Tips To Create Great Audio

The creation of an audio recording is an important process if you’ll be using the recording for research purposes, to have transcribed, or to have a record of what was said. It can be very frustrating to have spent the time and effort recording people speaking, only to find out after all is said and done that the recording is difficult to hear, obscured by background noise, or barely audible. Thus we have a basic list of tips below to help ensure your recordings avoid some of the pitfalls that can occur.

1 – Ensure the people being recorded are close to the recorder. Do not keep the recorder in your pocket or at any distance from the speakers. Place the recorder equidistant to the speakers if possible. If a window is open, close it, or an air conditioner running, turn it off. Try to be in a quiet room free of inside and outside noises. Also if possible, choose a room that does not contain reverberations or echo, and this will usually be a room that is not particularly empty of objects.

2 – The choice of recorder is very important. For a decent price, there are many handheld recorders available that should create very good recordings. Digital is the way to go, as you do not want to record a motor of a more dated recorder. If the recorder has any functions such as “noise reduction” or nearly any other bell or whistle, turn them OFF. They mostly do not work and in fact make the recording worse. “Noise reduction” simply makes every sound in the room equal in volume to every other sound, so the simple sound of someone putting a glass down on a table will obscure the speakers, when it need not.

If the recorder has any “space saving” options, do not use them. Recorders will usually allow you to choose what size your recording files will be. Yes, choosing the smallest  size will ensure the files are small, but it will also ensure that the audio is compromised. Extremely small file sizes yield audio that is distant sounding and often has a warpy sound to it. Choose instead WAV, or if choosing MP3, ensure that the MP3 is encoded to at least 128 bps, and your recording will have proper digital fidelity.

Phone recorders can be very good to record voices too, but all the same rules as above should apply. In both handheld recorders as well as phone recorders, it’s a great idea to do a test recording. Turn it on, record a few minutes of people speaking, and then play it back. The result may direct you to experiment with recorder placement, or if there is an option to change the gain of the microphone (how loudly it records) you may want to change that.

3 – Many voice recordings are done over the phone, that is, the conversation is taking place over the phone. One mistake people make in this instance is using a handheld recorder to record a speaker phone. This often results in a recording where the person coming from the speaker phone is very difficult to hear. A much better way to record a phone conversation is directly from your phone. There are free or paid apps that can be downloaded that will record a phone conversation, and the result will be much better than recording a speaker phone. The digital recording will then be accessible on your phone.

However, if there is no other choice than to record a speaker phone, one important tip is to not necessarily have the speaker phone turned all the way up, as it can create a static and distorted sound in the recording. Experiment again with volumes of the speaker phone in this instance.

4 – Try never to use a video camera to record a conversation. It seems like a good idea since the camera records audio too, but video cameras are notorious for producing bad sounding audio, unless you have a microphone connected to the video camera extended to the speakers. However, the onboard simple microphone often produces very bad recordings for the purposes of attaining a good speaker recording.

5 – Making online video recordings via Zoom or other conference software usually results in pretty good recordings. The caveat here is one’s internet connection, which if shaky can produce lapses in audio, stutters etc. which we’re all used to, however those are usually minor. The real concern with recording video or audio conferencing software comes down to each participant’s microphone, how close they are to it, etc.  When recording in this manner, it is always best for each participant to have headphones on and to NOT be listening to the audio via external speakers, which get recorded along with all the audio and can produce an echo that hampers the recording as well as others’ ability to hear that participant properly.

In fact, DESIGNRUSH, an agency partner headhunting team features an article on how Microsoft Teams has a function to make online meetings easier to hear in a live context, introducing Spatial Audio which you can read about here

I hope these tips make your next audio recording problem-free!