Recording Equipment for Interviews | Focus Groups | Seminars | Conferences

Although Transcript Divas Transcription Services takes transcription quality very seriously, we often receive recordings that contain instances where the quality of the recording is so poor that the voices of those speaking are just unintellible. 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 to avoid – 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).

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 that 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 “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, 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.

How to record an interview

What Gear to Use to Record Interviews for transcription

We have no affiliations or associations with any of these products or brands.

BEST SMARTPHONE RECORDER APP:  Another option is to use a recording app on your phone. We do 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, does introduce some risk, judging how apps work with other apps and phone settings may be a problem when suddenly your phone decides to update something or someone calls.

BEST MICROPHONE FOR INTERVIEWS: If you cannot secure a quiet environment, or the speakers have difficulty in speaking clearly, using lapel (also called Lavalier) microphones are going to be a good investment. These are very common and are the small mic’s seen in television broadcasts clipped onto a speaker’s shirt/tie. A very well regarded mic, that is hand-built and really solid in construction, is the Giant Squid lapel range. This version is set up specifically for one to one interview recording

Upgrade mic option: If you are using a smartphone the Rode SmartLav interview mic (which is commercial level equipment) is probably the best, but more pricer option. You will need to buy two on for each speaker, along with a microphone splitter to allow input for two mics, a suitable splitter is detailed here.

Recording Focus Groups

What Gear to Use to Record Focus Groups

We have seen great success using ZOOM products. We highly recommend the ZOOM H1n 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 see: here.