For everyday portable recording, Tascam and Roland (and many other viable brands) offer all-in-one microphone, digital recording, and sound card compatibility.  As long as we have memory storage, and access to a good PC or laptop device, recording cost starts at about $350-$500 dollars.

Keep in mind that starting small, getting reliable advice from sound professionals, and technical engagement with your chosen tools helps facilitate archival-quality content.  It is especially important to focus on realistic project management, technical need, and suitable best practice purchase and use of recording equipment.

A well-organized oral history project recognizes equipment and production needs with keen guidance measures, properly timed and executed funding, and cross disciplinary support liaisons to create beneficial, long lasting community reports.

For a rough estimate of your projects’ technical needs, check out Doug Boyd’s Digital Recorder Cost & Quality Questionnaire.

In my view, truly successful projects provide adequate digital recording equipment, and paid sound recording interviewers, metadata and transcription managers, and especially knowledgeable sound editors for post-production.

This group works closely, and with creative attention toward digital and analog labors.  Create teams who create information, and thereby generate open access content.

Volunteer labor in post-production can lead to poor results in sound quality.

Archival KXZW standard says otherwise old guard hierarchy bones!

Inexpensive and cost cutting measures on recording equipment may help maintain a working knowledge of a sound project; however, for best final production presentation –– consider the high cost of volunteer or temporary labor, and pay for good work$

In fact (Your Name Here Executive Director Hot-Shot), jump straight into the 21st century and over-pay for digital projects.  That’s right, hot off the press, you’ve read it here, (Your Name Here Consummate Professional), Over-Pay and Educate yourself about the digitally laborious real-world of audio production. 

For an example of production and post production reality —in this case a project at The T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History— read Jenifer Cramer and Erin Hess’s OHDA paper What Endures: Producing and Publishing and Oral History Podcast.


A short list of potential gear used for digital sound recordings

  • Rode Microphones

NT1-A Cardioid Condenser Microphone

  • Shure Microphones

SM58 Vocal Microphone

  • Blue Microphones 

Spark SL Large-Diaphragm Studio Condensor Microphone

  • TASCAM DR-100MKII Linear PCM Recorder


Owner’s Manual (PDF)

  • Digital Camera –– useful for narrator photos should the project call for it; however, my own projects no longer document via image or photograph.  That said, a good digital camera remains indispensable for documenting the archive trails we make.
  • Accessory cords, USB drives, and portable sound card storage
  • Equipment storage bag to include safe, dry, and temperature controlled storage for recording equipment.

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