Hardware Recommendations - Practical Considerations

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Many factors must be taken into consideration when deciding which equipment to use for fieldwork. Below you will find questions to address when determining what equipment you should use for digital recording:

Can your speakers' position relative to a microphone be fixed

If the speaker will remain relatively still during the elicitation session, it is feasible to use a stand-up micropohone that is mounted to a table. However, if the speaker requires or desires less limited movement, a lapel microphone may be necessary. It is important to consider whether restricting the speaker's movement will adversely affect the kind of speech you're trying to elicit.

Will you be recording single speakers, or speakers in conversation?

The following outlines several situations:

If there is only one speaker, and that speaker will sit still, use: If there is only one speaker, but that speaker will move side to side or back and forth (e.g. an adult talking to an infant), use: If there is only one speaker, but that person will move around a lot e.g. a child or adult engaged in activity) use: If there are multiple speakers, but they will stay relatively still, use: If there are multiple speakers who are likely to move back and forth or side to side, use

Can equipment be in open view, or does it need to be unobtrusive

It is always necessary to inform speakers that they are being recorded, but sometimes a speaker who agrees to be recorded becomes uncomfortable in the presence of recording equipment. If the presence of recording equipment will make speakers uncomfortable, it might be best to stow it out of open view. However, not all hardware equipment is easily made unobtrusive. Sony DAT Walkmans are very small and unobtrusive, especially when used with a SoundGrabber microphone. Tascam DA-P1 is portable, but about 3 times the size of a DAT Walkman.

Does equipment need to be easy to carry?

If your lodging will be a long distance from your recording space, you will likely be carrying your recording equipment that distance every day. It is therefore prudent to consider weight, size and general physical portability when choosing recording equipment.

Sony DAT Walkman is very small and easy to carry. (An advantage if it's you doing the carrying - a disadvantage if it's a thief). Tascam DA-P1 is portable, comes with a good carrying case, but is larger and more likely to be noticed if someone tries to walk off with it.

Does equipment need to be able to withstand some abuse?

During recording sessions, equipment may be subjected to various forms of abuse. For instance, fidgety speakers may tap a microphone against a table. During transport, any and all equipment could be dropped, or corrupted by dust.

While it is impossible to guard against all eventualities that may befall your equipment, it may be useful to fix microphones to a solid surface (either by using a pressure zone microphone or simply fixing it in a microphone stand), and to choose equipment for which protective coverings are available. In general, condenser mikes are much more delicate than dynamic and pressure zone mikes.

How will all your equipment and software work together?

Will buying one piece of equipment necessitate buying other pieces of equipment? For example, Sony DAT Walkmans are much less expensive and less obtrusive than Tascam DA-P1 portable, but you will need a proprietary cable for direct digital transfer. It is also important to pay attention to efficiency of hardware: different recorders use different types of batteries, and go through them at different rates. To avoid unexpected costs, take extra necessities such as these into consideration when choosing equipment.

The content of this page was developed following the recommendations of "Practical Considerations in Recording Natural Speech" by Jean Andruski (Wayne State University).

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Hardware Recommendations - Practical Considerations
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