Neural recording electrodes suffer from poor signal to noise ratio, charge density, biostability and biocompatibility. This paper investigates the ability of conducting polymer coated electrodes to record acute neural response in a systematic manner, allowing in depth comparison of electrochemical and electrophysiological response. Approach. Polypyrrole (Ppy) and poly-3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene (PEDOT) doped with sulphate (SO4) or para-toluene sulfonate (pTS) were used to coat iridium neural recording electrodes. Detailed electrochemical and electrophysiological investigations were undertaken to compare the effect of these materials on acute in vivo recording. Main results. A range of charge density and impedance responses were seen with each respectively doped conducting polymer. All coatings produced greater charge density than uncoated electrodes, while PEDOT-pTS, PEDOT-SO 4 and Ppy-SO4 possessed lower impedance values at 1 kHz than uncoated electrodes. Charge density increased with PEDOT-pTS thickness and impedance at 1 kHz was reduced with deposition times up to 45 s. Stable electrochemical response after acute implantation inferred biostability of PEDOT-pTS coated electrodes while other electrode materials had variable impedance and/or charge density after implantation indicative of a protein fouling layer forming on the electrode surface. Recording of neural response to white noise bursts after implantation of conducting polymer-coated electrodes into a rat model inferior colliculus showed a general decrease in background noise and increase in signal to noise ratio and spike count with reduced impedance at 1 kHz, regardless of the specific electrode coating, compared to uncoated electrodes. A 45 s PEDOT-pTS deposition time yielded the highest signal to noise ratio and spike count. Significance. A method for comparing recording electrode materials has been demonstrated with doped conducting polymers. PEDOT-pTS showed remarkable low fouling during acute implantation, inferring good biostability. Electrode impedance at 1 kHz was correlated with background noise and inversely correlated with signal to noise ratio and spike count, regardless of coating. These results collectively confirm a potential for improvement of neural electrode systems by coating with conducting polymers. 2013 IOP Publishing Ltd.