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?
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.
This one is an absolute superstar in the world of microphones. The one you’ll hear most about it, and it IS pretty cool, is that it was used to create Michael Jackson’s Thriller. That may be it’s most shining moment but you can look around and find it in about a million photos since it’s creation due to it’s quality. Ryan and Meagan both sound great on this mic, it truly is worthy of it’s praise! Unlike the RE20, which is most dominant in American radio stations, the SM7B dominates all across the world for a multitude of different applications.
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.
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!
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!
This is an incredible sounding mic! Not for it’s price but just in general. I was blown away. And yes, for it’s price tag, which is well under $100, it just makes for a rare deal. The neat thing about this mic is that for that price, you’re getting a lot of versatility. It works both as a USB mic or as an XLR mic. That gives you some future-proofing for when and if you decide to step up to a mixer or audio interface. Though versatility and sound are most important, there are more perks even. The package comes with a stand, a nice zipper-bag and cables. I paid $60 for mine and would easily put it on live with no hesitation if I needed to. Highly recommended!
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.
Cathedral Pipes Durham
This isn’t a mic, no, but it is very important to some mics. The RE-20, for example, is juice hungry. It needs a lot of boost to get it into a truly loud-enough range. Another is the SM7B. This little guy takes care of all that for you offering 25db’s of clean boost at a price that is superior to both the FetHead (though it can do built-in phantom power and doesn’t need two cables) and the Cloudlifter, which is substantially more expensive. These are $65 a piece, ship super quickly and work just as they should. I couldn’t recommend these things more if I tried, they’re essential when dealing with low-gain mics. They’re built like brick-shi–… tanks and don’t get in the way. They do require phantom power, so be aware.
Mixers and Audio Interfaces
Behringer X32 Producer
Before I purchased this digital mixer, I was already in the ‘I spent too much on the production’ zone. I love the Mackie’s I own, I have had no real issues with them at all. What caused me to look into this mixer is that I was looking at audio interfaces that were a bit more versatile than the Scarlett’s that I still love and swear by. I was looking for something to do what they did as well as integrate mixer features as well. Turns out, digital mixers can fit that bill! 32 inputs, built in compressors, noise gates, expanders, tons of FX, you can mix-minus, create all kinds of bus mixes for random things, save scenes and presets so that you can create settings for individual shows and not have to worry about remembering your serttings. It is a perfect mix or a USB interface, which it is, and a mixer with faders that can be controlled in your favorite DAW or by hand. The inputs are Midas, which gives incredibly nice sound without adding noise. You can basically use this thing to record full bands, mix them in live situations, or for a multitude of other uses such as the show here. It isn’t cheap, though. I recommend it highly if you plan to do shows and things for years and years but make sure first.
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.
This 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.
For a while, I was stuck between buying these (which cost around $150 brand new for the x-version with the removable cable) and the Sony’s down below, which average around $75-80. Obviously, I ended up with both but I used the Sony’s for a long time before moving to these. I can’t say that I’m not happy I made that decision because these have become my personal headphones for everything I do audio-wise. It’d be hard to say whether or not they sound twice the price better but they do sound great! It’s so subjective that you’d be better off trying them yourself. As for range, the technicalities of frequency are why they have different sounds. They’re quite different, actually, in frequency, impedance and sensitivity. As for physicals, they’re a tighter grip on your head than the MDR7506’s and the padding feels thicker. I will say, though, that I feel it leads to them being more uncomfortable sooner in my personal opinion. I’ve worn both a LOT and I’d lean to the Sony’s if I were to be working all day. Dome’s differ and mileage varies. With all of these things said, I got a great deal on these at $100 in never-used, open-box condition with all things included. A steal! I do recommend them but the Sony’s below would be perfectly good at a cheaper price.
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.
Skullcandy Mix Master
I’ve mentioned below that I have a lot of random headphones (why not, they’re on-sale a lot) and that a few of those are Skullcandy. I don’t necessarily consider the brand to be the top of the line for mixing or monitoring due to the EQ on them but these are decent. I’m no snob, so don’t get me wrong, but the difference between how things sound on my monitors versus the car versus these headphones is pretty different. The Audio-Technica’s have a bit of EQ to them as well, I mean, what doesn’t? So yes, these do have a bit of EQ to make them sound a certain way, which is nice for music as usual, but they do alright for utility as well in this case. They’re the only pair that I have of SC that I say that about. I love them all for tunes but I mostly use these for guests since they enjoy the sound and they’re pretty comfortable. I hear they break due to the plastic band but so far so good. I do recommend them if $50 or so, though above that, the Sony’s are much better for true utility use in my opinion.
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.
ART Pro MPA II
Oh my! I am absolutely in love with this thing! Check around, it’s considered to be well above it’s pay-grade by even some of the elitist folk out there. I took the advice of many and swapped out the tubes from the cheaper ones (that sounded fine, to be completely honest) to some TungSol 12AX7’s that have improved it I think. I don’t feel it’s a must upgrade but I’m glad I did regardless, it certainly didn’t hurt anything and was simple enough to do. This thing sounds incredible! And what’s more, it has a backlit analog VU (not tube-lit but neat), a low-cut filter, you can mess with impedance, add +20db gain boost (which helped my RE-20 GREATLY), change polarity, phase and run in stereo mode if you’d like to double up on just one input. Also, an instrument input is right on the front on each side (2 in total) which is pretty nifty! The whole thing, though, really adds some warmth and depth to your sound. Don’t take it from me, go get one for yourself. They’re very affordable ($250) compared to much more expensive pieces of rack gear that do similar things.
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.
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.
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)
Didn’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!
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.
Musicians Gear MG900SC
Like the Furman, it’s awesome. Yeah, it is just a fancy power-strip but it pops right in a rack-mount and has 9 outlets. I highly suggest one or two of these things if you plan on using rack-gear or even just having a lot of things plugged in near where you’re going to do your show, it has come in handy SO many times. The quality is great, the price is great and when you can find them on-sale, you absolutely couldn’t go wrong. I got this one for $20 during a sale.
If you were to buy yourself an X32 console, then you’d be robbing yourself of absolute convenience if you didn’t install this on your PC. It is amazing! I do nearly all of my work using it as opposed to the console itself. I do love hitting buttons and sliding the faders but this allows me to, during a show, keep my eyes on the prize and information on my screen. It’s just incredibly well put together and makes doing live shows super easy when out of arms-range of the board itself. NOTE: There’s an amazing app for Android as well: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.davidgiga1993.mixingstation&hl=en
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.
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.
Many services out there will help you get your show on the innaweb. Most of the better ones cost a little. Mixlr isn’t the cheapest but it has been amazing to us! The support is phenomenal, though I’ve hardly needed it once getting it figured out that I’d need to use a mixbus for their desktop app since it only takes 2 actual separate inputs. The co-owner himself replied to my question, which I found to be extremely inviting to their service. I get an email about statistics after the show and the sound quality is great. I’ve honestly nothing bad to say, though I’d love to get some of the features from the higher plans at a more affordable rate for shows that aren’t quite large enough to warrant the price.
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.
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 it does hold up where a cheaper one I bought broke. The cheap one lasted a long time but did eventually cave under the pressure of the PR40 and PRSM. Be aware but I’d say you’d be fine if using something like the AT2005 or similar. That aside, I eventually grabbed the Rode PSA1 and am loving it, though it is shorter than the PL2T by a good bit. 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.
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. I recently realized this again, ORDER PLENTY OF GOOD QUALITY CABLES!