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I want to record some of my grandfather stories and looking for an advice how to better organize it.

Last year I were able to get Tascam DR100mkII and do couple of records. It was quite tricky as inbuilt mics are rather noisy and to achieve reasonable volume, gain knob was almost at "max" setting. Also, I were not very happy with it picking all ambient noises one can imagine.

Here is the link to slightly processed recording:

My main concerns so far:

  • Going to a studio is out of question, so the best possible environment would be a living room.
  • From past experience - constant lack of microphone gain.
  • Environment noise.
  • Whole setup should look not very "scary" and massive. E.g bringing large condenser and portable shield/box is undesirable as it makes all this idea look too official and formal.

As for today I see two main options:

  • Decent handheld recorder (PCM-D100?). +1 to inconspicuous look.
  • Laptop + USB interface + dynamic mic. I like Rode Procaster sound, not sure about interface though. Should provide way better sound/control, but not very convenient.

I'd be glad to hear suggestions about techniques/approach/equipment/etc. Thanks :)

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Where's your grandfather? At his home? An elderly care house?

In terms of the device, I'm going to make my standard recommendation of grabbing a Sony PCM-M10. They sound great, you can fill them with microSD cards up to 64GB, their battery life goes forever, they're inconspicuous as can be. They're $200.

In terms of the technique, that'll depend on where you're able to record him. But a basic approach would be to get the recorder square in the middle of the two of you, set it down and facing upright, or on a desk and horizontally towards you, kill all ambient noise in the room that you can. Fans, air, lights, etc. Run a little extra for a noiseprint for potential Rx-style cleanup in the future.

If you can get him into a specific room for recording, find something with lots of couches and padded surfaces and few reflective ones (tables, mirrors, windows) close to where you'll be talking.

  • Thanks, @lucafusi, running some silence for noiseprint is a good idea. I'm really not sure about M10. While being quite stealthy device, I'm not impressed by its mic and would like to have something with cardioid pattern. I hope to record at home, as mentioned in the 1st post. – J Doe Dec 1 '15 at 4:42
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I know you said you wanted a cardioid pattern, but one thing you might want to consider is using a lapel mic. I can recommend the Sanken COS-11, TRAM TR50, or DPA 406, , and while buying them might be out of your budget, they shouldn't cost much to rent. With an XLR adapter, they'll run into any portable recorder with phantom power, but make sure it has a decent preamp.

If you pin it about 6 inches down from the mouth, it will give a good present sound, and shouldn't pick up too much ambient noise. Just make sure that:

  • he's not wearing any particularly noisy clothing (ie. leather, starched cotton)
  • the capsule is clear of any clothing
  • he doesn't move around too much or bump the mic with hand gestures
  • he doesn't make any major position shifts. Something like leaning forward, or turning his head to the left, will change the colour of the sound noticeably.

I hope that helps. I think a lapel would give good quality audio, while keeping things casual. The alternatives, like a properly positioned large diaphragm cardioid, or a shotgun, would give better sound, but would make things a lot less casual.

Good luck!

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