Whether you are just recording audio that will be part of your course videos or you want to host a podcast, you need to make sure your audio sounds reasonably professional. Personally, I am a fanatic when it comes to podcasting and I’ve use the Learning Learning Podcast as an excuse to experiment with a lot of different audio equipment. Many of the links on this page reflect what I use or have used on this or other podcasts I have done. Even if producing a podcast is not your specific aim, the equipment here will serve you well for pretty much any type of audio recording.
You can do great things with a standard Logitech USB headset if you are recording audio straight into your computer. I used a Logitech for years for much of my audio recording. (The one I have is no longer available, but something like the Logitech H530 will work just fine.) That said, over time I have come to appreciate the higher level of quality you can get off of dedicated microphone. I highly recommend moving to that level sooner rather than later and considering:
- The Audio-Techica ATR2100 USB Mic. This is my current “go to” mic and it is really amazing for the price
- Any of the desktop or portable USB mics from Blue Microphones
- If you want to go much higher end, check out the set up that Cliff Ravenscraft, the Podcast Answer Man, recommends. You can also substitute the a Shure SM 58 mic for the Heil that Cliff recommends. Its a very good mic, and it costs about a quarter of what the Heil costs. (It’s what I use on many podcasts.)
- If you are using a smartphone to record yourself or others, I recommend an external microphone – usually a lavalier (i.e., a mic that can be clipped on) is most useful – omnidirectional, if you want to pick up all the sound around you; unidirectional, if you want to here just the single voice/audio source you are recording.
Using Skype, which is free, along with software for recording Skype calls, you can easily capture interviews with people from all over the world. I have consistently gotten the best audio quality when both and the person I am interviewing use Skype with a hard-wired connection (i.e., our computers are plugged into the Internet with a cable rather than connected by a wireless router). If this just isn’t possible for some reason (e.g., person you are interviewing just isn’t that tech savvy), the next best option is to place a Skype to Phone call and ask them to be on a land line if at all possible. This costs more than Skype to Skype – which is free – but it is still quite reasonable to call anywhere in the world. For recording your calls, use:
- Call Recorder (Mac) – $19.95. Comes with some excellent tools for splitting sides of conversations, converting files to other formats, etc. Also works for video calls. I’ve used this for years.
- Call Burner (PC) – $49.95. Having moved off of PC some time ago, I’m not as familiar with this one, but it offers capabilities similar to Call Recorder.
As with video, smartphones have gotten so good that you may be able to get way with that alone if you are recording things while out and about. Still, you may want to consider getting a separate high-quality digital recorder. The main advantage of doing this is that you don’t tie up your phone while you are in the process of recording whatever you need to record. You can also hand the recorder off to someone else – which may not be something you want to do with your phone. Whatever approach you take, I recommend using a good external microphone with it (see recommendations above). Here are some recommendations for digital recorders:
- Zoom H2n Handy Recorder (if you want something a bit on the higher end)
- Lyker Digital Voice Recorder (any of the Lyker models are excellent)
You can get great results with low cost or no-cost editing software. The two most popular options are:
- Garage Band – Comes standard on a Mac. Does pretty much anything you need it to do, and I’ve always found it reasonably intuitive to use.
- Audacity – Free, open source software that is comparable to Garage Band – some Mac users even prefer it – and can be used on PC or Mac
Both of these applications come with good Help and you can also find tons of tutorials for either of them on the Web. You may also want to check out the sources on the Sourcing and Outsourcing page for music and sound effects that you can add to your audio and video projects.
While you can technically host audio files on the same server where you host your Web site do this can slow your site down quite a bit if a lot of people access those files all at once. I recommend hosting with a provider that understands audio. Two popular services I have used are:
Both of these are geared toward podcasting, so can support not only the hosting, but also getting your files distributed as a podcast. Amazon Web Services is also a good option, though requires a bit more technical know how to set up an use.
The links on this page go along with The Learning Revolutionary’s Toolbox, a free eBook.
If you have questions, or want to share your own experiences with any of these tools, please comment below.