Our first two podcasts were recorded using a simple noise canceling headsetup plugging into the line in jack on our Dell XPS computer.. and we quickly learned that this setup sounded horrible. So we did some research over at Podcast Rigs and settled on something fairly similar to their Basic Rig for in-studio podcasting…
Here’s a quick walkthrough of our rig:
There are alot of computers on my desk in my home office. I work from an office in the basement of our house outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota. This particular house was of interest to us because, while only about 2400 square feet, the house has three separate living rooms. We turned the lowermost one into my office.
In any event, on the far left is my PowerBook G4 (email, web, IM, feed reading, and related activities). The dual monitor setup in the middle is the Dell XPS (gaming, blogging, financials, banking). On the far right is an Apple PowerMac Dual G4 (Podcasting, programming, backup processing). The PowerMac is where we produce podcasts when recording in the office. We also have an Infrant ReadyNAS X6 with 1TB of RAID5 storage space. This is used for backups and storage of older podcasts as they take up an enormous amount of disk space quickly.
The microphone is a Kel HM-1, which is a cardioid condenser microphone. It’s mounted in a Kel shockmount to reduce noise from vibrations and other external influences. In front of the microphone is a standard pop filter that helps filter out my explosive P’s and Q’s so that they don’t flow into the podcast. All of this is mounted on an AGK deskmount broadcast arm which helps keep the mic where I want it.. and out of the way when we’re not recording.
The Kel HM-1 microphone is provided with phantom power from the first item in our rack – the Peavey PV-8 compact 8 channel mixer. This mixer allows the input for up to 8 channels of sound. The mixer allows me to independently control the volume of each inbound channel – as well as provide for insert processing on 4 of those channels.
From here, the microphone signal crosses through two different processors.
The first is a TC Electronic C300 Compressor/Limiter and Gate/Expander. Essentially, this is a processor that takes the inbound signal from the microphone and processes it according to settings that I establish. Currently, we have it first set to “gate”, or basically silence the microphone except when I am speaking. In other words, it waits for the sound to cross a certain threshold before passing it further down the mixer chain to be recorded. This allows us to eliminate a certain portion of the background noise from the computers and other noise sources in the room. After it “gates” off the ambient noise it listens for the “hum” from the computers when I am talking and works to eliminate that hum..
The second processor is an Aphex Systems 204 Aural exciter and Optical Big Bottom processor. What this does is take our sound after gating and adds more low-end punch along with a greater perceived loudness in the vocals. It has made a huge difference in the quality of our podcast sound.
From there, the signal moves out of the mixer into an Edirol UA-1EX USB Audio Interface. This device converts the analog output of the mixer into a digital signal and then moves the complete mixer output into the PowerMac G4 where it is recorded by Audacity or Peak LE 5, depending on which I am running.
I monitor the signal as it is mixed through a set of Sony MDR-V600 Studio Monitor Headphones. This allows me to hear exactly what’s being recorded (post-processor) by the Mac.
Beyond this basic setup, we also conduct interviews via Skype with various guests. These interviews were originally recorded using Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack Pro, which is a great piece of software, but didn’t fit our needs. There wasn’t a way to control and mix the guest’s audio and adjust their volume levels without alot of post-production work.
So now we feed the output of Skype back into the mixer, process it, adjust the levels (usually much louder than what it originally comes in as), and then send that back to the Mac to be recorded. This works much better than the old method – and although more complicated from a wiring standpoint, I highly recommend it.
Hopefully, this gives you a good idea of what goes into a quality sounding podcast. If you’re looking to read more about a setup like this, I’d recommend the following sites:
- Podcast Rigs
- Podcast Rigs Forum
- Sweetwater Sound – I purchased 90% of my system from these guys
- The.Point, the podcast and blog of Paul Figgiani, who runs Podcast Rigs.
- PodSqod – Mark Jensen’s podcast where he talks about podcasting hardware and software. Mark also did the intros and bumper voiceovers for our podcast
- Phil Windley’s Podcasting Setup – he has more high end components than I do
- B&H Photo & Video – another great online store
In a future post, I’ll talk more about our actual productions and post-production work that I do before we publish the podcast.