Call-recording tech that meets my narrow needs?
March 10, 2011 6:25 AM   Subscribe

I have a grandfather in western Oklahoma with great stories, and I'd like to record phone calls with him for later transcription. It seems like there should be a simple, cheap technology solution to this, but I'm having trouble.

My original idea was Google Voice, but it only records incoming calls. My grandparents, like many grandfolk, are pretty change-resistant, and are still paying by the minute for long distance. My parents have apparently failed to convince them to switch plans, and, ok, fine. But then I would need a local Google Voice number so they could call me for free and I could record that incoming call, and Google Voice doesn't have any numbers available in the 580 area code.

Skype seems a possibility, but then I have to pay by-the-minute for calls to their landline. And I'm willing to pay, but it's not clear to me that that's the best use of money.

I tried but the number they gave me is in South Dakota.

There are hardware solutions as well, of course, which is great -- I'm happy to spend the money. I just want to find the best solution. If the final product was listenable enough to justify burning to CD and sharing with family, that'd be great, and I think anything that sounds better than, say, putting an audio recorder beside a speakerphone would exceed my quality threshold.
posted by blueshammer to Technology (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Personally I would just buy this magic thing for $15 and then chat on any regular phone. You put the earpiece into your ear, then use the phone normally, and it records both sides of the conversation.
posted by oliverburkeman at 6:45 AM on March 10, 2011

I'm a reporter and I tape most of my calls. I recommend this type of phone tap over the one recommended above. Buy a good digital recorded with MP3 capability and a usp jack for $70.

Also - Do record these calls. Today. Don't put it off. I wanted to do this with my Grandfather, who I used to call every Sunday for a chat. I don't need to tell you the end of the story. I regret not doing it all the time.
posted by Brodiggitty at 6:50 AM on March 10, 2011

ugh I mean USB jack - like this.
posted by Brodiggitty at 6:54 AM on March 10, 2011

I have used a tap similar to brodiggitty's within the past year, and it provides excellent quality if you've got a phone with actual phone connections. I've even had success putting my celphone on "speakerphone" mode and setting the voice recorder on the table next to it but a few inches away from the speaker. This didn't produce great quality, but it was still listenable to make transcriptions from.

I've never seen a thing like oliverburkeman's before, and I may have to try it sometime...
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:04 AM on March 10, 2011

Another thought: Kall8 is a 1-800-number service that forwards calls in to a 1-800 number to your phonenumber -- and they have call recording available for an extra fee. We use them for 3 different numbers, and setup and maintaining isn't very expensive, so most of the cost is just a per-minute usage fee, something like $0.04-$0.06/min. Since it's a 1800 number, your grandparents could call it for free, and if you set up Kall8 to automatically record all calls, there's no extra work on your end when you answer.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:28 AM on March 10, 2011

I've used a doohicky similar to this from RadioShack in the past to connect my cellphone to my digital recorder. (The version I have is meant to work with a corded headset, and my terrible new phone doesn't recognize my headset... but anyway.) Check at RadioShack if there's one near you. They should have this or something similar in stock, and might have other options for you.
posted by me3dia at 8:03 AM on March 10, 2011

Also: I recorded a number of conversations with my grandfather on an old microcassette recorder, and finally got the tapes converted to mp3 a couple years ago, after he passed away. My entire family was grateful. Definitely do this.
posted by me3dia at 8:05 AM on March 10, 2011

I've used the Olympus TP-7 that oliverburkeman linked to, with a small digital recorder that had a mic input jack. It doesn't seem like it should work, but it does.
posted by enlarged to show texture at 10:41 AM on March 10, 2011

I've used Skype + Pamela for this calling to landlines. Skype in-country calls are very cheap - fifteen bucks will give +20 hours of calls, maybe more, I was calling mobiles (cell phones) as well so that made the money disappear faster. It lasted so long i basically didn't even think about the cost when calling.
posted by smoke at 2:12 PM on March 10, 2011

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