23 September 2005

AudioActivism: notes on how to make a digital recording and how to broadcast it!

Recording audio on your computer is easy DIY. It doesn’t cost much to set yourself up and the working protocols are straightforward.


  • a computer with a sound card
  • an input device(such as a microphone or external sound source like a tape recorder, Mp3 player, radio, etc with connecting line which is available from places like Dick Smith's Electronics)
  • a digital audio editor such as Audacity which is available as a free download from Sourceforge(free)
  • OR a recording and conversion progam such as Podproducer(free)
  • OR an MP3 edit and record program such as Mp3 Direct Cut(free)
  • OR (the simplest of all) visit Odeo Studio and record your podcast there
Both Audacity and Mp3DirectCut will require you to download a Lame encoder file (preferably into the same folder as their program.) The best source and DIY info on that is here.
(Mp3 DirectCut's info on Lame is a bit confusing)

While you can employ any number of cheap microphones available from Dick Smith’s Electronics you may find Logitech your best value for sound quality for recording at your desk..To purchase a high quality microphone will cost you hundreds of dollars and the audio buffs have any number of recommendations for high quality sound. So don’t go there in a hurry -- you’re not a record producer or a DJ. In effect, a microphone may be your one essential purchase. (A set of earphones may be a preferred extra too. Logitech make a headset/mike that would suit many circumstrances you may have to deal with but any old pair should do to plug into your pc speakers of phones jack.)

METHOD ONE [on the web]: ODEO

At you computer --go to the Odeo Studio site. Follow the prompts and record your voice. 'Tis extremely straightforward and a simple DIY.

METHOD TWO[on your desktop]: Using a sound editor

Fire up the pc, load up your sound editing program (such as Audacity)and start recording. Audacity has web based tutorials showing the basic DIY so too does Podproducer.

Save your sound file to a preferred format (such as , & preferably, Mp3).


Once you have created your recording you have three options:

  1. Upload your audio onto your ISP provided web space by using a FTP program. This you may not have amongst your on hand programs. However, if you sign on with OUR MEDIA both web space for archiving your media and an uploading program are provided free as part of the OM registration package. The OM site is a bit unstable and doesn’t always work to rule, but why look a gift horse in the mouth?
  2. Send your audio file as an email attachment to someone(or let them know its url if you publish it on the web) -- like Ratbag Radio -- who can use it so it can be circulated as a podcast or other form of web based audio. Ask first, though.
  3. If you cannot convert your tape recording to a computer file, and it's a potent audio item that warrants broadcasting, post it via snail mail to someone who can make use of it after editing and converting it to a digital format.

Once you have your sound file uploaded somewhere you can direct people to it by sharing and promoting its url. If you want to podcast you’ll need to set up a web or blog page with XML attributes. Both can be set up and self managed for free, such as on Blogger, and the XML attributes can be orchestrated for free through such systems as Feedburner. Establishing a blog and engineering a XML feed will take you only a few minutes. There are a few tricks to engineering Blogger for podcasting which you need to follow.

This may sound complicated, as you aren't supposed to know your way around this XML format, but it is a straighforward process.


You can record media away from your pc by employing either a standard tape recorder or a MP3 player with record attributes* (or a mini disk recorder ). You may find that the MP3 recording will be of better sound quality than a tape deck. If you record directly to Mp3 or other digital sound format you won’t have to transpose it later.

Some MP3 player/recorders -- like iRiver -- also come with an aux jack that can take a microphone. But these will require some form of preamplification between the mic and the recorder. The nattiness of these are made by Visivox.

Mp3 recording is limited by the fact that the device may only have an inbuilt microphone which will have a limited sound reach. This is fine if you keep it up close to the mouth of the speaker but may be of limited use in a public forum type situation unless you part with your device and attach it to the speaker's rostrum or mike stand. If you do not have a mike extension you could also plug it into the the meeting's sound system if the organisers let you.


You can record anything provided you are aware of copyright limitations -- but even that doesn’t seem to be a obstacle for many.


  • public meetings,guest speakers,classes and workshops.
  • interviews
  • radio programs, even TV.
  • your own monologues, opinion pieces, eccentric POV take on the world,.etc
  • readings from books, pamphlets or the alternative press like Green Left Weekly
  • your own news roundup or campaign profile.
  • political memoirs by interviewing activists from older generations
  • sound montage reports on a local picket, rally or demonstration.

You can create your own radio program complete with music and whatever else takes your political fancy.


If you want to know more check out the discussion and information resources inks at the Ratbag Radio Discussion Forum.

Some of the most useful of these are:


Those who have come to podcasting from radio will insist that the primary task in any recording session is good mic technique. There's a good discussion here about this. At first the language may seem obscure but follow the recommendations and download for free two of the audio level meters suggested, and use them when you next record on your computer. The meters will train you to modulate your voice and be more aware of others who you may record. Similarly, making your own "pop" screen is DIY handiwork you could invest in. The screen makes a big difference to the sound quality and makes you feel like a recording artist for those tiems your are at your computer.

However, you can also deal with 'plosions like this by locating your microphone for optimum use: approximately a hand's width (ie: about 6 inches)from your mouth; to the left or right of your mouth and above your lips so that the mic is located upper right or left from your mouth. That will deal with any popping sounds you generate --- but keep fiddling with the mic position to get the sound 'right'. If you are holding the mic don't keep fiddling with it.


To really experience the potential of web audio you should download your own podcatcher. A podcatcher is a program that subscribes to and downloads podcasts. While there are a few freebies you can try, one of the most popular free downloads is the cross platform Juice. You don't need a Mp3 player to listen to podcasts either -- Mp3 players are primarily useful for listening to podcasts away from your computer.


Being no geek we make do with what seems like a good idea at the time. Since sitting down at a computer is sterile, The Blather was recorded on an iRiver T30 flash player by using the mic/line-in jack. Since any mic in there requires power, the mic we currently use is a mono headset microphone like this one. which runs off a AA battery(we purchased it for $AUD20). We nonetheless have to boost the sound level up a few dB when we edit. But the freedom to walk and talk into a good quality mic like this is great.

A discussion about employing portable devices for podcasting, including Mp3 file, is here -- and a review of a few hardware options can be read here.

Since May 2006 The Blather has been recorded on an iRiver ifp 795 --which has plug and play power and a higher recording volume for both line in and inbuilt microphone. Unfortunately this model is no longer being made by the company.

RR's planned recording strategy is explored here.


ODEO offers a easy interface so you can record audio commentary for Ratbag Radio. If you are asked to contribute or you want to send feedback or make a comment about a Ratbag Radio episode you can use tthis line:

Click on that and you be taken to an ODEO message screen. Just follow the prompts and speak. You have a full hour of recording time to say your piece and share your views. Your audio will be sent to Ratbag Radio's inbox for listening.


If you have anything to add to this outline please make a comment on the RR forums. If you have any questions or need assistance in getting started please feel free to make a comment there.

This guide will be redrafted and improved as more know how and DIY interaction is amassed.

For a review of the potency of podcasting and the impact the new digital audio technologies are having on AM and FM radio, listen to this MP3 documentary.


Try to keep audio levels between -12dB and -6dB
Try to keep peak levels between -6dB to -3dB
Try not to exceed -1dB

Soft signal -20 dB
Loud signal -6dB
Very loud -2dB

For music:-6 dB to -2dB
For spoken word: -6dB to -12dB
Loudest no more than -6dB
Softest at least -12dB