This is NOT saying "Digital is Bad!" it's just in the grand scheme of recording either via film or tape, a digital ANYTHING comes down to "witness testimony" only once presented. With an analogue device, any phenomena captured can be scrutinized from the point of the equipment and the tape or film whereas with digital, once it is dumped from the equipment to a computer or similar source, it is your word that indeed, there has been no tampering because, indeed, it is much easier to create a credible looking hoax with digital than it is to create a "foolproof" hoax with analog. Again, digital is FINE provided you are not going to loudly proclaim "THIS IS GENUINE!" and not expect a louder argument. The "true believers" will never completely argue the merits of your findings but trust us on this one, the sceptdebunkers will and they will do it loudly and with as much venom and issue as they can.
Closing: The way I say it to people is imagine you have been charged with a murder. The only evidence that you did it is a DIGITAL image from someone's camera dumped on to a computer. Would you not see the fallacy of this in your own defence?
Addendum to the Above: While doing a recent radio program, the host suggested using a "digital mini-disc" recorder, which are fine instruments. We mentioned to him the issues with "digital" vs. "analog", but in thought, we came up with an intriguing idea... use both.
This may answer a couple of questions... like, is the magnetic media (of the tape) necessary for these things? What if the sound only is recorded on one of the devices and why might that happen? What if the sound is caught by both devices?
Basically, using multiple devices with differing medias may pose or answer some questions.
It's a good idea, but costly and we would still recommend if you're going to use only one piece of equipment, analog is still the media of choice... but if you have an extra bit of money and wish to look into things very clinically, using both in tandem would be ideal.
So, basically a standard, ordinary DECENT cassette recorder is preferable. I don't recommend "mini-cassettes" too much as the recording ability on the ones under $100.00 is sketchy and the tapes are prone to stretching and therefore contorting sounds. Also, do not purchase or acquire a machine with a built in radio as the mechanism might cause some "spill" from radio frequency onto the tape.
Marantz, Sony, General Electric, Panasonic and even good old Radio Shack (Realistic) make perfectly acceptable models of standard cassette recorders with no radio functions.
Microphones are a little trickier. You SHOULD try to find a microphone that extends at least three feet away from the tape recorder mechanism to avoid catching the "grinding" noise from the tape gears. Again, Radio Shack has some you can purchase by clicking here. They (Radio Shack) are not alone. Check out the electronics stores near you as well for more options. MAKE SURE the mic you buy FITS the recorder you have or, if all else fails, get an adapter.
Next, something we've recently (Jan 2003) come up against, TRY to find "shielded" microphone cable or a mic with "shielded" cable. Radio frequencies bleed through the cord like there's no tomorrow in certain places. Two forts (Fort York and Fort Erie) we worked at experienced this problem very badly. No one needs to be straining to hear anomalies while Rush's "2112" is playing semi-audibly in the background because the local rock radio station is coming through the microphone cable.
If you can't get a "shielded" cable, you can purchase shielding separately from most good electronic stores and then do it yourself.
Tape should NEVER be longer than the 90 minutes variety and do not use "metal" or Cr02 tapes if the deck you bought cannot handle this type. Again, this is for static and 'bleed through' reasons and the "length" of the tape is to avoid stretching and breaking.
Normal C60s or C90s are fine and (good news) VERY inexpensive.
To avoid criticism, make sure you ALWAYS use fresh, sealed tapes OPENED ON SITE in front of AT LEAST one other person to avoid the inevitable call of people screaming "FRAUD!" If the tape was factory sealed, opened in front of at least one witness and a new tape is used on EACH session (not opened and then re-used because you used half or part in one location and decided to "kill" the rest of the tape) then the "fraud" factor is decreased significantly.
BATTERIES, BATTERIES, BATTERIES! Make sure that you do two things... First, always TRY very hard to use battery power rather than an outlet to avoid interference and feedback from the power current from the wall. Secondly, bring EXTRA batteries. If you figure you MIGHT go through two sets of batteries for your unit, bring four sets. Nothing worse than paying extravagant prices for batteries at an all hours convenience store when you could have stocked up MUCH cheaper earlier in the day.
As far as "reel-to-reel" decks or other specialty tape decks, that's entirely up to you but as a reminder, you MAY want to abandon or leave the machine alone somewhere... Just in case, the less expensive the unit, the less tears if, on recovery, it's broken or missing...
"Vox" or "Voice Activated" units CAN be the enemy! Turn off the VOX settings and let the tape roll. As evident, EVP can be EXTREMELY quiet (to a whisper) and therefore may not 'trip' the recording abilities of the machine.
Make sure, also, you TEST the machine and recording BEFORE heading out to a location!!! Getting to a site and finding out then that the machine is not functioning... well... sucks.
LASTLY, try to use "normal" record and tape speeds. Although "double-speed" is a clearer form of recording and "slow-speed" extends the tape, it also leads to stretching and can make it VERY difficult to transfer to another tape or computer later.