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Travel Tech Thursday: A Reader Seeks Voice Recorder Suggestions

I’m sort of borrowing from something I’ve seen on the New York Shadow Chasers Facebook page. They do tech reviews each week. (Mostly on Wednesdays, though.) This isn’t a review, but perhaps they’ll swing by and help me out with a reader’s question.

Don asked the following:

I’m looking for recommendations on voice recorders (EVP) suitable for recording ghost voices. Some places recommend certain audio characteristics and I’m trying to get sufficent quality equipment at reasonable prices. Can you help with that information? Apparently some voce recorders are better for this activity. Years ago you could pick up a simple tape recorder for 30 dollars. Now it seems the digital variety are easily over 100 dollars.

I like gadgets, but I’m no tech geek. In fact, I recently shared on HJ’s FB page the new voice recorder I bought –my first. It shocked many of my fellow jaunters.

However, I’m a jaunter, not a researcher or investigator. I don’t really need any other tools besides my camera and computer. (I’d love to have some, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not patient enough to investigate like many do. I’m more interested in the soul and history of a place and why souls may have chosen to linger there.)

At any rate, I bought the Olympus VN-801PC Digital Voice Recorder.

 

One of my sister’s had given me an Amazon card for Christmas so that’s how I spent it. I’ve been wanting a digital voice recorder because I’d finally hit record on my old mini-cassette recorder one too many times. I use it a lot for noting blog, book, and article ideas. However, I also figured a digital one would be pretty cool to have in case I ever did feel an urge to investigate.

A NOVICE USER’S REVIEW

I bought it because the price was right, it allowed me to upload sound files to my computer, and it had good reviews from others who’d bought it. Many of the comments seemed to agree it was easy to use, had very good clarity, and plenty of space.

So far I’ve really enjoyed using it. It’s light and the compact design is so much nicer than the old, bulky thing I’d been using. I can easily stow it in my purse or even tuck it in a pant pocket if need be. I feel the quality of what it records is great. (Much better than the cassette-based one I had been using.)

ANSWER’S TO DON’S QUESTION

However, my assessment of my voice recorder is basic at best. As far as trying to capture EVPs, that’s (a) a matter of luck and (b) most devices will do it. Will some capture them more clearly than others? That’s where the extent of my help fades. I’m hoping others can offer their insight. (See the next section below.)

However, when it comes to answering Don’s question about price, I would suggest he look on Amazon. There are a lot of voice recorders for under $100. (Mine was under $50.)

For those who prefer not to shop online, I know Best Buy sells some too. I was eying a couple there that were also under $100. I don’t know what their prices are, but I imagine Radio Shack would also have a couple.

WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?

Do you own a voice recorder? If you do, can you answer what kind it is, pros and cons, price range you paid for it, and whether or not you’d recommend someone like Don buying one?

Also, if you were to upgrade your voice recorder, what would you go with next and why?

Thanks for your help with this one.

Courtney Mroch
Courtney Mroch, otherwise known as HJ's Ambassador of Dark and Paranormal Tourism, is an author, traveler, and ghost enthusiast. When she's not writing, jaunting, or planning her next trip, it's a safe bet you'll find her on a tennis court somewhere. She currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.
http://www.courtneymroch.com

3 thoughts on “Travel Tech Thursday: A Reader Seeks Voice Recorder Suggestions

  1. Where do I begin?

    Don’t get hung up on price. The best devices for capturing potential EVPs are only a little more expensive than the cheap options, while the most expensive options are not necessary.

    I always recommend a Digital Field Recorder instead of a Digital Voice Recorder. There is a clear difference and it lies with the features. The main difference being that a voice recorder is only designed to capture the human voice for dictation purposes. That means the scrutiny of the audio is not as important as the file size and that everything is optimized for the human voice. A field recorder is designed for capturing everything audio from the human voice to concerts to sounds that are on the edge of human hearing and to do so with quality.

    Also the most expensive digital voice recorders are less capable or equal to the cheapest price digital field recorders.

    Before we get into it, we really should understand a few things about recording audio in general…

    While most people use them, do NOT use any recorder that records ONLY in mp3, wma, or any other compressed audio format. This alters the audio you capture “after the fact” causing you to hear things that were NOT originally captured by the recorder in the first place.

    How? Because file compression of audio uses “matrixing” as a tool! “Matrixing” is the name given to the way the human brain sometimes fools the eyes or ears into seeing or hearing something that isn’t really there. In order to shrink the file size when using date compressed audio (like mp3 or wma) parts of the audio are removed and it is up to our brains to piece the missing information together using clues from what is left to come up with what it was supposed to sound like. Obviously for investigators or enthusiasts who need to determine if they are “matrixing”, recording using formats that employ matrixing as a tool should be avoided like the plague!

    Instead, you need to find a recorder that records in what is known as a lossless format. The most common is wav or PCM (which is a type of wav). If it can record in 24 bit wav as opposed to 16 bit wav that is an advantage as well. This offers a higher bit resolution. What this basically means is that when the audio file is recorded, more bits are used for each sample. The higher the bit resolution the less noise is recorded in relation to the signal (signal to noise ratio). That basically means you have a cleaner recording.

    Why is this important? Well, if you need to increase the gain of a recording to pull up a very soft sound you will add distortion which will “color” the audio file and induce noise that was never captured in the original recording. In 16 bit that can be very damaging, with 24 bit it has way less of an effect. We can go higher than 24 bit (48 for example), but for our purposes, it really isn’t necessary.

    Anything that alters the original audio (like file compression, distortion etc) adds it to the recording after the fact and is often the cause for false positives in evps. By eliminating these things, you know that you have a better chance that something you captured may be the general article and nothing manufactured by the process.

    Also it is helpful to get a device that records with high sensitivity so that very soft things CAN be picked up. Digital voice recorders do not do this, but most digital field recorders do. This is a double edged sword as you now have to determine if a sound that was captured was not something outside, in another room, somebody whispering etc. but is more of an advantage than a disadvantage.

    While there are many great field recorders out there, for our purposes I only recommend 2, as many have more expensive features that we won’t need to use.

    The Zoom H1 looks like a voice recorder but is actually a field recorder. At $99 it cheaper than the best voice recorders and very affordable. It is small. It’s advantage too is that it can be screwed on to a video mount so that it can be recording audio at the same time you are shooting video one handed.

    The Zoom H2n IMO is the absolute best recorder possible to record EVPs. At $199 it is still very reasonably priced and blows away recorders that are priced many times higher for what we need to do with it. This device uses 4 mics simultaneously and can record 360 degrees at the same time! If you monitor with headphones live, you will hear things that no one else investigating with you will hear. When you play back the captured files later using headphones, you will experience the space it was recording in, meaning: Because it records in all directions you will hear every echo that was in the original space. You will be able to determine if a sound was to the left or right of the recorder or even in front or behind. Those that I have explained this to in advance, still weren’t prepared for what they experienced when they listened to this recorder. They were no only blown away, but hooked and had to get one.

    I swear by this recorder and anyone who I have recommended this to will too. In fact there are many in the community now using this recorder for evp work per my recommendation.

    The older model H2 (no n as in the H2n above) is also fantastic for many of the same reasons and still can be found online at various prices ranging from under $100-$160

    Additionally my advice is to record in lossless (wav – never mp3 or wma), 24 bit (never less than 16 bit), 4 channel vs 2 or 1 (Applicable to the h2n and h2 only) and at the most sensitive (loudest) setting possible. This will make for some amazing results. Just make sure to not whisper and to tag everything that you know is not paranormal as you record (verbally mentioning a cough, bumping into things, hitting the device, etc.)

    Hope this helps!

    Steve Fernino
    Co-Administrator of The Paranormal Research Groups
    -Connecticut, Virginia, Alabama, Florida

  2. Steve, you’re the best. THANK YOU so much for taking the time to answer this and posting such a detailed, thoughtful reply. GREATLY appreciate it. Learned a bunch new thanks to you!

  3. When it comes to field research, voice recorders are un-avoidable, they’re needed to record witness interviews, field notes, and of course the EVP or Electronic Voice Phenomena. An EVP is an electronically generated noise that resembles speech, but are supposedly not the result of intentional voice recordings or renderings. Basically, voices that are not from natural sources.

    EVPs and other Audio phenomena are what many ghost hunters and paranormal investigators rely on today to validate claims of paranormal phenomena at a site but many really do not understand the principals of audio or know what their devices are capable of in the field. Not every voice recorder is the same and just like cameras or camcorders, the different features can make all the difference.

    When it comes to fieldwork, recording audio is by-and-large the most difficult to capture reagrdless of what your projects is. If you’re shooting a documentary, trying to capture bird calls or just trying to take field notes, recording clear audio can be extremely difficult.

    Audio is analyzed and classified according to two primary factors; frequency, reported as a hertz level, and power reported as a decibel level. Many modern recorder attempt to limit external noises in the recorder by applying filters to the microphones so that it will only record in standard frequencies. Companies find the majority of consumers are unhappy with recorders that pick up everything. This is why Ultrasound and Infrasound are typically not recorded with standard recorders.

    The Limit for Human Hearing is 20hz to 20,000hz.

    … we’ve got more info on our blog about this but the long and the short is you need to choose wisely… http://www.nyshadowchasers.com/blog/2012/8/16/audio-evps-analysis-and-pareidolia.html

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