Recording Equipment for Interviews | Focus Groups | Seminars | Conferences

At Transcript Divas Transcription Services, we often receive recordings containing instances where the quality of the recording is so poor that the voices of those speaking are unintelligible. The moment is lost.

Being ex-market researchers, we know what it is like to work so hard getting an interview or focus group together and then be on the receiving end of a problematic recording and lost opportunity. This is easy to avoid, and this is our advice.

Three key issues: background noise, faint voices, and cross talk.

A transcript is reliant on the quality of the recording. Poor-quality recordings result in issues with the transcript. Most commonly, an unclear recording results from people talking over the top of one another (cross talk), the microphone being placed away from the action (faint voices), or other noises drowning out what the speakers are saying (background noise).

We strongly advise using backup recording devices and running a quick test before starting any session.

Using a Mobile Phone (use a backup as well). We do see a lot of people using their phones to try and record. Although this is possible – they are simply not designed to do this. We do recommend that you use your phone as a backup recorder, just in case the primary device fails. Remember – in a lot of cases it’s a “one shot” situation. If you miss it – if the recording is unclear or the recorder fails, then the opportunity is missed.

How to record clear interviews & groups.

Time needed: 5 minutes.

How to record interviews – these are our THREE key things to keep in mind when recording.

  1. FAINT VOICES – Master Microphone Position.

    The absolute key to getting a usable recording is using mics that can be set up close to the person/s talking. Sitting a recorder in the middle of a room can mean problems and unusable recordings, for example, lots of background noise, faint speakers at the back of the room etc. Optimally use more than one microphone to record (see the gear recommendations at the bottom). If this cannot be done, place the microphone at an equal distance between those who are talking. If it is a group, get the group in a circle, and place the microphone in the center. ALSO, Remember to turn off the “noise reduction” settings on the recorder. These often do not work well, resulting in ‘clipping’ and end up making the recording more difficult to hear.

  2. BACKGROUND NOISE – Control the Space.

    Remember to control the background noise. Choose an area that is closed off from external sound. A quiet room or office. Not a cafe, or public space. If you have limited choice, then we recommend getting the microphones as close to the speaker/s as possible.

  3. CROSS TALK – Set Group Rules.

    Remember to maintain a level of decorum with the people talking. Especially in groups, people can end up talking over one another – called ‘crosstalk’. The moderator or facilitator needs to lay the ground rules at the start and then seek to maintain control of the situation in order to get an accurate recording. If cross-talk does occur, it, more often than not, results in gaps in the transcript.

What Gear to Use to Record Interviews for Transcription

We have no affiliations or associations with any of these products or brands. They are just examples of the type of systems and products we have seen work well.

Set Up Equipment Mindfully.

Point the microphone away from potential sources of noise and towards the speakers. Speak clearly, and place the microphone where it is likely to pick up all the people who will talk. Speak slowly. It often helps to place the microphone an equal distance from everyone who is ‘likely’ to speak. Run a short test before you need to use it. Use a backup recording device. Give Diva HQ a call to discuss options or check out our guide on transcription recording equipment.

BEST SMARTPHONE RECORDER APP:  Another option is using a phone recording app. We strongly suggest that you use external mics; the mic on your phone is not designed to record at any distance. Using a multipurpose device like a phone to record introduces some risk; judging how apps work with other apps and phone settings may be a problem when your phone suddenly updates something or someone calls.

BEST MICROPHONE FOR INTERVIEWS: If you cannot secure a quiet environment, or the speakers have difficulty speaking clearly, using lapel (also called Lavalier) microphones will be a good investment. These are very common and are the small mics seen in video broadcasts clipped onto a speaker’s shirt/tie. An example is the Rode SmartLav interview mic (which is commercial-level equipment). You will need to buy two microphones – one for each speaker, along with a microphone splitter to allow input for two mics, a suitable splitter is detailed here.

What Gear to Use to Record Focus Groups

We have seen great success using ZOOM products. We highly recommend the ZOOM H1n vp for interviews and small groups.

What gear to use to record Conferences, Lectures, Question & Answer Sessions

For this, you will most probably need multiple microphones, as speakers are more likely to be in different areas of a room. We recommend a base unit like the ZOOM H2n. This unit enables extra external mics to be plugged into the base unit and mic setup. If you are recording a question-and-answer session, we recommend a roving wireless mic system. Something similar to this pro-level shure: here.