Digital recording is the process of turning analog sound waves into the 1s and 0s that computers understand. For more on the differences between analog and digital recording, see our article How Analog and Digital Recording Works.
The simplest digital device for recording conference calls is a small handheld digital voice recorder. These gadgets are similar in look and feel to normal mini-cassette tape recorders, except they can record hundreds of hours of digital audio on their small built-in flash memory cards [source: Amazon].
Handheld digital voice recorders have built-in mics, but most include a jack for connecting an external microphone for better sound quality. An advantage of digital voice recorders for recording conference calls is that they can be connected directly to a computer via USB for uploading or further editing.
For recording conference calls to your computer without a handheld digital voice recorder, you'll need three things:
- A microphone
- A sound card
- Audio editing software
Most desktop computers and laptops have a built-in microphone for capturing audio, but for recording conference calls, you'll probably want to invest in a PC-compatible external microphone. Most modern microphones are built for use in both analog and digital (computer-based) recording.
There are many microphones available that plug directly into the standard USB port of a computer. Others use a 1/8" plug to connect to the line-in or microphone jack on the computer's sound card.
A sound card is another digital recording device that comes standard with most desktop and laptop computers. Sound cards are responsible for converting audio back and forth between analog signals and digital data. Sound cards also contain their own small processors and memory so that the computer's main CPU doesn't have to do a lot of extra work to process incoming audio or play outgoing audio.
Audio editing software is a computer program that allows a user to digitally record and manipulate audio. Audio editing software can be feature-packed and expensive, like Avid Pro Tools, or streamlined and free, like the open-source program Audacity. Audio editing software allows you to:
- Record to different tracks and adjust track levels digitally
- "Digitize" cassettes, vinyl records and live performances by recording them in digital format
- Cut, paste and delete chunks of audio
- Alter the tempo (speed) of an audio recording without changing the pitch
- Remove static, hisses and extraneous noise
- Export as a WAV, MP3, AIFF or other audio file formats
Audio editing software is useful for recording conference calls because you can chop down a long call and only save the most salient moments. Or you can clean up a recording that was made in less than ideal circumstances, like on a cell phone or in a crowded conference room. Audio editing software is also essential for preparing audio files to be burned to a CD for archival purposes.
Now let's look at some gadgets and techniques for recording multiparty conference calls.