In theory, research interviews could be recorded with any device — a phone, a laptop, or even a camcorder. But if you want to save big in the long run, it’s better to invest in a good digital voice recorder. These devices are specifically designed for recording long interviews at high quality, which makes the subsequent transcription process faster and more cost-effective.
The Digital Audio Field Recording Equipment Guide, prepared by Andy Kolovos, Director of Archives and Research of the Vermont Folklife Center, contains a wealth of information for professional researchers in the quest for digital audio recording equipment for conducting ethnographic fieldwork (e.g. folklore, ethnomusicology, oral history, anthropology). Here is an extract from the original with 7 digital recording devices including links to buy them on Amazon:
“I am involved in the Library of Congress program to interview veterans and to preserve their stories and experiences. For the project, I needed a professional recorder. I ordered the Marantz and am very pleased with its performance. It is easy to use and does a very professional job of recording history while we still have veterans with us to tell us all their stories.” –Angela
See the Marantz PMD-661 on Amazon
“This is actually the second DR2D I have purchased. It has more features than any other portable I’m aware of. The most exciting feature is the ability to accomplish 4-channel recording by using the mic input and the line input at the same time. It is small and very well laid out. It is very easy to become an accomplished user…” — Rxman
See the TASCAM DR-2D on Amazon
“…At first I was skeptical, especially because of the plastic. But first tests drove all skepticism away! Really GREAT VALUE FOR MONEY, awesome sound quality and the directional microphones make a huge difference when direct recording is needed. A great choice for studio, indoors, outdoors, bus -and other noise infested places-, able to cover all recording needs from simple speeches to jamming and high-quality movie sound.”– Mr. Toumpas Konstantinos
See the TASCAM DR-40 on Amazon
“…I have trusted it to record crisp, clear beautiful audio for all of my interviews, whether recording with the pinhole omnidirectional microphones on the front face, using the really high-quality uni-directional microphones at the top, or plugging in one or two of my own microphones in the two XLR inputs at the bottom. The inputs come equipped with phantom power for condenser microphones. I tested it out with my condenser many times and it sounded great, but I mainly use dynamic microphones for field interviews…” — Flint McColgan
See the TASCAM DR-100mkII on Amazon
“The Zoom H1 is my favorite (of several) portable digital recorder for all-purpose recording. I’m using it primarily for recording oral histories and this fits the bill. The quality of the stereo recordings are top notch and I have no complaints…” –Eliot Rosewater
See the Zoom H1 on Amazon
“This is really a great recorder. Much more convenient than setting up mikes, cables, USB interface, computer, etc. like I was doing before. The sound quality is very professional to my ears. I found the menu system easy to learn and the device is pretty intuitive overall. Pretty good battery life too…”– J. Liles
See the Zoom H2n on Amazon
Zoom H4n Handy Recorder
“Superb sound quality. Love how the microphones can be adjusted for narrow or wide range. I use this for interviews as a separate audio track for video sessions. I seem to get around 6-8 hours on a set of AA batteries…” –Diana Fitzgerald
See the Zoom H4n Handy Recorder on Amazon
As with most of life’s decisions, which recording device you purchase will depend heavily on your budget. This list is not exhaustive, but hopefully it gives you an idea of the variety and options that exist in the professional recorders marketplace, and a general sense of the price for good quality.
Are you looking for less professional equipment? Take a look at these 5 affordable voice recording devices.
Here at Audio Transcription Center, we pride ourselves in the accuracy of our transcripts, regardless of the quality of the recording we receive. However, it is in your best interest to invest in a device that suits your specific needs, so that you can be 100% satisfied not only with the final transcript, but with your own audio as well.