After the dispersion ice sound went so popular last week I was asked a couple of times what hydrophone I use. It’s the DPA 8011 hydrophone, in connection with a Sound Devices 722 portable recorder. For the particular ice recordings during winter 2005/06 I borrowed a second 8011 to get a stereo effect. The microphone is really expensive and I’m the last person to ask about quality differences to other available hydrophones since I only know this one underwater device. But I once spoke to Jana Winderen who does great things with underwater recordings and she confirmed that the DPA hydrophone is the best. Nonetheless you can do great things with other more affordable solutions. Two years ago I heard an underwater recording by Chris Watson in one of his presentations made with Dolphin Ear hydrophones and it was just great. You can see him digging the hydrophones in the sand of a beach in this swedish (?) video, demonstrating another way of (mis)using an underwater microphone… (sorry, I can’t embed this video here)
Other hydrophones are available from Aquarian Audio Products, Catecean Research and Jez Riley French, but the rolls royce in the underwater audio domain is probably the new German start-up Sonar Surround. They deliver a surround underwater rig called Surround Atmo RS 5 which to my knowledge consists of the same DPA 8011 capsules I have mentioned above. You can rent the device and they recommend you to book an operator as well – so far for spontaneous underwater surround adventures… There are some neat sound examples on their page and they even provide a surround MP3 player. For an indepth report on using the Aquarian hydrophone this article is highly recommended – it is also a very good introduction into underwater recording itself.
Me digging a hole in the ice – that is the night where the big cracks appeared. The photo was taken by Hans Hafner who assisted me on the recording session. I was happy to have him around because later we nearly walked into a water hole in the ice and it was him to warn me to not go any further…
Oct. 2010: Update on the hydrophones manufactured by Sonar Surround here.