How to Take Clear Recordings of Lectures

When you record your lectures you can devote all your energy to listening, in the knowledge that everything is being captured to refer to later.

But what if you find that the quality of your recording is too poor to understand what’s being said? 

The good news is that there are some simple steps you can take to ensure your recordings of lectures are clear and intelligible. Here’s what you need to know:


If recording with a laptop...

Student Recording with Laptop

If you’re in the habit of bringing your laptop onto campus, it makes perfect sense to use it to record lectures. The only potential fly in the ointment is that laptop microphones don’t always give the best results because they aren’t designed for distance recording.

You have three options:

1. Make do with your laptop’s internal microphone. Many students do just that and get on fine. To test whether your laptop’s microphone is up to the job, start recording, walk to the other side of the room and speak in a quiet voice. Listen back – can you hear yourself clearly?

You may hear a background hiss. If this doesn’t stop you hearing what’s being said, don’t worry too much about it, because you can remove the hiss when playing back your recording in Sonocent Audio Notetaker for Windows by selecting ‘Noise Cancellation’ under the ‘Audio Clean-Up’ menu (coming soon for the Mac toolbar).

If you don’t hear a background hiss, your PC/Mac is probably applying noise cancellation automatically. This might seem like a good thing, but it's actually bad news when recording lectures, as the noise cancellation can make your recording sound like it was taken underwater. Ideally, you need to turn this setting off. To do this on a Mac, just go to Settings/Sound, select “Input” at the top of the screen, and untick “Use ambient noise reduction".

Selecting Noise Reduction in Audio Notetaker

Does the speech sound “swirly”? You may need to turn off the “enhancements” your PC applies automatically when it records. Whenever you make a major upgrade to your PC (e.g. to Windows 10 or to Windows 10 anniversary), you will need to turn off the enhancements again.

Check out these audio clips for a better idea of what we're talking about:

Example a) Lecture recording with no audio enhancements


Example b) Lecture recording with Sonocent Clear LectureTM enhancements


Example c) Lecture recording with audio enhancements applied automatically by Windows


Unable to play these Soundclouds? You can also listen to the audio clips on our Podcasts and Webinars Resource page.

TOP TIP: If you plan to record lectures with your laptop's internal microphone, you should make every effort to sit as close to the front of the lecture theatre as possible. Recordings taken just a few feet from the lecturer normally sound OK on playback, even if you’re using a pretty limited laptop microphone.


2. Plug an external microphone into the audio socket. If your laptop has separate headphone and microphone sockets, you can plug the microphone into the microphone socket.

However, newer laptops have a single “TRRS” socket for both headphones and microphones. In this case, you will need to plug the microphone into an adaptor, like this one:

When choosing your external microphone, we would recommend a directional microphone. This will filter out some of the noises from behind and alongside you. An example is this directional shotgun microphone from Andrea Communications.

3. Plug in a directional USB microphone. These aren’t as cheap but they’re easy to set up and will make a big difference to the quality of your lecture recordings. We like the Samson Go microphone pictured:

Make sure to set the USB microphone as the default microphone for your laptop. In Sonocent Audio Notetaker, you can check it is being used by clicking the dropdown under the Record button.

Selecting Recording Options in Sonocent

TOP TIP: Samson Go USB mics have 3 settings: Normal, Cardiod and a -10db. You need to make sure that you're using the Cardioid setting and t5at the mic is pointing the right way! That means pointing the green/red light to the source of the sound (i.e. your lecturer).


If recording with a mobile device...

Student Recording with a Phone

This is a great option if you have a modern smartphone or tablet. These now include quality inbuilt recording hardware designed for shooting videos. 

Before your lecture, test your mobile device. Start recording, walk to the other side of the room and speak in a quiet voice. Listen back – can you hear yourself clearly? If you aren’t happy with the recording quality, we recommend attaching an external directional microphone with a TRRS adaptor, as explained in option 2 above.

Recording with our Sonocent Recorder mobile app? Our app automatically applies noise cancellation on playback. To check out the raw audio captured by your mobile device, save your recording, go to settings and turn off “noise cancellation”. Then listen again.


If recording with a Digital Voice Recorder...

Student Recording with a DVR

A DVR from a reputable brand like Philips, Sony or Olympus is a way of ensuring good audio quality.

Using alongside Sonocent software? It’s easy to import your recording into Sonocent Audio Notetaker after your lecture. The software will create section breaks in your recording wherever you have inserted an index marker.

But you can also colour highlight in Audio Notetaker or Sonocent Recorder at the same time as recording on your DVR, as explained in this video:


Want to read more about recording quality?

Did you know that Sonocent software now comes with a powerful in-built audio enhancement toolkit?


Need more support?

The Support Team are always happy to help. Visit or email with your queries.

Dec 07

RT @iViewLearning: Did you know #iViewLearning has 39 Tutorials for @sonocent #AudioNotetaker V5 on Windows & Mac? Get the most out of your…

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