Recording Equipment

Clifton Pye

Email: pyersqr (at) ku (dot) edu

Recording technology offers many choices for recording children. Many cellphones can now make good recordings. The most important consideration is how to make the best audio recordings because these will be the basis for understanding what the children say. It is important to test the recording equipment in order to see how well it records children’s voices at different distances in order to determine its limits. If the recording is scratchy or if the recording includes a lot of outside noise then it would be worthwhile looking for another recorder. It is worth testing different recorders in order to hear what a high quality recording sounds like. If possible, look for a recorder that can block noise from wind like the Zoom H1n Portable Recorder.

There are technical standards that will improve the quality and usefulness of audio recordings. A stereo recorder will help a listener separate the voices of the participants, which is a big help when transcribing a family talking to a child. The recording should be made using the Wavform (wav) format or the Audio Interchange File Format (AIFF) because these formats do not use sound compression techniques. This makes it easy to edit or manipulate the recording using software. This is an important consideration if you want to use spectrographic analysis of the recordings at some point. The recordings should be made at 44,100 Khz and 16 bit in order to produce high quality recordings. Check the recording specs before buying a recorder.


Another aspect of recording technology to consider is the transfer of the recording to a computer for transcription. Until voice recognition software is able to transcribe all languages, it will be necessary to transcribe the recording by hand. This requirement means it is important to investigate how to transfer the recording to a computer. Many voice recorders and video cameras allow file transfers to computers through a USB cable or SMP memory card. File transfers done in this way are just like any other file transfer and almost as fast. They do not require playing the recording into the computer, which takes just as long as it originally took to make the recording. Make sure that you can transfer the recordings to a computer quickly and easily without a loss of sound quality.

Transcription software

The ELAN transcription program ( is a versatile tool for transcribing family interactions. It allows the transcriber to select a portion of the recording to play repeatedly before advancing to the next section of the recording. The program ties the transcription to specific points in the recording, which minimizes the problem of repeatedly transcribing repetitious segments of a recording. ELAN works with either video or audio recordings, which gives the transcriber a better understanding of the context of each speaker’s utterances. One difficulty with ELAN is that it does not accept all recording formats so the investigator will need to verify that the recordings are compatible with the program. The WAV format for audio recordings is ideal because the format does not lose information through file compression algorithms.

Field Testing the Recording Equipment

It is important to field test the entire process of making a recording, transferring the recording to a computer, and using a computer program to transcribe the recording. This process requires connecting the following:

1. a recorder

2. a way to transfer recordings to a computer

3. a computer program for transcribing the recordings

It is by no means certain that this entire process will work without any problems given constant changes in recording media, computer operating systems and transcription software. Once the investigator collects all of these pieces and can use them to transfer recordings to the computer it is best to have at least two or three recording and transcription devices in case one of them breaks down. There is no guarantee that the same device will be available after six months.

The investigator should field test the recording equipment before they arrive at a child’s house just to be sure the batteries are fully charged and that all of the instruments turn on. It helps to have a small, weatherproof bag to carry the equipment. That helps to keep the equipment together, and carry spare batteries. It can also speed up the time to set up the equipment and pack it at the end of the session.

Page last modified 6/10/20
Copyright © 2020 Clifton Pye

Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike