How to Improve the Quality of Your Audio Recording 

Good transcripts begin with good recordings. Here are four simple suggestions for improving the quality of your recordings and, consequently, the quality of your verbatim transcripts.

  • Audio Recording Tips
  • The recorder or microphone should be as close to the speaker as possible

    • For presentations, record directly off the microphone.
    • If you have an A/V technician, they will usually make a recording of your presentation for you.
    • For an interview, place the recorder closer to the person you are interviewing than to the interviewer.
    • For a group discussion, a roundtable or a focus group, use an “omni-directional” microphone.

  • Keep the background noise down

    Record your interview in a quiet place.

    • Restaurants are usually not quiet enough.
    • Cars, other people, coughs and paper shuffling will always be louder than you and your subject, even in a small group.
    • Give your speaker a lapel microphone.
    • Keep cross-talk to a minimum by asking speakers to wait their turn.

  • Properly set up the recording

    The increasing availability of digital recording devices—both in professional meeting settings and in everyday life—makes creating and sharing recordings easier than ever. Here are a few steps that will help ensure your recording is intelligible:

    • Test the recording system prior to use. Talking at normal conversation level while moving around the meeting space at varying distances from the microphone(s) will help you understand the capabilities of the microphone(s) in use.
    • Remember that background noise can interfere with the recording. Opening a window to a busy street or switching on an air conditioning unit can have severe negative effects on the final quality of your audio.
    • Set your recording device to an appropriate bit rate and sample rate. To keep file sizes to a minimum while ensuring good quality voice recording, we recommend 64kbps bit rate and 22,050 sample rate for mp3 recordings.

  • Facilitate the recording

    • Ask all participants to announce and spell their names at the beginning of the recording so that speakers may be identified correctly in the written record.
    • For groups of more than two or three people, it can be very difficult to identify speakers correctly. If you want the transcriptionist to match a name with a voice, speakers must identify themselves each time they speak, or a separate speaker identification log must be kept and submitted with the recording.
    • Provide a terminology list whenever possible. Any document or PowerPoint presentation that gives spellings of terms of art and other industry-specific words and acronyms will help to improve the transcript.
    • Ask participants to speak next to the microphone, not to talk over one another, and to enunciate clearly. Speaking for a recording requires considerably more attention than everyday conversation.