These days, Digital Audio Recorders come bundled with so many cool features and specifications that it’s easy to forget that just a few years ago even Professional Audio recorders were not able to match what these latest digital recorders have to offer. As much as we would like to think that one can just press that Record button on our shiny new Recorder and expect brilliant recordings, creating good quality recordings doesn’t just happen automatically most of the time. It is still important that you follow some basic guidelines in order to achieve the High-Quality Audio recording that your Digital Audio Recorder is capable of.
Use a Tripod on your Digital Recorder
There is nothing more distracting in a recording than hearing handling noise on a perfectly good recording. This can happen when people holding a Voice Recorder while recording tends to move the recorder around in their hands, this mechanical noise gets picked up by the Voice Recorders Mics and makes it into your recording. This ends up sounding like someone was bumping the recorder around during recording. Even using a really cheap small camera tripod will get you way better results without any handling noise than recording without any tripod at all.
Choose Manual instead of Auto Level when possible
If you are recording voice work like a quick meeting/lecture or presentation, it is really convenient to record using the Auto level feature. However, the Auto level does not work well for sources other than basic voice. In fact, the Auto level feature actually messes with the dynamics of your recordings and sadly it often gets abused by people who don’t know any better. You will get the cleanest recordings if you record with a manual level setting. Besides for quick voice recordings. Auto Level should only be used when you are uncertain of the level of sound to expect and don’t have time to do a quick test record.
Use a remote to activate your Digital recorder
Often the start and ends of recordings have handling noise introduced in them and this is due to the user pressing the record/stop button on the Voice Recorder while starting and stopping a recording. Once your recorder is powered on and ready to record, use a remote to start and stop a recording, this will ensure that the recording is clean from start to finish as you are not touching the body of the Voice recorder when it is recording. Tip – If you don’t have a remote, ask the speaker to wait for a couple of seconds after you press record before he starts speaking. this way the sound of you pressing the record button won’t overlap with his/her voice in the recording.
Record your Audio at lower levels
Recordings done at higher levels are more prone to clipping and distortion during the peaks of the program material. Once a recording gets clipped/distorted, it is very difficult if not almost impossible to clean it up later. For this reason, it is better to set your recorder to record at lower levels with your loudest peaks around -6dB. You can always raise the level of your recorded file after recording but you will not be able to fix clipping/distortion that was introduced due to high recording levels. It is a good habit to do a quick 10-second record to ensure your audio levels are in check.
Use wind protection when recording outdoors
Recording Audio outdoors poses a whole new challenge especially if it is windy. The small mics on most voice recorders are very sensitive to wind and anything more than a slight amount of wind blowing over the Mic capsules will result in wind noise making it into your voice recordings. If you are planning on doing a fair amount of recording outdoors, be sure to choose a good windjammer for your Digital Recorder. High-Quality Windjammers can cut down on wind noise by up to 24dB.
Most Digital recorders these days have pretty sensitive mics which can pick up a lot of detail. In fact, you will be surprised to hear Audio Recorders pick up sounds that most of us usually tune out in our everyday life. Like the sound of a fan spinning in the background, the AC running, the lawn mower in the distance, the rumble from the traffic across the street etc. It is best to try and minimize these sounds before you start recording. Turn the Fans/AC off, close doors/windows to minimize outside noise and try to get your recorder within 1 to 3 feet of the speaker/source for the best possible recordings. Try to listen to your recordings while recording, that way you can hear exactly what the mics are picking up and make any changes as necessary.
Retain consistency when recording multiple pieces of audio
That are going to be pieced together (for a podcast for example) – Once you have found a bunch of settings on your recorder that sound good, make a note of it so you could always use that as your starting point. If you will be recording multiple speeches in the same room or venue, try to place your recorder in the exact same spot with the same settings.
This way when you put together the various takes/recordings they will all sound consistent and clean
Identify your recordings ahead of time
If you are going to be doing a large number of recordings (interviews for example) it is a good idea to hit record and briefly speak into the recorder describing the contents of the recording before continuing with your recording. (you could say something like “Day 1 interview with Bob C”) This way, you only have to hear the first 5 seconds of a recording, later on, to know what it is about instead of scanning through the whole audio file. This is a cool way of sifting through a large number of audio files very quickly.
Keep the 2GB limit in mind when recording lengthier recordings
Most flash based recorders these days have a maximum file size of 2GB per file, so if you happen to be recording using the highest quality recording settings, be aware that your recording will automatically stop once the file reaches a 2 GB limit. Some recorders automatically resume recordings but I would not rely on that. Let’s say you are recording a 2-hour musical performance, at 96Khz/24 bit you will hit the 2GB limit around an hour into the recording at which point you will have to start the recording again. This could happen mid-performance/in the middle of a song so it’s better to manually stop the recording during a pause in the performance (before the 2GB/1hour mark) and start a new recording again.
This is many a journalists nightmare, you set up the Voice recorder, press the record button, see audio levels on the Voice recorder and proceed to go about your interview only to find out later that nothing was ever recorded. A number of Digital Voice recorders require the record button to be pressed twice in order to actually start recording. the first button press puts the recorder into record ready mode, so you can set your recording levels and the second record button press actually starts the recording.
Prepare the material in advance
When recording the piece above for Your House Fitness, we first drafted the letters and then proceeded on recording a scrapped recording to give it to the designer, so when he was done with the animations we could finalize with the actual recording.
Lastly, don’t forget to always carry an extra set of fresh batteries in your case, you never know when you might need them.