Nature Sounds CD's

this might seem like a strange question, but i'm looking for well recorded 'nature' cd's... rain storms, song birds, etc. i have bought a few and the sonic quality has been lacking.

any recommendations?

many thanks,
The National Geographic Society book, "Song and Garden Birds of North America", c. 1964 . Library of Congress catalog card #64-23367, Standard Book #87044-006-3

This has small records in the back of songbird calls.

I have not played them yet, but suppose they sound decent since its the National Geographic Society.

I might suggest the Grand Canyon Suite on CD for the sounds of nature by orchestra. Kitaro, a new-age artist, does some interesting work as well on CDs.
thanks for the suggestions! i was told a great way to relax a fussy baby was through CDs of this type - rainstorms, song birds, etc. I tried a few, but sonically they were not very good. I appreciate your suggestions!

Why not something like:
Brian Eno-Neroli
Steve Roach-Structures Of Silence or any in his Immersion series
Most are crap. I can identify 3 sub-categories. Some producers have CDs in several categories:
1. Outdoor recordings, often by audiophile enthusiasts. Quality is usually absolutely brilliant. No human generated noises. I can definitely recommend Gordon Hempton; Echoes of Nature series; Dan Gibson (sounds of nature); In Australia, we have Les Gilbert; (both excellent).
2. Natural sounds + music. Usually the ocean, rivers, rain, birds, frogs, assorted insects overlain with pan flute harmonies. This is the music you hear in candle shops. The natural sounds are often 'canned'. It is these which give nature sounds CDs a bad name. For best quality try 'Orange Tree Productions National Park Series', Dan Gibson (sounds+music). In Australia we have Ken Davis, Tony O'Connor; Brett Nielsen. Some are very cheap and abundant second hand because they come in sets of 10-20. There are lower quality ranges (to me) like Gentle Persuasion; Natures Harmonies; Natures Magic; Natures Symphony; Tranquility.
3. Educational recordings like 54 bird calls, 35 frog calls, etc. A search of the bird and frog appreciation organization's shops will locate these these. Often priced at full retail. Usually each sound is separately indexed and the bird/frog/insect named on the cover. Quality ranges from historic to excellent. The sounds never repeat so not as boring as you may think. Never, never, buy one with a spoken commentary - they are absolutely patronising to listen to. In Australia, we have (all their CDs are excellent).

I have accumulated over 200 CDs of this genre - because they are so cheap - but many are only suitable for listening when reading, studying, (ie Muzak).
thanks, all. i was not familiar with the suggestions you've made but will certainly check them out.

Just to be clear with my post. These are ambient electronic music albums and NOT nature sounds. Neroli has been used to calm women in labor just before childbirth and Steve Roach is just the most prolific ambient musician of our time. His album I mentioned has been voted over and over as the best album for Yoga meditation.
thanks, Synth!! my wife is due in august, so Neroli sounds like just the thing!!

How to recognise a good nature recording:
1. Does it list the name of the recorder. If no one was prepared to put their name on the CD it can't be much good.
2. Does it have a sequence of tracks with smooth transitions. For example: dawn, day, wind, approaching thunder, rain starting, running water, rain clearing, frogs , dusk, etc. This requires much more effort than simply taking a mike to the shower (rain) or running tap (river).
3. Locations are listed. If the recorder actually went to the effort of going on location then the results should be superior. Of course, the birds and frog sounds have to match. For example, Australia has no woodpeckers !
4. List the gear used. Guys with good mikes, binaural head, high technology gear, etc have invested in expensive stuff. The quality shows in the results.
5. List complaints about suffering on location. Recording is an obsession for many guys who spend days/weeks in tents in all weathers in all seasons to get perfect sounds.
6. Listen for background noises. If you can hear planes, cars, doors, pets, talking, then it was probably recorded in the backyard or local park.
7. Nature is random. The same sequence of sounds should never repeat. Too much swishing (white noise) suggests artificial sources.
8. Plenty of variety. I think 20 minutes of river gurgles is really boring. I consider CDs with a single theme or single sound as poor quality.

The random aspect makes nature sounds so unpredictable and special. With a little practice you can separate the CDs which are a unique work from the syndicated productions.
Although not particularly relaxing I think Chris Watson (of Cabaret Voltaire fame) does some EXTREMELY well recorded field recordings. He's held in the highest regard. His album Weather Report has three 15-20 minute sections...14 hours in Kenya's Masai Mara, a Scottish valley using recordings over a four month period & a ride through an Icelandic glacier aboard a creaking wooden boat. He puts you right there in the thick of it all.
Nature is the only place for authentic sound. Virtually everything else is edited, distorted, compressed, amplified, accompanied, thickened, sweetened, etc. Audiophiles only have to go outside to hear a perfect original performance. An infinite variety of natural sounds exist. If you want a hobby, collect only recordings of one type of fauna (insects; frogs; whales; etc.) or location (shorelines; national parks; rain forests; etc) or weather (thunderstorms; rain; wind; etc).

The technology to make broadcast quality CDs is now more accessible but suitable locations are disappearing rapidly. I generally discard anything that sounds like a cassette recording or lacks “recorded on location” clues. The soundscape producers, in particular, are very passionate about quality and the effects of man-made noise.

The demand for Nature Sounds died in the late-90s. Some more names to research are:
· Jonathon Storm
· Bernie Krause
· Ruth Happel
· Peter Acker
· David Lumsdaine (Australian)
· Chris Watson
· Steven Feld
· “Sounds of Nature” Chuck Plaisance Suzanne Douchet

Another research entry point is the “field recording” clubs. Generally the most prominent members are also producers of their own recordings. I am always delighted to discover new material that indicates that someone is still “out there”.
For background sounds you might check out:

link to stream:
A rewarding nature sounds style is “soundscape”. This is what you hear at a location, when sitting on chair, with your eyes closed. If you want to be transported to a place or time or season then seek out the appropriate recordings. There are CDs for many national parks, beaches, rivers, forests, and other desirable locations around the globe.

Generally field recordists who are passionate about quality will explore binaural recording. Get a binaural nature sounds CD and you should be astonished. With electrostatic headphones, every raindrop can be located in space. This may be a novelty but it is impressive. There are many sub-genres of binaural like nature, machinery, transport, cities, crowds, street noise, etc. The extra attention required for binaural recording normally indicates that the CD is also a superior recording in stereo mode. I wish artists would indicate if their CD is binaural. An artist of superb nature sounds binaural CDs is “Walter Tilgner”.

To add to my earlier postings, some of the discoveries you will make:
1. ‘Superb’ nature sounds overdubbed with ‘ordinary’ music. Obviously a famous name sells the outtakes to others.
2. CDs with half of the tracks as nature sounds and half sounds+music. Caters to all markets with one CD.
3. Nature sounds with a few non-natural sounds (chimes, etc) to make the CD a ‘creation’ for copyright.
4. People offering reseller rights under your own label. What was the original source ?
5. CD-R issues. I get annoyed when sellers pass off CD-Rs as stamped CDs.
6. Avoid anything claiming subliminal or therapeutic benefits.
7. Some recommended artists issue boring CDs. Who wants an hour of uninterrupted surf ? They should have gone to pebble, sandy, rocky, and cliff beaches on calm, normal, and stormy days for a bit of variety.
8. Wind noise is very distracting. The extraordinarily sensitive (high quality) mikes are easily overwhelmed by wind and this pops your speakers.
9. Creative overdubbing is irritating if you are knowledgeable about nature. eg. Activity during thunderstorms; combining species from different regions; having ground cover and high-flying birds together; hearing day and night species together; getting seasons and species mixed; insects can’t fly in gales. An example when less interference is more rewarding.
10. CD label claims to enhanced stereo or full-surround sound are just marketing ploys. On my system, the playback quality for these is usually worse than for normal CDs.
11. All assessments of quality is relative to past experience. Most Amazon site CD reviewers are incorrect when making claims of relative quality. Be wary of “this is the best, most authentic, absolutely realistic” claims until you have listened to some of the recommended names. eg. A quality thunderstorm CD should send a tingle down your spine and rock the foundations, anything else is a con.
12. Your favourite artists are born and die but nature is eternal. This is an open-ended hobby for collectors.
Two more producers worthy of investigation are Jean Roche(with 70 nature recordings) and Lang Elliott. My apologies to other producers of quality not yet purchased and named.

A perfect binaural recording would sound odd in stereo so most binaural recordings have blended sound fields to get a compromise effect.

Since the content is timeless, a CD may be reissued with updated covers or with different ownership.

Over time, nature sounds will become historic documents because of species extinction, global warming, deforestation, urban expansion, drought, etc. The location may be destroyed but we can still hear it.

The limited combinations of words like NATURE NATURAL SOUNDS REFERENCE SEA OCEAN RAINFOREST SERIES etc creates identical titles with completely different contents.

Don't bother purchasing in mall record shops. You will have more luck in the throwout bins, pawn shops, thrift shops, eBay, Amazon, etc. Look in the ambient/new age category.

Eventually you will become discerning and start discarding. I suggest starting the absurd like whales singing to orchestra; the impossible like an orchestra in the rain; the out of context like wolves in a jazzclub; the doodling of free-range musicians; the insulting of maestros like Bach at the beach; the overlay of classic warhorses in inappropriate settings (Pachelbel Canon is common), etc.

If you like the music, then I suggest you go to the sources of high-quality ambient music like Windham Hill.
The pocket -size solid-state recorders enable anyone to make quality field recordings. In the good old days, Dan Gibson had ‘on location’ a suitcase for the tape recorder, box for the lead batteries and amplifiers, plus a huge reel of microphone cables. He needed a team of porters.

I have read of two CDs (insects crawling/eating under bark and bats in flight). Not sure if the appeal is novelty (drilling holes for mikes) or overcoming technical difficulties (frequency division). If you can hear these sounds in nature, then you are qualified to write hi-fi equipment reviews.

I expected the growth of personal/headphone listening and decline in room-based hi-fi listening would encourage binaural recordings. Hint -there is a market, go record and sell. If you self-publish, the download market delivers instant gratification with ephemeral products. Collectors prefer stamped CDs with proper printed inserts (writing on both sides) using ink which doesn’t stick.

Noise pollution is everywhere. Acoustic ecology (lookup Gordon Hempton) is shamefully ignored. You have a responsibility to protect and preserve the natural sounds of this planet. Education and appreciation has to be supported by resources (nature sounds recordings).
Can I have your thoughts.
The music tracks on many (sounds+music) are often synthesiser based. These recordings are now a timescale of analogue and digital sampling evolution. The early CD synthesiser tracks are now unlistenable because they sound so primitive.

I have two CD where each producer has sampled animal noises and separated the sounds into tones. He then painstakingly spliced these tones together in a new order to make the animals sound like a human conversation was occurring.  A bit like dogs singing the happy birthday song on Youtube.  They call this creation art or a collage or sound tapestry.

Another CD has carefully sequenced natural sounds of birds (example penguins in water, jumping onto rocks, climbing the beach, greeting mate, feed chick, etc). Unfortunately,  the recordings were from different locations and even countries which question its authenticity.

This isn't an expensive hobby. The last CD went from list $26.95, sale $4, reduced $0.95, finally purchased for $1.25 in a thrift shop.