Taking a little time out from working his show, The Polarizer, globetrotter and experienced podcaster, Dick Hoebee shares some tips and recommends some gear to help you make what’s fast becoming the new radio-show format and prove that anyone can start podcasting, no matter the budget.
- Seperate Recorders
- Audio interfaces
- Audio Interface + Mixing Desk
- Made-to-Measure Solutions
- See Also…
The ultimate advantage of using a separate recorder is flexibility. You can take it anywhere and anywhere you take it, you can record. As such, this is my personal recording method of choice. I started out using a Zoom H2 handheld recorder. It could be easily placed on a table between me and my guest and is easy to set up for natural sounding results. After every recording, I always copy the audio file from the SD card over to my computer where I do a little editing using Adobe Audition and add a few effects like compression, limiters, EQ and smart noise-cancelling to polish up the sound. While the sound quality of the Zoom was always good, it would tend to pick up background noises and echos that couldn’t be edited out and only worked best somewhere quiet, outdoors and away from echoing walls.
Recorders with External Microphones
In the end, the solution to avoiding unwanted background noise meant buying a new recorder with XLR inputs, the Zoom H6 which I use with four Electro-Voice PL80 microphones, JB Systems 50 tabletop microphone stands and Devine SHM-10 shock-mounts. Using separate microphones that can be pointed directly at the speaker meant that the gain could be kept reasonably low and that background noise was much less prominent. Giving everyone a set of monitor headphones is also a good idea if more than one person is speaking. This way, everyone can hear everyone else clearly and nobody tends to speak too fast or over each other so often and can also hear when they’re not sitting close enough to the microphone. All of these details make an enormous difference to the recording.
An audio interface is able to connect one or more microphones to a computer and is the go-to if you prefer to record directly to software, or want to live stream. Some shows even combine this method with video cameras for a full audio-visual production. In terms of audio interfaces, the Focusrite Scarlett Series is probably the most popular since they’re easy to use and offer good quality audio conversion. If you want something truly professional and completely latency-free when live-streaming, then an interface with a FireWire port like the DSP-loaded Universal Audio Apollo Quad would definitely do the job but, while this a great bit of kit and the preamps and A/D converters are world-class, it might be a pricey investment.
Audio Interface + Mixing Desk
If you add a mixing desk to your setup, you get much more control over the audio levels and it opens up the possibility of recording a show while conducting a Skype interview. To do this, you will need to make a ‘mix-minus’ setup, so that the Skype interviewee doesn’t have to endure an echo of themselves and you can hear everything clearly. With this combo-setup, you can also throw in some sound effects, music or other audio directly into your podcast without having to edit it in later and, while it’s maybe the most complicated setup, it definitely offers more options than any other. A good example of the most regularly used podcasting mixer is probably any of the Behringer XENYX mixers or Soundcraft Notepads. The number of microphone inputs obviously depends on your specific situation, but it’s worth making sure that the mixer you do get has an FX output, otherwise a mix-minus setup won’t be possible.
- Since podcasts are only getting more popular, a new range of podcast focused gear has been developed by various brands. The RodeCaster Pro Podcast Production Studio (seen in the image below) is a good example of this and makes the whole process that bit more streamlined and user-friendly.
- The simplest solution for a single microphone setup is using a USB microphone like the Rode NT-USB, or the Blue Yeti USB but please note that it’s tough to start adding more microphones if you want to start doing interviews later on. It’s definitely the solution for the solo podcaster.
There are two kinds of microphones that can be used for podcasting: dynamic and condenser, and, of course, both comes with their pros and cons.
- The pros: they’re affordable, less sensitive to unwanted background noise and virtually indestructable.
- The cons: the sound is not as rich as that of a condenser microphone.
- Some examples of good dynamic microphones are: The Shure SM58, Shure SM7B, Electro-Voice PL80 (the one I use personally), Electro-Voice RE320, and the Electro-Voice RE20 (my dream microphone).
- The pros: the most beautifully full and clear sound you can get.
- The cons: they’re pretty expensive, pick up every sound that you don’t want, can be pretty vulnerable, and can only be used in a sound-proof room that has no echo and reflection issues.
- Some examples of good condenser microphones are the Rode NT1-A, Lewitt LCT 440 PURE, Neumann TLM102, and the legendary Neumann U87.
You can really make your setup as simple or complex as you want and this will ultimately come down to the kind of content you want to produce. In any case, you don’t need a professional studio to start podcasting. Take a look around and do a little research to find out if podcasting is for you and remember that pretty much every successful podcast started out with a little handheld recorder like the Zoom H2 or H4n. If you need a little more help in picking out your gear, you could always give the Bax Music helpdesk a call and I’m sure they’ll be able to find something that fits your situation.
How’s your podcasting setup looking? Let us know in the comments below!
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