Equipment required to record interviews

Without getting too deep into things, my father is coming to the end of a really interesting life and I’m thinking it would be great to document some of it for future generations via a few interviews.

The problem with this is that I have no idea where to start in terms of equipment (or how to set things up). I’ve got a couple of snowball microphones that I’ve used to record YouTube but that’s about it.

What’s the best way to record a conversation between two people - mainly in terms of hardware, but any suggestions for software would be really welcome too.

Thanks a lot in advance

why not keep it simple. use one of those digital recorders (Olympus, Sony, etc). Save using the computers to do the editing and finalisation. That is how i did my elders. keeps the environment for the interview simple.


@rms makes a good suggestion, but if you are short for time, even the microphones built into our phones are good starting points these days — at least as good as anything most of us would have used for something like this in the past. You could just sit in a quiet environment with a phone on the table between you and record with the Voice Memos app. From there, export the file and continue doing whatever you need to with it.

I’ve had success with this for plenty of non-professional settings: simple interviews, band practices, etc.


Turning on Airplane Mode at a time like this is never a bad idea.


This is the KEY aspect. An interview NOW is better than a higher quality one in the future that may or may not actually happen. Depending on how you plan to deal with it in the future, you may also want to record video. Still doesn’t need to be much - can be as simple as your phone propped up and pointed at your dad, and maybe AirPods to record the audio (one with each of you).

I ran into this with my dad in summer of 2020 when we found out he had a few months left (although they were wrong, still has a few months now), and just recorded over zoom!


There are so many options here.

If you have an iPad or iPhone just put it on the table in between of you and talk. Depending on the room and echo, you will be amazed how good that already will be. Use apps as Voice Memo or Just record. Limitation is memory and time. I wouldn’t make very long recordings this way, but it will get you started with what you have.

Also: Just put your MacBook on the table and record via Audio Hijack. More space and also very acceptable audio, especially on newer models/

In larger (meeting) rooms, am having good success with a Plantronics portable conference phone connected to a Mac, also recording via Audio Hijack.

Most of these options are non-intrusive. Just put it on the table and have a conversation. Beyond this you will need (lavalier) mics and audio gear …


My father did a similar thing with my grandmother, some 25 years ago. Unfortunately, those interviews where stored on, then very modern, cassettes, who are hardly to read today.
Unfortunatly, my father died in between, and I could not do the same with him today.
If I would get a chance, I would most probably do it just with my iPhone.
I would keep the single records short. I would Start and Stop between every context. On this, I could produce a kind of a library, with the different themes/events/circumstances/etc. on the one hand, and I get into a position, where I wouldn’t loose too much, if a single file becomes damaged, or lost, somehow.

I really like the app Just Press Record – it’s a little like Drafts for audio – open it, hit the record button. With setup, it saves it to the your cloud account (I forget if you have a choice of locations or if it’s just icloud). You can rename, get a transcription.

Put it in a convenient place on your Home Screen, or even set to open with the back-tap, and you’ll always have your recorder handy.

RecUp is similar and also quite good.

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That is super cool! Both apps are new to me. Thanks for sharing.

I use my Apple Watch for Just Press Record. I did a few interviews and recorded conversations using this my Apple Watch as a recorder. Depending on the environment, you still get a good audio out of it.

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I’ve been wanting to do this since I started with my podcast. There are just so many old people who have stories to tell that their grandkids or even their kids needed to hear. I lamented that so much has been lost during the pandemic as we experienced a few deaths in the family (not covid-related but lack of access to a hospital). They may not be important story in the grand scheme of things, but they carry the stories that made the family as it is in the present. Especially now that our history is about to be revised once again in our country :frowning:

I am doing exactly this with my mother now. My siblings and I know a lot about my father, who passed away five years ago, because of my brother’s and my shared love of aviation, which was his lifelong career and passion. (It also helped that military service tends to be well documented.) I realised last year I don’t know a lot about Mum’s past, so I determined to sit down with her and record. I did one session last year and then my health and other commitments intervened. I just managed the second session a couple of weeks ago.

Anyway, I bought a Zoom H1n portable recorder for the purpose and it works fantastically well. I bought an accessory kit with it which included a small tripod. I mount it on that and put it on a table between us in her lounge. The resulting audio is crystal clear with us simply talking as we always do.

I have also used it to record bird calls, as an external microphone on my DSLR, and to record other outdoor sounds just for the fun of it. I’m pretty sure it still has the original batteries in it, and the 32 GB memory card in it says it will hold 50 hours of audio and I think I have it on the highest quality setting. Certainly it’s WAV files.

I have tried to record a conversation with an iPhone in the past. It was probably an iPhone 8, but I found that the phone had to be placed just so to have any hope of a usable recording. Things may have improved with more modern phones, but I doubt their microphones are as sensitive as dedicated recording devices like the Zoom.

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They are for sure not, but if you already have a iPhone, and your focus tends more to the “urgency” of a recording, than to the absolute quality, the iPhone seems to be better than nothing!
If you have an extra recording device already, or it is worth the extra money and time to you, you should go with the extra device, in my opinion.


I worked at a radio station, and that’s what we used. Amazing quality.

That said, some interviews were recorded on newer iPhones too and it was good enough. You can get external microphones for iPhones too, but I don’t have much experience with them (last one I had was very good, but for an iPhone 3GS!)

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The apps on your phone are certainly good enough. Why not get started right away before jumping into or while looking for a dream set-up? What’s most important is what he has to say.


Fair point!

For me it was not so much about the quality as having a device I could rely on. Phone software has a tendency to change, be buggy sometimes, and other things like the OS can interfere. With the H1n, it is designed solely to do the job of recording audio, does a great job, and works perfectly every time with no fuss. It also left my phone free to look up a couple of facts while we were talking. (Hint: VE Day was in May, VJ Day in August.)

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