The White House Tapes offer a unique insight into the Presidency. The taping system was designed for simplicity and comprehensiveness in capturing audio. Consequently, it had some limitations that make the audio difficult to understand.
The telephone conversations will be the most clear. The Oval Office had seven microphones as compared to four in the Executive Office Building [EOB] and one in Aspen Lodge at Camp David. Oval Office conversations tend to have high audibility and intelligibility.
The National Archives does not create transcripts of conversations, and considers existing transcripts to be an interpretation of the record rather than the record itself. NARA considers the actual tapes to be the record, and strongly urges users to listen to the tapes in forming their own interpretation. Variations in sound quality can produce wide variations in what is heard. Even though transcripts may be prepared with great care and substantial effort, many points of ambiguity are inevitable, and erroneous or different interpretations from transcripts are always possible. For more information on the White House Tapes please visit our website.
If you have questions about the tapes or the taping system, please contact the Tapes Team.