I’m often asked how best to record voice. People seem regularly to be in a quandary about how to effectively accomplish this seemingly simple task. Unless the voice recording is to be professionally published (as a voiceover or audio book, etc, in which case fancy microphones and snazzy audio engineering tricks are required), this task should indeed be very straightforward. It’s a matter of getting the right microphone plugged into the right recording device storing on a suitable medium (format) in the right location.
Here are my Top Ten Tips on how to achieve a clear recording of speech (for digital audio transcription, for example).
- The Recording Environment. Find a place that is at best silent and at worst fairly quiet, that has more soft surfaces (curtains, carpets, wallpaper, fabric-covered chairs, etc) than hard shiny ones (large windows, tile floors, painted walls, laminated tables, etc).
- Use a digital recorder (storing on wav or MP3 or similar) rather than an analogue one (storing on tape).
- Record voice over the telephone at a minimum sample rate of 11kHz and 8bits for wav files and 32kbps for MP3 files.
- Record live voice at a minimum sample rate of 22kHz and 16bits for wav files and 128kbps for MP3.
- For recordings that contain only one voice use mono.
- For recordings that contain more than one voice use stereo. Place each microphone so that it is as far from the other as possible, whist pointing at the speaker/s it is to capture and with its back to the speaker/s that the other microphone is intended to capture.
- Don’t speak directly into the microphone. Speak across the microphone head instead (30° or so). Position the microphone so that it is as close to the speaker as possible before a popping sound is heard on words containing ‘p’ or ‘b’ sounds.
- Don’t touch or brush against the microphone, nor tap the surface it is placed on. Also, don’t eat, chew gum, or fidget while dictating.
- Buy good quality microphones. You don’t have to spend a lot if the recordings are only for transcription purposes (if the recordings are to be broadcast then you need a different top ten tips article). £30 will buy a microphone that is more than adequate to record voice for transcription. Many budget digital recorders are limited only by their tiny button hole mics. If you have a device that has a microphone socket then it is certainly worth your time to investigate the results of different microphones.
- Buy a good quality recording device. Most computers can record very high quality audio. A laptop is a very convenient recording device, as it can easily record in stereo and the files can be emailed to your transcriber directly. Most pocket-size device recorders record a single voice adequately, but do not perform well with many voices.