Recording tips

There are four main ways I handle interviews (almost all are remote).

  1. Skype, with each of us recording locally using Audacity. After recording, the guest exports the Audacity recording as a 16-bit wav file and sends to me via Dropbox or similar. I splice the whole thing together.
  2. Just like option 1, but this time the guest records using an iPhone and the Voice Memo app, rather than Audacity.
  3. If options 1 or 2 won’t work, we can talk over Skype with me recording both channels using the Pamela call recorder. Best to avoid, as something usually goes wrong.
  4. Sometimes the guest can get to a recording studio at his/her institution, and have an audio engineer handle the details. This is a lot like option 1/2, but with hugely better sound quality.

So, assuming that we’re going with option 1-3, what can you do to increase the audio quality on your end? It turns out, a lot! Here are some suggestions:

  • Use an external microphone. Even a low-end unit will usually be hugely better than your computer’s internal microphone.
  • Wear headphones. Otherwise my audio will come out of your computer’s speakers and get re-recorded on your audio channel (and it will sound … not good). Try to keep the headphone volume as low as possible as my audio has still leaked out and gotten re-recorded a few times.
  • Alternatively use an all-in-one option like a USB gaming headset or even earbuds with built-in microphone (works ok on most macbooks).
  • If using an external microphone or headset with Audacity/Skype/Voice Memo, plug in the external microphone before starting Audacity/Skype/Voice Memo, and then make sure that you have the external microphone selected. To make sure you’re properly set up, try rubbing your finger over the microphone’s input and ensure that you hear it.
  • Place the microphone or iPhone to the side of your mouth, not directly in front. This will help to avoid “plosives” and breathy sounds.
  • Set the Audacity mic level to about 0.4 and in the Skype options, deselect “automatically adjust volume”.
  • Try to record in a quiet room with minimal noise from heating/cooling/computers/roads/colleagues.
  • Unplug everything that can be unplugged.
  • Try to record in a room with lots of soft surfaces like carpeting and drapery.