Audio General Recording — 25 March 2015

First up for my reviews of analog devices for digitally recording telephone interviews will be the JK Audio QuickTap which costs $59. The QuickTap is an inexpensive way to easily interface your landline telephone with your digital audio recorder.  A few things are required for the QuickTap to work:

  • Your digital audio recorder must have a line-in input.  QuickTap uses an 1/8″ minijack.
  • The QuickTap does not work with cordless or cellular phones.
  • The QuickTap won’t work if your phone’s keypad is in the handset

If your recorder/landline telephone combination meet these criteria, you are ready to go.

JkAudioQuickTapSETUP

The Quicktap works with the handset on your telephone.  Connect the handset cord (usually this is coiled) from the base of the telephone to the QuickTap.  Then, use the cable  JK Audio provides to connect the QuickTap to the handset.  Finally, use the single 1/8″ minijack to connect to your digital audio recorder.  When you make your call, you are then ready to record.  You are running the phone line (both sides of the conversation) through the QuickTap, and it sends a mono mix of the conversation to the line input on your recorder.

 

OPERATION

Once you are appropriately set up, operation of the QuickTap involves standard operation of your telephone and standard operation of your digital audio recorder (using the line-in input).  You still need to adjust the levels on the recorder, but you will not be able to adjust the two voices separately.  You will need to use the phone’s handset, so be prepared to hold the phone to your head for the duration of the interview.

RESULTS

To test out the QuickTap, I called my friend and esteemed colleague Troy Reeves, Head of the Oral History Program at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Both Troy and I used landline phones, and we both held the handsets to our heads the entire time (so we weren’t using speaker phone).  While setting up for the test calls, I found it helpful to connect a set of headphones to the recording device so that I could monitor the signal that was being recorded and adjust the input levels accordingly.  I found it more comfortable to wear the headphones (connected to the recorder) and hold the phone handset close to my mouth.  In other words, I listened to the conversation via the headphones rather than the telephone handset.

Here is my test recording with Troy:

CONCLUSIONS

From a quality standpoint, there is no getting around the fact that this is a telephone interview.  In order to squeeze audio information through an analog or even a VOIP telephone line, there is, inherently, significant loss with regard to the sonic qualities of the voice.  While the JK Audio QuickTap certainly does not improve the signal, it definitely does not degrade the signal.  The QuickTap has no controls, so you have very little control over the mono mix being sent to the recorder.  There was a clear and uncontrollable differential between the recording level of my voice and Troy’s voice.  I am interested in some of the higher-end options like JK Audio’s Broadcast Host, which allows you to separately control the levels of the two voices as you record.  While the audio-levels differential poses a major limitation, for the money, the QuickTap is a good investment for easily recording both sides of a phone interview.  Just don’t get your hopes up for studio-quality sound: it is still a telephone interview.

 

 

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Douglas A. Boyd

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