remember all that when you switch the machine on and off.
If you don’t change much or need to change much, you can get it set up and plug your microphone into channel one each time, and go out and press record, slide up into record, and do your thing each and every time without worrying about things. I think if you want to do any fiddling around with the channel, you could possibly learn the button presses that allow that to happen from the main screen. I think you would really need to use the app to do that efficiently and to know what you were doing. That’s it really for this review. I have a couple of final thoughts.
My question is, who is this for, this recorder? I think this recorder is for someone who is out and about doing mobile recordings. I think of people at conferences or in electronic news gathering where you’re doing a lot of interviews, you’ve got to get from A to B very quickly, you’ve got a lot of noise around perhaps, you’ve got a lot of time pressures. This allows you to not worry about your levels, and to have a very portable machine that you can record for hours on, and have some reassurance that you’re recording and you’re not recording, and you’re getting your material. I think this ticks a lot of boxes for people who are doing that.
Is this an effective audio interface? It will work, but it’s not really what it’s for. Is it a machine multitask for podcasters? I don’t think that’s either really. I think this is a machine for gathering mono and stereo audio in the field. I think that’s what it’s designed for. I think that’s what it’s good at. I think for us as blind people, it has some significant advantages, not least that it’s cheaper than some of the competitors like the F6 and the sound devices machines. It’s robust, it’s rugged. The little rails on the underside would allow you to put it on your belt. Apparently they’re going to bring out some accessories that could maybe allow you to strap it to your arm.
Of course, once you’ve got it out of your hand, that hand can be used for a microphone, and then you’ve got a hand free for a cane or the harness of a guide dog. There are all sorts of advantages here. The batteries are a bit disappointing. I wouldn’t recommend using alkaline batteries in this. You are not going to get more than a couple of hours at best. I would use rechargeables or indeed the newer lithium batteries. You’re going to get much better battery time out of those. If you’re in a scenario where you’re sitting down, it’s a bit more relaxed, then I would use a USB power bank to power it.
All in all, I think it’s a fantastic addition to the range. It has some accessibility challenges, no question. It’s a pain having to pay extra for that accessibility in terms of the Bluetooth dongle. It’s a very nice recorder. As I say, it has that huge advantage of 32-bit float recording, which does allow us not to worry as much. I will say this, which I’ll always say with 32-bit float recording, doesn’t make up for poor microphone technique. If you have an omnidirectional microphone, you’re interviewing someone and the microphone’s six feet from their mouth, it’s still going to sound like that in 32-bit float recording as well. It’s still going to sound like a poor recording, not miced properly.
All the microphone techniques still apply. It’s just a question of levels and giving you that leeway with soft recordings or loud recordings or sudden changes in recordings where this machine will help you out. I’d be very interested to hear any feedback. This is a very much an initial look at this device. I don’t understand all elements of it. I may well have got some bits of it wrong. Please do let me know if you discover things that I’ve got wrong about this device, or any other workarounds that would help other blind users. For the moment, that’s me signing off, Gary O’donoghue. Hope that’s been of some use. We’ll speak to you again soon.
Jay Naman: Good afternoon. My name is Jay Naman. I’m calling from Tamarac, Florida in the US. That’s in Broward County near Fort Lauderdale. I’m calling because I need some information. You talked about a charger. If you can repeat the name on your next show, I would appreciate it because I’m thinking of buying one when I travel. It might be pretty handy and helpful. Thank you very much. Love your show and have a nice day.
Jonathan: Nice to hear your voice, Jay, and you have a nice day as well. We were talking about two devices on the show that you mentioned. One is a GaN charger that plugs into the wall. It has a couple of USB-C ports and I think a couple of USB-A ports. Is a bulky thing, but given all the ports that it has, is pretty cool. Now, that one is called an Alogic. That’s A and the word “logic” all joined together. The model number of this one is WCG4X100. I’m not sure what WCG stands for, but I think the 4X100 means that it’s got four ports and it’s 100 Watts.
All of this said, I’m not sure if you would have that particular model in the United States because this particular model plugs into a New Zealand-type wall outlet, and it’s taking to 20 to 240 volts. There are lots of these sorts of chargers you can get now, that plug into the wall, that use this new GaN technology and give you a lot of ports. The other thing that we did mention in that episode was a Cygnet 2,700 milliamp battery that had a cheat charger on the top of it, USB-A and USB-C, and that for me has been a bomb. It has caused me no end of bother.
The first one we got shipped to us from PB Tech which is like the Best Buy of New Zealand, was losing voluminous amounts of charge without it doing anything. You could charge it all the way up and it takes a while to charge because it’s a big kahuna of a battery. Then you’d leave it unplugged overnight, fully charged, and it would’ve lost about 20% of the charge just sitting there overnight. I took it back and they said, yes, that will never do, we’ll check this out. They said, “Yes, indeed. This does seem to be faulty. We will give you another one.” They gave us another one.
This one also seemed to lose a lot of charge overnight, with the added complication that probably 9 times out of 10, when you plugged a device into it, it didn’t charge at all. It didn’t seem to recognize that a device was connected to it. I realized that sometimes you get out-of-box failures, but when you get two in a row that have failed, that was it for me. I have sent this battery back. I have got my refund, or at least I’ve asked for, and I don’t think it’s come through on my credit card yet. I will tell you about any device that we replace it with.
Here’s a quick email, which simply says, “Hi, Jonathan, it’s Josiah from Janesville, Wisconsin. I have found that the Braille with a lowercase B locking up bug is fixed in iOS 15.6. Apple even cares enough to put it in the description of the update.” Yes, it’s listed as a fix, Josiah. That is great news. I’ve just got everything crossed that we can get through the release of iOS 16 without any kind of major accessibility dramas, where voiceover is concerned, but particularly Braille, because we’ve had a bit of a bad run with Braille of late on iPhone.
Following Gary O’Donoghue’s exceptionally good review of the Zoom F3, it might not come as any surprise to anybody that I have one. We’re recording on it now. We’re sitting in the living room at Mosen Towers with a new Audio-Technica mic. This is actually just a single microphone. If I pan around with it, you’ll hear me moving around the spectrum. It is designed for stereo recording, and I’ve got this mic.
It’s got two XLRs and then a cable that terminates in a single thing into the mic. We’re going to take this to get good quality stereo recordings with this tiny we F3. It’s going to be amazing to record with when we go on our European trip, and we’ll be there. We’ll be there next month. Sitting next to me in the two-seater thing at Mosen Towers is Bonnie, because we can have a Bonnie bulletin without Bonnie. What would be the point? What would be the– How’s it going?
Jonathan: What do you think of the Zoom F3?
Bonnie: It’s nice. I don’t really have a opinion of it.
Jonathan: I see.
Bonnie: It’s nice. I’m sure it’ll record lots of cool things when we’re in Europe.
Jonathan: Yes, right. This microphone’s pretty nice.
Bonnie: A audio travel log.
Jonathan: Audio travel log, exactly. We got to do some cool interviews as well. We’ve got one with the director of the Louis Braille museum lined up, and that kind of stuff. I thought I’d just give this mic a little bit of a test. We’re just sitting here and I’m holding it out between us.
Jonathan: Marvelous, you’ve been doing your bit of planning for the–
Bonnie: Yes. Today we’re just trying to figure out what things– Nicola wants to visit the London Eye, which is the, what do they call it, it’s a 380-degree rotation thing. It’s like a Ferris wheel but not–
Jonathan: Does it turn you upside down?
Bonnie: No. There are pods that you go in. They have apparently have different kinds of pods. You can get a private pod, you can get a Cupid pod, or you can just go in a pod with everyone else which is the one we [crosstalk]
Jonathan: What have we got?
Bonnie: We’ve got the we’re going in the pod with everyone else pod.
Jonathan: The private pod would’ve been good because we could– We might record it in any way.
Bonnie: I’m not sure what the private– Considering how expensive it is for the three of us, I’m not sure how much a private pod would be. I’ve been talking to the Amex concierge. They use a site called viitor.com, which is actually visitor without the S. They were looking at the different options. I’ve seen on the London Eye site that you can do a London Eye trip, because it’s just a 30-minute rotation where you can see the whole cityscape of London.
Then you can take a river cruise on the Thames on a pontoon boat. It’s about a 40-minute circular cruise where the tour guides, you see big bin, you go past the houses of parliament. You go under, I think, Westminster Bridge. I think you see the Tower of London. You just see a lot from the river, and I thought it’d be cool to have that ambiance of being on the river during the day.
Jonathan: This was the River Thames, is it?
Bonnie: Yes, the River Thames?
Jonathan: The River Thames.
Bonnie: The River Thames. I thought that would be fun. We also got the hop on and off bus, which is a bus that just continually, they loop the city. You have a ticket and you just jump on and off, and they go–
Jonathan: The hop on and off bus really does sound like something out of Harry Potter.
Bonnie: Yes. The guy I was talking to used to live in London. I was talking to him about it and goes, I said, “Did you ever take–” He goes, “No, I live there. I took the tube because it goes everywhere.” He said the advantage of taking the hop on and off buses, it’s above ground, so you see stuff. In the tube you just see all kinds of– You see stuff, but not the thing you necessarily always want to see.
Jonathan: It’s definitely a good touristy thing to be doing. If you want efficiency, you take the tube.
Bonnie: You can get off and then you can go, because it stops at different things around the city. You can get off and do your thing and get back on. That’s cool. We’re doing that on Tuesday. I haven’t done the tower yet. Tour tower tickets. A lot of them you can just buy day or two before. The London Eye, we got a fast-track ticket. You just go to the fast-track line. It’s not as long as the regular queue. The tower, there were a few options. One is a smaller group. There’s only 10 to 15 people, and that’s 99 a person.
You get an hour. Then the other one is 60-something a person. It’s two hours with a bigger group, but then you can just wander around the tower by yourself. He said there’s beef eaters that you can go talk to, and self-guided. Then there was a private tour, which I didn’t– When I saw the price of that, I didn’t even ask what it included. It must have been included a beheading or something, because it was like $500 per person.
Jonathan: Free caveat.
Bonnie: I’m like, “I don’t think we’ll be taking that tour.”
Jonathan: How are your noise-canceling headphones going, because this is causing some interesting discussion.
Bonnie: Good. I like them. I know some people are team Bose and some are team Sony, and that’s fine. That’s what the guy in the store said when I said, “Which one is really better?” He goes, “A lot of people, it just depends. Some people are zoning Sony people, and some are Bose.”
Jonathan: The high fire reviews I read, the objective high fire reviews say that the Sony is better but it’s marginal. When I put your Bose headphones on and they’re very, very nice, and of course, some people do prefer the physical controls as well.
Bonnie: I do. I just like the Bose products. I’ve always liked the Bose. There’s nothing wrong with Sony, but I’ve always [crosstalk]
Jonathan: Brand loyalty. I actually have ordered the Sony XM5s. They’re not here at the time that I’m putting this episode together, but they’re not far away. I will look forward to hearing them and making my judgment. You’re also already packing really?
Bonnie: That’s at a standstill because I have to get a suitcase. Our suitcase was damaged in a flood, so I really need someone to go to the mall with me to get a suitcase. Once I do that, I’m going to start putting stuff in it.
Jonathan: We may not have a suitcase, but we’ve got the Zoom F3 and we’ve got air tags, and we’ve got lots of gadgets and noise-cancelling headphones, and-
Bonnie: I don’t know [crosstalk]
Jonathan: -battery chargers.
Bonnie: We just need some physical something to–
Jonathan: Get a load of this, mate. I’m going to hand you the F3. See, isn’t it cute?
Bonnie: Cool. Yes.
Jonathan: It’s very, very cute.
Bonnie: It is. I’ve seen it. It looks like a little [cosstalk]
Jonathan: You haven’t seen it yet?
Bonnie: No, I have seen it before. It’s cute. There’s little legs on it and little handles.
Jonathan: Whenever I give you something like that, you always feel the need to compare it with something.
Bonnie: That’s the way I think.
Jonathan: What is this one like?
Bonnie: It looks like a– Let me see it again.
Jonathan: Hang on. I have to get it off my knee. There we go. Handing it over.
Bonnie: I don’t know that it– It looks like a piece of dolls furniture or something.
Jonathan: Dinky, isn’t it? It’s dinky and tiny. I’m going to take Gary’s advice, and I’m going to clip it to my belt when we’re traveling.
Bonnie: Don’t lose it.
Jonathan: No. Look clipping it to your belt means you won’t lose it, you see.
Bonnie: That’s good.
Jonathan: Because you thread it through your belt. You actually thread it through. You can use those rails at the bottom there to thread it through the belt.
Bonnie: It’s like me threading my dog through the seat belt the other day on Air New Zealand.
Jonathan: Then you’ve got the Audio-Technica mic that we’re talking on now. This will be a good mic. I’m just fumbling it. You’ve got to be careful not to fumble it too much, but it’s not too bad. It should be a really nice– This whole thing is going to give us amazing recordings.
Bonnie: You can record on the Thames, or in the pod.
Jonathan: 32-bit float. If I could actually get it into ABBA voyage, we’d get a good recording in 32-bit float.
Bonnie: I better not do that.
Jonathan: I love to hear from you. If you have any comments you want to contribute to the show, drop me an email written down or with an audio attachment to Jonathan, J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N @mushroomfm.com. If you’d rather call in, use the listing and nine number in the United States, (864) 606-6736 podcast.
[01:59:36] [END OF AUDIO]