Radio and podcast hosts and reporters often need to interview people who may be far away, but when you hear the interview on the air it sounds like they’re in the same room.
The best way to do this is to get the guest into a recording studio which can use professional equipment to record the guest’s half of the conversation, and then send the audio to the interviewer so it can be mixed together seamlessly. The second best way it to perform a “tape sync” or “double ender,” which involves sending a local reporter or engineer out to record the guest in their home or office while an interview is conducted over the phone.
But both of those setups can be expensive and time consuming… and these days there are simpler solutions for getting audio that’s better than a phone call recording, if not quite as good as a recording made by a trained professional: use a computer or use your smartphone.
In this article I’m going to explain how to make a high-quality audio recording using a voice recorder app on your phone. When done properly, this will give you a recording that sounds much better than a typical phone call. Here’s an example showing the difference, using two clips recorded at exactly the same time: one recorded on the smartphone itself, and the other recorded remotely over the phone line:
Voice recorder app running on the phone:
You can use a voice recorder on your phone to record your own voice if you want to save a memo, practice a speech or speaking a new language, or for just about any other purpose.
But voice recorder apps are also useful if you’re conducting an interview with another person. You can arrange to conduct the interview over Zoom or another service, but ask your guest to record a voice memo on their phone during the call in order to get higher-quality audio that they can send you after the interview is finished. While this involves asking your guest to do a little bit of work, if everything goes as planned, you’ll almost always end up with a recording that sounds more natural than what you’d get by recording a Zoom call.
That said, if you are planning to conduct an interview over Zoom or another internet service, there are some steps you can take to increase your chances of getting decent audio. You can find some of those tips in our articles on using Zoom or Zencastr to record interviews for podcasts or radio stories. We also have an article explaining how to use the free open source Audacity to record your own voice with a computer.
One thing to keep in mind when conducting an interviews involving smartphone voice recorder apps is that if you’re speaking to your guest by phone, they’ll probably need a second phone (or tablet) to make a voice recording, as most modern smartphones don’t make it easy to record at the same time as you’re on a call.
If, however, you’re conducting your interview by computer using Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or another service, then you and your guest may want to plug headphones into the computer. This will stop the voice memo app on the phone from picking up sound coming from your computer’s speakers while you talk, so the recording will have only the guest’s side of the conversation.
Okay, enough preamble. Here’s how to make high quality voice recordings with an iPhone or Android phone. While there are multiple voice recorder apps that will work, I’ve highlighted some good free options for each type of smartphone.
How to use the Voice Memos app
I’m going to start with the iPhone, because it turns out that recording high-quality audio is super-easy on most iPhone models. That’s because they have a built-in voice memo app which is pretty good, and typically have pretty good microphone.
Step 1: When the host/interviewer asks you to start recording, open the Voice Memos app on your iPhone. If you’re conducting the interview on your iPhone you can hold it in your hands. But if you’re conducting the interview over a land or a different phone, you can just place the iPhone on a table in front of you, preferably within a foot or two of your mouth (you could try placing the phone on top of a stack of books — or just holding it to your face as if you were talking on the phone).
Now your iPhone will record your voice while you talk on the other phone.
Step 2: Hit the big record button at the bottom of the screen to start the recording.
You should now see an audio waveform near the bottom of the screen and numbers counting the time of the recording. The button you pressed to start the recording will now have a red “stop” icon.
Step 2a (optional): You can drag that recording indicator up to get a full-screen view that looks like the image below, where the big button changes from Stop to Pause:
Step 3: When you’re done recording, hit the button at the bottom of the screen. If you see a Stop button, that will end the recording. But if you’re in full-screen view and see a Pause button, then press that and then tap the “Done” button next to it.
Step 4:This will bring up a menu that lets you name the recording. Or you can just hit “Save” to leave the name as “New Recording.”
Step 5: Now you can view a list of recordings. Select the one you want to share…
Step 6: … and hit the share icon to bring up a list of options. You can choose Mail to send the voice recording to the interviewer via an email message. If the file is too large to send as an email attachment, your iPhone will ask if you want to use Mail Drop, which allows you to upload the file to iCloud and send a link via email that the recipient can use to download the file.
Alternately, you can share the file to Dropbox, Google Drive, or any other cloud storage service you may use.
If you have iTunes on your Mac or PC, you can also use iTunes to backup your memos to your computer for easy access.
Some Android phones come with voice recorder apps pre-installed, while others do not. And not all of those apps are created equal.
So while there are a number of good options, there are two apps I would highly recommend. The first is Google Recorder, which is a free app that’s easy to use, and has one nifty bonus feature: the ability to automatically create text transcripts of your voice recordings. I’d recommend Google Recorder if you’re looking for something simple and close to foolproof, as there aren’t many options in the app.
The second app is Simple Voice Recorder, a free app from a company called Simple Mobile Tools, which makes a number of free, open source Android apps. If Google Recorder is not available for your phone, Simple Voice Recorder may be another option. It’s also available from third-party Android app stores including F-Droid.
How to use Google Recorder
Google Recorder is incredibly simple to use. Basically you hit a big red button to start a recording. Hit it again when you’re done. And then you can share the finished audio file or even a transcript of it.
The app doesn’t offer much in the way of options though. The recording volume is set automatically, so there’s no way to manually make a recording louder or quieter using the app. And you cannot change the file format or recording quality settings. So this app is great for anyone who’s looking to just get started with making a voice memo with minimal fuss. But more advanced users might want to scroll down and check out ShurePlus MOTIV.
Step 1: Download and install the Google Recorder app from the Google Play Store.
Step 2: Once installed, it will show up in your app drawer (and on your home screen) as an app called Recorder. Go ahead and launch the app to start a recording.
Step 3: You’ll be greeted by a screen with a big red circle at the bottom. That’s the record button.
Step 4: Press the record button when you want to start your recording and you should see a timer on the bottom of the screen and an audio waveform visualization in the center as you speak.
Step 5: Keep the phone no more than 1-2 feet away from your mouth for the best audio quality. You may want to set it on a desk or table in front of yourself, for example. Even better, place it atop a small stack of books to get it closer to your mouth. Make sure not to bump the table while you talk, as the phone will pick up bumps, taps, and thumps.
Step 5a: You can pause the recording at any time by hitting the pause button at the bottom of the screen. The button will change from a pause icon to a button that says “resume,” and you can press it again to continue your recording.
Step 5b: Optionally, you can tap the “Transcript” button on the screen to see Google create text transcripts of your speech in real-time. I wouldn’t really recommend doing this during an interview, as it’s easy to get distracted. But it’s a pretty cool feature that will also let you export a transcript of your recording at the end of the interview. The transcript probably won’t be perfect, but it should be accurate enough to give you a summary of what was said during the recording.
Step 6: When it’s time to finish the recording, hit the Save button in the lower right corner of the screen. This will save the file and take you to a screen with a list of your recent recordings.
From this screen you have three options
- Tap the play icon to listen to the file
- Tap and hold the file name to bring up a menu that will let you share or delete the file.
- Tap and release the file name to bring up a menu with more options.
Step 6: To share the recording, tap and hold the file name and you should see a share icon at the top of the screen. Tap that and you’ll get the choice to share the Audio file, the Transcript, or a Video clip. For the most part, if want to send the audio to somebody, sharing just the Audio file is sufficient.
Once you’ve tapped your selection, you should be able to send the audio file using the app of your choice. If the file is small enough, you can send it as an email attachment using Gmail, send it to a friend or colleague in a instant messaging app, or share it to social media. For larger files (a 30+ minute recording, for example), you may want to upload it to Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, or another cloud storage service and send download link from that app to the person you want to share the file with.
Step 6a: If you want to rename or edit the file before sharing it, just tap the file name from the list of audio recordings, then tap the three dots in the upper right corner of the screen. This brings up a menu that will let you share the file, rename it, or delete it.
From this screen, you can also tap the scissors icon at the top of the screen to open up a simple audio editor that lets you “crop” the audio by adjusting the start and end points. I would not recommend doing this if you’re making a recording for use in a podcast or radio story, but I wanted to mention the option in case you’re using Google Recorder for personal purposes.
How to use Simple Voice Recorder
As the name suggests, Simple Voice Recorder is a pretty simple and easy-to-use app. But there are a couple of optional settings that you may want to adjust. Here’s how to install and use the app on an Android phone or tablet.
Step 1: Download the Simple Voice Recorder app from the Google Play Store
Step 2: Once installed, it will show up in your app drawer (and on your home screen) as an app called Voice Recorder. The icon is a white microphone in a yellow circle or square.
Go ahead and tap the app to start a recording.
Step 3: Here’s how to read the home screen:
When you first launch the app, you’ll see a home screen with a blank grey space in the middle, a microphone icon (in a circle) near the bottom, and Recorder and Player buttons at the very bottom. At the top there’s a search bar and settings icon.
Tapping the Player button at the bottom of the screen will take you to a list or recordings, which you can play, share, or delete. Tapping the Recorder button returns you to the home screen where you can make recordings.
And you can tap the Settings icon at the top of the screen to adjust some settings. More on that below.
Step 4: To start your first recording tap the microphone-in-a-circle button and start talking. You’ll see the numbers above the mic icon start counting upward, and a waveform representing the sounds you’re recording will appear in the grey box.
Note that you may have to grant the app permission to use your phone’s microphone and access your device’s storage the first time you make a recording.
During a recording, the icon in the circle will change from a microphone icon to a white square. When you’re done with your recording, you can press that square to stop and save the recording. Or, if you’d like to pause a recording rather than stop, you can press the pause icon that appears to the right of the stop icon during a recording session. Press it again to resume recording where you left off.
Step 4a: Position the phone and make any necessary adjustments.
At this point, it’s probably a good idea to make sure the smartphone microphone is no more than 1-2 feet from your mouth. You can try placing it on a desk or table in front of you as you speak, but make sure not to bump or touch the table or the audio will get picked up in the recording.
If the tabletop is more than 1-2 feet from your mouth, you may want to place a couple of books on the table and put the phone on top of that stack of books to bring it closer to your face.
Step 5: To review, delete, or share recordings, press the Player tab at the bottom of the screen and you’ll be taken to a list of recordings.
You can tap any recording in this list to begin playing it, or press the three dots on the right side of a file name for more actions. From here you can rename a file (by default it will be named based on the date), delete a file, open it with another app on your mobile device, or share it.
Step 6: If you want to share this recording with somebody else, choose the share option and then select the app you’d like to use to send the file. You can send small files via email, but you may want to upload larger files to Google Drive, Dropbox, or other cloud storage services and then send a download link to the recipient.
Optional: If you’d like to adjust the audio recording settings, you can tap the Settings icon at the top of the screen for a menu that allows you to change the format and bitrate, among other things.
By default, Simple Voice Recorder will save audio recordings as 128 kbps M4A files. But you can change the file type to MP3 or OGG and adjust the bitrate to go as low as 32 kbps or as high as 320 kbps.
The default settings are actually pretty good for voice-only recordings. But you may want to increase the bitrate if you’re recording music or just want to get the best possible recording. Note that higher bitrates will result in large files which will take up more space on your device’s storage, and which may take longer to share with others over the internet.
I’d almost never recommend recording at bitrates lower than 96 kbps, unless you’re running out of storage space on your mobile device.
From the Settings menu you can also change the audio source if you’d like to use an external microphone. Some options, like the ability to change the color scheme of the app or change the location where audio recordings are saved, may only be available if you pay a small price to purchase the full version of the app, but all basic functions are available in the free version of Simple Voice Recorder
There are multiple ways to record high-quality audio using a smartphone or other mobile device, but hopefully the step-by-step instructions provided above will make this easy for anyone with an Android or iOS device to.
If your phone already has a voice recorder app that’s different from the ones mentioned above, that may work just as well as the apps mentioned above. But I’ve thoroughly tested all of the apps featured in this article, and they’re all available for free, without any restrictions on audio quality or recording duration.
They’re also all fairly straightforward to use, which is why I recommend them, even though there may be some other apps (like ShurePlus MOTIV), that can theoretically deliver even higher quality audio… but which have enough customization options to potentially cause problems.
This article was first published February 6, 2016 and most recently updated January 17, 2023 with up-to-date recommendations for Android voice recorder apps.