The Born Freelancer on basic recording on a budget 101 – Part 2

This series of posts by the Born Freelancer shares personal experiences and thoughts on issues relevant to freelancers. Have something to add to the conversation? Your input is welcome in the comments.

Last week I discussed my recommendation — Audacity software — for recording on your computer.



This will depend of course upon your computer.

So far I have always bought a computer (desktop or laptop) with an installed “sound card” and an analogue audio line input.

This way I can plug in an analogue piece of gear and its output will be automatically “translated” into digital format inside the computer en route to Audacity.

This is how older analogue equipment can still be used successfully within the new digital recording world. I am a firm believer in the philosophy of waste not, want not. If I have the option of using a superior piece of older analogue equipment I will frequently still use it whenever possible.

The simplest method is to just plug your regular standard analogue microphone right into the sound input socket of your computer. With a bit of luck it might be the right impedance and with a bit of juggling of the sound levels you might get sound into Audacity right away.

But what if the sounds level is too low or if you get a hum (or no sound at all)?

In this case you may need a small mixer or preamp plugged in between the mic and your computer. In such circumstances I always use my Behringer-made Eurorack MX-602A. It is a very handy piece of portable gear and as it is primarily a mixer I use it when I want more than one microphone for my interview (useful in some broadcast applications). That is, with it I can simultaneously use one mic for my subject and one for me. I can set it (and Audacity) so that my subject is recorded on one track (left) and my voice on the second track (right) or both are blended together as a monaural mix, whichever I prefer.

If I am doing a phone interview using the gear I described in my first post, I use the QuickTap  Telephone Handset Tap made by JK Audio. I can also plug that into my MX-602A to give the telephone audio greater clarity and volume and then plug that into my computer for recording. The mixer has very basic equalizer controls which can again help clean up the sound coming from the phone line.

If you don’t have a mixer but get low and satisfactory quality sound levels into your computer, you can also simply adjust the recording levels on your computer using Audacity as well as adjusting the playback levels afterwards when you edit and export.

From time to time I still use my trusty old mini-disc recorder when recording on location. It is now considered to be in the realm of so-called obsolete technology but it was only a few years ago the industry standard in use around the world by professional broadcasters. It remains a perfectly serviceable (albeit slightly archaic) medium. I still find it more portable and sometimes more convenient to lug around than my laptop. Once I have a recording on it I can easily transfer it back to my desktop computer for editing on Audacity.

Like some of you I also have many older raw (or unedited) interviews originally recorded and archived on an even older medium, analogue cassette, and these can be similarly played back on a cassette deck and input into my computer and edited/archived/exported using Audacity.

On Friday we’ll cover what to do if your computer doesn’t have any facility at all for an analogue sound line in.


If you have a preference for any other software or basic recording gear we’d appreciate hearing of your experiences. Just leave your thoughts using the “comment” feature below.


Posted on September 5, 2012 at 8:04 am by editor · · Tagged with: , ,

2 Responses

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  1. Written by JP Davidson
    on September 6, 2012 at 7:40 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Any readers interested in getting into radio should check out the Toronto Public Radio Workshop – (feel free to join even if you’re not in Toronto, we’re in the process of changing the name to encompass all of Canada)

  2. Written by editor
    on September 8, 2012 at 7:51 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Thanks for the link, JP! It’s always great to see new freelancer groups springing up. They can be really valuable for networking and support (and they’re fun, too). The Born Freelancer offered some advice a few months ago for freelancers interested in getting into radio, as well. Here’s a link to that column:

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