Thanks to the efforts of my writer/musician/watchmaker friend, Steve Whitworth, I finally have the information I need to finish addressing the topic of audio memoirs. Steve’s knowledge and familiarity with the art of sound recording far exceeds anything most folk need to create a quality audio rendition of their life story. But it never hurts to heed the recommendations of a pro. So here goes….
The kind of software you’ll need comes in two broad flavors. The first is browser-based, meaning that you need to go on-line and connect with a website, and do your recording there. The second option is software you download and install on your computer so you can use it anytime, without needing the internet. Which type you choose depends largely on your budget, the size of your recording project, and the quality level you’d like to achieve. Like everything else in life, there are trade-offs.
For the rest of this discussion, I’m going to focus on the browser-based products. We’ll get to the downloadable software next time around. Then, to wrap up any remaining loose ends, we’ll look at affordable options for hardware to dramatically improve the quality of your recording.
The goal of our audio editor search was to find something free (or very cheap) which a user with little or no recording experience could tackle quickly and easily. There are several browser-based programs that will do the job, but two stand out above the others for simplicity and ease of use. Your internet browser is already up and running, so zip on over to Hya-Wave and/or TwistedWave.
Both of these websites offer exactly what we were looking for: controls that mimic tape recorder buttons and very little else. The on-screen wave forms should be familiar to anyone who watches crime dramas on TV, and even if you don’t, it’ll quickly become clear what they represent. The downside to using these on-line programs is that you’ll be limited to short duration clips–recordings of 5 minutes each.
Presumably, you could digitally “glue” them together later, but that would require the use of another program, most likely one that came with your computer (both Mac and PC come with a variety of such applications) or one you’d have to download. So if you’re keen on recording your memoir, there’s very likely a new download in your future.
I tried both Hya-Wave and TwistedWave, with the built-in microphone in my computer and with an auxiliary mic I plugged into a USB port. (I used a Samson C01U studio condenser microphone which I purchased at a guitar store a couple years back for under $100.) The difference in sound quality was, and I’m not exaggerating, astounding.
When I used the built-in microphone, my voice sounded muffled and indistinct. It was equally bad in both systems. Most of those issues instantly disappeared when I used the “real” microphone.
I was disappointed by the quality of the Hya-Wave recordings which slowed down in playback, and I could find no way to speed them up. Though the second recording, done with the auxiliary mic was better by a thousand percent, the playback still sounded slow.
I had no such problems with TwistedWave and therefore recommend it as the better of the two systems.
Setting up an account with TwistedWave is free and easy. And, since you’ll need a great deal more than five-minute chunks if you’re going to record an entire memoir, it makes sense to pay for an upgrade. Five bucks a month buys the basic plan which allows for 20-minute files and a total of 10 hours of storage. That ought to cover most memoir projects. If not, an “advanced” package is available for ten dollars a month and provides 60-minute file capability with storage for 20 hours of recordings. If you need more than that, you obviously talk too much!
If your recording goal is to do it fast and cheap, this is the way to go. For a little more money, however, you’ll get a much better result using software that’s loaded directly onto your computer. We’ll discuss that next time.