Record To MP3 With A Portable Digital Recorder

by on October 30, 2007

An Into Tomorrow listener submitted the following question!

Q: I am looking for a portable digital recorder that will actually record in the MP3 format. I want to connect it to our sound board (1/4 inch connecting line) at church to record our sermons. I then want to bring it home and connect it to my PC via USB and download it to my PC to put on our website. We currently use an Olympus VN-3100PC recorder, which only records in a 4 bit WAV format. I then have to use conversion software to make it MP3, which degrades the already so-so quality of the recording. Any suggestions as to a good TRUE MP3 recorder we could purchase?

A: Your Olympus VN-3100PC is what’s known as a digital voice recorder. These units emphasize quantity over quality. That is, it is better to record thousands of hours worth of audio at low quality than just a few hours at high quality. Additionally, the processors in these units are usually incapable of encoding the audio in high quality. In other words, you would do best to say away from digital voice recorders for professional quality recording.

You mention MP3 and WAV files. MP3 files are lossy by nature. Lossy means that data from your audio will always be lost when recording or converting, no matter how high your quality setting. WAV files (sometimes called WAVE) are actually lossless. The consequence of lossless is that all audio information is preserved. But your 4-bit WAV files sound bad…? There are two reasons why your 4-bit WAV files sound bad. First, 4-bit is a very low setting for audio. The accepted standard for CD audio is 16-bit WAV; higher qualities are also available for WAV files. Second, when converting a lossless format to a lossy one, there will always be data loss.

Taking all of this into consideration, what should you shop for? First, be prepared to pay extra money for the better audio quality and processing power of professional-grade audio recording. Units that may meet your needs include: Roland Edirol R-09, M-Audio MultiTrack II, and the Samson H4 Handy. Other units of various shapes, sizes, and prices can be found on the internet.