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Audio Recording Equipment

Just like photography, digital technology has changed forever the practice of audio recording. Options stretch from dirt cheap to very high-end. In all cases, however, you may also need to consider the following equipment to record audio:

  • A device capable of recoding audio. Your options include:
    • A computer. Laptops are useful to take on location, but desktop machines can also be used if you are recording something, such as an interview, that can be done in a home or office. If you are using a computer, remember to make sure you have enough hard drive space to hold the audio files. A minute of CD quality audio, for example, can use 10MB of disk space. Audacity is a free audio editing program available for both Macintosh and PC you can use to record directly onto your computer.
    • A digital audio recorder. There is many viable portable digital audio recorders and most are relatively inexpensive. Olympus and Sony both make reliable, entry-level models. But the best audio recorder for the money as of this writing is probably the Zoom H2. The Edirol R-09 is another favorite of multimedia journalists, but is a bit more expensive.
    • An MP3 player. You can buy a microphone accessory for your iPod, iPhone or other MP3 player and record directly into the device, making the transition from recording to the web incredibly fast. Be aware that recording isn't the purpose these units were designed for, so you may have some problems getting set up and getting high-quality audio out of them.
  • Headphones. Audio is no good if you can't listen to it. Include headphones in your audio kit so that you can check the sound quality during recording and listen to it afterward.
  • A microphone or several microphones. There are many kinds of microphones; your recording situation will influence the one you choose:
    • Lavalier or lapel microphones are useful for recording a single person giving a lecture or for an interview.
    • A handheld microphone can be handed around if you must record multiple speakers.
    • A boom microphone can be suspended over or directed toward the subject(s) and might be ideal for recording a concert, performance, or press conference.
    • A unidirectional microphone can be pointed toward the subject and will help exclude other room noise when you must record in a noisy environment.
    • Wireless microphones are useful for recording in environments where your subject(s) must move around.
  • Tapes, CDs, memory cards, or whatever recording media you are using.

Optional equipment that can improve the quality of your video or extend your ability to record is:

  • Mixing board. Mixing boards allow you to plug in several microphones at once and control the volume for each microphone separately. When you have separate microphones for several speakers, a mixing board is essential and generally results in better quality audio.
  • Cables. You'll have to connect all your gear together � don't skimp on these connecting cables! Audio quality is affected by every piece of your equipment, so good quality cables are important. The staff in your local RadioShack or electronics store may not know every audio recorder, but they are generally very knowledgeable about which cables work best.
  • Power cords and extra batteries.

If you plan to take your audio recording kit on the road, look for small, portable components and be sure to arrange to transport all of it easily.

For many reporters, speed is an issue. If you need to get your audio live as quickly as possible, look for an audio recording device that creates digital files that can be quickly transferred to your computer for editing.

Many good electronics stores carry microphones, headphones and mixing boards, as well as recording devices. Spend some time in the store trying out and testing the options before you buy.

You should do your own research to find the right equipment for your needs, but below are some additional recommendations to get you started:

Sennheiser and Sony both make high-quality headphones that run in the $60-$125 range. Look for ones that fully cover the ear. They are bulkier, but they give you a better audio experience by blocking out environmental sounds.

Microphones are available in all shapes, sizes and prices. Audio-Technica, Sennheiser, Shure and Sony are all good manufacturers to research.

A good source of information � both for research and purchasing purposes � is B&H Photo Video. Its website lets you quickly find and compare products and offers good prices as well.

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