What hand-held device has replaced tape recorders for interviews?

So, I’ve been thinkiing of sitting Piper Dad done and getting him to reminisice about growing up in Saskatchewan in the Dirty Thirties.

Years ago, I would have used a tape recorder.

What magic digital thingie has replaced tape recorders for that purpose?

And please, remember that I’ve state numerous times on these boards that i’m a techno-peasant. To me, “Byte” is something a dog does.


A digital voice recorder.

If you have an iPod, you can add a microphone to it that will turn it into a digital voice recorder. You should be able to get one for under $40.

For professional purposes a high end digital recorder. Often made by the same people that made the original professional grade tape recorders. Something like the Nagra LB

For simple home purposes, indeed many MP3 players, and iPods will take a microphone input. What hasn’t changed in all these years is the need to use a reasonable quality microphone, and ensure that the acoustics of where you use it are good. Almost, almost any computer will have audio I/O capability that would be suitable for purpose, but will usually need a mic preamp to get to the levels needed by the input.

There are a number of all in one solutions marketed as podcast kits, that are microphones suited to voice work that plug straight into a computer’s USB port. This might be your best bet. Especially if you have a laptop. Something like these.

there are mp3 players (that can record) or less expensive digital audio recorders that can record with an internal (built into the device) microphone, these will give poor results because the microphone is internal. don’t be tempted because of cost. OK you can use these if you pass the device to each person speaking and they hold it with the microphone hole directly in front of and inches from their mouth, still poor quality.

there are less expensive digital audio recorders that are designed for recording voice memo type content (called digital voice recorder). these can work OK with an external microphone. the least expensive units have only an internal microphone and would need to be passed back and forth. these might be $30 to $80 USA. this would be a modern substitute for a 3 1/2" reel tape recorder or a low quality monaural cassette recorder.

a digital audio recorder that might be used for more general sounds might be found for $100 USA and up. these will record a range of sound beyond voice and take an external microphone. this would be a modern substitute for a 5" or 7" reel tape recorder or a stereo cassette recorder.

what ever method you use do some tests on your own before (to learn the device and sound recording quality it can do) and with the person interviewing to see if you are getting good quality sound before you record the stuff you want.

Well, the built in microphones work as well as the built in microphones did on tape recorders.

The local journalists use cheap pocket MP3 recorders with built in mics. Poor quality, but except for the radio dudes, they say, “it’s only to jog my memory when I write the article.” For radio, they only take a few seconds of any interview anyway, so the quality isn’t a big issue. If you hand-hold a pocket recorder between two people, they do a (barely) respectable job.

For TV/video, I have a whole bank of different mikes for different purposes, and they feed into the camera, which records 2chan 16bit digital. If you’re doing historic interviews, video interviews have supplanted audio ones.

If I need audio only (to send clips to a radio station or use as voiceovers, for example), I just extract the audio from the video. Even if I know I won’t be using the video, I just use the video camera anyway, since it’s always with me. I see no reason to buy another device just for audio.

Do you have an iphone or an iPad? If so, you might get away with the built-in microphone on those, which I found to be quite good. I use my iPad to record meetings, and while people in the back of the room can be hard to pick up, it does pretty well with people sitting within a few feet. If you have an iPhone, you could just set it right in front of him, and the audio quality would be acceptable if the purpose is to simply record his words for later transcription.

I thnk some of you who are talking about the poor quality of internal mics are thinking about broadcast or podcast use. If the purpose here is simply to record the reminisces of a family member so you can refer back to it later or transcribe it, a lot of devices have internal microphones that will work fine. Sure, they’ll pick up room noise and be of lower quality, but the person’s voice should be intelligible enough for that purpose if the mic is close to them and you pick a quiet room for the interview.

If you’re looking for broadcast quality audio, then you want something that you can plug an external mic into. Then you could hook up a lavalier mic to his shirt can get high quality audio.

Or, if you have a laptop, you could get a USB microphone and use your laptop as the recorder. Or even an old-school dynamic microphone if your laptop has a standard microphone input. If the laptop has a built-in webcam, it’s probably got a built-in microphone as well which might work. Some laptops even have built-in noise canceling microphone arrays that are surprisingly good. Check to see what you’ve got.

Professional journalist here. I use a Cowon D2 mp3 player, which has both a built in mic and the ability to use an external mic through an adapter. The recording quality is fantastic - better than my own ears in fact. I’ve used it in crowded, noisy rooms and in extremely windy conditions outdoors (two notoriously difficult recording situations) and have had the recordings come out perfect.

Consider if you want to add picture as well as sound. Sound is great - in fact, it’s the better part of the two - but picture can really make reactions hit home. Some of the best moments I’ve ever captured back when I freelanced interviews for a documentary maker have been the ones where you just see the people’s quiet reactions to what you’re asking or what they’re thinking.

I bought a digital recorder from Radio Shack about 3 years ago. Works great. I take it to Computer Conferences and record the lectures. It’s a little harder to use than my old micro cassette recorder. You have all these digital files that you have to advance through to find a particular lecture. At least it doesn’t squeal like a cassette in fast forward. :smiley:

Interesting thread. I just started using my tape recorder again recently to take musical notes. My niece (she’s 3) also gets a kick out of me recording her and letting her play it back. The big buttons are perfect for it.