If you are someone who’s decided it’s time to capture some stories from a parent or other family member but have realized you just aren’t going to have the time, by all means call us to schedule an Audio Keepsake. BUT, if you’re ready to do the work yourself, we have a new recommendation for a recording device. It’s easy to use and produces high-quality audio. In fact, Holly, my technology director (and husband), is quite excited about it. To find out more, keep reading!
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In the last month we’ve had a few readers ask about the best way to start a recording project. One was a 50-year-old mother wanting to capture some of her father’s stories, another was an elementary school teacher planning a family oral history project for next fall. Back in January 2008 (Tip 1: Start Small) , we’d recommended the Olympus VN-4100PC digital recorder for approximately $48. Now, since the product has been discontinued, it’s actually selling for more. And to boost the sound quality, we’d suggested adding an external microphone, though now we’d recommend adding not one but two lapel (or lavaliere “lav”) microphones (one for you as the interviewer and one for your subject), as well as a splitter so you can connect both into the recorder. We’ve used this method before and the sound is OK – but not great – because its primary purpose is to keep track of notes for later transcription. At the time, there wasn’t a reasonably priced improvement, even when you added in the cost of two lapel mikes ($20 each) and a splitter (about $5), totaling over $90.
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Now, there is.
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The Tascam DR-05 digital recorder gives excellent audio quality without needing to add mics. The company’s tag line for the product is “Premium sound quality that’s easy to use,” and we have to agree. To get tech details and product specs, click HERE .  To listen to a user review and mini-tutorial, which was recorded using the DR-05, click HERE.
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I’ll let Holly tell you about the sound details (see below), but why I like it so much is that it allows impromptu and low-key recording sessions without sacrificing audio quality. I don’t have to attach lapel mikes (and remember to turn them on), or make sure I’ve got everything in the right plug… I can just pull the recorder out of my bag, turn it on and hold it between us. Here’s an example of a recent session where I did just that, capturing the story of a woman’s husband’s grandfather as a new immigrant to our town. Click HERE to listen.
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If my recording session was not impromptu, then I’d attach the recorder to a small tabletop tripod (about $20) so I wouldn’t have to worry about keeping my hand still to avoid handling noise.
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The USB cable that comes with the recorder plugs into a USB port in your computer, then you copy the audio file to your desktop or laptop, and you can edit it with the free audio editor Audacity or some similar product. Though we use a professional-level field recorder and cables when we record our Audio Keepsakes, and full-size mics and mic stands, at this price and for this convenience, you can hardly go wrong. (And no, we’re not getting a kickback from the company.) OK, here’s Holly on sound quality.
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CD-quality sound
The DR-05 is designed to record the full fidelity of music and voice (in either MP3 or WAV format), and has features to match – for instance, the ability to record CD-quality sound and, while recording, it allows you to monitor and adjust input levels (there’s a headphone jack). While the Olympus unit we recommended previously offered 22KHz, 8-bit sound, the Tascam DR-05 offers 44KHz, 16-bit sound (and higher), and yes, there IS a difference!
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