Episode 40 : Saving Your Life – Story

by Ian

in Audio, Audio/Video Recorders, Podcast, Technology

Loose it and your story ceases to exist

What if you were to loose all those recordings that you’ve worked so hard to produce? All those hours of conversation… gone! As far as future generations are concerned you’d cease to exist. Maybe it’s best to have systems in place so that it doesn’t happen.

Crash of Troop Carrier U.S. Liberator

What if all your data crashed?

Recording your Life Story using any system is better than not recording it at all but lets use the best practice for recording and archiving this important data and get it right first time.

Fortunately we live in the era of cheap, easy to use digital recording equipment, with every reason to use it in a manner so the recording last forever. It’s just a case of using the equipment and the appropriated settings.

Getting the recording is always the first priority and using any equipment is better than none meaning that you may be using, or have old format recordings that are available and should be converted to digital at some stage. Old records, wax cylinders, reel to reel tapes or cassettes can be converted to digital by a professional or accessing an Analogue to Digital Converter (ADC). An ADC processes the analogue audio and converts it to digital data directly before it is imported to your computer and are far more accurate than playing your analogue audio through an audio output on the tape player into the mic in on your computer, or worse, into a microphone where there will be inevitable quality loss.

Most of us will be making fresh recording and utilising digital recorders in the first place so instead of converting the data it’s appropriate to record in the correct format from the get go.

Digital audio is recorded in one of two standards. Uncompressed (lossless) and compressed (lossy)

Digital Recording Formats

Lossy compressed audio formats such as MP3 & OGG are wonderful for transferring and sharing recorded audio but are generally not the best system to use for the initial recording. Some devices such as mobile phones have the ability to record audio but only use MP3 compression.

Lossless audio formats such as WAV & AIFF are uncompressed full dynamic files and the preferred recording format for recording our Life Story projects. All audio recording programmes and digital recorders can record and export in uncompressed file formats and some mobile Apps are available for mobile phones.

Recording Standards

The recognised standard to convert analogue audio to, or archive audio in, is as a WAV file at a minimum of 24kps at 48kHz. It’s perfectly okay to record at a higher standard and finally archive to this standard but if you start at a lower standard you can never recover the missing data even if your programme can format the audio at the higher standard. If the audio is missing it can’t be created in any programme. If in doubt always start at the best standard of recording possible.


With some editing and mixing with music and effects the initial recording can be enhanced to be an easy and enjoyable listening experience, then compressed to MP3 for easy sharing but this is not the original that needs to be archived.

Always archive the original recordings as a WAV file, with minimum settings of 24kps 48kHz. This is the original, non edited, full of lumps and bumps recording. It may be ugly before it’s edited but it’s the original that the researchers of the future or you can always return to for additional information. Always make sure you have multiple copies on different devices.

I always make two copies of the original recording immediately after the recording is completed as a safeguard during the editing process.

Recording Media

Deterioration of the recording media and technology obsolescence are the two enemies of your recorded audio.

The originally recorded media can deteriorate with time and needs to be updated to digital before the audio is destroyed.

  • Magnetic tape can become brittle, delaminate from the plastic backing or slow deterioration from stray magnetism
  • Cassette mechanisms can break so cassette tapes can no longer play
  • Records can become scratched

The most insidious destruction comes from the obsolescence of technology. Some already or soon to be outdated technologies are…

Old Technology

Try Playing a 78 rpm disc today!

  • Wax cylinders
  • Record players 78 & LP’s
  • Wire recorders
  • Cassette players
  • Reel to reel tape players
  • Digital audio tape players
  • Floppy discs
  • CD/DVD (soon)
  • Hard Drive (fast approaching)

Although CD/DVD’s are still a valid media for recording data, it’s important to store them properly.

  • Only uses CD/DVD safe markers
  • Use archival quality
  • Sticky label adhesives can penetrate plastic coatings
  • Store in cases away from dust, water and heat sources

Over time corrosion of the aluminium recording film used in discs prevents them from being a permanent archiving medium.

An alternative to using small size recording media is to use hard drives which are now very large and very affordable. A 1TB hard drive will hold the equivalent of approximately 1000 hours of high quality WAV formatted audio. At the time of this post for about $80. The only concern is the deterioration of the discs and the possibility of mechanism failure of the drive. For these reasons multiple back ups is, as always, a good practice.

Updating Files

As the technology of digital storage continues to evolve it’s necessary to migrate data from one system that is becoming outdated onto the next evolving storage system, before the technology is obsolete and the playback machines are no longer available. At present we need to urgently migrate all tape to digital and realise that CD/DVD’s time quickly coming to an end.

Hard drives have matured as the latest storage medium but we’re seeing the continued introduction of flash memory, (currently used in removable USB thumb drives and memory cards), as the next generation of recording media of choice. In just a few more years we’ll be migrating all of our data from hard drives to flash drives and then the next new storage system will evolve.

Always keep all of your data updated onto the latest storage technology before the previous system becomes outdated.

If you follow the simple guide of saving multiple copies of your original audio as WAV files on the latest technology and share multiple copies of edited MP3 versions with friends and relatives, you’ll never have to be concerned with your Life Story being lost and being forgotten.

Having the completed edited audio available on a web site also ensures that there is another copy that is also safe.


  • Transfer and create at least two copies immediately after recording
  • Maintain original unedited recording in original format
  • Original files need to be WAV, minimum of 24kps 48kHz format
  • Update all files onto latest storage systems prior to obsolescence
  • Use only stable media storage systems


What old audio files do you have that need attentions? Let us know in the comments below.

    Record or Write, Your or My Life Story Biography

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Music is from

Tony Guerrero
“Dizzy Does It”
from “Blue Room”
(Charleston Square Recordings)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
More On This Album

Kermit Ruffins
“Panama” (mp3)
from “Happy Talk”
(Basin Street)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
More On This Album

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