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My Evolving Podcast Studio

John Federico

Things are pretty low-tech around here, but the podcast studio is getting better all the time.

In episodes one and two of On Digital Media, Chia-Lin and I were both using some cheap Nady SP-1 dynamic mics that I picked up on eBay last year. Both mics are plugged into a Behringer Eurorack UB1202 with a stereo line out of the mixer to my MacBook. I wasn't really happy with the audio quality. (What do you expect for $17 a piece...?) Mine was mounted on a desktop stand and hers on a vertical stand. Visual cues were difficult in that setup.

At the recommendation of Paul Figgiani, I purchased a Kel Audio HM-1 studio condenser mic. However, I wasn't using it because it was just so noisy when recording in Garageband. Last week I decided to give it a try again, this time using Audio Hijack Pro from Rogue Amoeba. I don't know why it would be so much different, but recording using AHJP has been great and I have been very happy with the HM-1. There has been little to no background noise whatsoever (especially after I remembered to turn off the old PowerMac G4. That thing has a fan is like a jet engine...)

In episode #3, Chia-Lin was calling into Gizmo using her cell phone so the sound quality of her voice was less than ideal. Our guest, Ken Gellman, was using a 900 mhz wireless Radio Shack mic that I bought a number of years ago and used in a variety of live situations. After setting his levels, I thought he sounded fine but noticed that he kept talking off-mic and that the vertical mic stand he was using was of no help. The episode required a fair amount of fixing in post production.

So after these experiences, I made two additional improvements this week. First, I purchased another studio condenser mic: an MXL 990. I was playing with it last night and am quite happy with the sound.

I also bought two boom mic stands from Guitar Center. This will allow us to sit in chairs comfortably and face each other during the discussion to allow for better visual cues. (FYI - if you tell the crew at Guitar Center that you can get a better price online, they'll match it. Works like a charm...)

Chia-Lin, Ken and I all enjoyed the experience so we're planning to have Ken back on the show at some point. You know what that means, right? More gear!

;)

I'll pick up another boom mic stand and another condenser mic - probably another MXL 990 as they are inexpensive and produce relatively good sound. I'll also need another set of headphones and a headphone mixer (right now, I'm using a headphone jack splitter to connect two sets of headphones to a single jack). This will become obsolete when I add a third person to the studio.

I've got my eye on the Behringer HA400 4 channel stereo headphone amp. It's cheap and I've had good performance from Behringer products.

I think my final upgrade will be a firewire or USB sound card. It would have been so much easier to mix the audio for episode #3 in post production if I were able to gain separation from each audio source.

I'm considering a PreSonus Inspire 1394 which costs around $199, which should help me with separation. After that purchase, I think I'll be pretty much complete as far as gear is concerned. Unless I add another participant, but I'll cross that proverbial bridge when I come to it.

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