Web browser: The web recording tool only works with the Chrome web browser (you cannot use it in Safari or Internet Explorer and recent versions of Firefox have been very troublesome). You will need to install Chrome if you have not already done so.

Microphone: Unless you are a professional working with professional equipment, we require the use of a wired, head-mounted microphone with a USB interface. There are three important advantages to using a USB headset:

  1. The headset will maintain a constant distance and orientation between your mouth and the microphone. This is extremely important for consistency from one recording to the next.
  2. Many computers, especially laptops, have less-than-optimal sound cards. A USB mic will have its own built-in sound processing hardware that will bypass the sound system of your computer.
  3. A headset mic is less likely to pick up ambient noise.

Several consumer-grade USB headsets will be acceptable, but do not go for the least expensive headsets because their audio quality will not be good enough. Based on current prices in the US, expect to spend around $50 USD for a basic good quality headset. The Sennheiser PC 36 is a model with which users have had success. Recently, users have had less success with Logitech headsets.

Do not bother to try recording with a desktop microphone or (even worse) your computer’s built-in microphone; it will not be possible to obtain acceptable recordings. If you have professional-grade audio equipment that you would like to use for recording, please contact us to discuss the best way to use the hardware.

Recording location: You should choose a room in which you can minimize all sources of background noise. If there are other people in the house while you record, make sure you can’t hear them talking or the television in another room. Close the windows to avoid noises from outside. Make sure any phones or other devices are on silent. Watch out for and eliminate less obvious sources of background noise, like fans, forced-air heat, air conditioners, or other appliances.

Also, the room you are recording in may be shielded from outside noise, but the room itself can cause the sound of your voice to reverberate off of hard surfaces and create echo in your recordings. Rooms with vaulted ceilings, hardwood, tile, or marble floors should be avoided. A room with carpet and curtains is preferable.

If you are stuck with a reverberant room, it will help to place blankets on the floor when recording in order to absorb some of the sound. Also, a trick that radio professionals sometimes use in unfavorable recording environments is to drape a blanket or quilt around the person with the microphone to help damp out other sounds and echoes. You can cover yourself and your monitor or laptop with a quilt or hang blankets and quilts around where you are recording to block out the room sounds as long as your monitor or laptop are not themselves very noisy.

 

Once you are set up with your computer in your recording location and using Chrome, go ahead and connect your USB microphone and click Continue. We will start by measuring the background sound level in your room (i.e. the silence) to be sure the environment is going to be acceptable for speech recording.