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Audio Recording Tools

Karen Wright

I’d like to record audio CDs on my computer and edit or add music to the sound track. Does anyone have a positive experience with the hardware and software necessary to do this — that gives good quality, doesn’t break the bank, and that a novice could easily learn?

— Tom Gray

Get a decent PC headset/mic from Office Depot, Office Max, Staples — it doesn’t have to be great and shouldn’t cost more than $30 to $50. You can record directly to a sound editor called Audacity — a great product that offers powerful features but has a relatively flat learning curve. Best thing is, it’s free. Get it at audacity.sourceforge.net.

If you’re on the road and want to record for later uploading to your PC, pick up a Digital Voice Recorder (DVR). I have an Olympus model, VN-480pc, that is easy to operate, comes with a lapel mic and a telephone pickup for recording phone conversations. I record and upload files and edit with Audacity. DVRs generally run between $50-$100.

Finally, if you want to record phone interviews from the road or your office for little cost, use Skype with a little $15 utility called MX Skype Recorder, www.skyperec.com. It works like a charm and is Google-like in its simplicity.

— Music Baldwin Hardy

You just can’t beat the value of Audacity — it’s FREE! As for quality: The editors of PC World chose Audacity as one of the PC World 100 Best Products of 2008.

— Tara Kachaturoff

Use Audacity — it’s free and it’s easy to learn. You can record directly on your computer and then easily edit and or add music. Just need a microphone that plugs in. I use a USB headphone with a mic.

— Mattison Grey

To record just about any audio — I use Audio Acrobat. You can do lots of great stuff with it and it is simple to use. It is inexpensive $19/month and they have a free trial. When needed I use Audacity to edit.

— Tom Russel

I use a Rode mic (NT1 I believe) Firebox amplifier. Great, simple software is RecordPad and Wavepad — both made by the same company in Australia. Both have relatively easy learning curves. Quality recording, but not overloaded with features audio voice recorders can do without. Watch out for Adobe Audition and Sound Forge. Great programs but steep learning curves. We use this to produce podcasts. Microphone is very important. The key is recording a quality sound before it hits the disk. You’re probably looking at around $450 for these components.

— Kelley Robertson

I use a Sony digital voice recorder to record to my audio programs then transfer the file to my computer and use Sony Sound Forge to edit it. This software is VERY easy to install and use. You can import music clips (I use a site called RoyaltyFreeMusic.com). Total cost for hardware and software is less than $400.

— Laura Benjamin

I’ve been using NERO software for quite some time to edit my audio and then insert stock music clips from Music Bakery. It wasn’t that difficult to learn at all. I’ve heard other folks recommend Audacity which is a free software you can download from their website. I have no experience with it, personally.

I also use www.AudioAcrobat.com to store/upload recorded sessions to my website. I interview folks via the phone and then post the audio to my site. I’ve also uploaded audio teleclasses that I edited with Nero.

— Jill Witt

I use Camtasia, a software with the ability to create videos and screen capture as well as audio and MP3s. I am not sure, but I think it costs about $250 to get the modern version compatible with Windows Vista. Camtasia is pretty easy to learn, you just drag and drop clips where you want them, and it’s easy to add audio on a second track. Editing is also easy, where you can cut clips and join them together. I made MP3s of my book with Camtasia, and you can easily make a CD with it.

You can also make screen captures of your computer or videos for the Internet or a DVD, or for email, or even for an iPod. This is some of the easiest software to learn, and the company has video tutorials that walk you through each step — these videos take all the mystery out of learning. This software gives you a lot of bang for your buck, since it allows you to make both videos and audio, and there are functions to cut out background noise like hissing, so your recording comes out sounding clean.

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