Audio recording equipment

Posted: June 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: equipment | Comments Off on Audio recording equipment

When you are in the field what equipment do you like to use for making audio recordings of interviews and interactions, and why?

My all-time favorite piece of equipment was a Sony Electret condenser microphone, which I used in combination with a Sony MP3 player.  I liked the Sony Electret condenser microphone so much that I’d almost go out of my way to use it now.  (Almost, but not quite.  Other factors such as simplification and minimizing equipment win out with me these days.)  The Sony Electret was compact, lightweight, totally reliable, and produced excellent sound quality every time.  It was also durable and traveled easily from continent to continent without me worrying about it breaking.

The next recording device that I used was an Olympus DM-10 digital recorder, which came with me to India and Turkey.  The Olympus is small and portable, and it’s very easy to transfer your digital recordings to your laptop.  (You simply hook it up using the USB cable that comes with it.)  I liked the quality of recordings that the Olympus produced, and it traveled well.  What I didn’t like about the Olympus was its peculiar folder system for sorting recordings, and its limited memory.  However, the real catalyst to the end of my working relationship with the Olympus was that it’s made to work with Microsoft programs, and is not easily paired with a Mac.  You can get around this with additional tools (MPlayer is one), but I eventually opted to go with a more Mac-compatible recording device.

Now when I go into the field I take along an iPod Touch paired with a MityMic external microphone.  I use the iPod’s Voice Memos functionality to record.  To transfer the files to my laptop, I hook up the iPod and sync it with iTunes.  The voice memos appear under the “Playlists” menu.

So far I’ve had good results with this setup.  The sound quality has been very good, and I’ve captured clear interview recordings, even when those interviews took place in noisy settings, such as crowded cafes in Beijing.  The Voice Memos software itself is very easy to understand, and the display shows you a sweet little VU meter to indicate your recording signal level.  (Whether it’s accurate or not, I have no idea.)  Since now all my devices are made to be compatible with one another, there is no hassle in transferring files. There are, however, some limitations.  One is that there’s only one jack on an iPod touch, which means that you can either connect the MityMic or your headphones, but not both at the same time.  Because of this you can’t monitor your recordings at the moment that they are collected.  Instead, you have to stop the recording, unplug the mic, plug in the headphones or earbuds, and then play it back.  Furthermore, I’ve done most of my work in stable settings, with me sitting across from my interviewees at a table, with the device laid out in between us.  I haven’t yet tested how this equipment would perform on the fly if I was doing participant observations or on-the-spot interviews.

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