Episode 5 : Audio Recorders – What You Need to Record a Life Story

by Ian

in Audio, Audio/Video Recorders, Motivation, Podcast, Technology

The recorder you need you may already have and others that you don’t know of.

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This Episode 5 of Create Your Life Story will help you realise what you need to record a life story and the equipment that is open to you today.

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When I first decided to start podcasting I thought that I would do it in the most economical way possible and use what I had.  Things have changed in just 3 years.  I was intending on using my iPod nano with a microphone that I bought to attach to it.  Sadly it wasn’t good enough for a two up conversation but even back then I realised that it would have been suitable for an individual to record with.

I decided to upgrade to some better equipment that lead onto my home recording studio and a portable

recorder.  Now however we have many new portable recorders built into all sorts of devises that you may not even be aware of.

Recorders come in many forms.

  1. Built into software that you will be using to edit your audio. This software is also a recorder and with the addition of a decent microphone can be all you need for recording the audio of a conversation.
  2. Portable audio recorders are the hand held purpose made recorders that have appeared in the last 5 years. Recorders like the Zoom H4 & H2, Edirol R-09HR, M-Audio MicroTrack and Sony PCM-D50.  These recorders are specifically designed to be taken to the audio source for the convenience of recording while away from a studio environment.  Most have built in microphones and the ability to accept external microphones.  Some have phantom power for the microphones that are plugged in.  They generally have removable SD memory cards for recording the audio to and simple plug and transfer systems to get the audio into the editing software.  The great advantage is the mobility to take the recorder to the person and place where the conversation is most comfortable.  They are discreet with little to disturb and distract from the conversation and can generally be, set and forget so as to allow you to get on with the conversation.
  3. Many MP3 players now have built in recorders that are surprisingly good.  Although not a perfect solution without the ability to make adjustments for different environments and not being able to accept a microphone they do still allow you to record for minimal or no outlay.
  4. Mobile phone now have audio recorders that record conversations surprisingly well.  As with the MP3 players it is the quality of the built in microphones that determines the quality of the recording.  Take the time to understand the quality of the audio depending on the position of the microphone especially with two people and the surrounding environment.


  5. Video and still cameras often can record audio.  Video cameras files will be large even with the lens cap on but once transferred you will need to separate the audio and video tracks so as to just work with the audio. GarageBand will accept video files where you can delete the image and just work with the audio. Still cameras have audio recording capabilities but these vary in length and quality of the microphones like MP3 players. Most are designed for audio note taking and only run for a minute or five depending on the camera. Worth investigating.
  6. If you don’t have equipment look into borrowing from your local community resources.  Check out your local library, university or oral history club.  Many of these organisations have have equipment available for use for these purposes.
  7. Do you have access to older systems.  These are not the systems that you would consider purchasing but if you or your family have them lying around consider the viability of using them to record the audio.  Each will require investigation as to how to transfer the files to the computer but all forms of audio can be transferred somehow.


Look around and see what you may already have available then consider what you would need to get additional to help you record the best quality to suit your personal situation.  Take the time to weigh up all the issues in your specific situation and balance the critea as suits you.

Things to consider


  • Mobility – Do you need to travel to someone?
  • Quality – What do you call acceptable quality?
  • Environment – Can you control the environment?
  • Cost – Spend what you need to balance all criteria?
  • Technical expertise – Are you prepared to learn?
  • Time Availability – Do you have it now or do you need to borrow/buy?
  • Time available – Access to equipment for short or extended periods
  • Urgency – Is there time to wait or do you need to act sooner?

When considering all the aspects of any of the equipment it’s worth remembering – “garbage in, garbage out”.  You can manipulate the audio in the editing software but the reality is that should only be for enhancement and not for fixing issues with poor recordings.  The quality of any recording starts with the microphone and travels through the chain of systems and events as it progresses.  Ensuring a good environment, microphone and recording will enable the rest of the process through editing and sharing has minimal issues.  If you start with audio that is poorly recorded due to inadequate microphones and environment there is a need to chase the problem through the editing resulting in less than best quality.

However just to balance these issues, it is better to record something rather than nothing. Getting any recording at the best standard available today is better than having all the whiz bang, best quality kit tomorrow, just to find that the opportunity has passed.

This video will give you an overview of the different digital audio recorders available along with this list of descriptions and pricing.  Please bear in mind that already this information is outdated with new pricing and new releases.


  • Have a look around your home and consider what recorders you may already have
  • Test them out to see how well they function. Recording, file types, importing to computer and quality
  • Is this the standard of audio that is suitable for the style that you wish to produce
  • Do you need to consider investing in a recorder of some sort – Budget versus quality.
  • How long do you require the recorder, could you borrow one versus recording over an extended period

I’d like to know what equipment you need or have and how your planning on using it.  Posting a comment below and explaining your situation will help everyone understanding the different options that are available.

Record or Write, Your or My Life Story Biography

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