For any recording to be of value, it has to be clear. Audio that’s filled with background noise or garbled voices prevents you from sourcing accurate quotes. And there’s nothing worse than having a great interview conversation only to later realize that the audio is completely useless.
Here are three basic tips to help you start recording high-quality audio:
Make sure you have the right equipment, including a mic, audio splitter, and recorder.
Place the microhphone carefully and speak loud and clear.
Choose a quiet place to record to eliminate static noises.
What Devices to Use for Recording Audio
First and foremost, you need to invest in the right equipment. While your exact setup will vary depending on your situation, the most basic equipment you need includes:
A microphone, ideally one for every person in the conversation including you.
A digital recorder to capture audio. If you’re on a budget, a smartphone or laptop will work just fine.
A headphone splitter to allow multiple 3.5 mm output jacks to go into one input.
With this setup, you can attach a microphone to each participant in the conversation, then wire them to the headphone splitter (you may need one with multiple inputs if you have more than two people speaking). Then, hook the splitter’s output into the digital recorder. This will allow the recorder to capture all the audio from the conversation at once.
What to Look for in a Microphone
Naturally, there are several different kinds of mics out there to choose from. Again, the kind you want depends on where you will be recording and your budget constraints.
Here’s the rundown on microphone types:
A shotgun mic is a stationary mic that captures sound at a distance. This might be best if you are just interviewing one person and they’ll be sitting the whole time.
A lavalier mic is a small mic that clips directly on to the person. This is great for sessions with multiple speakers.
A handheld mic is a device that the person holds and talks into. This works best when only one person will be speaking at a time.
Tips for Recording a Conversation
Now that you have all your necessary gear, it’s time to start thinking about the interview itself. How clearly you speak plays a big role in the final audio result. For great audio, you’ll want to be loud without being over-the-top, which can cause distortion. However, being too quiet means your voice not might be audible at all. So what’s the perfect volume?
Ideally, your voice should register at about -10 db to -20 db. Avoid going above -6 db, as this can cause telltale distortion that makes it hard to distinguish what’s being said.
To check your volume, hook up your microphone to your laptop and download a free audio recording program to make sure your levels are right. Audacity is a favorite of ours. Software like Audacity lets you see your audio levels in real-time. Whenever possible, it’s smart to run a few tests to see what speaking volume works best before getting started.
Where to Place the Microphone
Another vital consideration is where to place the mic. Too close to the mouth, and you’ll pick up a lot of unwanted sounds. Too far away, and it will sound like your subject is off in the distance.
The ideal distance for a microphone is about 6 to 12 inches from the speaker’s mouth. You’ll want the mic to be slightly below their chin, as this is where sound projects the clearest. If you’re clipping the microphone on clothing, use a crocodile clip to keep it from brushing and causing distortion.
How to Make Your Voice More Clear
Speaking in a clear, bright voice goes a long way in producing high-quality audio. Try to enunciate each word fully, but don’t overthink, as it can make you sound robotic. You may even want to try smiling while recording, as this can make your voice sound a little more approachable. Additionally, be mindful of your pacing. Keep things steady without rushing or crawling at a snail’s pace.
How to Reduce Background Noise in Your Recordings
Even with all these precautions, if you don’t take steps to remove background noise, your recordings will not be unusable. While finding an ideal recording environment that’s relatively quiet is the most important step, you should also think about your equipment.
For example, you may want to select a dynamic microphone. These are limited in the range of sounds they pick up, meaning they’ll help cut out annoying squeals or deep pulsing that isn’t in the same frequency as a human voice. You may also want to buy an acoustic screen, which is a sort of shield that goes in front of the microphone to block out lower-level background noise.
You’ll also need the cooperation of your subjects. Ask them to avoid eating, drinking, or chewing gum, as these sounds are easily picked up by mics. Also, tell them to keep side conversations to a minimum, especially while others are speaking.
The Ideal Place to Record
Deciding where to record is arguably the most important step in avoiding annoying background noise while recording interviews. The ideal location is an isolated room with carpets and soft furnishings, as they absorb echoing. If you can’t find a place like this, you can always cover the floor with a rug or hang curtains on the walls and windows.
Try to avoid areas where you can hear traffic, the heating and cooling system, or voices from another room. While these may not seem loud to your ears, they can wreak havoc on recordings.
Getting Rid of Static in Audio
If your audio has a lot of static, the first thing you should check are your connections. Are all the mic lines properly connected? The most common cause of static is that the jack isn’t all the way in the plug hole. However, it’s also possible the mic jack is plugged into the wrong hole, which would definitely cause a wide range of distortion. If you can’t find the problem, it’s possible some of your equipment is bad, so test out new gear to see if that fixes things.
Start Recording High-Quality Audio Today
At the end of the day, recording high-quality audio doesn’t have to be a challenge. It’s easy enough to ensure that recordings of interviews or meetings come out clear, just be sure to invest in the right equipment, speak clearly and into a mic, and record in a location that isn’t noisy.
Remember, while our professionals will work with whatever audio you provide us, it’s far easier to produce accurate transcriptions with high-quality audio. To get the best results, try out the above tips so your voice recordings come out usable and full of value every time.