A tripod-mounted Sony PCM-D50 captures a performance at the Newport Guitar Festival in Miami Beach.Miami, FL (June 27, 2008)–When longtime guitar aficionado Henry Lowenstein, and his partner Ron Hill acquired the legendary Newport, RI Guitar Festival last year, they saw great potential for the event in South Florida. The Newport Guitar Festival in Miami Beach was noteworthy on multiple fronts. As Miami’s first hand-built and vintage guitar festival, it attracted 120 top luthiers, 50 vintage guitar dealers and over 7,000 dedicated guitar collectors and music lovers, and was highlighted by more than 240 mini-concerts. Celebrated acoustic, blues, country and jazz performers including International Finger-style 2007 champion Don Alder, Muriel Anderson and Michael Chapledaine dazzled attendees with their virtuosity.
To facilitate high-quality recording of each live performance, Lowenstein purchased eight Sony PCM-D50 digital field recorders. “We had an incredible number of artists playing on four sound stages and in 23 ‘quiet rooms’ throughout the three-day event,” he reports. “We were committed to capturing each of these performances both as an historical audio-document and for release in a ‘Best of Show’ CD. It was imperative that we had the ability to record in 96 kHz/24-bit, stereo sound, and that the process be transparent, highly portable, easy to use and totally reliable.”
Lowenstein and his engineering team researched portable field recorders on the market. “At the same time we were considering the [Sony] PCM-D1,” he says, “we also looked into Sony’s new PCM-D50, which I first saw at the Winter NAMM show. At $600, it’s much more affordable and, more to the point, it has extraordinarily high-quality sound, built-in 4 GB memory, six hours recording time, two-position X-Y and Wide-Stereo electret condenser mics, [and] PC/Mac-compatible, high-speed USB port to streamline the file transfer process to master storage units. It also has an extremely rugged aluminum case able to bear up to what we knew would be an extremely demanding schedule. We recorded a live concert with a sample unit Sony provided us with, and were convinced that the PCM-D50 could do the job. Ultimately, we purchased eight units and a dozen memory sticks, which enabled our 8-man recording team to document virtually every performance throughout the festival.
“We had runners swapping out the Memory Sticks, downloading them to our hard drives and rushing them right back into action,” Lowenstein adds. “If we missed a session with the Memory Stick, the PCM-D50’s four GB internal memory captured the performance. The units were in constant use and rotation, whether plugged into AC or operating on batteries. I don’t think we ran low on battery life or memory the entire weekend. We got over 600 hours of absolutely spectacular recordings which we will share with millions of people linked through our two websites, www.13thfret.com and www.newportguitarfestmb.com, this summer.”
The range of material recorded during the Newport Guitar Festival ran the gamut from jazz to classical to country and western. “Virtually every playing style was represented, and the performers ranged from wizened professionals to a 9-year-old prodigy who walked on stage one day and blew everyone away with a virtuoso performance on a solid-body electric that was almost bigger than he was,” Lowenstein says with a laugh.
Peter Farber, a local Miami favorite, gave over 15 performances at the festival, playing on some of the best handmade guitars in the world. “Everywhere I played at the Festival someone was recording the performance on one of the Sonys,” he said. “Sometimes your best cuts just pop up out of nowhere. By having these high-quality PCM-D50s everywhere, I got some of the best recordings of my career.”
Paul Foschino, senior manager for professional audio in Sony Electronics’ Broadcast and Production Systems Division, reports that the Newport Guitar Festival in Miami Beach represents “a perfect case study of the performance and durability of the PCM-D50. They used these digital field recorders constantly throughout the entire event, recording hundreds of performances and workshops. The units were in use from morning to night, and Henry Lowenstein reports they did not experience a single malfunction or missed opportunity.”
“A particular advantage of the PCM-D50 was the virtually nonexistent learning curve,” Lowenstein concludes. “Our engineers were delighted to replace the racks of gear they were originally intending to use with these compact field recorders. They found the Sony’s equally efficient in handheld or tripod-mounted applications. The LCD menu readout is clear and easy to read, and the furry wind screens completely eliminated extraneous mic noise. And, because these field recorders are built to last, we’re confident that we’ll be using them in future Newport Festivals for years to come.”