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A Guide to Recording Audio for Transcription

Getting a clear recording is the key to getting the perfect transcript. Nowadays there are a vast number of options for recording your audio files; from your iPhone or Smartphone to complex digital recorders. Knowing which is right for you is the key to transcription success.

Transcription Services and recording interviews
Group interviews need a good moderator!

Getting a Perfect Audio Recording

First off, before you rush out to buy a top of the range digital recorder, it is important to remember that a clear recording starts with a practical approach to your interview set up. This means organising a quiet area to record (free from outside noise), making sure the microphone(s) to your recording device are close to the participants and finally organising everyone so that they comply with a few house rules (such as no over speaking at the very least). This is imperative to producing a usable recording no matter how expensive your recorder might be.

Things to Look for in a Digital Recorder

First off notice the title says ‘digital’? I recommend that you purchase a digital recording device for superior sound, ease of use, large recording capacity, compact size… the list goes on.

Audio Recording Equipment (and being practical)

Whilst I’m sure the transcription industry will be in uproar from me saying this, an iPhone, iPad or similar will record a single person dictation in a reasonably good quality and you don’t really need to buy additional recording equipment. Having said that, an iPhone is not at all suitable for recording for a multiple speaker audio. In fact, if you do record a multiple speaker audio using your iPhone, you will almost certainly find that whatever you saved from not buying the proper audio recording equipment, will quickly be made up in transcription costs, and not only that, your final transcripts are likely to be full of inaudible sections of dialogue (and that’s after an audio clean up and second proofreader).

Tips on Recording Multiple Speaker Interviews

I recommend that if you decide to record a multiple speaker interview or focus group you should always do the following:
Most importantly, record in a quiet area or venue, without background noise. Public areas such as university canteens, cafes, coffeeshops are not at all suitable for making a high quality recording.
Get a really, really good moderator who is able to control the group and stop people talking over each other, as this can seriously ruin an otherwise good recording.
Introduce each new speaker by name, every time they speak.
Provide an adequate number of microphones by either using a base unit that allows for multiple external microphones (one each or one between two) and place them as close as possible to the speakers. Alternatively you can use a roving microphone system (no trailing cables) and get the interviewer to approach each new speaker with the microphone.

Recording Formats

Although it is true that uncompressed (lossless) audio produces a better sound quality, the difference is so small, that you would have to listen very very carefully to hear any difference at all – and even then I doubt you could tell the difference. After all, if top recording artists who make millions from their music, (which must have a high quality sound) are happy to use compressed (lossy) audio formats, then we think we can deal with it! Our preferred audio formats are .mp3 and .m4a – both produce a good quality sound, are compatible with practically all software and are easy to store, upload and download. If you are absolutely set on an uncompressed audio format .wav, .wma (Windows) and .aiff (Mac) audio formats also work with most transcription software.

Additional Microphones

If you are recording dictations, you probably won’t need an external microphone. However, if you record multiple speaker interviews, it is well worth investing in a recorder that has an external microphone jack (3.5 is compatible with most devices) to capture one to one interviews. Generally speaking, microphones will either be directional (capture sound from a targeted source) or omnidirectional (capture sound from all directions)

Recording Devices and Storage

It is recommended that you purchase a recording device with an external memory card slot, that way you can add memory to the device as and when needed. Be sure to check manufacturers instructions for details of what memory cards you need to purchase.
So, there you have it, a basic guide to recording devices, microphones and recording audio for transcription. We do not have any specific recommendations as to exact recorders, as one size does not fit all and many factors will come into your decision to what recording system to buy. We feel it is always best to do your own research depending on your needs and requirements (coupled by the fact that each year recording devices become more and more advanced). Generally speaking, online stores such as Amazon and EBayhave a great collection to choose from, along with buyer ratings to help you make the best choice. Established and reliable brand names such as Sony, Zoom, Olympus and Panasonic are readily available online, so it’s worth shopping around for the best price and desired specifications.
If you would like more information on how to make clear audio or video recordings or would simply like to know more about our transcription services, why not get in touch? We are around 7 days a week and are always happy to help.

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Transcriptionist and Virtual Assistant. View all posts by Samantha