Recently, I had a need to interview the crew of the Essex Air Ambulance for Phoenix FM, one of my local Community Radio stations. When I first got involved in radio, the usual method of recording “on location” involved a portable tape machine – typically a domestic “compact cassette” offering. The late-90s/early-00s brought portable MiniDisc – my favourite method of recording and playing content during a show. These offered near-CD quality, basic editing facilites and (thankfully) lacked the hiss, wow/flutter and jamming that tape was prone to.
These days, solid-state recording devices like the Zoom H1 are cheap, reliable and offer good quality for interviews and atmos recording. In fact, any recorder that permits the use of an external microphone (even a smartphone) will be as good as what you plug into it.
The only issue with using a smartphone with an external mic is they have a 4-pole 3.5mm connector so a standard audio lead won’t work – but splitter leads are available cheaply via Amazon.
For a few years, I’ve had the paid-for version of TapeMachine (£3.80p) on my phone, which is essentially Audacity on your phone. It records, edits, and even has a few effects up its sleeve like fade-in/out, normalize etc.
The following clip was recorded directly into my Samsung S5 Mini using its built-in mic as a linear WAV file. It was then converted (again, using TapeMachine) and Dropbox’d to my server:
For what is probably a cheap electret mic costing £1, the quality is fine for interviews and capturing “the moment”. For a more robust solution, a good dynamic (ENG) vocal microphone and foam windshield are advised.
This solution allows practically anyone from your radio station to capture an interview or eyewitness report, edit it for broadcast, and then send it directly to the studio using Dropbox. With playout systems like Myriad automatically importing audio from a folder as it appears, using this setup as part of a sports show, news programme or just recording everyday life is easy, cheap and gets content on-the-air in minutes.
WAV is supported by default in TapeMachine, but you can get an MP3 Codec [download here], open it with TapeMachine by placing a shortcut to the ZIP on your homescreen.