One of the initiatives our department is working on involves podcasting. And one of the necessary parts of podcasting is creating a podcast, which involves using hardware and software. The hardware is the audio equipment and the software is the audio editing component. Although I know something about podcasts, I really don’t know much about audio recording. I’m not a musician, so knowing how to record good sound is not something I’m familiar with. Therefore, in the process of putting the pieces together for this podcasting project, I needed to investigate the audio equipment out there, what it does, and which pieces might be the best bet for faculty and staff to use when recording podcasts.
We are very fortunate to also have the Arbiter and Boise State radio involved with us on this project. Their expertise and advice has been invaluable, and has probably saved us a lot of time, money, and angst. I kept investigating and asking for feedback from these agencies, and they were more than willing and able to provide it. One of the best things out of all of our conversations was discovering a great online store for audio equipment: BSW (http://www.bswusa.com/). If you are in the market or just curious about what is out there for recording lectures, doing interviews, or pre-recording lessons or other broadcasts, this site is for you.
Even though you CAN record a podcast on your computer with a $30 headset, you’ll get what you pay for. The audio quality will be so-so and you will need to control the sounds around you. If your computer fan is making noise, it’s likely that the microphone will pick that up, too. That’s why for a good quality audio recording, you’ll need to spend at least $99. That will buy you a decent quality cardioid USB microphone and a pair of headphones to listen to how your voice sounds before you record.
If you want to get even better quality audio that is also a portable device, you can get the Zoom H2 by Samson. This really cool device has built-in microphones (4) and can record a group conversation when put in the center of the group. It can also record your voice and the quality is supposed to be good. This will put you back about $180. But the REALLY great feature is that it records to an SD card (like the one you have in your digital camera) which you can then upload to your computer, edit it (if you want) and then upload for listening online. And by the way, it can save to either wav or mp3 format. (mp3 is the format you’ll need to upload to iTunes U, so it will be ready to upload directly after you record if you want.)
For an even more robust recorder, the Zoom H4 will accept external microphones (as well as having built-in ones) and will even plug in to your computer’s USB port to act as an external microphone on its own. This also records to an SD card and will save either in wav or mp3 formats. This costs $299. (Keep in mind that this device is used by professional musicians to record their work. The quality of your voice will be good, really good.)
Olympus has also come out with a new digital audio recorder, which looks good, but for $100 more you can get a Marantz PMD660 ($499), a very sophisticated recorder. There are always trade-offs, it seems!
There are MANY applications for using these digital recorders besides doing audio podcasts. If you are a music teacher, for instance, these recorders can be indispensable for recording and instant playback. For practicing speeches, students could use these recorders and again, play back instantly for critiquing or publish to their blog for others to critique. You could even record your whining child and then play it back for them to listen to. (I’ve always wanted to do this, but never have the recorder when I need it.)
So, take a look at the BSW site and their equipment. I think you’ll be amazed at the selection and advice on various configurations for podcasting.