Field recording ocean waves - clueless newbie


New member
Hello everybody,

I'm new here (and new to the world of audio recording) and I need your expert advice.

I will be going on a three week work/holiday trip by the seaside and would like to record the sound of waves crashing. (My mom can't sleep due to some obnoxious generator sound in her neighborhood and I want to help her by recording nature sounds). I intent to buy an Olympus Ls 5 (probably ls 10 in the US) along with a windjammer and would simply set it up at night in front of my hut and record along. Alas, I have no clue when it comes to formats or correct input levels (db) etc. Is there a rather foolproof method to do it?

Also, should I do the recording in the best possible (AIFF/WAV) format or will Mp3 suffice? I'm asking because she has an iPad 16GB (onto which I want to transfer these files later on) and I guess an 8 hour AIFF recording of crashing waves (times 3 weeks…) would take up too much space on her iPad. Is it still better to record in the best possible manner and to eventually downgrade (downsize) on the files later on, or would using MP3 right away do the same job. (since she will have to "listen to that stuff all night long" I want to try to give her the best possible sound quality).

Thanks for your answers (and have a nice christmas!)



Son of Yoda
From what I read your recorder has an automatic level setter... I'd start with that as a test (assuming you're going to be there more than one night) and see what the results are like. If that doesn't work, try manually setting the level so that the loudest wave crash is -12 on the scale. If you do this and you get an unexpected thunderstorm overnight, you'll have a problem, possibly, as the thunder will be way louder... so start with auto mode.

If you have the choice, record at 44.1khx/24 bit and get a decent sized SD card so you can just let it run overnight all night. Record in a native format, which will be .wav, I expect, and convert it to MP3 later via something like Audacity. Easy..


There are plenty of free audio samples on line for wave sounds. You'd do better taking 1 or more, and just looping them. This will eliminate the variables you will get from trying to live record for 8+ hours at a time - bird sounds, wind, the lull of low tide, some beach bum stealing your rig while you're sleeping ...


potential lunch winner
The hardest thing about capturing the sound of the ocean is the wind factor. Waves are biggest when the wind is at its strongest, which means that your recording is likely going to be ruined. You'll need a serious blimp and you'll have to pick your time and location carefully. Maybe, if you live near a large lake (ie: the Great Lakes) or a marina, you'll be able to get some decent sized waves without a boatload of wind (<--see what I did there?) but still, it'll be difficult.

My suggestion? If you've got time constraints or otherwise don't absolutely NEED to capture your own waves samples, just grab some from somewhere online. It'll be faster and easier, although certainly less frustrating/satisfying.

One more thing: I've got a one-year old and he used to wake up at any little sound... what I did was record three 30 second samples of the shower running, from different distances and combined them in different ways to create a 30-minute loop of sound that we could play while we were putting him to sleep. Ultimately, white noise of any kind would work well for a situation like this... consider just recording some television static. Loop it and put it on an MP3 player for your mom. The quality doesn't really matter because she'll be sleeping thru it.
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New member
A friend of mine got a sensational recording of waves at his local beach with a pair of battery-powered SDC mics into a portable mini-disk recorder (remember those?).
I asked him how he managed to keep the wind out of the mics and his solution was to set up behind a rock and aim the mics down a little toward where the waves were coming in around the rock into a little pool. The mics even picked up the effervescence of the water churning into the pool very well.

So see if you can find a sheltered area to carry out your recording and you'll hopefully have similar results.