For everyday portable recording, Tascam and Roland offer all-in-one microphone, digital recording, and sound card compatibility. As long as you 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 a sound professional, and technical engagement with your chosen tools help to facilitate great sound recordings and future archived content.

It is especially important to focus on realistic project management and technical needs, which can help to ensure 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 a beneficial and long lasting community report. For a rough estimate of your projects’ technical needs, check out Doug Boyd’s Digital Recorder Cost & Quality Questionnaire.

In my view, any successful project provides adequate digital recording equipment and paid sound recording interviewers, metadata and transcription managers, and especially a knowledgeable sound editor. This group work as a team to create access to the public.

Volunteer labor in post-production leads to mixed, even poor, results in sound quality and archive standard. Inexpensive and cost cutting measures on recording equipment help to maintain a working knowledge of a sound project; however, for best final production presentation, please consider the high cost of volunteer or temporary labor.

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 gear that I use for digital sound recordings.

  • Rode Microphones

NT1-A Cardioid Condenser Microphone

  • Shure Microphones

SM58 Vocal Microphone

  • TASCAM DR-100MKII Linear PCM Recorder


Owner’s Manual (PDF)

  • Digital Camera for 2-5 snap shots of narrators at the conclusion of the interview. This step can be supplemented by asking narrators to choose a photograph they would like to accompany their sound recording.
  • Accessory cords, Zip (flash) drives, and portable sound card storage
  • Equipment storage bag to include safe, dry, and temperature controlled storage for recording equipment.




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David Lee

David Lee

Public History at New Mexico State University: Poverty, Homelessness, and Hunger in the New Mexico Borderlands. Email Phone (505) 715-8779

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