Services - Education - Tools of the Trade - Analog and Digital Audio Recorders
The Ghosts of Ohio uses various pieces of equipment during the investigations it conducts. We would like to explain what types of equipment we use, how each works, how and why we use it, and the pros and cons.
In our attempt to collect recordings of ghost voices, commonly referred to as electronic voice phenomenon or EVPs, The Ghosts of Ohio uses both analog (tape) and digital recorders. Both are effective but you have to use them properly in order to collect any possible evidence that can be considered valid.
While considered old-fashioned by many ghost groups, analog tape recorders were once a staple of any ghost hunter’s kit. Since ghosts are believed to be able to affect electromagnetic fields, it was thought they could interact with the magnetic heads of an analog tape recorder, thereby imprinting their voices on them. Even after the advent of digital, non-tape voice recorders, some ghost groups still preferred the analog recorders since using a tape provided a hard copy which could be catalogued and archived. But while the analog tapes provided a nice archive, they also proved a bit of a hindrance since tapes could not be re-used for fear of an old recording “bleeding through” if it was not erased completely, to create something that sounded ghostly, but was not.
As far as The Ghosts of Ohio organization is concerned, we are always conducting experiments to see which recorders give us the best results under various circumstances. For that reason, we still use analog recorders on our investigations. Our advice to you would be that if you choose to use an analog recorder, make sure to always use a good quality tape such as CrO2 or “chrome” tapes, which work with all analog recorders. You can also invest in a recorder that will use "metal" tapes which are the highest quality you can get. The better tapes you use, the better sound quality your recording will be, and that will make a big difference when you go back to review your recordings. Also, always be sure to bring a good supply of tapes with you to the investigation since you can never be sure how many you will need during the course of the investigation.
Today, most ghost groups prefer to use digital voice recorders. Unlike traditional tape recorders, digital voice recorders simply record the sound and digitally imprint it to a file in much the same way voice mail works. Since digital voice recorders are more readily available today and don’t use traditional tapes, they are more cost effective in the long run. In addition, there is a wide selection of audio computer programs such as Audacity that enable people do edit their EVPs in order to better analyze them.
When it comes to digital recorders, The Ghosts of Ohio doesn’t feel that there are any specific models or brands that are better than any others. What we encourage people to do is to buy a simple, cheaper model and try it out to see what other bells and whistles you would like to add. Some of the things to consider are how many hours you can record as well as the ability to move files to internal files on the voice recorder. This feature comes in handy since you can record at one location during an investigation (for example, the living room) and when you are ready to move to another location, you can simply move that entire recording to its own file. Then, when you move to another room and start recording, you can essentially create a whole new file. This makes it easier when you’re going back and wading through all the data you’ve recorded during the entire investigation.
Whether you choose to use an analog or a digital recorder (or both), eventually you’re going to want to look into purchasing an external microphone. Most analog and digital recorders come with their own built-in microphones, so you don’t necessarily need an external microphone, but they can be very useful in capturing audio evidence. The big thing to keep in mind is that depending on what type of external microphone you choose, your results can vary greatly.
There are two major types of microphones that The Ghosts of Ohio uses on investigations: unidirectional microphones and omnidirectional microphones. Basically, unidirectional microphones only pick up sounds from directly in front of them while omnidirectional microphones pick up sounds from all sides. If you are unsure as to which type of microphone you have, just look at the head. Unidirectionals are flat at the end, while the omnidirectionals, since they are taking in sound from all sides, are rounded at the end.
The main reason The Ghosts of Ohio uses both unidirectional and omnidirectional microphones is because different situations call for different microphones. For example, placing a unidirectional microphone in the middle of a room facing a door is only going to pick up audio coming from the space between the microphone and the door. However, placing an omnidirectional microphone in the same place will pick up audio coming from anywhere within the room. Always consider where you are going to place your microphones prior to the investigation so that when you arrive, you don’t realize you need different equipment.
Placing Recorders During An Investigation
The most important things about using these devices are placing them properly and being aware of when you or others are around them. Nothing is more frustrating than listening to a potential EVP and discovering that you can’t hear it clearly because the microphone was pointed in the wrong direction. With that in mind, here are some tips:
- If you are unsure as to where exactly the strange noises being reported are coming from in a specific room, try placing an omnidirectional microphone on a recorder in the center of the room. This will allow you to pick up sounds coming from anywhere in the room.
- If you only have omnidirectional microphones, place them in the corners of a room pointing into the center of the room. This will allow you to still pick up all the sound coming from a room.
- Always remember to state the date and time clearly at the beginning of each recording, along with the names of any and all investigators who are in the room or who could possibly be picked up by the recorder. Likewise, anytime someone walks near the recorder, they should state their name loudly and clearly to avoid confusion.
- Always be sure that you have an ample supply of batteries on hand. Some recorders come with power cords and adapters, but you should always have batteries as a backup since you never know where you’re going to have to set up the recorders.
As with all the equipment that The Ghosts of Ohio uses, we have to always be aware of how we are setting it up, where it is while it is being used, and who will be around it during its use. If we cannot account for all of this when we are reviewing the recordings, then anything we may believe we have caught as evidence could be considered invalid. It is harder to go back to a location and redo EVP work than it is to go back and redo anything else because it's harder to recreate conditions.
Another thing to keep in mind is that EVP evidence is very controversial. Skeptics will always question how you captured the “evidence” and offer various theories as to how it could have been faked or have a rational explanation. For this reason alone, it is imperative that you not only know the equipment you are using, but also how to use it.