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When I started doing interviews, I used a small, standard cassette recorder instead of a dictation machine type that used micro-cassettes because the tapes were easier to find, less expensive, and easier to transcribe. I also invested in a standard-sized playback machine for transcriptions.
I can still use that equipment in a pinch, but I’m thankful for new technology, because with a digital recorder I can download the files directly to my computer and do my transcribing without another separate dedicated machine.
If you’re new to digital recorders, some things to consider:
Some digital recorders do not connect to your computer. If you opt for a self-contained recorder, get one with enough memory to keep your files for as long you need them. Such recorders usually do not use removable memory cards. Consider a unit with a folder and indexing system to help you find recordings easily.
Most digital recorders connect to your computer through a standard USB port. But be sure it works with your computer. My first digital recorder required software that didn’t work with my Mac. I prefer a recorder with a drop-and-drag feature that doesn’t depend on specific software.
Also consider the kinds of files the recorder saves. Look for a format you can listen to not only on your computer, but also with a portable MP3 player.
How sensitive is the recorder’s microphone? Test it before your first interview. Ideally, you want a recorder with a microphone jack. Using an inexpensive Y-clip, you can use two lapel mics at a time, clipping one to you and one to your subject to give you the best fidelity for transcribing. The ability to use an external mic also helps if you are doing a phone interview.
An MP3 player with recording capabilities is usually very small — only about 3 inches — so it’s easy to keep handy for impromptu interviews. But these don’t usually have a mic jack. You’ll need to place the unit near your subject.
Jeanette Gardner Littleton, a CWG mentor, writes and edits from her home in Kansas City. Besides writing and editing, she enjoys trying to keep houseplants and tropical plants alive.
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