How to choose the right voice recorder

One of the most important factors in a good transcription is the quality of the recording. It goes without saying that a transcriber’s job is made so much easier if the audio is clear. Poor quality can delay your transcript or even see parts of it incomplete because words were not clear enough to be understood. But the quality of your audio is heavily contingent on the recorder you use. Whether it’s the inbuilt iPhone voice memo app or a professional recorder, the audio results can vary quite widely. Here are our tips on what to consider when you choose your voice recorder.

Sound quality and clarity

While both of these go hand in hand to a certain extent, they are also quite different. Audio is measured in bitrate. The higher the bitrate the better the quality. While quality obviously improves clarity, this can be offset by background noise. Ideally you don’t want to record (or even hold) an interview or a meeting in a busy place with lots of background chatter and other sound effects, but if you have no other option then the best bet is to use a recorder that either blocks out background sound or records from just one direction.

Similarly if you are in a meeting with lots of speakers, you’re going to want to make sure they can all be heard and understood equally well, rather than missing some people because they aren’t sitting near the mic. An omnidirectional recorder is useful for this purpose.

Consider the practicalities

If you are recording on the move you’ll want a device that is handheld and easily storable in your pocket and requires no setup. If your meeting is static and you have time to set up then a larger recorder might do fine. Keep in mind that less is often more in recording – small portable devices often pack more features and better quality than heavy cumbersome ones. Finally consider if your session is going to be in person, virtual or hybrid.

If it is hybrid you’ll need a way of ensuring you capture both what’s going on in the room but also on the video call. While video platforming apps do come with recording features they’re not designed to pick up a whole room of people sat away from the computer – unless they’ve all got mics and speak very clearly.

Don’t forget storage space and battery life

The ultimate disaster scenario when recording any meeting is of course when the recorder runs out of either power or storage space mid session. To avoid this calamity check both the storage capacity and battery life of your recorder prior to starting. As long as you have access to a laptop and a USB stick nearby transferring files should be a pretty simple process but be sure to keep an eye on your device while recording.

It’s quite often the case that the higher quality the audio, the quicker storage space is used up. As for battery life, larger devices will likely have more space than smartphones which tend to use up juice doing other things such as searching for WiFi and receiving emails. If you have a power source nearby you’ve got an easy quick-fix should the battery run down, but you’ll rarely have this luxury if you’re filming on the move.

Final thoughts

In the end, selecting a recorder is about considering what works best for you in the circumstances under which you are filming. While there are increased costs attached to buying higher quality recorders, keep in mind that they can save you money as well, by minimising unnecessary extra charges at transcription stage because of the increased time it took to understand your audio. 

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