Whether you are a conducting an interview for your dissertation, research article, podcast or news story, obtaining a high-quality audio recording is essential.
Why? Because you want to capture everything your interviewee says.
Imagine this nightmare scenario. Right in the middle of a crucial statement, providing an interesting point of view you want to quote, a loud truck rolls by on the street outside and what your interviewee says becomes inaudible.
If you are hoping to use this soundbite in a podcast, well, this is now useless. Worse yet, if you are planning to have your interview professionally transcribed, the accuracy of your transcription will be reduced. This means you will need to take more time on your end to edit the transcribed document. To minimize this editing time, it is crucial that you record the highest-quality audio possible.
**So how do you get a high-quality recording? **
While phones, laptops, and notebooks often have built-in audio recording and talk-to-text capabilities, the quality of these tend to be rather limited.
Instead, we offer you our list of essential equipment for high-quality audio recordings.
Handheld Digital Voice Recorder
If you plan on conducting an in-person interview, then a high-quality handheld digital voice recorder is essential kit.
Sure you can use your phone or laptop, but in general, they are only designed to capture audio in close proximity. Additionally, if you receive a text during the interview, it will interrupt the recording.
This is a fine if you are a student just wanting to record your lectures. However, if you are a business or creative professional, you will probably want a device with higher-fidelity audio and some jazzy features to capture interviews and press conferences.
Whilst a top-end professional digital voice recorder can set you back well over US$400, there are some more wallet-friendly options that offer decent quality.
Retailing at $119.95 on Amazon, TASCAM’s DR- 05 records in MP3 or WAV format direct to micro SD or microSDHC media. Users boost about its easy to use functions and its exceptional stereo depth recording.
Whilst handheld digital recorders have good internal microphones for capturing audio interviews, I would still recommend investing in an external microphone. This is especially important if you are going to conduct your in-person interview in a noisy environment.
A good cheap one is the Behringer Ultravoice Xm8500 Dynamic Cardioid Vocal Microphone ($20).
If you are willing to invest a bit more, then consider purchasing the Audio Technical ATR2100. It's cheap, but is as good as a lot of the top end microphones. It’s designed to reduce the pickup from unwanted rear and side sounds,and it is great for podcasting, field recording and voiceover use. The USB port allows for direct plugin to your computer, and functions seamlessly with your favorite recording software.
There's an amazing bundle on Amazon where you can get the mic stand, pop filter and the microphone for $79
If you are after a high-quality audio recordings, then investing in a pair of headphones is also essential.
Whilst earphones are ok, headphones offer noise-cancelling capabilities. Remember our nightmare truck scenario I mentioned in the introduction.
More importantly, headphones let you monitor your audio. This means you can fix any environmental noise, check sound levels, and monitor your overall recording quality as you record. Knowing you have feedback issues or a distracting humming noise during the interview will prevent disappointment and unusable content later.
One of the best value noise-cancelling headphones on the market is the Bose QuietComfort 25. Whilst not the cheapest option on the market - it retails on Amazon for $179 - it does offer exceptional sound isolation; any noise around you will be entirely cancelled out. Additionally, the snug-fitting, memory foam ear pads make them comfortable to wear, even for long hours.
Definitely worth the cost.
Remote Audio Recording
If you are conducting your interview remotely, you will need a specialist recording software or service provider to ensure that you get a high-quality recording.
In our recent blog about the most important software for podcasters , we recommended several apps that are essential if you are conducting multiple interviews or doing interviews over Skype.
One app we didn’t mention, and whose name I keep seeing bantered about in podcasting groups as the best recording app, is Zencastr.
Zencastr doesn’t offer editing or hosting options, but in return you get pristine, crystal clear audio recording. Zencastr records each voice locally and then delivers it directly to your Dropbox account. Another great feature of Zencastr is that you use it entirely through your web browser. You don’t need to download any plugins or software. You also don’t need to use a third-party like Skype or Hangouts.
The Hobbyist Level is free, but does have some limitations on the number of participants and hours you can record per month. The Professional Level at $20 per month, offers a lot more options and should be enough for someone who conducts regular interviews.
The Bottom Line
Whatever your purpose for recording an interview, using the equipment listed above will help both ensure a high-quality audio recording and a high-quality transcription.