Stephen Wilcox

Stephen Wilcox

Stephen Wilcox received a B.M. in instrumental performance (tuba) and a B.M. in music theory from West Chester University, a M.M. in Composition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as well as a Ph.D. in Composition at the University of Pennsylvania. Most recently, he has been creating online music theory courses for Rutgers University and working as an instructional designer at UC Berkeley.

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Online Audio Recording: the Good, the Bad, & the Weird

Home/e-learning, K-12, Music Creation, Recording/Online Audio Recording: the Good, the Bad, & the Weird

Overview:

In this post, Music Toolbox will be comparing five websites for recording audio in your web browser: Vocaroo, Record Mp3, Online Voice Recorder, Morphbox, and Record Mp3 Online. Searching Google uncovers an overwhelming number of audio recording tools; some good, some bad, and some with strange features and add ons. We will be limiting our focus to tools that do not require the creation of accounts, the installation of plugins, or significant prior audio engineering experience. In short, we will be focusing on the tools that a majority of learners can uses without significant instruction (or cost).

Background:

One of the more difficult elements of any fully online and asynchronous music class is the integration of sound. It is of course quite easy to produce sounds that students can hear thru a variety of different multimedia tools/platforms (ex: flash, mp3, and video). These however are not the sounds that are the focus of this post. The sounds that are difficult to integrate into a fully online music class are those produced by the students themselves. Student generated audio allows teachers to track student progress, assess understanding of concepts, elicit performance, assign creative projects, and more.

Testing Criteria

These criteria were developed over many semesters listening to hundreds of student generated samples. 

Each site will be rated on it’s ease of use, recording quality, default recording settings, usability & documentation, audio saving options, and mobile support. Great emphasis will be placed on a site’s default recording settings and recording quality, as these tend to determine whether “usable” or “unusable”audio is produced.

Testing Setup

In an attempt to recreate the experience of a student user, I will be recording on my computer’s built-in mic, and will make no changes to each site’s default recording settings. In all instances, I will sing a series of solfège syllables and accompany myself using Garage Band’s built in piano on my iPad. The iPad will not be moved between recordings and my relative distance to the microphone will remain constant.
Please no commenting on my intonation. 🙂

Grade Range:

Useless  

F
Barely Functional 
D
Adequate  
C
Good 
B
Super 
A

vocaroo

Vocaroo is often near the top of any google search and is a student favorite. Let’s see how it stacks-up against our criteria.

Vocaroo Recording Sample:

 

Ease of Use 85
Recording Quality 20
Default Settings 10
Saving Options 70
Usability & Documentation 50
Mobile Support (NONE) 0

Vocaroo Summary:

Vocaroo is super easy to use, but the audio quality is BAD. The sample rate of 22050hz is considerably lower that the 44100hz offered by the other sites in the post, the system noise is fairly high and the recording is mono (the higher the sample rate the higher the recording quality). Additionally, by default the gain (sound input level) is turned all the way up, resulting in heavy distortion. A look at the produced sound wave tells the tale. The flat top of the sound wave indicates that the volume of the incoming audio exceeds Vocaroo’s overall dynamic range. This results in significant distortion.

vocarooSW
It is possible to download recordings as a WAV, or email as a weblink.
You can also save as an Mp3 if you know the “save as” keystroke.

Vocaroo Grade:

D

Record Mp3
Record Mp3 is another site frequented by students. It’s gone through several iterations and does a respectably good job in solving usability issues (user experience issues).

Record Mp3 Recording Sample:


[progress percentage=”80%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Ease of Use[/progress]
[progress percentage=”35%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Recording Quality[/progress]
[progress percentage=”30%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Default Settings[/progress]
[progress percentage=”70%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Saving Options[/progress]
[progress percentage=”70%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Usability & Documentation[/progress]
[progress percentage=”0%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Mobile Support (NONE)[/progress]

Record Mp3 Summary:
Record Mp3 is less intuitive than Vocaroo, but still very easy to use. The audio quality is POOR to MEDIOCRE. The sample rate is a more standard 44100hz, which is an improvement, but the system noise is worse. The default gain (input level) is not turned all of the way up, so the distortion is less than in Vocaroo, but it is still noticeable. Additionally, these is no way to adjust the gain (sound input level) in the interface. The top of the sound wave is not as flat as in Vocaroo, but still shows that he audio input exceeds Record Mp3’s dynamic range. This results in noticeable distortion.

Record Mp3 Sound Wave
It is possible to save as an Mp3 or email as a link.

Record Mp3 Grade:

[counters_circle]
[counter_circle filledcolor=”” unfilledcolor=”” size=”100″ speed=”1500″ value=”65″]C[/counter_circle][/counters_circle]

 

[title size=”2″][/title]

Online Voice Recorder
Online Voice Recorder is step up from Vocaroo and Record Mp3, with several useful features not seen previously.

Online Voice Recorder Recording Sample:


[progress percentage=”45%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Ease of Use[/progress]
[progress percentage=”70%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Recording Quality[/progress]
[progress percentage=”70%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Default Settings[/progress]
[progress percentage=”65%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Saving Options[/progress]
[progress percentage=”20%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Usability & Documentation[/progress]
[progress percentage=”0%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Mobile Support (NONE)[/progress]

Online Voice Recorder Summary:
Online Voice Recorder is not easy to use. The biggest problem is that when you give flash permission to use the microphone it immediately starts recording. This usually adds 20secs of silence at the beginning of the file. The audio quality is GOOD, the sample rate is a standard 44100hz, and the system noise is moderate. By default, the gain is mid-range, so distortion is not a problem. Additionally, there is a direct link to the flash player settings which allows you to adjust the gain. A notable feature of Online Voice Recorder is that shows a preview of the recorded sound wave allowing users to crop before saving.

Online Voice Recorder’s sound wave has a noticeably improved profile, without the clipping we saw in Vocaroo and Record Mp3.

Online Voice Recorder Sound Wave
It is possible to save as an Mp3 only.

Online Voice Recorder Grade:
[counters_circle][counter_circle filledcolor=”” unfilledcolor=”” size=”100″ speed=”1500″ value=”90″]A-[/counter_circle][/counters_circle]

 

[title size=”2″][/title]

Morphbox Voice Recorder
Morphbox Voice Recorder is a little weird, but works.

Morphbox Voice Recorder Recording Sample:


[progress percentage=”65%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Ease of Use[/progress]
[progress percentage=”55%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Recording Quality[/progress]
[progress percentage=”50%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Default Settings[/progress]
[progress percentage=”25%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Saving Options[/progress]
[progress percentage=”60%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Usability & Documentation[/progress]
[progress percentage=”0%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Mobile Support (NONE)[/progress]

Morphbox Voice Recorder Summary:
Morphbox is simple to use, and features a few interesting audio effect that change the sound of the user’s voice.

effects

 

The audio quality is MODERATE, and the sample rate is a standard 44100hz. The default the gain (input level) is mid-range, but there is noticeable distortion that seems to come not from input levels but from the encoding process.

morpbox sound wave
It is possible to email or share as a link only. You cannot download the file.

Morphbox Voice Recorder Grade:
[counters_circle][counter_circle filledcolor=”” unfilledcolor=”” size=”100″ speed=”1500″ value=”80″]B[/counter_circle][/counters_circle]

 

[title size=”2″][/title]

Record Mp3 Online

Record Mp3 Online is the “class of the field”, far surpassing its competition.

Record Mp3 Online Recording Sample:


[progress percentage=”80%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Ease of Use[/progress]
[progress percentage=”80%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Recording Quality[/progress]
[progress percentage=”70%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Default Settings[/progress]
[progress percentage=”80%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Saving Options[/progress]
[progress percentage=”95%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Usability & Documentation[/progress]
[progress percentage=”60%” filledcolor=”#1e73be” unfilledcolor=”#cccccc”]Mobile Support (YES!)[/progress]

Record Mp3 Online Recorder Summary:
Record Mp3 is easy to use and is one of the only tools I tested that considered UX (user experience) issues. For instance, the editing of any setting is accompanied by system feedback letting the user know exactly what has been adjusted and by how much. There are also careful instructions on how to adjust files before saving. The “How it Works” page also explains exactly what a user can expect.

The audio quality is VERY GOOD (matches the quality of “Online Voice Recorder”), but with even less system noise.

REcord Mp3 Online Sound Wave
It is possible to save as an mp3 or save to a dropbox account.

Lastly, Record Mp3 Online has an HTML5 implementation that allows users to record from their mobile device. Files record as videos, are converted to mp3, and then must be saved directly to a dropbox account. Currently only the Safari browser is supported on iOS devices.

Mobile Recording:

Record Mp3 Online Recorder Grade:
[counters_circle][counter_circle filledcolor=”” unfilledcolor=”” size=”100″ speed=”1500″ value=”95″]A[/counter_circle][/counters_circle]

 

[title size=”2″][/title]

By | 2016-11-07T08:22:18+00:00 April 12th, 2014|

About the Author:

Composer, Music Educator and Instructional Designer, Stephen Wilcox received a B.M. in instrumental performance (tuba) and a B.M. in music theory from West Chester University, a M.M. in Composition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as well as a Ph.D. in Composition at the University of Pennsylvania. Most recently, he has been creating online music theory courses for Rutgers University and working as an instructional designer at UC Berkeley.

4 Comments

  1. […] A review of 5 in browser audio recording websites. This post will examine each website in depth, focusing on sampling rate, system noise, file production, ease of use, options, and mobile support.  […]

    • Helen December 11, 2015 at 4:59 AM - Reply

      I am glad I found this site. I used Record MP3 Online and had a bit of a problem with an echo in some parts of the recording. My brother left a singing message on my voice mail and I wanted to record so I could save it and share it with other family members. I am using a cheap mic and a Panasonic portable phone with voice mail from the phone company. At first I held my phone near the mic, then I tried holding it about 3 inches away from the mic. Is there something else I should be doing to try to eliminate the echos?

  2. […] A review of 5 in browser audio recording websites. This post will examine each website in depth, focusing on sampling rate, system noise, file production, ease of use, options, and mobile support.  […]

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