Need microphone set-up for faint voice recording

OK, audio geeks, I need help and I need it fast.

In one week, I go to the Free Spirit Gathering. I hope to do some voice interviews. The set-up will probably be people sitting around in a circle, from 10 to 30 feet across (I have no idea). I want to make audio recordings of my questions and people’s responses. My original idea was to put a microphone in the center and let it pick up the voices.

My recording device will be my iPad. Note that this has no internal input amplifiers for its microphone; input volume cannot be adjusted. I purchased an external microphone (a CAD U1); it’s a USB microphone (any mic for the iPad must be USB). It has no amplifier either, just a mute button.

In my initial tests a few months ago, this mic seemed fine. I just ran a more realistic audio test, and to my horror I found that if the mic was more than a foot away from my mouth, the sound became almost too faint to hear. In an outdoor environment like FSG, I’m afraid everything will disappear into background noise.

Video cameras seem to capture sound from a long distance away, and with no special equipment. There must be something out there that will do what I want.

If I must, I’ll pass the mic around. But this is awkward, and will interfere with my ability to take notes while people speak.

I don’t have much time for shopping. If I have to, I’ll pay extra for overnight shipping from Amazon, but I have to know what to get.

So: What’s a good audio set-up for capturing voices speaking in a circle?

The Journey Home

I spent the past week at the Free Spirit Gathering in Darlington, MD. I had a good time.

This time was particularly special for me because I camped with the members of the Wicca group I teach. I’ve camped with members of my "clan" before; people who either trained with me or were taught by the same teacher(s). This was the first time I camped with a network of folks whom I had brought together. It felt good.

Unfortunately, the journey home from Free Spirit was not so pleasant.
Continue reading “The Journey Home”