Good WinXP sound recorder for bad eyes?
June 29, 2009 11:25 AM   Subscribe

What's a good Windows XP open source/freeware sound recorder that is easy for someone with vision deficits to use? Suggestions for a microphone also welcome. Details and...

Stepdad's father will be doing a piano performance in a week. Stepdad will be flying with his Win XP notebook to attend and would like to record it, direct to MP3 if possible (but I can help him with .wav to mp3 conversion if necessary).

He has some significant vision deficits (nearly blind in one eye, huge amount of correction in the other) and uses the sight disability features in windows (large fonts, mouse pointer trails, screen magnifyer), so a complicated/cluttered interface would be a drag for him.

Money is an issue as well, so open source/freeware would be ideal.

Suggestions for a cheap-ish microphone with decent recording ability that travels well are also welcome.
posted by de void to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Best answer: Audacity is free, and has a fairly simple default interface.
posted by Oktober at 11:39 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Using a quality microphone will set you back at least $200 once you figure in a stand, cables, and a preamp, and that's still only going to get you a decent recording. It can also be tricky to setup if you can't see well and don't know much about this stuff.

If this performance is somewhere with a sound system they will probably already have the piano setup with a much nicer microphone, and might even be setup to record (more likely at a concert hall than at a bar). Your best bet would be to call ahead and speak with the sound tech, see if they'll record it for you, and if not see if you can patch into the mixer. FYI, management is never keen on letting you touch the equipment, but going up to whoever is running the board and asking nicely / greasing the wheels will usually do the trick. If you patch into the mixer I highly recommend using one of these to avoid ground hum and other noise. And don't forget to set those levels properly.

If $200 counts as cheap-ish, let me know how much you're willing to spend and I'll recommend a setup.
posted by waxboy at 1:13 PM on June 29, 2009

Also, if you post an ad in the musicians section of craigslist in the town where this performance is taking place you might be able to find someone willing to come out and do a proper recording for $50-100.
posted by waxboy at 1:25 PM on June 29, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far, we'll definitely give Audacity a try.

As for the microphone issue, I think I've been too sparing with context:

Stepdad's Dad is in his high 80's, the performance will be wherever they have the old stand up piano at the senior citizen center and I doubt there's going to be a sound tech/board operator who will need to be greased in order to snag a patch line.

At least to me, in that situation $200 is expensive. Anything in the $50 and under range?

As long as there is more piano than static in the end product I think all will be pleased.
posted by de void at 1:32 PM on June 29, 2009

If the built in microphone won't cut it you could try using one of these, but I've never used one and I'm not sure if it'll be all that big of an improvement. I'd run a test once you get Audacity up and running. Turn on the TV or stereo and place the laptop in front of it as if it were the piano, hit record, and see if it sounds good enough. If it's really bad you'll probably be better off with the above mic.
posted by waxboy at 2:00 PM on June 29, 2009

I use MP3DirectCut to record stuff all the time. It records direct to MP3 and lets you losslessly (is that a word?) edit the file afterwards. Setup's the same's as Audacity: you have to down LAME seperately.
posted by exhilaration at 3:15 PM on June 29, 2009

You can also avoid the hum issue if you run your laptop without the AC adaptor (ie., on its internal battery).

A Crown PZM microphone strategically placed inside the piano should work well; you may have to experiment a bit to get good tonal balance.

Try if you can to test out a few different setups the day before the performance, so you can choose the best one with no time pressure.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:07 PM on June 29, 2009

Inspired by waxboys idea of getting someone more experienced and making recordings to come along, you could also check out a) for good advice, and b) beacause you might well find someone that has a nice portable recording rig that is willing to help you out.

I'd suggest recording to wav (or some other lossless format) and converting to mp3 later -- it's always best to start with as good a master as you can get.
posted by dirm at 4:25 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

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