Audio

All things Sound

Record audio? There’s an app for that. An iOS app (Part 1)

Apps to Catch Stories or Record Audio What is the best app for recording a conversation? If you’re a family historian and have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, keep reading. This is the first of a multi-part series looking at iOS apps — apps that just record audio, and more complex apps to help the family storycatcher ask questions and record stories for family history.

At the iTunes store, there are so many apps to choose from. How do you know which one to use? What app can you trust to help you collect important stories from your family?

Before I get into evaluation of specific apps (which will come in Part 2, Part 3, Part n…), I’ll lay the groundwork here for the criteria I use to make that evaluation. You may find that I touch on some of your pet peeves about why you don’t like some apps as well as others.

Two flavors of apps

Audio recording apps for the family historian come in two major flavors: apps to record audio only, and special-purpose story-catching apps. Both of these work for face-to-face conversations. (A third type of app, to record phone calls, won’t be covered in this series. It’s on my To Do list, though.)

Recording apps are straightforward. Record Audio only.

Flavor 1: Record audio only. All audio, all the time.

This category of ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on January 31, 2014 in • AudioAudio: SoftwareInterviewingiOS
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Question from the mailbag: Can I use my iPhone charger with Zoom Handy H1?

An iPhone plug + a compatible USB cable + a Zoom Handy H1 = power source from wall outlet! An excellent question from Clint leads to this test and solution to give a Zoom Handy H1 a power supply with a standard USB cable and an iPhone charger.

Clint asked,

Question about the power supply. It looks to be a pretty standard setup, do you think an iphone wall plug-in power supply paired with the proper USB cord would work just the same?

Clint figured if he could do without the power supply, he’d be fine.

I grabbed my iPhone plug, a USB cable, and tried it out.

I’m thrilled to report that it works!

Here you see the Zoom Handy working while being powered using an iPhone plug. (Note the red light on the Zoom Handy H1, indicating that the recorder is powered up and recording!)

Of course, in this picture, I have the Zoom H1 Handy set on the tripod that also comes with the Accessory Kit (mostly so it would be easier to photograph both the Zoom Handy H1 recorder and my wall socket.)

No one paid me to write about these products. Any purchase made through my Affiliate links support my ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on October 09, 2013 in • AudioAudio: HardwareiOS
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Setting up Easy Voice Recorder to prepare for recording on your Android device

Using Easy Voice Recorder on an Android device Do you have an Android phone or tablet? Easy Voice Recorder is a good app for recording audio. Before you make your first recording, though, there are some essential things to set up. This is a recap of the setup walk-through I gave at Rootstech when I presented on using Android (and iPhone + iPad + iPod touch) to record family interviews.

If you haven’t done so already, download Easy Voice Recorder at the Google Play store. It’s free. You can get the Pro version for $3.99. (Go ahead, give the developer some love and coin. I definitely recommend the Pro version if you’ll be using an external microphone like the Edutige EIM-001, because you can adjust the gain [volume] setting in the Pro version.)

What steps are covered here

  • Change all the audio settings to CD-audio quality WAV files. Must. Do.
    If you’re going to the trouble of recording an interview, you (and your family member, and posterity) deserve to have the best sounding audio you can get.
  • Change the display of the record button to from white red. Nice to ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 25, 2013 in • AndroidAudioAudio: Software
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My Rootstech Session made it into Deseret News! Plus: a few links n tidbits

Screen capture of the Deseret News story regarding my Rootstech session on using iOS and Android devices to interview family members Thrilled. Pleased. Proud: My Rootstech session was written up in a story by Alexis Jones in the Deseret News. Welcome, Deseret News readers! Here are a few additional pointers, links, and tidbits.

Think Like an Interviewer

My Rootstech 2013 landing page for Rootstech attendees, with links to all my articles on interviewing.

Rootstech Session Syllabus
The session syllabus, on the Rootstech site. LOTS of detail there. Lots. Just go download the PDF right now. And hey, it links to the Rootstech 2013 page, mentioned above.

Audio-In on the iOS

The mother of all posts with all the audio-in compabitility for each and every iOS device since Apple introduced the iPhone and iPod Touch in 2007.

Now here Still to come: A summary of my slides of the process of setting up Easy Voice Recorder on Android.

Apps! We gotcher Apps right here

Recommended Apps for iOS devices (these links will ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 01, 2013 in • AndroidAudioAudio: HardwareAudio: SoftwareGenealogyInterviewingiOS
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Getting Audio into your iOS Device (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad): Hardware Compatibility Guide

The current known universe of iOS devices -- iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, from 2007 to late 2012 [Updated] If you want to get an external microphone to go with your iOS device, which one do you get? This guide will tell you everything you need to know.

In the world of iOS devices—iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad—there are three possible ways to capture sound for audio recording: The dock, headphone+mic port, and built-in microphone. Not every device has all three (especially the earliest generations of iOS devices). Plus, microphones that “fit” into the same 30-pin dock may or may not work. It’s a compability thing. All—and I mean all—your compatibility confusion is cleared up here.

First, identify the model of your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. I present them here based on when they were manufactured (early—pre-iPad era, middle, and most recent—late 2012-2013).

After you find your model, look immediately below for a table showing what ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 19, 2013 in • AudioAudio: HardwareiOS
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Android Tips for older Android OS and File transfer to Macs

Android recording an interview Got an Android phone? Does it have an operating system lower than 4 (2.x or 3.x)? Got a Mac? Now that you’ve used your Android to record a family interview, how do you connect it to your Mac just like any ole USB drive? This tutorial shows you how.

This technique may seem a tad geeky, but the end result is that you will be able to plug in your Android phone or tablet to your Mac and it will show up as a disk drive.

Prepare your Android to mount as a USB drive

There are two settings items to configure in order to connect your older Android device to your Mac.

USB debugging

It sounds geekier than it really is. This is a setting that Android put in for you in case you were doing software development on an Android. You’re not, but you’ll take advantage of this back door entry to access your device from your Mac via USB.

  1. Begin at the home screen. Tap the Menu button on your Android.
  2. The menu appears at the bottom of your ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on in • AndroidAudioAudio: Hardware
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After two decades, the conversation that changed EVERYTHING

My grandparents on their wedding day. 21 years later, I learned about a conversation that changed everything – everything – I thought about what happened on March 8, 1986. Over two decades after that harrowing event, knowing about that conversation has made all the difference.

I’ve written about this March 8 day before, in 2007 in a post “Why International Women’s Day is Hard.”

The kernel of the story is hard: Early that morning, my grandmother woke up. Fell. Pain. Broken hip. (this, some three months after falling and breaking her hip. The first time.) What we know comes from grandpa’s phone call. She fell. Broke her hip. She’s gone and by the time you get here, I’ll be gone, too. Gunshot wounds. Police tape. News stories, and shock.

The new revelation came to me a few months after I wrote the above blog post. I re-read it again, and thought, My perspective on this has completely changed. (If you want to, go read it. I’ll wait.)

Caution Tape
...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 08, 2013 in • AudioAudio: HardwareInterviewingPersonalPersonal History
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Transcription or Dictation: Will HAL Open the Pod Bay Doors?

Dave Bowman, in 2001, interacts with the HAL 9000 computer. “Is there some way to automatically transcribe a recording?” That’s a question I recently received from this site. Automatically? What does that mean? In my mind’s eye, I see that this automatic transcription software should closely resemble the HAL 9000 computer from 2001: A computer that talks and can understand human speech. It’s a high ideal, but there are still technicalities involved. My conclusion, a while back, was, “I’m sorry, Dave, I just can’t do that.”

Is Automatic Speech Transcription HAL getting any closer to opening the Pod Bay Doors?

I conduct some tests using some speech-to-text tech I have on hand, and see how it stacks up against standard transcription. In this post: the test results, lessons learned, and best practices for each technique.

The HAL 9000, the computer from 2001 whichcould understand human speech (and even lip-reading!) The current state of HAL 9000:

There are many devices, services and software that act like Hal: Siri on iOS, the Android Google Voice, or any number of corporate voice address systems that say “speak your request and I’ll get you to the right department.”

With my 3rd generation iPad (March 2012 Retina Display, running the iOS version 5.x), I use the Dictation feature ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 13, 2013 in • AfterwardsAudioAudio: SoftwareHow-ToTranscription
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National Jukebox at the Library of Congress

Photo: Library of Congress from the Making of slideshow The soundtrack of our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generation is now on the web in a large (and growing) collection called The National Jukebox, located at www.loc.gov/jukebox. The first phase of the historic audio recordings range from turn of the 20th century to 1929, and range from music (Jazz, opera, vaudville, ) and spoken word of all kinds.

The collection was digitized from 78 rpm recordings of the Victor label of records. Sony owns the license to the collection, but made an arrangement with the Library of Congress for people to listen to them. (You can hear, you can share, you can make playlists, but you cannot download the music)

It’s the iTunes of Retro Music.

Crossword Puzzle Blues:  Duncan Sisters (1924)
Darn these words that crossword puzzle me
I’ll be basking [?] till they muzzle me
Some demented nut invented
this way to stay discontented.

(The Duncan Sisters also performed Um-um-da-da. Can’t play the embedded song? Permalink on National Jukebox site)

   


Back in the day between ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on May 12, 2011 in • AudioCool WebsiteHistoryMemorabiliaRestoration
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Shocking Truth about Thin-skinned CDs (or why you should never write on a CD with a Sharpie)

I’d heard the adage that the top surface of a CD or DVD is thinner and more fragile than the bottom surface, but until I went on a cleaning bender, I didn’t get it. I reallly didn’t get it. It’s true, it’s true– the top layer of CDs and DVDs are thin. Shockingly thin. Here is a photo gallery of the CD that taught me just how fragile a writeable CD is.

After the holidays, I went on a desk and home office cleaning frenzy. Under a pile of papers, I discovered a disk that failed when I’d burned it. (also known as a “coaster!”) 

“Oh bummer,” I said. “A Bad CD. What’s it doing here? I should toss it out.” Then I remembered that I’ve wanted to destroy a disk just to see how it was put together. “Allrightie, then! I’m going to break this lil’ puppy!” I began to bend the CD. I figured that it would soon snap, but it bent and kept bending. At the crease, I noticed that a ripple appeared. It looked like a buckle or oblong bubble in the rainbow foil.

Strange! What is that? I bent the CD some more, then dug at the bubbly area ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 22, 2011 in • AudioAudio: HardwareDigitalityLongevity
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My Christmas: A Shrine to Obsolete Technology

Sony Walkman Tape Player The centerpiece of my Christmas was inspired by a two-month old news story: Sony Walkman Cassette Player Dies In Japan, Lives On in U.S.

Launched in 1979, the 31-year-old portable media player will no longer be sold in Japan. (It will continue to be available in the U.S., but not indefinitely)

How did that news story turn into a work of art celebrating obsolete magnetic media technology?

Background

I saw the story. “Hey, Doc M, Sony has stopped making the Walkman tape player.”

(No, I don’t call him Doc M; I call him by his real name. But Doc M is the ablogymous name I use for him when I write about him on the internets.)

Doc M: “I have a Walkman. I wanted to sell it on eBay, but it’s busted. So now it’s just a piece of junk. Typical.”

Susan: “Oooh. Can I see it? Can I photograph it?”

Doc M emerges from the other room with the player.

Susan: “When did you get this?”

Doc M: “I’m not sure exactly. It was top of the line in, like, the early 90s.”

We pause, looking at the black and silver case. It feels heavy and solid. Green surrounds the play button.

Susan: ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on January 03, 2011 in • AudioDigitalityObsolecence
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Unboxing My Zoom Handy H1 Portable Recorder

Unboxing the Zoom Handy H1 Portable Digital Recorder When my Zoom Handy H1 arrived, we took photos of the unboxing and first use. Now (finally – this unboxing took place before I left for the 10-10-10 family reunion), I’m annotating the process, so you get a sense of what the Zoom Handy H1 is like. I’m very excited about this recorder, because it meets the essential requirements – a digital recorder with built-in stereo microphones and removable memory that’s capable of recording audio CD (and broadcast)-quality uncompressed WAV files. All for $99!

So, here we go with the unboxing of the Zoom Handy H1…

The front and back of the product box. No shrink wrap, just a little plastic seal sticker on it.

The Zoom Handy H1's box, front and back

By the way, we ordered the Zoom H1 Handy Portable Digital Recorder from Amazon and it arrived a day later—sent from a Los Angeles based Amazon Marketplace partner. Shockingly fast, especially for a popular item that’s been backordered. (Now, more are in stock. The affiliate link goes straight to Amazon.com)

Aaaand, now that the box is open, the first glimpse of the goodies inside.

The Zoom Handy H1 Recorder comes out of the box

The Zoom Handy H1 comes with the essentials, so you’re not lacking for a memory card or battery, and you can get started right away.

The Zoom Handy H1 uses a single AA battery, which is supplied. It also uses a micro-SD card -- the same kind that's used in cel phones. Here is the Zoom Handy H1 portable ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on October 24, 2010 in • AudioAudio: Hardware
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Preparing Mama to be an Interviewer

Here's Mom, standing in front of an old California stagecoach stop not far from Temecula, California. (from a recent road trip) What happens the person who’s usually the interviewee borrows your fancy digital recorder and becomes the interviewer? What happens when your Mom goes across the country and will see someone you’ve been wanting to interview for, like forever? Do you say, Okay Mom, please ask these questions. Oh, and would you record it? How do you make using the recorder as simple as possible? Will it work out?

The other week, my Mom went from West Coast to East Coast to attend her 60th high school reunion. I loaned her my easiest-to-use recorder with some very basic instruction. And hoped for the best.

Mount Pleasant High School Postcard (sent 1950, the same year Mom graduated). http://www.cardcow.com/273065/new-mt-pleasant-high-school-schenectady-york/

Background: The stories I want to hear

Main entrance to General Electric's largest plant and its general offices. http://www.cardcow.com/211196/main-entrance-ge-plant-schenectady-new-york/ My gradmother worked for the General Electric Company twice—in the 1920s before her children were born, and again from 1941 until she retired in 1966. The person I’ve wanted to interview—a woman whose initials are NF—was mentored by my grandmother.  They both worked in an industry where women professionals were A Rare Thing.

Here’s something else that’s important: Grandma lived on the other side of the country.

I am back east at Grandma and Grandpa's house. In the snow (wow!) It's 1963; I am 3 and a half years old. (Grandma died 4 years later) I only have a few memory snapshots of her, from a visit East when I was a pre-schooler, and from a visit Grandma took west when my younger brother was born (I was 5?).

Grandma died a few months ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on September 29, 2010 in • AudioAudio: HardwareHow-ToPersonal
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Zoom’s latest recorder the Zoom H1 Handy costs $99; it’s now shipping!

Samson's Zoom H1 Handy digital audio recorderSamson said they were going to ship the Zoom Handy H1 July 30, but they’re shipping the product as of today. the Zoom H1 Handy is available at Amazon (affiliate link). Based on the product specs (I have not yet seen it), my answer to the question, “What recorder should I buy?” will change. I’ll be saying, Get the Zoom Handy H1, people. Why? CD-stereo quality (and higher) recorder, recording in WAV format, will be available for 99 bucks. And it has one-button recording. Sweet. Very, very sweet.

I got off the fone a little while ago with a spokesperson for Samson’s Zoom line of products, confirming very important items about this recorder. The news is good, people. True one touch recording (press the button and the recording begins). And a zippier start-up time to power the unit on.

Why is this good news? A little background…..

That was then, this is now

Last month, when people would ask me, “What recorder should I buy?” I’d tell them about the Samson Zoom H2 Handy—Samson’s previous lowest-cost portable digital audio recorder.

But I’d also tell them about two of the most significant downsides to the Zoom H2—it takes 30 seconds for the unit to power on, and it has ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on July 20, 2010 in • AudioAudio: Hardware
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From Digital Audio Recording to Audio CD: Part 3 - iTunes and CD burning

Audacity into iTunes In the previous two how-to tutorials, we worked in Audacity with a digital audio file. Now we’ll export it from Audacity, import it into iTunes, and burn an audio CD with it.

Part 1:  Getting your audio into Audacity, whether by opening a digital audio recording made elsewhere, or using Audacity to record directly to your computer.
Part 2: Making minor edits to increase sound level.
Part 3:(You are here!) Exporting your recording to a file format that iTunes can use and creating an Audio CD.
Part 4: Dividing the audio into sections based on topics of discussion using Audacity’s Label Tracks.
(note: I may expand sections if any one of them gets to be too long. This section will be updated as I go.)

First, we work in Audacity to export the audio file to a WAV file (reminder from the little extra section in Part 1: WAV is an uncompressed file format. We ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on May 01, 2010 in • AudioAudio: SoftwareHow-To
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