I thought I’d share my equipment and software setup for my audio storytelling project to satisfy all the gear heads and hope-to-be sound jockeys embarking on the great audio publishing journey. My gear is fairly minimal for pro-sounding results, but my equipment is not required to put your toe in the water. In the most elemental setup, you can record your voice via your laptop or phone mic and do some basic editing in any number of lightweight editing software packages. But if you want credible, well-crafted sound, upgrading to relatively inexpensive pro equipment is the way to go. Here’s the list, referencing the photo above. You can purchase most, if not all, this equipment in professional audio catalogs, such as Broadcast Supply and Guitar Center, as well as Amazon.
TASCAM DR-40 Linear PCM Recorder ($169) – This is one step up from a basic digital audio recorder marketed to musicians, but excellent for voice recording. The audio is recorded to an MPG or WAV file to an SD card for easy transfer to a work station for editing. I purchased it primarily because of its ability to take XLR connectors from a robust standard microphone cable. Take note of the silvery things at the top. That’s actually a stereo condenser microphone, which is fine for music demos and voice in a very quiet environment. I prefer a different mic, explained later in this post.
Electo-Voice RE-50 Microphone ($180) – This is the standard field mic that I used while I was in radio. Sometimes, you’ll see it in use by your favorite TV reporter. It has a warm sound and picks up less ambient sound than a condenser mic. It also works very well as a hand-held mic, though I lock it down with a mic clamp when recording stories.
Sony MDR 7506 Headphones ($80) – These are high-quality, but inexpensive studio headphones suitable for field work. Why headphones? They allow you to hear what’s going into the mic, which is very important for high-quality recording. What you hear without headphones is not the same; The sounds from your voice box are traveling through your skull, not just the air to your ears. It also helps you get comfortable with how you sound to other people.
WindTech MPC-10 Clamp ($20) – I use this to clamp the microphone to my desktop to keep it steady and so my hands are free for gesticulating and paging down on scripts.
20′ Microphone Cable ($43) – A high quality mic cable with XLR connectors is essential, especially in the field. Twenty feet may seen excessive—until you run of out cable when you have to place the recorder some distance from the speaker.
Software – Over the years, I’ve used several audio editing software packages, which you need to remove pickups (“pick up where you left off”), coughs, lengthy pauses, silences at the beginnings and ends of audio files, and for adding music or sounds effects. Right now, I’m using Audacity, a popular, free, open source digital audio editor and recording application, available for Windows, OS X, Linux and other operating systems. It’s well-documented with a ton of tutorials, including several introductory YouTube videos. If you’re not used to audio editing, the learning curve can be steep, but basic cutting and pasting is relatively simple. (Note: You’ll have to install the MP3 audio codec for creating .mp3 files separately from the Audacity package. The Team Audacity website explains how.)
Wish list: A few items I’d like to buy, but can wait: Tripod mic stand ($30); Windscreen, which muffs popping sounds from mouth movement ($5); Studio condenser mic with pop filter ($350+); Dedicated laptop for editing (~$1,000).
There you go. If you’ve been recording your stories, tell me about your setup in the comments.