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Inexpensive “Stealth” Bag

Posted by Tom Benedict on 25/06/2018

Almost a year ago, I made a drop bag according to Andrew Jones’s instructions on This featured in the photo set for my DIY Parabolic Mic that I wrote about back at the beginning of the year.

Recently I found another use for it.

The bulk of my field recording is nature recording. I hike out somewhere remote, set up mics, and make stereo recordings in an effort to allow the listener to feel like they’re really there.

But sometimes I record the sounds of people: crowds, traffic, the hustle and bustle of life. For the most part, the birds and the beasties don’t care what my mics look like. But people do. Even when I’m out recording the sounds of nature, people will spot my mics, walk over, and ask what I’m doing. (Which, if you’re into the obvious, means they show up in my recording. So much for pristine nature tracks.) Sometimes it’s advantageous to conceal the equipment in order to make a “clean” recording.

Recently, I had the opportunity to record in three cities: Austin, Texas, Washington DC, and New York City. (To be fair, I’m heading to New York tomorrow, then back to DC later in the week.) I knew I wanted to be able to record street traffic, the New York Subway, and crowd sounds. I turned to Andrew’s Drop Bag.

"Stealth" Recording Bag - Closed

I didn’t follow all the instructions from Andrew’s build. Most notably, I didn’t modify the top of the bag. It makes the bag a bit of a pain to use when tweaking the settings on the recorder, but it means it can be zipped shut with no one the wiser as to what’s going on inside.

"Stealth" Recording Bag - Open

What is going on is a Zoom F8 recorder, a Talentcell lithium battery modified according to another of Andrew’s articles, two EM-172 omni mics clipped to the outside of the bag, and a set of earbuds for monitoring.

The bag has a pair of loops on either side of the front compartment that you can clip lavalier mics to.  I stuck the lav mic case in the front pouch to give it a little depth, and voila, it’s a partially baffled stereo array with almost the same mic spacing as a human head. Not a bad setup for making stereo recordings, and unless you’re looking for the mics they blend right into the bag.

The Talentcell does an amazing job of keeping the recorder powered. Even after recording aggressively for several days, I have yet to reach the limit of the Talentcell battery.

Sound pressure levels in cities vary wildly, from the hushed tones of a museum crowd to the scream of a train entering a subway station. One of the nice features of the Zoom F8 (and of the Tascam DR-70D I used before) is the dual recording feature: Set the inputs for the mics up for the quiet sources and the backup tracks for the loud sources, and pick the appropriate track when curating the sounds in post.

At some point, I’ll order a second one of these and do Andrew’s full build on it. But I’m leaving this bag as it is. It’s just too handy for this sort of thing.

5 Responses to “Inexpensive “Stealth” Bag”

  1. Brilliant Tom! Do you recordings made from this set up that I can hear? I’m looking to buy at the moment. Pleased I found your blog.

    • Tom Benedict said

      I don’t have any of those recordings online, but I really should! I’ll go through the ones I made during that trip so I can put some sounds up on Soundcloud. I’ll add them to the post once I’ve got them online.

      Thanks for asking about this. I really do try to have sample recordings for any gear I build. This was an oversight on my part.


  2. nicks said

    Tom, I have a small camera bag with a mesh pocket either side. I am thinking about putting an em-172 in each pocket with the zoom h5 in the middle. Signal is good with phantom power applied. To mount the pics inconspicuously I wondered about small boxes similar to your SASS project, then add a windshield. Do you think it is worth it compared to just clipping them on the bag?

    • Tom Benedict said

      It’s worth trying, for sure! It’d give you a more secure mount for the mics, compared with clipping them on the bag, as well as more of a guarantee on mic orientation. In the end, if it sounds good, it sounds good. Give it a go!

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