Wednesday, May 24, 2017

What kind of stuff do you use?

It’s the million dollar question when you decide you’d like to try your hand at it, so why not share some of the info and gear I’ve gotten since taking that leap?

MICROPHONES

ElectroVoice RE-20

A broadcasters choice worldwide, the RE-20 is a phenomenal mic that doesn’t color your voice as much as others such as the Heil PR-40 (which we also use, read on) and is as crisp and honest as you could hopefor. Watch for these to show up on TV shows, radio shows, etc, you will undoubtedly see them. I caught one on an episode of Parks and Rec recently (re-run). It’s a standard for a reason, high quality! But yes, it does come with a healthy price tag as well. It came with the shockmount and pop filter as pictured, bought the package from BSW.

Heil PR-40

The PR-40 is also an industry standard and for good reason. I’ve seen it myself in radio stations and it’s really popular among the podcasters out there. While I love it, the reason I moved on to the RE-20 personally was simply because I now have a lot more equipment to get the sound I want and I wanted a microphone that didn’t color my voice the way the PR-40 tends to do. Yes, without a doubt, it DOES bass you up but that’s part of what makes it great! It is the secondary mic that goes to co-hosts and guests, it is ALWAYS a part of the show and is never considered lesser.

GLS ES-58

Ever hear of the Shure SM-58? Sure you have, it’s that microphone that road crews use to mic up instruments, do vocals through and all that. It’s considered a must-have and it’s built like a tank. Well, here’s some good news for you; you can have that mic nearly exactly for much cheaper than an even used Shure one and you won’t have to give up sound nor build quality. Don’t believe us? I use it for guests and co-hosts regularly and would gladly use it as my main mic if I was in a pinch. Believe the hype!

GLS ES-57

Because of it’s kind, it picks up much more noise than any of the three above mics but damn if it isn’t sharp! This one is essentially the Shure SM-57 and renowned as a high-quality job. For those unaware, the 57 is the mic the president of the United States uses to give speeches. I’d say that’s a pretty trustworthy vocal mic, wouldn’t you? This, like the GLS 58 above, is $30-35 brand new and, believe it or not, you aren’t sacrificing anything! Go get ya one, or two or three!

Blue Yeti

It really is as badass as the monster it is named after, yes! So why am I using all of these other mics then? Simply because when I first started this journey to podcasting and radio things, I didn’t know where I’d go with it all. For those unaware, the non-pro version, the one I bought, is USB only and that becomes an issue when you get into mixers and interfaces that use XLR inputs. That is 100% the only reason it’s sitting in it’s box on a shelf currently. I have used it on the road before and it is just a hell of a mic for $100 bucks, highly recommended to those who want options (it has different recording patterns for just you or you and friends gathered around a table) and a mic that’s built to last.

Mixers and Audio Interfaces

Mackie ProFX12 v2

After having already spent way too much on recording hardware (for a home studio/podcast), I finally decided I’d get the mixer I really wanted and be done with. And, so far, that’s still the case. This mixer is fantastic! The preamps are much, much quieter even when cranked and the FX aren’t half bad for a mixer under $300. It’s pretty much plastic, not heavy-duty like the VLZ3 I own, but it’s a hell of a great console to do work on. The EQ isn’t bad either though I don’t really use it much due to liking a pretty honest sound. A little hint of bass and treble depending on the person’s preference. Bottom line, if you want a mixer and don’t trust Behringer (that’s up to you, I’ve never used one of their mixers), this one is a really nice way to go if you won’t be lugging it around too much. Great price, great feature set and faders! Yay, love me some faders.

Mackie 1202 VLZ3

Even though I had/have really great, quiet preamps on the Scarlett’s, I’ve always wanted a mixer. That’s what this boils down to really, just that I wanted a mixer more-so than needed one. To be honest, I had more control (post-production) over everyone’s sound when using the Focusrite’s because each input was sent to my DAW in a different track so I could edit each person’s audio. That’s beautiful isn’t it? Well, I got a bit tired of post production. Haha. I took far longer than I should so I thought I’d grab me a mixer, and other equipment (we’ll get there) and make the show sound good live. This Mackie was good for that but I ran out of XLR inputs and I did get some noise when turning the mic’s up. A good mixer, not great. Glad I got it used for a good price.

Scarlett Focusrite 2i2

You’ve probably already heard of this little guy if you’ve been researching recording at home but if not, you should definitely give it a look. The price is right at around $100 on sale, so it’s very affordable if you’re just getting going or about to start. The 2i2 basically means 2 in and 2 out, referring to inputs and outputs. To be honest, unless it’s just you alone… I’d suggest at least the 6i6 or something to give you some room to grow. That’s a lesson I learned the hard way as I’ve worked my way up through equipment. The sound quality is fantastic, the inputs are super quiet, it will boil down to how quiet your room is beyond that. It’s also built like a tank and made to last you for years!

Scarlett Focusrite 18i8

Now we’re talkin’! Okay, so it IS pretty much the same thing but, you guessed it, it has a lot more I/O’s. Now, instead of two XLR inputs (or 1/4″), you’ve got 4 XLR inputs and 4 1/4″ or you can do 6 1/4″. Where’s the other 2 inputs you ask? They’re in the form of midi and SPDIF. It does feel a little bit like getting lied to, yes, but this should still be plenty enough inputs (and definitely enough outs) for nearly any podcaster out there. The quality is still amazing, of course.

Zoom H5

H5_Slant2This is a piece of gear that I’ve tried to justify needing for a while. I’ve heard so many others advise that you have one as a backup way to record if you use a PC or even as a way to not record with a PC at all. I, personally, really like using my computer and involve it heavily so I wasn’t able to come up with a solid reason to buy one until just recently. So don’t go believing that you need this unless you really can find enough reason to. I’m a musician and we started in the 90’s using a cheap little tape recorder. The H5 would offer us virtually unlimited recording time, give us sound quality like never before AND be just as small and mobile so I won’t have to lug around my mics, mixers, DAW’s, etc unless I just want to. Also, reason 2 was for doing the obvious; on location interviews/reviews and such.

Headphones

Sony MDR7506

I hate saying it again but yes, these are very much an industry standard. That’s a lot of reason I bought these things, I wanted my success or failure to weigh more on what I put into my recordings than telling myself I needed better hardware or software. Maybe that’s silly but I didn’t go buy Neumann’s or anything, I just made sure to buy extremely solid, used and trusted stuff. These headphones are great, they sound really great. Are they completely honest without color? They do add some flair but it isn’t much. Their price point and the fact that they’re used in recording studios all over the world make them highly regarded as some of the best. I use them both live and during post-production.

Random Others

I could go buy up a bunch of the Sony’s or even try more of the trusted cans that people lean towards but people who come and get on the show always grab my pair of Skull Candy’s or the Sol-Republics. Why? I think they just like how fun they are. Haha. I don’t have a good answer but who cares? So long as they hear themselves and are having a good time, we’re good to go. So, I just buy random sets that are on sale from stores like Ross, FYE and so on.

Rack Gear

ART HeadAmp 6

First, the NON-pro version. Why did I go non-pro? To save $$$. What’s the difference? The non-pro version lacks the EQ. I’m using this for recording voices, I don’t need an EQ for the headphones, it was a no-brainer! So, if you do go this route, save yourself some cash. Now, why did I go with a rack headphone amp? Easy! I love rack gear and it’s a really good amp. I almost went for one of the desktop Behringer’s but decided I’d rather just put this thing in the rack, run the cables and not have anything in my way or junking up my desk. The clean gain on this thing is extraordinary. It is probably over-kill for a 2 person show but if you have lots of co-hosts and guests, it’s a good deal. It doesn’t get hot, it gives you a TON of clean overhead (not sure about the Behringer’s, haven’t used them) and will cover 6 people. Also, a neat extra, is that it has Aux-in’s for each of the 6 channels so you can run in anything extra you want without effecting the others.

DBX 266xs

Looking for a good priced compressor/gate that is also good quality? The 266xs has you covered! Okay, let me first mention a few things that I came across when shopping these compressors. People are elitist in some spots of the internet (imagine that), you don’t need to spend 500 bucks to get a decent little compressor for your show. You absolutely don’t have to buy a used recording studio quality box to do what you want! This little guy only has two channels but both are really high quality (for what we do). I’ve got them tweaked nicely and they kill so much noise while also adding some radio ‘sound’ to the voices. I will be using it on channels one and two of every recording to come. Do note though that it does do only two channels (two people), if you need more, you’ll need more boxes or maybe the MDX4600 from Behringer.

Behringer MDX4600

This came first for me as far as compressors go. I knew I was giving up a bit on quality and a few options that other compressors had but I also gained 2 more channels than most other offered since this will cover 4 people instead of 2. Now that I have this and the DBX, I use it as a secondary to compress other people such as guests and any music I might feed in so it doesn’t blast anyone’s eardrums out. I actually have nothing against Behringer thus far though I have seen a lot of hate out there. The only problem I have had is something to do with the shielding. Before I got the Furman to plug everything into the same strip and put rubber down (I don’t know what helped to be honest, just eventually went away), I did get a lot of noise when this was turned on. That aside, once you work that out, it is a pretty nifty little compressor. It does what it says and does it fairly well. I do feel like I’ve been getting much nicer results from the DBX but that’s not to say I wouldn’t use this as my primary if I needed to. The fact that it has 4 channels is huge, don’t be thwarted by the name or by the lack of options, it’s solid.

Behringer Exciter SX3040

This is one of those things I mulled over for a good while before I actually went for it. I couldn’t decide if ‘exciting’ things would allow them to be honest with a little extra oomph. I’m happy to say that it has worked out really well. I mentioned earlier that I’ve been trying to keep post-prod down and this things helps add that little extra to each voice without needing to add filters later on. I don’t crank it up very high, it’s set pretty low but it really does add some ‘boom’ to the sound (in a good way). I got a really great deal on it and recommend it if you love rack gear and feel like a little extra kick is worth the price. Otherwise, you could definitely live without it.

Behringer Virtualizer Pro (DSP2024)

DSP2024P-1a23764ca3155a8ba2968f50b3a915aaDidn’t need this but happened across it whilst at a really cool local guitar shop for a price I couldn’t say no to. Well, technically I did pass it up one time but couldn’t stop thinking about it. Haha. Went back, snagged it up and have really been enjoying it! Have I used it in a recording yet? No… BUT I’ve finally been learning to actually use it and am going to in spots for some fun effects. If you like to spice things up and need something to bump up your sound, it’s good. It’s good all around really, all of the effects are mixable with others, even the level of how much, as well as being able to save some presets of your own for quick use later. I have zero regrets and think the show will get a little extra ‘oomph’ from it!

Furman M-8x2

I was never in the market for a rack-powerstrip, I really just ended up finding a deal I couldn’t pass up and it (I think) helped me also get rid of some noise issues. Win and WIN! So, while shopping around at compressors, I ended up finding B&H had a deal where if I bought the DBX, they threw this little thing in as a bonus. So, I saved $50 on the DBX and got the Furman for free… why not? It’s now one of those things I love and never felt I needed. With everything plugged into it, I feel my gear is safe and everything is less cluttered with cables not running all around the room. If you ever find a deal, go for it, you’ll be glad you have it! If you don’t find a sale or something, I do think it’s worth it still but that’s really subjective.

Software

Adobe Audition

Remember back when Audition was Cool Edit Pro? Who the hell would’ve thought a program called Cool Edit Pro was worth a shit? I certainly didn’t though I did use it to record and edit my music for years and years (I’m a musician) and it never failed me. When it was bought out by Adobe I was a little worried but had been using Photoshop for years so figured they could do great things with it if they tried. They’ve done great, I adore Audition, it’s just so powerful. Some of the downsides are it’s monthly fee (or the high outright price of an older version) and it’s complexity. The complexity is a double-edged sword though, once you get it, it’s just outstanding. You can do anything your mind can dream up and clean up mistakes about as easily as you could hope.

Audacity

Admittedly, no, it isn’t as powerful as Audition but man does it pack a punch for FREE. Did I say free? Yes I did! I doubt I blew any socks off though, I feel pretty sure that nearly everyone who does anything with audio has probably already got it installed. Did you know that it can do a lot of the same things as Audition though? Head over to their forums and enjoy some of the tutorials and ask questions of how to do things, you might be surprised! It’s super powerful for it’s price-tag and I’ve used it on the road before where I didn’t have Audition handy.

Skype

There are many ways to record guests, even many over the internet (such as Hangouts, for example) but I tend to go for Skype. It seems like people usually already have it installed, have an account and know how to use it so it works out really well. It has an app for iPhone, Android, Windows Phone and of course desktops so it works everywhere with ease. With a mixer, you can setup a mix-minus too. I, though, feed in the audio from the app on my phone or tablet’s audio out line to my mixer to record Skype calls but there is software out there as well such as Pamela.

The Rest...

Nexus 6

Any cell will work so long as it has an audio out (headphone jack) somewhere on there. I use my Nexus 6 but have also used my 5 and 4 as well, the 6 is just my current primary phone. The quality is outstanding! Not a bit of line-noise going into the mixer at all and probably the absolute easiest method of all due to everyone generally having a way to call a phone. No internet needed. It takes the work out of setting up and recording guests is probably why it’s my preferred method, I don’t have to ask them to hop on the internet, add my Skype account, etc, we just plan and call and do it to it. I’ve always figured that the more painless I make it for the people I’m interviewing, the better it will go and the more likely they’ll repeat.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S

While there are a few methods, I mostly use my Galaxy Tab S when I’m doing a Skype call. It leaves my phone untied so I can take actual phone calls (and run them in as well) and it gets a really good connection, which is important. I feed the audio out on the tablet to a 1/4″ in on my mixer and viola! I can then use the EQ and faders to do with whatever I need and allow my compressor to keep their volume at a good level. There’s nothing really fancy going on but I can’t imagine there’s a much smoother way to set it up. As for brands and things though, use your phone, use your tablet, any brand, etc. I just bought the Tab S because of the price and timing.

iPad Air 2

I got it for 45% off! That’s a good start! That aside, Bossjock is an AMAZING app that lets you do a pretty damned professional show while on the road with virtually no equipment at all, how cool is that? What Bossjock doesn’t do, Garage Band pretty much does, so you’re covered if you grab both (I did). I would literally have no qualms about doing an interview or even an episode on the road with just my iPad at this point, it has really blown me away, something that would be much harder to accomplish on an Android. Again, not hating as I love my Androids but the iPad just makes it easier. Bossjock lets you setup a soundboard, does ducking for speaking over music and records it all at an unbelievable price. It also now has an app for Google Docs and Skype so it pretty much has become my goto for recording.

Boom Arms & Pop Filters

I bought the Heil PL2T thinking I absolutely needed it and I’ve come to learn that, while it is stronger than others, my cheap eBay arms hold the mics just fine, even the PR-40 which is known to be heavy. The only big difference I can see is that the PL2T is much longer, so beware that when buying other arms on eBay, thinking they’re the same length. I bought the BSW REPOP pop filter for the RE-20 because I bought it as a set that also came with the shockmount. It looks really cool but the off-brand pop filters I bought on eBay are fine too. The only difference there is that they’re not sized down, they’re quite large (is that even a bad thing?) in comparison. They’re good for ANY mic and they’re the ones you’ll generally see in YT videos since they’re fine and cheap. Also, windscreens; grab them off eBay as well, the quality difference just can’t matter too much, it’s foam and it goes over a mic. The OnStage pack I grabbed for a couple of bucks does fit over the PR-40, don’t buy into the bullshit.

Cables

You’re going to need an assortment of cables so be ready to spend some cash on these. XLR, 1/4″, 1/8″, converter tips and a mixture of the above to and fro. The upside is that most of them are cheap and sometimes it’s cheaper to buy a certain cable and a converter piece than it is to buy a specialty cable as well. Look out for deals but beware, the cheaper the cables, the thinner it is, the more chance of introducing noise into your recordings. That’s just a bold-fact. I bought all the cheapest I could find and realized it was making my recordings sound much worse than they should have. I then started spending more and buying thick, higher quality ones such as Monoprice (which have become my goto because they’re super nice, super heavy, thick and affordable) and I can’t hear a hint of noise anywhere in my setup. Do yourself a favor before getting a bunch of equipment and wondering why it’s hissing or buzzing and spend money on GOOD cables. They say you’re only as strong as your weakest link, cables should definitely NOT be that.

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