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Recording Tips

Always remember, the better the input, the better the end result. While we can increase the volume of your recordings and remove a certain amount of distortion or hiss, there is simply no substitute for your preparation to achieve a good quality recording. Poor quality recordings can also incur higher charges as they take longer to transcribe. Below are some tips on how to achieve the best possible recording.

Use a good quality digital voice recorder. Analogue (cassette) recorders are susceptible to mechanical wear and tear, cassette damage, motor noise and interruption through changing cassettes. They are also becoming obsolete. The Transcription Shop recommends Olympus Digital Voice Recorders. Check out our products section for more information.

Familiarise yourself with the voice recorder thoroughly before using it "live". Read the manual.

Try to choose a location with minimal background noise - away from open windows or doors that overlook busy streets. Rooms with soft furnishings reduce echo, so a cosy office or living room is better than a hall or classroom.

Always test the recorder prior to each use and listen back to the test recording with earphones to determine whether the quality is good enough. We naturally filter out unwanted background noise when we're listening to someone speak, but a voice recorder captures everything.

Keep a set of spare batteries. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!

Try to position the recorder or microphone the same distance from each person speaking and away from other noise-creating objects, paying attention to the location of the microphone on the recorder unit. In a one-on-one interview, you can position it closer to the interviewee as typically, the interviewer will be posing previously prepared questions and it is usually more important to capture the responses rather than the questions.

Look out for other factors that may create unwanted noise. Some examples include: Teacups on saucers (or cutlery on plates) near the recorder, fingers drumming on the table, participants' feet tapping on a wooden floor or shifting in their seat, nearby air conditioning units or fans, open windows, participants coughing or sneezing. Placing a cushion underneath the recorder (even a hat or glove) will reduce unwanted noise travelling through the surface.

Try to make your interviewee comfortable with the presence of the recorder, but at the same time, they should talk as if it wasn't there. You, on the other hand, should be very aware that it is there and listen out for external factors that might render parts of the recording unintelligible. For example, if your interviewee is responding to your question and a car horn sounds from outside a nearby window, it can make the response to a question useless. For example:

I: What do you think of the rate of income tax in the country?
R: I think the rate of tax is [BEEP!] too high.

Did the interviewee say "way too high" or "not too high"? These possible responses are conflicting.

To combat this, on hearing the interruption, and rather than asking the subject to repeat themselves, you can confirm by repetition. For example:

I: What do you think of the rate of income tax in the country?
R: I think the rate of tax is [BEEP!] too high.
I: So you think the rate is not too high, OK.


Have you ever noticed that when you whisper at someone, they whisper back? For this reason, you should speak in a clear tone, not too fast and without muttering and this will encourage your interviewee to do the same.