There’s a myriad of ways to record your research interviews. You could use your phone, laptop, or even a camcorder. However, I strongly recommend using a digital voice recorder. Handheld digital voice recorders are compact, affordable and enable you to easily manage the audio recordings, which makes the process of getting your dissertation interview transcripts easy and cost effective.
Summary: Best Recorder for Interviews
- Sony ICD-UX560: lightweight and low profile; powers up instantly; amazing sound; records in LPCM format; 3.5mm mic input with plug-in power; clear, sharp, and crisp LCD screen. Perfect for recording interviews. Stop shopping around and go and buy this beauty on Amazon!
- Sony ICD-PX470: if you are looking for excellent interview recorder on a budget. Very similar to the Sony ICD-ux560, but larger and bulkier. Uses 2 AA alkaline batteries (no USB recharging), no backlight. If you can’t afford the Sony-ux560, this recorder will save you some money. Check price on Amazon.
- Zoom H1n: Very good recorded sound. Lots of recording versatility – 96 kHz/24 bit wav. 2.5v plug-in power, 5v USB power, USB microphone. With accessories that you’ll need, a bit pricey, but a good professional (not for “newbies”) recorder for research interviews. Buy it from Amazon.
The greatest advantage of digital voice recorders over older digital tape recorder is that they have no moving parts, which make a lot of noise. Thus, your interview recordings are crystal clear, which makes transcribing interviews easier. In addition, modern handheld digital voice recorders are less bulky, can hold more audio data (up to a 1000 hours) than their analog digital tape recorder counterparts. What are the 3 key features you need to look for when buying the best recorder for interviews?
3 Things to Consider When Buying a Voice Recorder for Interviews
Buy a voice recorder that has both built-in memory and a memory card slot – which gives you virtually unlimited recording capacity. It’s okay to buy a digital recorder with a low built-in memory – you can easily increase the storage capacity using an external memory card. There are many different types of memory cards; Secure Digital, CompactFlash, MicroSD just to name a few. The most common digital memory cards are microSDHC, and microSDXC and store 4GB to 256GB of data.
When choosing a memory card always check its storage capacity. However, the most important consideration should be compatibility Always get a memory card that is compatible with your voice recorder. If you want to learn more about voice recorder microSD cards, check out this post.
All digital recorders have built-in microphone(s). However, using an external lavaliere microphone enables you to record high(er) quality audio, especially in a noisy environment (here’s a great post on choosing external microphones). A microphone can either be unidirectional (cardoid) or omni-directional. Unidirectional microphones capture sound from a targeted source, while omni-directional mics capture sound evenly from all directions. Unidirectional mics can suppress unwanted noise and are great for one-on-one interviews. With a high quality digital voice recorder (for instance the Sony ICD-UX560), you can adjust and monitor the built-in microphone sensitivity/recording levels. Ultimately you want to choose a recorder with a microphone jack, the most common and compatible jack is the 3.5 mm jack.
Audio Recording Format
There are two types of audio file formats, compressed and uncompressed. Generally, higher compression means lower quality sound. You should buy a recorder that allows you to capture uncompressed audio in PCM (wav) format. Pulse Code Modulated audio (PCM) is a file format that store the audio in its raw uncompressed format, meaning you maintain the original recording quality. High quality voice recorders enable you to record your interviews in an uncompressed audio format.
The biggest mistake you can make!
Be Forewarned: Here’s the biggest mistake that researchers make when choosing a interview recorder: they buy one without a USB plug or external memory slot. Make sure the recorder that you buy has a USB port or an external memory card slot. This will enable you to easily transfer your audio interviews into a PC/Mac, so that you can easily share them with your transcriber. Most (cheaper/older) low quality digital recorders (for example the Sony ICDB600, Olympus VN-7200, Olympus DP-201) don’t have this feature!
And you’ll want to get 2 recorders to record your research interviews. Why? Because you do want to have a backup recorder in case “something” happens…
Best Recorder for Interviews
1. Sony ICD-UX560
Amazing little recorder that’s perfect for recording interviews. Records amazing sound. And you get even better quality sound if you record in the LPCM 44.1kHz format that this recorder supports. 4GB internal memory. If you plan to use it often, get additional memory – compatible with 128GB microSDXC cards (but 64GB microSDXC should be have more than enough capacity for most researchers). With the right settings, works well even in noisy locations (see this post for the settings I recommend). In-built battery…I could go on but here’s a detailed review. Stop shopping around and go and buy this recorder from Amazon.
2. Sony ICD-PX470
Great budget recorder. If you are looking for excellent interview recorder on a budget, this recorder is perfect. Records great sound, not as good as Sony 560, but close enough. And you get even better quality sound if you record in the LPCM 44.1kHz format that this recorder supports. 4GB internal memory.
If you plan to use it often, get additional memory – supports microSDHC cards (4 GB to 32 GB). I bought a 32GB microSDHC for less than $20 on Amazon, and it works well with my Sony ICD-PX470. With the right settings, works well enough in noisy environment (see this post on the px470 settings I recommend). However, does not recharge batteries, no backlight…I could go on but here’s a detailed review of the PX470. Buy it now from amazon, you won’t be disappointed.
3. Zoom H1n
The Zoom H1n is an entry level professional digital recorder that records very good sound, better than the older H1 version. As it’s geared toward audio professionals, it’s got a lot of features. Most of which you won’t use when recording research interviews, for instance the 96 kHz 24 bit wav recording format is overkill.
Why do I recommend it? I really like the sound of the recordings. A minimalistic design – which I also like. It’s bulky, but fits like a glove to you hand; perfect for recording field interviews where you’ll need to hold the recorder up. Outputs 2.5v plug-in power – enough to power most external microphones. And you can also use it as a USB microphone. Pretty nifty.
You are limited to 32 GB max (and it has no internal memory so you’ll need to buy a microSD card) and 10 hours battery life (and you can’t recharge batteries using this recorder). But you can power the Zoom H1n using a USB charger, which is what I recommend you do if you’re recording a long session. Here’s a detailed review of the Zoom H1n.
If you have experience recording audio and want to step up your game, try this recorder – you won’t be disappointed. Are you are looking for a “plug and play” recorder? The Zoom Hn1 is not for you: newbies are not welcome. If you want to take your interview recording to the next level – get this recorder from Amazon.
I’ve shared with you my top 3 recommendations for the best digital voice recorder. These choices represent my best advice when it comes to choosing a digital voice recorder to record your interviews. Researchers are pretty lucky these days, as high quality handheld digital voice recorders are more affordable than ever.
I hope you see something you like in my recommendations. At the very least I hope they serve as a starting point for your quest to find a recorder that’s right for recording your research interviews. Please let me know if this post was helpful to you in the comment section below. And good luck while collecting your research data!