Eliminating audio hiss

I'm no audiophile, but the poor sound quality in my telephone-interview-based podcasts and screencasts is getting to be something that even I can't ignore. The most vexing problem is audio hiss. I've had some success filtering it out in Audacity, but as I learned long ago in the realm of photography, you can't depend on postproduction enhancement for basic quality. Clean capture, whether of images or sounds, is essential.

My current setup is a JK Audio QuickTap spliced into my telephone handset cord. Its line out goes to my internal SoundMAX card on a WinXP box. Recently it occurred to me that the hiss I'm experiencing with telephone recordings isn't coming from the phone line, it's coming from the computer. This article -- which, interestingly enough, was the single item found by del.icio.us/tag/audio+hiss -- confirms the hunch.

Clearly I need to separate the analog-to-digital conversion from the electrically noisy guts of the computer. And I'd like to keep things as simple and cheap as possible. That's for my own convenience, but also because I'd like the solution to be accessible to non-geeks.

For starters, I've ordered a low-end USB sound card; we'll see how that goes. I'm also thinking about trying a handheld recorder. I've never owned one, because most of what I record comes through the phone. But it would be handy now and then to be able to record in-person meetings. And what hadn't occurred to me until just now is that the handheld recorder could also be a way to eliminate computer noise from my phone recordings.

I'm curious about other folks' experiences with either or both of these strategies. So, I'll subscribe to del.icio.us/rss/tag/audio+hiss and see what turns up!

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2005/07/13.html#a1266