A multi-disciplinary journey in music, sound, and field recording.

Whining Flashguns

Posted: August 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: found sound objects, gear, sound design
"Flash directly into the microphone, please."

"Flash directly into the microphone, please."

As an avid photographer and aficionado of the Strobist school of lighting, I’ve got a mixture of modern, high-tech flashguns and some older ones I’ve picked up for cheap on Craigslist. Their age discrepancies don’t have any impact on how well they work…but my aging flash units sure sound strange.

After taking a shot with any flash, you hear almost always hear the flashgun’s capacitors recharging for the next shot. But my Nikon SB-26 (about 15 years old now) makes this warbling, incredibly”digital” sound. They sound like a 2400 baud modem that’s half asleep and dreaming, or a sweeping sample-start effect heard in glitch-centric music. The sound is incredibly soft and high-pitched, so only my large condenser mic has the sufficiently low noise floor to capture the sound without a lot of hiss.

Possibly useful for other recharging or power-up effects, some grimy and gritty digital process, or as part of a data-transmission sound effect..?

Whine of an aging Nikon SB26 Speedlight by noisejockey
[Røde NT1a mic into Sound Devices 702 recorder]

Tags: , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

13 Comments on “Whining Flashguns”

  1. 1 David Hobby said at 8:57 am on August 20th, 2009:

    My kid just left the room, screaming …

  2. 2 THREEARK! said at 9:34 am on August 20th, 2009:

    My favorite thing about old flash’s is that they sound like a small bomb. I know some people who are scared to go near them!

  3. 3 andrew said at 9:46 am on August 20th, 2009:

    Nice picture of the mic. Next time move the flash just a little to the left :)

  4. 4 Nathan said at 9:52 am on August 20th, 2009:

    @David, I’ll pay for therapy.
    @Threeark, trust me, when this unit stops working I’ll strap an M80 to it and record that!
    @Andrew, that flash was a horrible model and _never_ stood in the right place. :-)

  5. 5 Dan said at 10:16 am on August 20th, 2009:

    My SB-25 sounds almost identical. Not sure if I have a good enough mic to record it.

  6. 6 Jeremy Sale said at 10:44 am on August 20th, 2009:

    Didn’t they use that SFX in the Texas Chainsaw re-make?

  7. 7 Cem K. said at 11:23 am on August 20th, 2009:

    Nice to know that my SB-26 isn’t the only one making that horrible noise. :)

  8. 8 @yarrumk said at 11:29 am on August 20th, 2009:

    I’m glad someone else’s sounds like that too, I thought the one I bought on ebay was a patched up junker which was gonna fail me in about 2 weeks.
    still, its a kinda reassuring sound, just waiting to know when they’re finished charging is the issue for me, the premature trigger finger!

  9. 9 Michael Maroussas said at 1:31 pm on August 20th, 2009:

    ow! that hurt

  10. 10 Tony said at 2:25 pm on August 20th, 2009:

    OMG was that funny. I have an SB-24 but it has never sounded like that and I hope it never does.

  11. 11 Leon Godwin said at 2:59 pm on August 20th, 2009:

    Damn. That almost induced a seizure. I thought normal flash whines were annoying…

  12. 12 Marcellus said at 7:28 pm on August 20th, 2009:

    wow!! I think I would be shot if my flash was doing that.

  13. 13 Jones said at 8:53 pm on August 20th, 2009:

    My cat was not amused by this. At all. May have to get her jacked up on catnip before she scratches my face off.

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