How to record, transfer and send audio files – for journalists and researchers

18 Dec

keyboard, headphones and penOver the years that I’ve been providing transcription services to journalists and researchers, I’ve found that my clients haven’t always been as au fait as you would expect with recording, downloading and sending audio files of their interviews.

Here are some handy hints that I’ve developed to help my clients – any journalists or researchers who have to record and transcribe interviews should find this information useful.

Recording your interviews

You might be using a dedicated dictation machine or your Smartphone to record your interviews. Whichever you are using, here are some hints to get the best out of your recording:

Set and test the recording levels. You will  probably be able to alter the volume, at very least, and maybe the graphic equaliser. If you’re going to be doing a lot of interviews, it’s worth doing a test session with a friend, and checking the quality of the recording. Then leave the levels set at that point.

  • If the levels are too loud, when it’s played back, it will be distorted, even if the level is turned down on the machine that’s playing it back.
  • If the levels are too quiet, when it’s played back it will be really quiet still. Your transcriber will strain to hear it. Even if they up the volume at your end,  there’s only a certain amount they can do
  • If the bass or treble are set too high, the recording will pick up and amplify all bass or treble noises, such as cars going past or cutlery rattling

You may have some pre-set recording levels in the menus on your recording device. Oddly enough, you need to choose one that reads something like “interview” or “one to one”, rather than “meeting” or “concert” or “outdoors”. This will ensure that the device picks up you and the interviewee, rather than the conversation at the next table or the inexorable whoosh of the cappuccino machine.

  • If an inappropriate pre-set recording level is chosen, your transcriber may be bombarded with cutlery and glassware sounds and other people’s conversations, or just hear voices booming around like they’re in the bottom of a bucket.

Check each time that the recording level is correct – it is not unknown for the buttons on the recording device to get pressed in the journalist’s bag on the way to an interview, leading to a transcriber with ear-strain and a transcription full of gaps!

Transferring your audio files to your computer

Once you’ve saved your interview files, you’re going to need to get them off your recording device and onto your computer.

There are usually two ways to do this:

Option 1 – connect your recording device to your computer using a USB cable

Option 2 – send the file from your recording device to your computer via email

Option 1 is the easiest. If your recording device comes with a USB connection, plug it in to your computer. You will find that the computer treats it as an extra drive, like the C or D drive. Use the file navigator to find the file and copy it across to your computer, ready to send to your transcriber.

Option 2 is more tricky, as most phones will have a limit as to how long a file you can send. You may need to break it up into chunks, or zip the file on your phone / dictation machine first.

There is an Option 3 which you can use if your dictation machine is an analogue one, i.e. uses those little tiny tapes (or big ones!). Go into a silent room. Set a microphone up connected to your computer. SET THE RECORDING LEVELS very carefully and test them. Play the tape and record it digitally. Note: please don’t do this if you can help it. The tape quality will always be affected (think what the tapes were like that you recorded off the radio as a teenager. Exactly). Your Smartphone will have a voice memo app pre-loaded onto it, or you can download one. Do that: go digital. Your transcriber will thank you!

What to do when your iPhone voice memo is too big to email …

This is a topic in itself and one I’ve been asked about time and again.

If you need to transfer an iPhone voice memo to your computer to send to your transcriber, and you try to email it to yourself or them, you will probably get a message telling you that it’s too long to email. Don’t break it up into chunks, do this instead …

Turn on your phone, connect it via USB cable to your computer and open iTunes.

iTunes should have a tab called My iPhone.  Click on the Sync button in this tab if it doesn’t do it automatically. It will then record it into your computer’s memory.

Under Playlists, click on Voice Memos. Find your recording (it will be labelled with its date, which should help you to find it), right-click and choose Get Info. This will tell you where the memo is saved on your computer. Copy it into the file where you want to keep it, and send it to your transcriber.

For other phones, I always recommend connecting the phone to the computer rather than trying to email it.

Sending your audio file to your transcriber

Most audio files are really big and won’t send easily as an email attachment.

The first thing to try is zipping it. Go to the file in your computer’s folders, and right-click. You should be given some kind of option to Zip the file. This makes it smaller, like putting a duvet in one of those vacuum pack bags. Your transcriber will unzip it at their end to work with it.

If this is still too big, there are lots of services online that will transfer your file for you. My two favourites are YouSendIt, now called Hightail, and Wetransfer.  Both of these have free versions – you pay more to get more feedback and send larger files.

You can also use Dropbox, which acts as an extra, secure drive for your computer, living out there in the ‘Cloud’. Sign up (again, free) and copy your files into this folder. Then share it with your transcriber, or send the file so they can download it.

This article has hopefully helped to make technical matters clearer for journalists and researchers who want to record interviews and transcribe them themselves, or have them transcribed by a professional transcriber.

Related posts:

More on transcription and careers in transcription starting here.

Why you need a human being to do your transcription

My book: A Quick Guide to Transcription as a Career – buy from Amazon UK or visit the book’s web page for worldwide links and news.

Found this useful? Do share using the buttons below, and/or send me a message via the comments box below!


Posted by on December 18, 2013 in Transcription



19 responses to “How to record, transfer and send audio files – for journalists and researchers

  1. hasan murad

    May 17, 2015 at 5:27 am

    the clarity with which you show ‘how to’ is admirable; but i think that you left the transfer to transcriber part not quite finished; hightail, wetransfer, and dropbox do not solve the problem of transferring; one still needs to cope with sharing, synchronizing (even transferring the audio files put in the dropbox); can u, in ur ‘made easy’ way, help me how to cope with this problem? regards. hasan murad


    • Liz Dexter

      May 18, 2015 at 11:02 am

      Thanks for your comment, Hasan. This post was aimed at people who are sending the files, hence the concentration on that side of things. When working with the file sharing sites, there is usually a download button. You can download the file into your own folders; you might need to unzip it using the software on your computer or third-party software. As far as Dropbox goes, I usually use the Direct Download option and save it into my own files, or work with the Dropbox app – you can refresh the view in the same way as using File Manager in Windows and access the files, then they should auto-update on your client’s side when you save them. I hope this helps!


  2. Joseph Hoffman

    May 17, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Looking for suggestion on what audio device to use. Have an app developed that uses push notes and want to attach an audio file to it each day with a different mentor message. App staff provided some direction… now looking for best device to allow mentors anywhere to record a 30 second message, save it, transfer file, edit, integrate it with app and archive to the cloud. Anyone with knowledge, time and desire to send messages to troubled youth incarcerated, please respond… or 330 322 8495. Thank you for your help.


    • Liz Dexter

      May 18, 2015 at 11:00 am

      I’ve approved your comment because you’re from a charitable foundation and have asked a useful question – you can use products from the Express Scribe stable to do this, but I don’t have direct experience of working in this way, so throwing the question open to readers of the blog.


  3. Julie

    November 3, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Liz im a Virtual Assistant and would like to offer the audio transcription service to clients. However, |’m struggling trying to download a practice voice memo to email it doesnt arrive. Ive tried the different options that you suggest but they dont work for me. Can you suggest any other easy way of sending the voice memo to email. Thanks


    • Liz Dexter

      November 3, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      Thanks for your question, Julie. It really depends what device you recorded it on. If an iPhone, have you tried the info in this post? If your recording device has a USB port, you might be best off connecting it to your computer, treating it like an external drive and copying the audio file over into your computer’s memory. If that doesn’t work, give me some more details and I will try to help.


      • Julie

        November 3, 2015 at 1:54 pm

        Thanks for responding so quickly Liz. Yes I have gone through all of the options and nothing works. It is an IPhone and have connected the USB but the voice memo does not appear when I open the link on the computer. The only things that appear are the photos and videos but not the voice memo. Sorry it’s not straight forward. I have downloaded the NCH software by the way and it looks great. Just need to get my voice memo transferred!!!


      • lee rendle

        October 5, 2016 at 8:30 pm

        Hello can you help? I am trying to transfer a audio file from my digital recorder over to my Android phone.After this is want to then use my app to enhance the sound.The digital recorder has a small portion which came with it,with USB too.It has no Bluetooth or WIFI. I have no P.C but I think I can do it using the P.C’s in the library.


        • Liz Dexter

          October 6, 2016 at 4:30 pm

          Yes, I think your best bet is to find a PC you can use to do this.


  4. Dennis LaTour

    February 29, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    Ms. Dexter, I’m glad that I found your web-site. I’m 68 yrs. old, never went to school for computers, so I’m having some difficulty with the PC language. I have a Windows 7 – Toshiba system and it seems to have a ‘built-in microphone’ because it will record sound without me having an external microphone. I downloaded a free ‘Audacity’ program but it’s to complicated for me to figure out.

    This is my situation: I have audio recordings on a digital recorder that I need to be able to send as a ‘link’ in an E-mail. Do I need to buy a microphone to do this? Also, I’m still not clear on the Saving & Sending the audio. If you have the time to reply to this dummy, I’d appreciate it.

    Thanks, Dennis LaTour


    • Liz Dexter

      March 2, 2016 at 8:24 am

      Dear Dennis, thank you for your question. If you have a digital recorder that contains audio recordings, check if it has a socket for a USB cable. If it does, you can plug it in to the computer’s USB port using a USB cable. Then, you can treate the plugged-in recorder like one of the drives on your computer (in the same way you might use a USB stick). Using Windows Explorer, find the drive (it will have a different letter, but should be called something like External Input or even the name of your digital recorder) and you should find the file there. Then, you can copy that file onto your actual computer, putting it in the C drive.

      Once you’ve done that, you can use the methods I explain above to send the recording to someone else via email.

      I hope that helps! — Liz


  5. Zara

    April 20, 2016 at 11:22 am

    we are having a nightmare transferring a recording that we have downloaded on to our pc – we want to send it to an iphone so as it can be listened to on that – no joy yet and the files too big to email / transfer using other methods!


    • Liz Dexter

      April 25, 2016 at 9:22 am

      Can you put it in a dropbox folder which you can then open using a phone, laptop etc.?


  6. Arifah hafeez

    May 22, 2018 at 6:16 am

    Hello, thank you for your great and helpful article, is it possible to shorten a recording on a memory stick in order for it to be sent to a transcriber?


    • Liz Dexter

      May 22, 2018 at 8:21 am

      Thank you for your question. You can make the file smaller by zipping it then sending it. To actually make the audio file shorter you would need some kind of editing technology, for example NCH (whose transcription software I use) have Edit Audio, which I haven’t tried, but they are a decent and reputable company in my experience.



I love hearing from my readers - do please leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: