Recording Devices 101

11518496364_3eb1e46756_nLet’s take a look at two types of audio recording devices: the mini-disk recorder and the DAT recorder. Read the manuals first, and then experiment with hooking up two microphones or one stereo microphone to the ‘microphone in’ (NOT the ‘line in’ — this is for telephone recording or music transferring) on the respective device.

Keep in mind that these formats are for recording your message or music, not what the final product will be later on. Final audio product format options are CD (compact disk), MP3 disk or DVD.

Connecting Your Recorder to a Microphone

Chances are that your microphone connector thingamabob (a highly technical term, used by audio engineers everywhere) is either a 3-pin plug (called an XLR connector) or a 1⁄4″ diameter plug. Most consumer recorders have a 1/8″ stereo microphone in (exactly like your Walkman headphones have on the end opposite to what goes on your head). Therefore, you will need to visit your local electronic supply and purchase whatever adapter you need to connect the two, and a tip ring sleeve Y-cord to split the microphone input to the recording device. This is necessary for recording equipment with one stereo input. Some recorders, especially DAT come with two separate inputs, making a Y-cord unnecessary.


Choosing a Microphone

Why do you need two microphones? One microphone is for recording your voice, while the other is for recording the audience. Your microphone can be as simple or elaborate as you want the quality to be. Good spoken word wireless microphones cost from around $450 to $1,500. Good wired microphones range from $39 to $1,500. Audience microphones (choir microphones and shotgun microphones) range from $350 to $2,000. I recommend the line of Sony choir microphone for a low cost, reliable audience microphone. At about the size of a lavaliere, they work great. In fact, they’re what we have used for years at Primeau Productions.

Shotgun microphones are okay, but the good ones are expensive and difficult to use because they can pick up an audience member chewing gum or other annoying sounds. I don’t care at all for PZM microphones for recording audiences. They are good for small rooms to record meetings but do not pick up as well as the choir or shotgun microphone can. If you don’t want the hassle of setting up an audience microphone, keep your main microphone (lavaliere) further away from your mouth. This will allow more audience sound to be recorded. Be careful of clothing rubbing against your microphone if you use a clip-on lavaliere. Since both recording mediums are digital, do not set the record level too “hot” (another industry term, meaning “loud”). If the meter ranges from — 50 to +3 try to keep it around 0 or -10 (the meter is that thing that moves with the volume of your input — some are meters, some are LED display). When you record using two microphones, the audience microphone will go in one channel, or side, and your microphone will go on the other. The tip ring sleeve Y-cord will allow this separation. They can be mixed together later in the editing process.

Do a Test Recording
Put the device and microphones in front of you. Turn on the power, insert a blank disk or DAT tape, put the device in “record” (according to the manual) and talk into one microphone at a time to test each. If you are having problems, go back and review the manual. After you complete your maiden recording, play it back. If it sounds distorted, it was recorded too loud. If the audience microphone is low, turn up the main record level on the recording device and turn down the output volume of your main microphone (if it is wireless, it should have volume control). Now you are ready to tape your next speech or performance. Use a conference center microphone stand to support the audience microphone, about 5 feet away from the first row of the audience, (this distance will vary, depending on the microphone used).

If, after the first recording, you discover the audience volume was too low, next time move the microphone closer to the audience. If it’s too loud, move further away. Moving the microphone closer to or further from the sound source is another way of controlling volume. If all else fails, drop me an e-mail, and I’ll do my best to help you.

Interested in learning more about professional media services like audio/video? Contact me at 800-647-4281.

This information is taken from my book The Art of Production, which you can purchase from Amazon or you can purchase an e-book version from SmashWords.


photo credit: Blue via photopin (license)

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