This page features audio samples from some of the equipment and setups I described in the Field Recording and Audio for Travel Writers pages. The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate how the recording environment and the equipment used all have an effect on the quality of the recording.
Why is this important? Generally, I'm assuming that you'd prefer to have "good sounding" audio for your productions. Understanding how equipment and the recording environment interact will help get you there. On the business side, if you want to get your works published on a site -- or even viewed/listened to on your own site -- good audio will help.
Consider an editor who is faced with two projects of equal editorial merit to fill one slot. One project has good audio and the other has mediocre audio. Which will most likely get published? The decision to take a 6 1/2 ounce USB mic (like the Blue Snowflake) on your trip, or to get a good sounding USB desk mic for recording once you get home, may make the difference.
Recording "studio" in a walk-in closet. The digital recorder is clamped to the mic's floor stand, and the clamp also serves as a hanger for the headphones. The script is clipped to a rack of ties.
However, as I mention elsewhere in this series, be prepared for an audio "arms race". Better recording products, and your colleagues out there who are consistently looking for ways to improve their projects, will continue to raise the bar.
The setup for these samples is typical of what you might encounter if you were going to record a podcast, audio blog, or the narration for a slide show from your home or in a hotel room. I used the table in my dining area, with a laptop on it, and whatever microphone setup I was testing. The floor is carpeted, but most of the other surfaces are hard. The furnace was shut off, and I made sure the refrigerator wasn't running. I've tried to be reasonably consistent in this approach, but this shouldn't be considered a scientific test.
Most of the audio was recorded as WAV files and converted to MP3 files at 44.1 kHz, 16-bit, and 192bps. While the MP3 files are compressed, I don't think you'll be able to detect degradation by the time the files pass through the internet and your computer. I recorded the Toshiba samples using Sony Sound Forge 9.0e, and the ASUS sample using Sony Audio Studio 9.0 -- Sound Forge's smaller two-track application. Final editing and processing was done on my desktop PC using Sound Forge 9.0. The peak limiter on the Tascam recorder was turned on and the low-cut filter on the Edirol was turned on (that wasn't intentional).
When the Toshiba laptop was used to record, it was set on two strips of closed-cell foam to improve the mechanical isolation -- especially important when using the Samson G-Track. The USB mics were placed on the side opposite from the fan's exhaust port. (Fan noise will be a problem with many laptops since you need to keep the computer close enough to operate the recording controls. Fan noise from a desktop computer is likely to be even more of a problem.)
To the extent possible I tried to create a consistent recording situation. The mic was placed approximately 12 inches away from my mouth for each recording. The levels of the "As Recorded" samples are what was produced. The levels are different because that was how things turned out.
The "Normalized" samples were processed by Sound Forge 9.0 or 10.0 using that software's "Normalize RMS to -10 dB (speech)" preset. This process expands the levels of the recording to fill in the available space. The purpose for this part of the project is to make the volume of all the recordings consistent so that you can compare them at the same monitor/headphone volumes. The side effect of normalizing process is to also expand the background levels, but this lets you get a better idea of what noise you will be carrying up into the recording with the different equipment setups.
(Recent entries/updates are marked " * ".)
What you'll discover as you listen to the samples above, especially if you compare the normalized recordings, is that every setup produces a different audio "sound" -- and you can pretty much count on recording directly into a laptop's internal microphones to give you the poorest results.
Note: As stated above, most of the "studio" samples were made with the microphone about 12" away. This is for consistency only. Many voice recording guides suggest starting with a mic distance of around 6" to 8" and then adjusting for the individual mic and recording environment. Condenser mics tend to accentuate lower frequencies as you get closer to the mic...Omni-directional mics become more directional at higher frequencies...Some mics are more sensitive to "pops". This is one of the reasons headphones and zero-latency monitoring is so important -- you can position the microphone as you talk into it in order to get the desired sound.
(The text for the recording is read from Rick Steves' book "Travel as a Political Act".)
Coming one of these days...