A few decades ago, the thought of recording a local khutbah, talk, or lecture was unheard of in the Muslim world. Recording Islamic media was not only difficult and rare, it usually required very organized efforts to record and distribute Islamic talks, usually in the form of audio cassettes (and later CDs) that needed to be copied and almost always sold.
Fast forward to today in the age where high speed internet is readily available even on mobile phones and we find that recording an Islamic talk is not only much more common, it’s a walk in the park to pull off. All one really needs is a small handheld recorder, and voila! Instant digital Islamic audio is ready for benefit for yourself or the community at large.
But as the number of people recording Islamic talks continues to grow, many Muslims are finding themselves with questions on the best ways to do so. After running into faulty recording devices, issues with audio editing and cleaning, or just confusion on the best recording methods, the need for a reference guide on how to record Islamic talks is needed.
So insha’ Allah the goal of this article is to act as a tutorial on how to record Islamic talks. By going over the logistical, hardware, and software & editing aspects to audio recording with an Islamic flavor in mind, I wish to provide a one stop introductory guide for all Muslims wishing to record Islamic talks in order to help you along your way.
Before you begin recording away, there are some preliminary logistical concerns you should take some time to figure out.
– Get permission
Make sure you have permission to record your speaker. Certain organizations, masjids, or speakers may have some rules regarding recordings, and it’s best to get an understanding of them before you move forward.
For example, some speakers do not allow any recordings of themselves at all (due to legal concerns, perhaps) while some allow it but simply request that they not be posted on the internet. Other speakers, however, are not only totally down with recordings, but even ask anyone who records them and send the material to them for posting on their own websites. Finding out recording preferences such as these before you record can be crucial in recording altogether.
– Inform the Speaker
You may need to inform the speaker that you will be recording their talk. Certain speakers appreciate knowing this ahead of time. This helps the speaker not only cater their delivery to audiences listening via recording, they appreciate being told to mentally prepare themselves to deliver as good a speech as possible for the purpose of spreading out via recordings.
Additionally, this will set up a reminder to the speaker to repeat Q&A questions from the audiences for listeners of the recording to fully benefit from the questions as if they were in the audience.
– Double-check Your Gear
Always make it a point to double-check if all your gear is all set for recording. Be it properly charged batteries, adequate recording space on the recorder, or even to remember if you brought your favorite clip-on mic, check to see if you are good to go before heading out to record. If your gear is new or this is your first time recording altogether, perform a test record to see if everything is working okay. Gain assurance in the readiness of your equipment, and you will find your recording to be smooth and sound.
Depending on your price, target audiences, and personal preferences, there are many different types of recorders out there for you. Here’s a few broken down into three major groups.
MP3 Players with a Built-in Recorder
Some MP3 player makers produce models with an innate ability to double as a voice recorder. This has been one of the biggest reasons why consumers go for these type of models over Apple’s iPod, as it has always lacked an innate ability to record any audio, and almost always is cheaper in price.
Pros: The convenience of having an MP3 player and a recording device is what sells here. These types of players can not only handle files and MP3 playing great, and may even support video, but also have built-in internal microphones ready for recording right out of the box. What’s more, some of the recorders can record at pretty high bitrates, meaning the quality of the recordings turns out pretty nice. The all-in-one package appeal is what makes it for these.
Cons: Not all of these support external mics if you want to clip one onto the speaker, and additionally, suffer from poor battery life because of their use of AA or AAA batteries. Since the primary functionality of these units is for MP3 playing, the product and its hardware won’t be as dedicated to recording as some may want.
The Verdict: Great for beginners and users wanting to make basic recordings who don’t need the greatest quality or all the fancy bells and whistles and want a solid MP3 player with it. It is recommended for beginners and easy personal recording.
Personal Digital Voice Recorder
Here’s where pocket voice recording all started, with these types of personal recorders made by Olympus or Sony. Olympus originally came out with the microcassette back in the late 60s. Since then, Olympus has always had a name for audio “dictation,” or the act of recording a speech and even today, in the digital world, Olympus still maintains an image as a standard for recording with its digital voice recorders. Sony also offers some nice models, as well.
Pros: The internal mics these things use are really great at picking up speeches, especially from loudspeakers. These things are made to record voices, often equipping stereo microphones and almost always offering a port for external mics with high quality bitrate recording. Some of them even have two different modes of recording you can switch between: placing the recorder close up to the speaker style or recording in a large hall with loudspeakers farther away from the speaker. Additionally, I have found them to have great battery life, even when running on AAAs.
Cons: The biggest downside to Olympus digital devices is that they record only in either DSS format, the Digital Speech Standard, a format developed by Olympus specifically for recording speech, or in WMA. Since most people want to end up with MP3 for sharing, this can be tricky to work with, although some Sony models can record in MP3. Also, it’s rare to find one of these with a rechargeable battery, so while they tend to last long, you still have to eventually replace them.
The Verdict: Personal voice recorders are definitely a great option if you want to step up to a more serious level of audio recording, but best to get one that does MP3 out of the box. It’s ideal for recording series of lectures or classes.
Professional Quality Digital Recorder
For serious audiophiles only. These babies pump out the best audio quality one can possibly get for the buck. Seriously, no joke, even with the amount you’d have to pay for one of these. Personally, I really like the MicroTrack II (pictured), while IbnAbeeOmar’s weapon of choice is the Zoom H4 Handy Recorder which he used to record the Yasir Qadhi interview on Beards. Also very popular is the Edirol R-09HR.
Pros: The quality on professional recorders is simply unbeatable. I’ve used one a couple times and with the right combination of a microphone, the results were like that of a CD quality recording. Super crisp sound, minimal background noise picked up, and loads of options and inputs to mess around with. I recorded a qari’ (Qur’an reciter) reciting Surat Qaf and when I listened to it I thought I was listening to Sheikh `Afasy from a purchased CD! Also, here is where you finally get models with built-in lithium ion batteries that you can plug in to charge more frequently. By far the cream of the crop.
Cons: Not all of these have built-in mics. That means you have to use an external mic all the time. On top of that, some of these models are meant for being plugged in from an audio mixer, meaning they don’t have what’s called phantom power. In other words, depending on the model you get, you may have issues finding the right type of microphone. But that’s all part of the fun in going ‘prosumer’.
The Verdict: There’s a reason why you’ll see the serious Muslims who are actively recording using these at events and conferences. Because they’re amazing. If you’re going pro to sell CDs, you simply cannot settle for less than one of these.
To be continued…