How to audio record a meeting with 20 people in it.
March 13, 2007 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Best setup for audio recording meetings with 20 people in them?

I need to audio record a series of meetings. Meetings will take place in an echoey conference room, with about 20 people sitting around a conference table.

I'd like to use my laptop to do the actual recording - but am open to other ideas if there are better options. Similarly, I figure I'll use Audacity - the open source software app. - to do the recording. This way, the sessions will result in digital files that I can send off for transcription.

So the core question is, should I attach a microphone (or multiple microphones...) to the laptop? and if so, what kind?

thanks very much.
posted by davidvan to Technology (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The way I typically do this is to get a pair of PZMs, and position them for even coverage over the group. The problem with this is that you don't have PZMs, and even if you did, you'd need to preamplify them before they reached your laptop.

It's going to be exceedingly difficult to record such a large group with only a few mics. The real question here is, what are your limitations? What do you have available to you, beyond a laptop? The mics that you could attach directly to your laptop are going to be, for the most part, completely useless to you. They won't provide any coverage at all, they'll probably be far too directional, and they'll sound like crap. Not that quality really matters if all you want is to have it transcribed.
posted by god hates math at 12:42 PM on March 13, 2007

You'll probably want to use something like this Crown PZM desktop mic. I'd probably use a couple, routed through a small mixer with my fingers on the faders, so that you have some control over adjusting levels and monitoring whoever is speaking.
posted by Roger Dodger at 12:46 PM on March 13, 2007

It would be waaaay more effective and efficient to engage a professional meeting scribe/facilitator.

However, you can address the lack of mics by using the old facilitator method of "talking sticks." Dress up the mics with a couple of feathers and make a ground rule that speaking without the "talking stick" in hand is not acceptable.
posted by choragus at 9:24 PM on March 13, 2007

Where I work, we do this for 10-60 person lectures on a regular basis in 3 separate small auditoriums. Unfortunately, we have plenty of money invested in the setup -- ceiling mics for the audience, and a cordless lapel mic for the speaker. They go to a mixer (Mackie, they tell me it's a relatively small one), which outputs them to a stationary Mac with AudioHijack Pro.

Thought I'd throw in my story, though it doesn't have much bearing on yours. Good to have a mixer to use though.
posted by lostburner at 9:44 PM on March 13, 2007

At the large law firm where I work, they use conference mics from AT&T. They're for conference calls with a bunch of people sitting around a table, but they'll do well for recording.

They have a small center section and three thick arms sticking out, like a 3-legged short-armed octopus.
posted by KRS at 4:07 AM on March 14, 2007

Best answer: I do professional audio for a living, figured i'd give you a flat rundown. Depending on how the people are arranged, i'd recommend between 2 and 4 Crown PZM microphones. Unless I'm mistaken, they're about $125 a piece for purchase, and most reputable production rental companies will have a few for rental (probably about $10-20 a day, per mic). Then, you're going to need a mixer, one that provides phantom power (the mics will draw the power they need from the mixer). Behringer makes low-end, cheap mixers - the MX602A has phantom power on it, and can handle two mics. If this is going to be an ongoing thing, you might want to purchase, otherwise, look into rentals. If you want more advice, send me an email at metafilter[on_the_server_named]floatingredwagon[dot]com.
posted by frwagon at 10:02 AM on March 14, 2007

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