Using Digital Audio Recorders

This guide is about the use of generally available digital recorders. These include MP3 and minidisk recorders. The audio recorders are those that can be used in a lecture and seminar or for making private notes.


  • Always ask permission to record a lecture, seminar or meeting.
  • It can help to use a microphone to avoid motor sounds as well as the speech. It is preferable to have a microphone less than 30cms away from the speaker but this is not always possible. In a seminar, it may help to have an omni-directional microphone.
  • Written language tends to be more ordered and less prone to error compared to spoken language – some time may need to be spent in corrections and re-ordering for easy reading later.
  • Recordings for speech recognition tend to improve if the microphone and recorder are used with the training scripts.
  • Free programs like Audacity can be used for editing programs.
  • Most digital recorders allow for speedy download via a USB connection. It is also possible to transcribe speech from a recorder in real time with silent replay, the earphone jack output connected to the microphone jack input on the computer.
  • Transcribing recordings takes time – one hour of recorded speech may take up to four hours of typing text. Be selective! It might be useful and also save time to look at the handout at the same time as transcribing the audio to remind oneself what the main structure/ most important points of the lecture/ seminar were.

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