Reformed linguist turned archivist. I specialized in Morphology and
Phonology but wrote one of my qualifying papers on a phonetic feature of
My experimental phonetics professor spent the better part of a week and
half on microphone choice, recorders, recorder settings, informant/subject
placement and mic placement. This was all in studio settings, field
recordings are a different animal and 100 percent control over things is
nigh on impossible. I spent some time at U of Chicago digitizing recording
from disc, tape, cassette, and DAT and the quality always varied with the
researcher's need and available equipment.
I don't recall having read the phrase Hugh cites, but I don't doubt it
exists. I might even have used it myself, it's been a while since I reread
my paper (if interested The Effects of Speech Rate on VOT for Initial
Plosives and Click Accompaniments in Zulu -
But, point is, recordings can always be better, and I think people try. I
consulted as a grad student with several field researchers going out into
the field, always with the same sage advice my professor gave me.
I think the quibble might be the choice of the phrase and I think that's
fine for clarification, but I don't think it's due to linguists not knowing
what they are doing.
On Sat, Nov 21, 2020, 11:58 AM Lou Judson <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I am involved in both rescuing, transferring and digitizing recordings new
> and old, and recording spoken word and music in a variety of settings.
> I’m unfamiliar with the area of lingistisc as it is involved with
> recording, but here is my response:
> Having equipment capable of “high quality” should be a given in any
> recording environment or situation. Over the past 100 years, the “state of
> the art” has steadlily improved. It is rather amazing to read about
> acoustic 78s records being A/B’d against a live orchestra and being praised
> as incredibly lifelike, whereas today it sounds hopelessly crude!
> I remember as a budding engineer the transitions from decent quality home
> reel to reel recorders to more convenient cassettes and then to DAT digital
> recordings… (leaving out professional studio recorders for the moment). In
> every case, the most important factor was the microphones and
> preamp/mixer/amplifiers use as input sources, modified by the placement and
> the sound out in front of the mic. A great mic two feet away from a voice
> will have more of the room than a close mic, but a mic too close to the
> mouth will pick up breaths, mouth noise, and so on. There is a happy medium
> we all strive for. A cheap cassette sitting on a table is NOT a high
> quality source, but it can work in a quiet room with good speakers…
> I imagine in the linguistic world there might be a dearth of experience
> and knowledge about placement as referenced above. My wife does
> transcription, typing the words from a spoken recording, and one of the
> worst examples of this was an interview where the setting was a noisy
> restaurant, the interviewer blew on the mic and saw it was recording, them
> placed it on the back of the booth behind the two voices, where is picked
> up the kitchen and the crowd beautifully, but hardly any of the interview.
> That is extreme but it happens!
> The mention of a “Rode” mic is essentially irrelevant (Rode makes a wide
> variety of mics) - I have had good quality microphones reanging from a $17
> Sony in 1966 to multi-thousand dollar mics in studios and live recordings.
> It is independent of the brand - there are good mics from many
> manufacturers. One ought to never specify a brand over a type of mic. Price
> has a good bit to do with it, but not everything!
> In my work recording audiobooks and radio interviews, we evolved from
> radio studios with fully professional ($2,000) mic, through remote
> recordings on hundred dollar mics to (good) cassette recorders to using top
> quality film sound recorders (NAGRA and Sound Devices), and a variety of
> mic types. At one point, we discovered the dependable placement using
> headset mics, like you see on TED talks and such - and we also found that
> $17 headset mics perform as well (and more reliably) as $600 Countryman
> headmics! One key to this is that they stay one inch from the mouth and off
> to the side so no breath pops…
> All this might be a diversion, as you ask about terminology. What I would
> like to see is well-recorded audio on high quality equipment with qualified
> personnel doing it! And a profesioonal will al;ways monitor “end of chain”
> so they know it sounds good and was actually recorded! That’s hard in the
> digital realm, where you can’t hear the result until you play it back…
> Also, there is a huge difference between describing the quality of a
> recording you are presented with, and instructing your people on how the
> MAKE good recordings!
> I hope this helps… It was fun to write, hope it isn’t just a rant.
> PS - “High Fidelity” refers more to music and playback than recording
> spoken word, so I would avoid the term.
> Lou Judson
> Intuitive Audio
> > On Nov 21, 2020, at 1:37 AM, Hugh Paterson III <[log in to unmask]>
> > Greetings,
> > In the academic literature (of linguistics) I often read about the
> > necessity to record with "high-quality recordings..." and what they
> > often mean is all based on technical parameters. For instance using a
> > mic, and recording to .wav format at something like 48khz/24bit.
> > My perspective, and I think some on this list would agree, is that
> > technical settings on hardware by themselves do not make a "high-quality
> > recording". My interpretation is that "quality" involves so much more in
> > terms of sound engineering, such as mic placement, levels like gain
> > to signal ratio) etc, and composition of the content.
> > So I am writing a brief squib on this issue, and I would like to
> > terminologically make a distinction between a "High quality recording"
> > a "a well recorded recording". I am wondering if I should contrast the
> > concepts of "High quality recording" and "High fidelity recording"? What
> > you think? Do these terms adequately capture the contrast? Are there
> > terms that should be used?
> > all the best,
> > - Hugh