The Blog Herald Podcasting Rig
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.
Matt Craven is the former editor & publisher of The Blog Herald. Currently, Matt is the co-founder of Bryghtpath LLC, a consulting practice located in Woodbury, Minnesota. Matt's presently looking for new blogging gigs. Ping him at matt (at) bryghtpath dot com. You can follow him on Twitter.
Holy Crapola. :) Spiffy setup dudeski.
Yeah, it’s alot more complicated than I thought it was when I started doing this..
Looks like you are set for anything there. So when do you start your own radio station?
Man, that’s some serious shit you’ve got going there, Matt.
And why I’ll probbaly never get into podcasting – if I can’t do it properly then I won’t bother.
Good stuff, Matt – especially with the Skype interview issue.
Also, might I say, a good selling point/post to show potential advertisers how serious and professional you are.
Expect a mention in The Blog Columnist v6 this week ;)
For me – it’s do it right, or stay home. I prefer to do it right :)
Ahhh, no. We won’t be doing that :)
I just set up my own rig for Tubetorial, and while it’s not as awesome as yours, there are many similiarities.
I think the bottom line for most folks is that you’re going to need to invest about $250 (USD) in order to get a setup that allows you to produce recordings that are crisp, clean, and smooth (especially from a waveform standpoint).
Although the initial costs were higher than I had anticipated, once I got everything set up, I was an audio-recording-fool. Simply put, having a killer audio setup is awesome :)
Yep. Matt, my office now looks a lot like yours, except yours is clean. :)
Not really, I just moved the crap out of the way to take the picture ;)
Chris, I agree. I could have done this cheaper, but ya know, there’s ebay.
I think Paul’s list of Entry Rig and Basic Rig are good for an entry level setup. I just wanted more..
Brian & ChrisP … Nice pushing in line with your Tubetorial thing! ;-)
Now can you give us a timeline for your start off with Tubetorial – or are you in the buzz building phase still? :-)
You got me hooked cause together with Brian’s writing skills (people outside the echo chamber: IMO, Brian is the most clearest and concise blogger going around) and with ChrisP’s minimalist design skills I read smash hit all over this.
Now how’s that for a suck up … Brian, I expect in-kind tips offs so I may be the first to report anything Tubetorial ;-)
I just want to see more of Chris’s chest…
Matt … errr, No! ;-)
I think we can all stay away from that, so long as I don’t:
make any more middle-of-the-night videos (while shirtless)…
and show them to Krug.