Several months ago, I had been doing a series of interviews and considered purchasing a digital flash voice recorder. I figured it would be just the thing to help me keep everything straight and, you know, focus more on interviewing people than taking super-detailed notes. However, I soon realized that it would be yet another electronic gadget to carry around with me.
External Microphone for the iPhone
I had tried recording with my iPhone before and the results weren’t that great. Then it occurred to me to try some kind of external microphone; I ended up purchasing the Olympus ME-51S Stereo Microphone and the quality of my recordings have improved significantly.
Better Audio Recording Quality from the iPhone
Using the ME-51S, recordings were clearer and stronger; I haven’t had to strain to hear what I or the other person was saying. In addition, I can actually hear so much more going on in the recording. This might sound like a bad thing, but it isn’t (at least not for me). I’m not an audio engineer by any means, but I’ll explain as best I can:
Think about the last time you spoke to someone in a room full of other people, or where something else was going on, like a band playing music. Depending on how loud the overall volume was, it’s possible you were able to hold a conversation just fine. Therefore, you could say that an “accurate” recording would pick up your conversation, as well as the background sounds, but without allowing them to overpower your voices (at least not any more than they did in person).
I find it helpful when an audio recording provides reminders of these kinds of things. In some cases, I can see how you would want to cut down on “background noise” – and there are certainly microphones out there that can do this. For my needs, however, I usually want some ambient sound to some extent.
Flash Voice Audio Recorders vs. an External Microphone for iPhone
This model is priced higher than many of the entry-level flash recorders I looked at, although I don’t have any experience with them and can’t vouch for their quality one way or another. The reason I went with using my iPhone + the ME-51S, instead of a standalone recorder, was that I wanted to cut down on the number of devices I had to carry with me. This microphone, along with the included 3.3-foot extension cord and tie clip, fits neatly in an old mint tin.
Space wasn’t so much a consideration for going this route as the thought of constantly having to supply batteries, memory cards, and so forth. In addition, when using an iPhone, transferring audio files can be simple – just connect to your computer and move the files over, or use a cloud based solution as I did. Depending on their size, you can also email the files right from the device.
In essence, the Olympus ME-51S Stereo Microphone works great with an iPhone for making voice recordings. It is reasonably priced, performs well, and fits right into the headphone/mic jack of my iPhone 4 – even while is in a bulky OtterBox case.
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