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I work at a non-profit that wants to do some two-person "Story Corps" type interviews, where two of our employees will take turns interviewing each other about their work. I expect about a dozen interviews, and then we likely won't use any equipment we buy ever again. Interviews will be in a small conference room. No soundproofing. The interviews will be shared online on social media. Our first approach was to just use the microphone built-in to someone's phone, but I think we can do a lot better without spending an unreasonable amount. What's the best way to upgrade this?

I've read some guides, including this one: https://www.thepodcasthost.com/equipment/recording-face-face-person-interviews-podcast/ and it seems like using two lavalier lapel mics is the way to go. Unlike the scenario in that guide though, the interviews will always be in one room, and we're not investing in a permanent setup. Would it be acceptable to record directly to the microphone input on a laptop or desktop, and if so, what do I use to connect two microphones? Or do I need to use a portable recorder, as recommended on that guide? Or is a USB audio interface to the laptop the way to go, with the same aforementioned dual lapel mics?

It's not likely we'll get a big budget for this. (I got some pushback for suggesting a $200 mic, but now I don't think a single mic will be the best choice anyway, compared to two lapel mics). At the same time, this will take a lot of staff's time to sit down and do the interview, so I want to get a good quality result.

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One setup that I've found to work pretty well is an all-in-one field recorder, such as a Zoom H6 or a Tascam Digital Portastudio. Such devices can often be found for cheaper than the cost of a full recording setup and is an all-in-one device that handles everything for you. Plus, they keep their resale value pretty well so after you're done with the project you can let it on its merry way to the next owner.

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    Thanks, that's the way I ended up going. It looked like the Zoom H4NPro would work for us, and I've used it for a few interviews now and I'm really happy with the audio quality. I added a few lapel mics with XLR connections+phantom power. Total cost was ~ $300 with memory card and external power supply. – Quinten Mar 30 '17 at 13:54
  • Nice, I'm glad that worked for you! – fluffy Mar 31 '17 at 8:07
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Take a look at one of the pre-packaged solutions designed specifically for your requirements. For example,

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B016V366SO/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

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  1. Have you actually TRIED recording with a phone in your conference room? If you identify exactly where is the microphone and hold it around 8 inches from the subject's mouth you may be surprised how well it works, assuming your room is not very reverberant. DO NOT assume you have to go out and buy extra gear (especially for a one-time temporary application) until you try what you already have. Try different team members' phones to see which one sounds best.
  2. If by "Story Corps type interviews" you mean AUDIO ONLY (as a sound track for animated video) then you have much more flexibility vs. people who are shooting on-camera interviews. You can get away with using phones in an unusual manner without worrying about the visual distraction on-camera.
  3. The Behringer MX400 is for line-level sources (synths, keyboards, etc.) and will NOT work with microphones. That was incorrect advice. Please disregard.
  4. Furthermore, if you are recording one voice at a time (interviewer and then subject) and especially off-camera, you don't need the complexity of multiple microphones or a mixer. The interviewer can hold the mic (or phone, etc.) for themselves, and then move the mic to the subject, etc. Simpler is better. Don't make it more complex than you have to, especially with limited resources.
  5. Selection of a LOCATION to record can make or break the quality of the recording. Even with equipment 100x your budget, recording in a bad (very reverberant and/or noisy) location is something most professionals would not even consider. It is FAR FAR better to change the location than to try to deal with bad ambience. Remember that most extraneous noise cannot be effectively removed after the fact. Always try to avoid it before you start.
  6. Always monitor what you are recording. Use headphones (or earbuds) to listen to what the microphone is actually picking up. Otherwise you may find problems you didn't know about until after the fact when it may be too late. It saves everyone time and greatly improves the chances for getting a good recording.

The IK Multimedia lav mic which I suggested above includes a special adapter where you can plug the mic into your phone, AND also listen with your earbuds (or headphones) while recording. There are other adapters like this from Rode and other vendors which allow listening while recording on your phone, tablet, or computer.

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Good audio vs "cheap" are debatable concepts sometimes, as in you often get what you pay for. You seem to want good audio but still want to keep it cheap and there are ways. Bravo for wanting to step up.

Microphones = Movo PM10 (around USD$25), a little more exxie is the Rode smartLav (about USD$60 - 80) is a good option. Most audio people would then use a mixer of some sort in order to balance the amount of sound from each mic. Behringer does a tiny 3.5mm mixer called the MX400 micromix (about USD$25) - 3.5mm being the size of your iPhone or laptop input.

To go cheaper still, just get a 3.5mm adapter of some sort so both mics can go together into the one input.

  • this looks good but it appears the micromixer MX400 that I could find on Amazon is for 1/4 inch, not 1/8th inch plugs. Is there a different model, or is this the best choice, with the addition of 1/4->1/8 inch adapters? Also--do you recommend using the laptop or a phone for the input? – Quinten Sep 26 '16 at 17:36
  • Either laptop or IPhone would work depending on software – Soundscaper Oct 1 '16 at 2:07
  • Note that the Behringer MX400 is line-level only and will NOT work with microphones of any kind. Furthermore, the application as you have described it does not sound like you need more than one microphone and so you don't need a mixer. – Richard Crowley Oct 25 '16 at 19:05

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