User-Recommended Equipment

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Please note that some information might be out of date.

Contents

Microphones

In order to record, you will need a computer and a recording device, which can either be a microphone that plugs into your computer or a digital recorder.

N.B. If you have a noise-cancelling microphone, or the sound on your computer has a noise-cancelling or noise suppression option, please disable this function. It is very good for purposes such as Skype calls or gaming, but as it removes all the frequencies of the background noise (including those which your voice uses) you will never get the best quality for audiobook recording with noise-cancelling enabled. Use Audacity's excellent noise removal features instead.


Types of Recording Devices

  1. Microphones: Microphones can be analog or digital. An analog mic will plug into the soundcard (plug goes into the pink round jack), the performance of the mic will be affected by the quality of your sound card. A digital mic plugs into the USB port and bypasses the sound card, which will give you much better sound quality.
    1. Desktop microphone: A desktop mic sits on your desk. Perhaps the cheapest mic widely used at LV is the Logitech USB desktop microphone (available from Amazon US for ~$25 - very satisfactory for the price!)
      Opinion: the sound is more digital and not so rich as the Samson or Blue Yeti mics, but it's not so edgy or harsh as the headset models. A recommended first, economy mic.
      The Samson mic is a popular "upgrade" among volunteers who love recording. (Samson Q1U USB mic from Amazon US for ~$40 or Amazon UK for ~£44, or Samson CO1U studio condenser mic from Amazon US for ~$75 or Amazon UK for ~£60.)
      The Blue Yeti mic is another popular "upgrade" among Librivox volunteers. It is big and solid, has virtually no background noise and great sound quality. (Blue Yeti mic from Amazon US for ~$115 or Amazon UK for ~£95.)
    2. Headset microphone: Headset microphones combine headphones with a mounted microphone and can be wired (with a USB plug) or wireless. The Logitech headsets are very widely used (especially the 250 for ~$40US; and the 350 for ~$50US; the models are proliferating). Some models are surprisingly uncomfortable to wear (the 250), but some folks like the headset convenience for keeping the mic location consistent and the hands free.
      Opinion: audio quality is adequate but is typically a little harsh (scratchy, spikey s's, and an over-crisp, digital edge). The sound is inferior to the cheaper, desktop mic by Logitech. For the extra money, consider investing in a higher quality Samson mic.
  2. Digital recorder: When opting for a digital recorder, you should always pay attention to what format it supports. If you need to transfer the files into a audio editor for editing, you should make sure that the formats are supported by your editing software. Also, the recorder should be able to provide a reasonable audio quality.

These simple recommendations are based on the accumulated experience of several volunteers over their years of recording for LibriVox and listening to many recordings. Lots of other wonderful equipment will get enthusiastic endorsement from individual volunteers.

You may also be interested to listen to the recordings made with many different microphones and other recording devices in the Microphone Showdown and Recording on Portable Devices projects. The Transom Mic Shootout:Blindfold Test also compares the sound quality of several microphones.

You can get an idea of how much improvement in sound you are likely to get when upgrading from a Logitech to a budget capacitor microphone by listening to this audio clip logitech_and_samson. The same text is read in the same room with exactly the same microphone set-up. The text is read into the Logitech desktop microphone first followed by the same text read into a Samson C01U.

For an overview of the recording process, see the Newbie Guide page.

Advice for avoiding plosives: If you use a headset mic, try to keep the microphone near your chin or near your nose so that your breath doesn't puff right into it. Place the tip of your finger on the microphone and puff some air out of your nose, then out of your mouth. If your finger's out of the breeze, the mic is, too, and the recording will be fine. If you use a desk mic, you may make or buy a "pop screen" to avoid plosives.


Additional Microphone resources:

NOT Recommended:

  • Logitech ClearChat Pro USB headset (some models) have a constant buzz in the background.
  • Microsoft Lifechat USB headset Mic makes the voice sound hollow and reduces bass tones.
  • Any microphone which has noise-cancelling or noise suppression built in, UNLESS you can disable this. For audiobook recording, noise-cancelling kills the finer tones of the voice, and it is far preferable to eliminate the noise at source, if possible, or to use Audacity's various noise-cleaning features.


Alternative Recording Equipment

Analog to Digital Converters


Portable Recording Devices

Samples of recordings on MP3 players and other portable devices


MP3 Players

  • Archos gMini 402
  • Creative Zen Vision: M
  • Creative Zen Micro I've got one of these and I love it. It's small but rugged with a removable external protective shell and it holds six gigs of data. I picked it up in August of 2005 for $200US at WalMart and it's served me well every day since. It handles WAV, WMV, and MP3 files and includes an FM tuner. You can record either from the tuner or from a built-in mic. The mic's better suited to voice than to music and records at a lower file rate. Battery life is good and the proprietary Lithium battery can be recharged either with the included charger or from a USB connection to your computer.
  • iAudio G3
  • Apple iPod


Recording with a Video Camera or Camcorder

Your video camera -- unless it's a very strange model -- records sound as well as picture. Therefore, it can be used to record you reading for LibriVox. You can even leave the lens cap on while you read. After you finish the initial recording, you will then transfer just the audio from the camera to a computer for editing and other needed processing.

You probably have connected your video camera to your TV, perhaps through the VCR, in order to play back a video recording on the bigger screen of the television. Connecting it to a computer to transfer the audio is similar, although you may need to buy or borrow a cable or connectors.

The simplest way to connect is through the headphones jack if your video camera has one. For this, you will need a special, inexpensive cable. It has a 1/8" (3.5 mm) stereo mini plug on both ends. One end goes in the headphones jack on the camera. The other end goes in the line-in jack on your computer. If the audio jacks are color-coded, you're looking for the one that's light blue. If they're not color-coded, your task is somewhat harder; often the two in and out jacks have graphical labels which look like sound waves (sections of concentric circles) and have a small triangle. The triangle points toward the jack for line-in (and away from the other jack for line-out). It's better not to use the microphone jack for connecting audio devices like the camera.

Once you're connected, follow the instructions below in the computer section for recording. Put the recording software you're using into recording mode and push the play button on the camera. What you will be doing is re-recording from the camera to the computer. As with all methods of recording with the computer, you should test your entire set-up to make certain you have the connections and settings correct. In particular, you will need to experiment with the volume control on the camera set to the proper level: moderately loud, but not really loud.Notice that much of the above also applies to using a tape recorder. It gets connected to the computer through its headphones jack, too; even better would be the line-out jack if it has one.


A few Notes on Alternatives

For those of you who are not comfortable sitting at computer to record, relax. There are other alternatives. If the computer just isn't your thing, rest assured, You can even go out to your favorite bar and help LibriVox record something fun.

To explore some of these alternatives, look through the LibriVox Forum, especially the back pages of Need Help? Got Advice?

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