...or at least this is how I did it.
What Do I Need
You could go out and buy any microphone from any box store or any online retailer, but you have to answer a few questions first.
- Do I have a budget?
- How many people am I looking to record?
- What's going to be easiest to setup/use?
- Am I going to us a laptop?
When setting up my studio, I knew I didn't want to go crazy and just buy this and/or that, just because it's rated highly on some arbitrary list written by Tom, Dick and Harry. So I did my homework before whipping out my credit card.
I know I said wanted to stay within a budget, mainly since I wasn't sure what I was getting into. For some "budget" means "under $100", or "under $50". Realistically, you might be able to get started with a 1 host setup, but I was looking to record up to 4 people at once, on their own channel, in stereo. It gets all mixed down in the end but, I wanted to be able to fix any audio issue in post. So without breaking the bank, my budget was to look for deals. Also, remember, you don't have to buy four mics at once. This will work just fine for a one/two person with the room to expand to three/four later.
Honestly, the first thing you really should consider is the quality of the audio being recorded. This means you'll have to learn a bit about microphones. You don't need to become an audiophile, but recording with the correct equipment is easier on the ears. I would probably listen to more podcasts that align with my interests, if the audio was a tad better. When using the wrong type of microphone, your audio can sound as if you're on a pay phone, or deep in a cave, or across the room, or on a PA system at a high school football game. You don't need some elaborate multiple microphone setup inside a soundproof padded room to record decent sound quality.
PC or Headset Mics
These mics, although technically are microphones, are not ideal for recording high quality audio. Most laptop/PCs have only one audio jack, so that's limiting in it's self. Not to say some microphones on some headsets can't record at high quality, but you've locked yourself into what headphones you can buy, and if one goes out, you'll have to replace the whole headset. On top of, high quality headsets are not budget friendly. For these reasons, I decided to purchase my headphones and microphones as separate units.
Dynamic vs Condenser Microphones
I knows this is where it would be nice to get an obviously easy to understand overview of the all the differences, but sadly it's more than I can explain/comprehend and regurgitate. There are a bunch of arguments on wither a condenser is warmer/louder, or if a condenser is more fragile, or which is cheaper. Basically, it comes down to knowing that dynamics and condensers both have access to the same pickup patterns. You can also argue that you can't go wrong with either. In my eyes, a dynamic mic is more of a stage mic, and the condenser mic is more of a studio mic. This is why I picked condenser mics over dynamics.
USB vs XLR
So, you've looked into "podcast mics" and noticed they're all USB, and then there are these others labeled XLR. Pfft, another new connector?!? Not really, XLR has been around since the 1950's. If you've held any mic on a stage, or during karaoke, odds are it was an XLR mic.
But the USB mic is sooo simple, you just plug it into the computer.
True. But, if you're intending to record more than one person, it's going to get a little more complicated. You'll need X number of free USB ports. Drivers for the different mics, depending on your OS.
It is all possible though, you could use a Blue Yeti, Rode Podcaster, and Samson Meteor all on the same laptop/PC. I think it depends on the software. I first used two Samson C01Us and had to set them up on the same channel, in mono, one on the right channel, the other on the left channel. Not what I was expecting to do at all. I wanted each mic on it's own channel. Adding more USB mics was a challenge without using software like Voicemeeter.
One thing I was looking to avoid was complexity. Of course, once I've set up my laptop, it should be all set-it-and-forget-it. That is, if I don't switch computers. In order to avoid all this, is why I went XLR. This means hardware to plug the mics into but, I've now condensed the USB support to the audio interface (more on that later). Going XLR help cut down on the marked up podcasting marketing costs.
Final Microphone Decision
To wrap all it all up, I was looking for XLR condenser mic. I settled on the Audio-Technica AT2020, considered an ideal budget-friendly condenser mic for home studios. They've work and sound great.
Mixers vs Audio Interfaces
Now that budget is out of control, kidding, kidding. We need something to plug all these mics into. What to want is something that take XLR and is able to plug into the computer. Here's were some could/would argue "Why go XLR to USB. Or analog to digital?" Again, the laptop/PC is not really build to handle multiple audio inputs. Sure, there's all those USBs, but we wanna keep it simple.
I first looked into a Mackie PROFX8V2 mixer. It has 8-channels, is USB, and has effects. Sounds good but, only the first two channels were passed through to the USB connection. No bueno. So, the mixer is out of the mix. Ehhh, ehhh. :) An audio interface is what I need.
About that budget, this is where it might get stretched a tad. Although, this saves use from buying software to do the same job. There are some other cheaper options, but I can speak to the exact way it interfaces via USB. I picked up a Tascam US-4x4. 24bit/96kHz, which is fine, CDs are 16bit/44.1kHz. Only 2 1/4" headphone outputs, which is fine, we'll fix that next.
There are a ton of options here; headphone, earbuds, wired, wireless. Here's my thought process of what will help me produce the best quality podcast I can.
First off, as much as I love using wireless anything, one thing I don't enjoy is troubleshooting hardware issues, including pairing issues. On top of how to connect mutliple Bluetooth devices to one source. Wireless out, wired in.
Secondly, comfort, along with noise canceling. Sounds price but, I think I have a decent solution. I don't think I need to cancel out noise as much as I need to block out and isolate my enviroment to solely the podcast I'm recording. This is where over the ear headphones come in. They provide a seal around your ear vs being on top of your ear allowing outside noise to bleed in. Don't get me wrong, this aren't going to cancel out noise, but they will help you hear exactly what's being recorded, mainly how it sounds. If it sounds good in your headphones, it's going to sound good on playback.
Remember that Tascam US-4x4 we spend some cash on, well we can recouple some of that cost here. I mean you could go out and treat yourself to a pair of, Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pros or Philips Fidelio X2s or even the Sennheiser HD 800s. Since, I bought headphones for other people to use, I'm going to kept the price point lower.
Anker had been known for making chargers and cables, and more recently Bluetooth speakers and earbuds. So, I tried looking there first. After not finding anything that grabbed my attention, I switched over to Monoprice. Bingo!
I found a pair of Monoprice Modern Retro Over Ear Headphones. After a short search for reviews, everyone raves about them for the price. I 100% agree with all the reviews, they are awesome. I feel the build quality could be improved but for something that I'll use 2 hours a week, they'll last for a long time.
What I Have
- Audio-Technica AT2020 (x4)
- Cables (x4)
- Tascam US-4x4 (x1)
- Behringer Microamp HA400 (x1)
- Monoprice Modern Retro Over Ear Headphones (x4)
- Neewer Stands (x4)
- MacBook Pro (mid 2015) (x1)
Nice to Haves
Trying to keep costs low, but on the look out for small upgrades you can make, as I did.
I don't think I could get buy without an adjustable mic stand. Most mics come with their own tiny tripod, which is OK if it's just you on your desk, but the best way to get good audio, is to raise the mic to your month. Without saying, the closer to the mic, the better you sound. So why not bring the mic to you? I purchased 35" arms. I might pick up an extra 43" arm, since I'm unable to slouch. It might be best if I don't. Definitely a great upgrade to improve sound quality.
...or popper stopper. If your going to buy a boom arm, you might as well pick up some p poppers. I've see a couple of versions of the poppers. Some have an adjustable arms with a large round foam disc on the end. While those do work, I can tell you for a fact I've seen those adjustable arms go from stiff to loosey goosey. To avoid that, I found one that were U-shaped slide onto my condenser mics. They wrap the contour of the mic face, and are held on with elastic bands. They have a mesh front that looks great, plus a piece of foam on the inside. The hold on tight, and if a band does break, I can easily use a rubber band or Goody elastic hair ties. It also has the added benefit of showing others where to talk into the mic. (Not everyone is a professional like we are.) It you're feeling crafty, you could make your own pop filter with a wire coat hanger and pantyhose. New or old, preferably pantyhose without holes.
Now that you've mounted your mic onto a boom arm, something that tends to happed is that anytime the table or arm is knocked or banged into, or grabbing and adjusting the boom. All that vibration will travel up to the mic, then possibly being picked up on mic. How do you stop this? Well, you could hold still forever, or pick up a spider mount. It's basically an outer mount with an inner mount attached with elastic bands. The bands acting as shock absorbers. Not 100% needed, but nice to have.
Not much to explain here. I use these to manage the cables on the boom arms. One at the top of the upper arm, one on the bottom of the upper arm, and another at the bottom of the lower arm. All wrapped around a single bar, not both.
I've Plugged Everything In, Now What?
On a Mac, it's pretty easy to recording. I record in Garage Band, then post edits in Audacity. I could record in Audacity, but I find it a tad nicer to use Garage Band. Just a preference. No wrong answers here.
First thing to do is set up four channels, and assign then to each input you see from the audio interface. Then, set the timer window to just "Time", and toggle of the "1234" and "Metronome" buttons. Next, on each channel like the headphones icon, turning it yellow/orange, so you can here all channels in the output. After I did that, I saved my blank project as "new-episode-template" to avoid setting it up every time. Be sure to "Save As..." when you're done recording. Click record when you're ready. When done recording, in the toolbar, click "Share > Export to Disk...". In the Export dialog, select MP3 and 128kBits/s, and click Export.
The only thing I do in Audacity is Noise Reduction. It's a kinda user interface. You first find and highlight a quiet section of your audio, usually in the beginning, by clicking and dragging to audio wave. Then in the toolbar, "Effects > Noise Reductions...", under Step 1, click "Get Noise Profile", and then click "OK" to close the dialog. Now click Cmd+A to highlight the whole audio wave, then go back to "Effects > Noise Reductions...", click "Preview" if you like, and adjust the sliders if it's not quiet enough, then click "OK" again to start the process of reducing all the background noise. Save your MP3 as a different name. Done.
I'm Ready to Upload My Podcast.... To?
At this point, I'm just going off what I understand. I'm not on iTunes, yet. I've been more working on the content, and the quality of content, along with quantity of content. I'd rather have 10 quality podcasts in the can, vs 100 meh sounding podcasts. Currently, I host my own podcasts and just rely on word of mouth. I'm not ready for limelight just yet. Getting there.
Hosting Your Own Podcast
You can upload your MP3s to your own site, and even run Wordpress to help with delivering your content on your own website. I'm pretty you can use Wordpress to serve up the RSS feed iTunes, and other syndication accounts, need to find your podcast.
There are two main hosting services for podcasts, Libsyn and Blubrry. There are a bunch of other companies, but they either cost more, or don't offer as much as Libsyn and Blubrry do. I've not gone this route, nor do I know if I will.
Just a small note, you don't upload your podcast to iTunes, you tell iTunes where your podcast lives, via an RSS like you tell iTunes when you submit your podcast. Make sure your link works, I keep reading about how you'll be set back a couple weeks if you need to correct something.
If I had NO budget, here are some items I'd be looking into.
- RODE PSA1, it's a super nice boom arm, but maybe a tad pricey if your looking to stay way under budget.
None so far.