How to Setup a Recorder for Great Sounding Audio

How to Setup a Recorder for Great Sounding Audio

See the links below for all the gear used in this video or visit

There are many factors that go into recording high quality audio. If you’re making movies with a DSLR or similar camera, one of the best ways to get great sounding audio is to record your audio outside of the camera, into an audio recorder.

There are lots of relatively low priced recorders that do a great job at recording clean sounding dialog (aka voice). The Zoom H1, the Roland R-05, and Tascam DR-60D are just a few of the many recorders available with good quality preamps. The preamps in your DSLR video camera however tend to be not as good and can create a noticeable amount of noise.

So when setting up an external audio recorder to capture your voice for video, there are a few important things to know. I’ve already mentioned a few good recorders, the next important element is your microphone.

Regardless of what kind of microphone you are using, lavalier, shotgun, hypercardioid condenser, etc., you’ll want to get one that doesn’t produce any noise. A lav mic. like the ATR3350 is a good low budget option but it will produce more noise than a mic. like the one I’m using in this video, the AspenMics Stereo HQ (link below).

After you have some decent gear, you’ll want to set it up properly. Start by adjusting your recorder’s gain so that when you are not speaking, the audio meters show some kind of faint signal. Then adjust it back down until there is no activity on the meter.

From there, position your microphone as close to the person speaking as possible. If you are using a lav mic., place it around the center of your chest about six to eight inches from your mouth. If you are using a shotgun microphone, place it within 2 feet of the person talking.

Check your levels when you are speaking in your natural voice. Say some dialog that you will be saying to the camera once you press record. Adjust your gain so that the peaks of the meters are touching somewhere near -12db, not going any higher than -6db when you are at your loudest.

This should give you a good signal (your voice) to noise (the environment) ratio so that your voice will be easily heard above any background noise.

If you have items in your environment such as a heater, air conditioner, a loud refrigerator, computer fans etc. you want to remove those items as much as possible. Turn off the HVAC, the computer and move away from the fridge. Taming the background noise will go a long way in improving the sound of your audio.

If you are outside and there is background noise that you cannot control, simply set your levels so that your voice peaks around -12db (maybe even lower in this case) and roll with it. If the background noise is just too loud, you’ll need to move locations or wait for it to stop.

*Gear used to make this video:

Canon 60D DSLR camera
Roland R-05 audio recorder
Zoom H1 (mentioned. Not used here)
AspenMics Stereo Lav:
Transcend SD card 16 and 32GB Class 10
Sigma 30mm 1.4 ART (updated version of the 30mm I shot with) B&H: Amazon:
Manfrotto 701 HDV Tripod (discontinued) replacement:
Manfrotto 394 Quick Release Plate and Base
F&V USA | R-300 5600K LED Ring Light

1967 Newport cigarette commercial clip courtesy UCSF Tobacco Industry Videos **Don’t Smoke!**

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