Top Ten Tips For… Recording Speech

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).

  1. 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).
  2. Use a digital recorder (storing on wav or MP3 or similar) rather than an analogue one (storing on tape).
  3. Record voice over the telephone at a minimum sample rate of 11kHz and 8bits for wav files and 32kbps for MP3 files.
  4. Record live voice at a minimum sample rate of 22kHz and 16bits for wav files and 128kbps for MP3.
  5. For recordings that contain only one voice use mono.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

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  • We’ll be adding more Top Ten Tips in the near future, so please come back again soon.


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