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By Mike Sullivan
There are many digital recorders on the market today and all of them are capable of capturing EVP. In this article I will not attempt to determine which type is better at recording paranormal voices, because to be honest, I don't know for sure. I have a preference for Panasonic IC recorders but other members of the group have gotten excellent results using digital recorders from Sony, Olympus and Radio Shack. By the way, “IC” stands for the “Integrated Circuit” that is in most of these recorders. Some people know them as “digital note takers.” The focus of this article will be on IC recorders in general.
It really wasn't all that long ago that the audio cassette recorder replaced open reel units as the recorder of choice for EVP. Now the digital recorders are quickly making audio cassettes a thing of the past for EVP. And how could they not? There are so many advantages to recording with an IC recorder over a cassette unit, from the tiny size to greater reliability. Even the smallest micro cassette recorder is larger than an IC recorder and cassette recorders eat batteries and sometimes cassettes.
With IC's, there is no tape and hence no preparation, just hit “record” and your session has begun. Another advantage of the digital units is a feature that allows the user to play back the recording with a touch of a button, immediately, without having to rewind a tape. Like cassette units, IC recorders start a new recording each time “Record” is pushed, but unlike cassettes, the IC's begin each recording as a separate file, saved in numerical order. The files can be erased with the push of a button or locked to prevent accidental recording and can be played back immediately by scrolling through the numbered files. The IC recorders also display the time and date the recording occurred, which is important for EVP.
There are a few advantages that cassette recorders have over the IC’s. One is the ability to remove an audio tape when it has reached capacity. You can’t do this with IC recorders except for the models that use a memory card. Even though new models are being introduced with longer recording times, the fact remains that eventually a digital recorder will run out of storage space, leaving the user with no choice but to erase files or stop using the recorder until the files can be downloaded into a computer.
On playback, the fidelity from most cassette units is far better than that from the tiny speakers of the digital recorders. When you want to really hear that amazing EVP you just captured, with a cassette, it's as simple as dropping it into a quality cassette player. Do you want to pass out copies? With cassettes, no problem but with a digital recorder it's back to the computer to load the files onto the hard drive and then distribute them by email or Compact Disk (CD). That's not a problem for many of us but for some, it makes it impossible to share your EVP without having to play it back on the IC recorder itself.
There is one area where cassette and digital recorders do share something in common. The use of an external microphone has been a necessity when using a portable cassette recorder due to the mechanical noise generated by the drive mechanism. Digital recorders have no moving parts and are generally not considered noisy but they are very sensitive. Pressing the record button and putting the unit down in a desired location almost always results in unwanted sounds being recorded at the beginning of the session and again at the end, when picking it up and turning it off. Using an external microphone eliminates this problem as well as providing a better quality recording due to the superior quality of the microphone in comparison to the one built into the recorder. However, because there are no moving parts, using an external microphone on an IC recorder is an option you might want to save for a serious investigation. In general, all the digital recorders deliver clear soundtracks using the built-in microphone, so if you suddenly get the urge to hit the record button on a digital unit, don't feel like you have to stop and attach a microphone. Just do it.
As I mentioned earlier, to some, the biggest drawback to using a digital recorder is the need to download the EVP into a computer in order to clear space, better hear the recording and to share EVP with others. But actually, this “drawback” is a strength, because it's given us the ability to send our EVP captures all over the world via Internet without having to send a CD or audio tape through the post office. In addition, it allows us to edit and filter the EVP we record, greatly enhancing the quality and often times drawing out faint voices that otherwise would not be heard. This can be done with cassette recorders, but rewinding and fast forwarding to find the exact spot before recording into the computer is a tedious task.