Oral History tape recorder and microphone recommendations?
December 12, 2005 9:56 AM   Subscribe

I need to buy a recorder and microphone(s) to record an oral history.

I will be taking an oral history over the next several months for a project of the American Bar Association. I currently have no equipment, and I have received the following guidelines:
1) I must record to a standard cassette;
2) I should use an external microphone, or two external microphones if lavalier mics;
3) The quality of the recorder itself matters less than the quality of the microphone(s) and tapes used;
4) The equipment should be easy to transport – small and lightweight, if possible;
5) My budget for all the equipment is $100 to $150.

With these three guidelines, what cassette recorder and microphone(s) should I buy? This looks like it would be a good setup for this project, but are there other, better options out there?

Also, while I would prefer to use minidisc, a hard-drive or flash-based recorder, the transcription service I will be using will accept only standard cassette tapes.
posted by Coffeemate to Shopping (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Recording to cassette is crazy. Find a transcription service that has entered the late 20th century (never mind the 21st). Surely the recordings themselves will be of value in the future? Personally, I wouldn't be sure about how good a job a cassette-only transcription service is going to do. Just seems a tad unprofessional nowadays.

If you really do need to use this transcription service, maybe you could record on minidisc / solid state, and dub to cassette afterwards? That way you'd have slightly more archive-friendly digital masters to keep safe somewhere.

It's about the fourth time I've recommended the Edirol R1 on AskMe. It's a wonderful piece of kit for jobs like this. Built in microphones that sound great, too.
posted by coach_mcguirk at 11:19 AM on December 12, 2005

Similar to the Edirol, I've had great success with the Marantz PMD660. In fact, I used it to record an interview just last night and it worked splendidly.

However, if cassette is the way it has to be, try to find a used Marantz CP 430 or a Sony TC-D5M. Those will give you far better results if you're at all concerned about sound.

But if no one other than the transcription folks are going to actually listen to these recordings (which would be a shame) just go with a basic Califone and use its internal mic.
posted by aladfar at 11:52 AM on December 12, 2005

Oh, and I'm pretty sure you can use the stereo lav mics you found at B&H with the Califone. Together, they come to less than $100, which isn't bad at all.
posted by aladfar at 11:55 AM on December 12, 2005

Thanks, coach_mcguirk and aldafar. I think I can figure something out from your suggestions.

The cassette requirement is fairly stupid, I agree, but the transcription service and the eventual recepient of the recordings and transcript both require that format.
posted by Coffeemate at 6:37 AM on December 13, 2005

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