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Moving from Audiotapes to CDs

David Lee

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I am interested in switching over from making audiotapes to CDs for my seminars and asked about:

  • What equipment people find the best in terms of quality/price balance (recorder and mike).
  • If you edit your recordings on your PC, what program do you use?
  • If you've "transcribed" your audiotapes to CDs using your PC, what program did you use, did you find it easy to use, and was the outcome of sufficient quality?

-- Dave Paradi

In response to your questions on recording and editing audio on your PC, I use a software package called Audacity to edit and record sound on the PC. It is very simple but powerful and the best thing is that it is free. You can download it at audacity.sourceforge.net. To transfer your tapes to CD, you can connect the headphone jack of a tape player (like a portable stereo) to the mic jack of your PC using a simple cord from Radio Shack, then use Audacity to record the audio. It won't know that you aren't talking, it just hears what is coming in on the mic jack.

I will let you judge for yourself. Here is a link to some clips that were taken from an audio tape onto my computer using the technique I described.

And the audio on this CD was recorded directly to my laptop and then converted to Flash format for the web page.

I think the quality is as good as CD when recording directly to the PC and darn close when taking it from tape.

-- Ed Helvey

I've been actively in the recording industry for some 41 years. I keep very current with all aspects of the recording (and video) production fields and maintain a state of the art, digital production suite. So, having started out in the industry before the audio cassette was developed and during the reel-to-reel tape days, I think I'm qualified to make a few suggestions for you.

There are four ways you can consider going.

1. A digital pocket recorder with internal memory. Several of these are available in the around $300 range that give you a USB output to connect directly to your computer.

2. Minidisks - these are still widely used by the broadcast and print journalists - very compact, light weight, excellent quality and in the mono mode they will give you about 140 minutes per disk - digital quality.

3. Portable CD recorders - larger, allow a max of 80 minutes record time per CD-R, CD quality and, if you get a professional version, reliable.

4. Portable, professional compact flash card recorders. Quite frankly, I believe these are the wave of the future. Voice of America is issuing them to all their correspondents, other broadcast journalistic organizations are doing likewise. Excellent digital quality, reliable, no moving parts to break, some take as large as a 1 GB flash card and give hours and hours of high quality digital audio recording time. They also can be plugged directly into the USB port of a computer and the computer will recognize them as another hard drive - thus, allowing virtually instant access and very rapid download time. You can also buy a flash card reader that will plug into the USB port for about $20 and use that to download the flash card. The Marantz unit, PMD 670, I think is the best deal - but it will run you about $700.00 street price from just about any of the top pro audio and music houses in the country.

I currently maintain pro recorders in analog reel-to-reel, analog audio cassettes, DAT (Digital Audio Tape), CD, Minidisk and fixed or portable hard drive recording. But, after looking at the entire field of options for high quality, flexible, reliable digital recording, I'm going to be retiring my $2000 portable DAT recorder that has served me excellently for nine years in favor of the Marantz flash card recorder - for $700.

It is less expensive, lighter and smaller then my professional portable DAT recorder, plus it offers me a full array of professional features including XLR professional mic inputs with phantom powering for high quality professional condenser microphones, digital I/O and the USB feature allowing me to download instantly to my computer and save it on my hard drive for editing, instead of downloading at real time either in analog or digital format.

As an industry professional who has probably recorded something approaching 10,000 hours of programs of every conceivable type, my money says this will be the way we'll buy music and spoken word audio programs (and video, too) in the future and that CD's and even SACD's, DVD-A's and DVD-V's will phase out sometime in the next several years. It will take more time for this format to evolve, but digital media that do not require moving parts will ultimately replace the current formats. BUT, this technology is available today for original master recordings.

Here is information on both the Marantz CDR portable recorder and the compact flash card recorder.

You also have the first two options to consider that I enumerated above. But, after you do your research, if you really want to make an investment that will pay for itself and give you a long term ROI, I'd give very serious consideration to going the professional flash card recorder route.

-- Tom Krauska

I've worked with two programs: Adobe Audition and Sound Forge. Both will get the job done.

Adobe Audition has the advantage of having Noise Reduction as part of the program. It's also the same as "Cool Edit."

I'm sure you'd heard the phrase GIGO. The better your input, the better you CD will be.

-- Fred Gleeck

I like products put out by Marantz. I use www.Kingdom.com to buy things because of their great customer service.

BUT, even better, I've established a personal contact who is willing to work CONSULTING (for free) with speakers and he's a great guy at a HUGE company called B&H Photo. Please feel free to give out his name: Kendall Scott, 800-606-6969 x2561. This guy KNOWS speakers needs because I've been working with him for myself and my clients. This is the BEST recomendation you could give out.

As for editing, are you Mac or PC? If PC, then you have a few options like SoundForge and Kool Edit. I'm a Mac guy and use PEAK LE. Why are you editing? Editing should be left to those who do it for a living. Spend your time marketing and making money.

3) If you've transcribed your audiotapes to CDs using your PC, what program did you use, did you find it easy to use, and was the outcome of sufficient quality? I'll post a compilation to SpeakerNet.

For transcription I use a woman named Sunanda. She's been great to work with. Her email is sunanda@mandrakeconsulting.com.

SpeakerNet News is produced by Rebecca Morgan and Ken Braly. It is not affiliated with the National Speakers Association. Send comments or suggestions