What you need to record audio podcasts for your blog

In this second article about making travel podcasts I’ll explain the equipment you may need for recording your audio podcast and the free software you’ll need to edit it. You can read Article 1 in this series – Why you need podcasts on your blog here. There are a few different ways that you can record audio, although I’m using some more than others.

1. Recording into a portable audio recorder – ideal if you’re recording while you travel.
2. Recording direct onto your laptop – ideal when you’re at home or in a hotel.
3. Recording an interview using Skype – for recording telephone calls.

I mostly use a portable audio recorder and sometimes record onto my laptop, so I’ll be able to give you most advice about these.

1. Recording with a Portable Audio Recorder

H2 Zoom Handy audio recorder

H2 Zoom Handy audio recorder

I record using a portable H2 Zoom handy recorder – it costs around £155. I can’t pretend I did any research on this, instead I asked Chris Christensen from the Amateur Traveler podcast what he recommended and this was it.  I’ve used it a lot and been really pleased with it.

Things I like about the H2 Zoom handy recorder;

  • It’s relatively small an easy to fit in a pocket
  • It records onto a normal memory card like the one I use in my camera, so I can switch them around
  • It runs off normal AA batteries that you can buy anywhere, or alternatively you can plug it into the mains.
  • It gives a pretty good sound quality

Things I don’t like so much about the  H2 Zoom handy recorder;

  • Sometimes, when I’m trying to decord discreetly, for instance in a restaurant, I wish it was even smaller.
  • The batteries seem to run out pretty quickly, especially when I forget to turn it off in between recording. Those days, I wish it had a rechargeable battery pack.

Tips for using the H2 Zoom handy recorder or a similar device;

  • Always use the sponge wind sleeve when recording for better sound quality and to avoid ‘popping’ noises.
  • Always record on high gain (you’ll find the switch on the side) – it’s easier to edit down the volume later than throw away a recording because you can’t hear it properly.
  • Always do a short test recording before you start and play it back to check it worked. For instance, when the memory card is full you may think you’re recording but end up with nothing.
  • Carry some small earphones to play back recordings (I haven’t discovered a way to do play back without earphones).
  • When recording in settings with high background noise e.g. restaurants, don’t be shy, hold the recorder close to your mouth, or you’ll be drowned out.
  • To record in settings with high background noise e.g. restaurants more discreetly, you could experiment with a small plug-in microphone that you can hold to your mouth while leaving the recorder on your lap.

Once you’ve completed your recording, you can easily transfer the audio files to your computer from the memory card in the same way as you would with photos. I tend to do a quick edit at this stage and delete any useless clips as the audio files can start to eat into your computer memory.

2. Recording onto your computer through a microphone

This is fine if you’re at home or in a hotel room but there are some things to consider;

  • Think about the background noise when you record and choose a room that isn’t too echoey.
  • You’ll need a computer that’s not too old, or it probably won’t have a high enough specification to record good quality audio or store it easily.
  • If you don’t have much memory on your computer, you may want to buy a portable hard drive for extra storage space.

Next you’ll need to consider what microphone to use, if you want your recording to sound professional. Personally, I’d start with something moderately priced and invest in something better once you’ve done a few podcasts and think you’re going to continue. You can consider the following options;

  • No additional microphone – just use the built in microphone on your laptop. I’ve used this option in the past and it will get you by, but the audio can sound hollow and echoey.
  • Small clip-on microphone – this is a cheap option (mine cost around £10 or £15) and it will produce slightly better quality audio than just your built in laptop microphone, but it may also pick up the sound of your computer motor or fan.
  • Headset microphone – you may have one of these already is you use Skype for internet phone calls, and the advantage of this kind of microphone is that it will be positioned close to your mouth, even if you move around.
  • Inexpensive desktop USB microphone – the advantage of a USB microphone is that it won’t pick up the noise from your computer fan price aprox £10-20
  • Mid-price USB microphone – a mid price microphone that I’ve heard recommended by Gideon Shalwick is the Blue Microphones Snowball microphone price aprox £80
  • High End microphone – for a higher price broadcast quality microphone you could try the Rode Podcast microphone, price aprox £135

Once you have your computer and microphone ready, you’ll need to make your recording using a programme called Audacity – I’ll give you more details in a moment.

3. Recording onto your computer using Skype

I have to admit that I haven’t tried this method of recording myself, but I expect to very soon. This will enable you to record interviews with people on the other side of the world., as long as you both have a reasonable internet connection.

If you don’t already have Skype on your computer then go to the Skype website and download it to your computer. The person you’re interviewing will also need to have Skype downloaded on their computer. Once you’ve both got Skype installed, you can make contact with your interviewee by searching for them as a contact or just ask them for their Skpe user name. You’ll also need;

  • A headset microphone to plug into your computer
  • A good internet connection
  • A quiet place where you can record your interview uninterupted

In order to record your Skype conversation you’ll need some additional Pamela Software. You can download this directly via Skype by going to Tools/ Extras/ Get Extras/Get Pamela MP3 Recording software. Click on the Pamela icon and the software should start downloading automatically.

When you’re ready to record, you call the other person, then click on the Pamela icon at the bottom right of your screen which will bring up the recording task bar. Once you’ve started and stopped the recording, an MP3 file will be created that you can save to your computer. Don’t forget to make sure you have the other person’s permission to record the call. As I say, I haven’t tried this yet myself, so if I don’t get the instructions quite right, please forgive me.

Chris Christensen has recorded a couple of videos on Youtube on how he creates the Amateur Traveler podcast shows, recorded using Skype, although he uses CallRecorder software to record his podcasts. I’ll be writing further articles on the practicalities of recording, constructing and editing your podcast, but if you want to jump right in, these videos will give you a headstart.

Part 1 – Making of the Amateur Traveler
Part 2 – Making of the Amateur Traveler

4. Audacity Free Audio Editing software

To record direct onto your computer or to edit MP3 files you’ve already recorded, you’ll need to download some recording software onto your computer. The most widely used programme for this is Audacity, which is both FREE and has an excellent reputation. Audacity is the software you’ll use for editing your audio files, and there are versions available for both Windows, MAC and Linux. Click on the download link on the home page and you will normally be taken to a second page with the appropriate links for your type of computer e.g. PC or MAC. There are two things you need to download here;

The Audacity software itself

I’m on windows and the steps I took to download are as follows, although these might be slightly different for MAC or if the Audacity web page changes over time

  • Click the installer link for the version you would like to download (currently the recommended version currently Audacity 1.2.6 installer) and the download should start automatically.
  • Once this download is complete, then also click on the link for the LAME MP3 encoder which will allow Audacity to export MP3 audio files. Follow the instructions and click on the subsequent links that are appropriate for your type of computer finaly download the version that is for windows.
  • When you’ve completed both downloads, go to where you saved the Audacity Software on your computer, click to open and complete the installation.

In another post I’ll take you through the basics of editing in Audacity, but if you’re feeling brave just open Audacity and start experimenting using the instructions in the Help to get you going.

Photo credit: Zoomar

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  • Reply
    February 5, 2010 at 12:18 am

    Great post. I really should take advantage of audio recording, but I always feel so weird doing it, and don’t like my voice on recording 😛

  • Reply
    Sherry Ott
    February 5, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    I was waiting for the next post in this series! The H2Zoom sounds really cool. Not sure if I’m ready to make the investment yet – but it’s nice to know what’s out there. I loved your background noise on your Christmas markets podcast – it really made the recording!

  • Reply
    Chris (Amateur Traveler)
    February 5, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Thanks for the kind mention. The name of the software I use is CallRecorder, not Call Corder

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    February 5, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Thanks Chris, I corrected that now

  • Reply
    Caitlin @ Roaming Tales
    February 7, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    I have a microphone that plugs into my iPod.

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    February 7, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    @ Caitlin That’s a new one on me – I didn’t know that you could record on to an i-pod. If so, that would solve the size problem.

  • Reply
    Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels
    February 9, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    This is an incredibly valuable post – saves me hours of research before I head out for my next round of long-term travel in two weeks. Thanks so much!

  • Reply
    February 9, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    Perfect, just the information I was looking for. I need to branch out into audio!

  • Reply
    February 14, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Great and informative post!

    We’ve thought about this for a while, but I’m resistant because of the added cost & effort, plus I personally hate podcasts as I’m a visual person, so find them all very boring.

    I can’t seem to get more than seconds into any of them & I know from discussing it on Twitter, many others feel the same way.

    That said, there are plenty of others who are big fans & LOVE the medium.

    I’m not sure they would be the same audience that loves writing, photos & videos, but always valuable to add another layer that can please and enlighten.

    Nice to see all this info in one spot!

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    February 14, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    @ Soultravelers I think that given the choice many people do prefer video to podcasts and I try to do some of that too – but I find that I enjoy podcasts at times when it wouldn’t be possible to watch a video, such as driving or walking to work.

    With regard to the costs – I don’t really think there is much apart some basic equipment, but probably less than photography and video and I’d say that the effort involved is probably similar to puttng together a video.

    None of these activities can be done as quickly as a normal blog post, but they do add extra value to your readers, and that’s what helps build a loyal audience. We all only have a limited amount of time, so I agree it’s best to spend it on the mediums you enjoy.

  • Reply
    February 15, 2010 at 8:28 am

    I have the H2 Zoom that I use for bootlegging concerts. Use lithium AA batteries and you will get a lot more recording time. I have found that regular AA batteries just don’t last very long. I can get up to 20+ hours of concerts out of a set of lithium batteries. Sure, they cost more, but they last longer. I love my H2 Zoom. Looking forward to using it for other things on my upcoming RTW trip.

  • Reply
    March 16, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Great tips Heather. I’m thinking of resurrecting my old podcast and these tips will really help me with the quality. You’re always so helpful! Thank you for these types of posts.

  • Reply
    Wendy-Escape NY
    March 29, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    I’m pleased to see you are happy with the H2 as I bought one yesterday after doing a lot of research. It’s recommended by a few J schools for journalists looking to transition to or add multi-media skills. I’m heading to India in a few days and plan to record video using the Canon 5D2 and the built in audio on the camera doesn’t cut it. Excellent tips which I’ll be using!

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    March 29, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    @ Wendy – I did the best kind of research for my H2 – ask a friend! but I’m glad to find that your extensive researched backed up my somewhat shorter investigations

  • Reply
    April 16, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    i thought if it was very intry. I have never used Skype to interview some one. I do use Skype. I am going to have to keep this in mind

  • Reply
    May 10, 2010 at 7:14 am

    thanks for the info, I tried to record a podcast before through my vado camera but the quality of the was really horrible plus I hate my voice … it sounds more silly than even all the stupid things I said eh eh
    would you know any budget camera that could combine the two? video and podcast recording??

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    May 10, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    @ Marta

    That’s a tricky one – I never heard of people using a camera to record audio although I know that if you recorded a video and then wanted to convert to just use the audio you can use conversion tools like Super.

    If you’re looking for a budget option to get you started, you could try what other people have suggested if you have an i-pod or other MP3 player and just buy a microphone for it and then record onto that.

    Don’t worry aout sounding stupid – you definitely get more practiced as you get used to recording and anyway, you can edit out all the ums and ahs using audaciity. I often do several takes.

  • Reply
    August 14, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Thanks Heather, love this article. Great info you shared on this article and inspire me to do me audio for my site. I look forward to reading more of your posts.
    Terry´s last blog post ..Is Your Struggling MLM Business Like Gilligan’s Island

  • Reply
    How to create audio for your website or blog? | Terry Shelton
    August 14, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    […] friend Heather over at Heather on Her Travels Blog has a great article on how to add audio to your website or […]

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    August 16, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    @ terry – so pleased that you found these tips helpful – I’ll probably soon be starting a new blog devoted to all these kinds of tips

    Best wishes

  • Reply
    August 21, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    great post..thanks for the tips, will go shopping for a mic today 🙂

  • Reply
    Brandon Carter
    October 6, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    the best usb microphone is made by Sennheiser and also Creative makes great usb microphones too:’:

  • Reply
    October 14, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Technology has really leveled the field in recording.
    mark´s last blog post ..2011 Sonata Review

  • Reply
    PNR Status
    November 10, 2010 at 5:27 am

    Nice post. These information are very helpful.I am thinking of resurrecting my old podcast and these tips will really help me with the quality. You’re always so helpful!.

  • Reply
    Dress Pants ·
    November 10, 2010 at 11:32 am

    the usb microphone that i use is made by Creative, this is a really nice usb microphone -,.

  • Reply
    Seguro Viagem Europa
    May 27, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Have you guys seen those everyman that they sell on the Skype Online Store? They seems to be very good. Anyone?
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    john deere tractor parts
    June 9, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Thanks for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic.

  • Reply
    Nicole @ Living In London Guide
    July 21, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Thanks so much for this – just the info Ive been searching for!! Now I just need to master the art of the podcast and I’ll be on my way! : )

  • Reply
    July 29, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Great information. I’m new at recording, etc… but I’m ready to step outside the box!

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      Heather Cowper
      April 3, 2013 at 5:49 pm

      @Margery You’ll find my contact details on my about and some other pages

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