I'm a court reporter working in old courtrooms with bad acoustics and A/C noise that overpowers the voices on recordings. I just have the little table where I sit so I can't stretch mic cords all over the place. And to make the quest even more impossible, I don't want to spend more than $350. I'm thinking of getting an H4N Zoom with a mic plugged into it to boost the volume. I don't know anything about phantom or condenser or db's or any of that. I just know either I can't hear diddly-squat on the recording or I hear nothing but the A/C fan or the people sound like they're in a tunnel. There must be something out there that will work. I have travel to different courthouses with my laptop so I need something compact. I'm using an Olympus 4000 and DS-3400 with Martel's hi-gain lapel mic on a stand. It's only so-so. I've tried a conference mic with them also. I would appreciate any recommendations and suggestions.
Are you able to point the microphone to the person that speaks? If so, you could look into directional microphones to plug into a Zoom H4N (which is a decent device for the money). Rode Mics spring to mind.
As always, learning a bit about the problems and possibilities of sound recording will enable you to find a better solution.
With regards to budget: you get what you pay for. The H4N is a good starting point, but the microphones have a wide price range, each step up meaning a bit less noise and cleaner sound (that's a very simplified explanation).
How about getting a Rode Videomic to go with the recorder you already own? It will give you directional pickup (ie less background noise) for not too much cash, but it really needs to be pointed to the source.
The solution really depends on how many sources of sound there are in the room usually, and whether or not they are already amplified. Can you give us a bit more info on that please?