Friday, March 22, 2019

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.

Sennhesier e945

This one is pretty new to the arsenal, but it’s a keeper! It’s really known best for being a vocal microphone for singers. But that’s not to say it doesn’t work here very well because it does. It’s dynamic super-cardioid and sounds fantastic though it does take a bit of juice to get it as loud as you might like it to be. I recommend it if you’re looking for something that will sort of double for vocals/instruments and also be easy to hold in the hand unlike some of the others I use.

Audio-Technica 2020

I love this one! It’s popular among online personalities due to it being more affordable than most of the other options we use on the show here but don’t discount it because it still sounds great! Like the Yeti, it gets wrapped up in the streamers thing but it’s far better than just being a mic to game with, it really sounds beyond it’s price as most Audio-Technica mics do.

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!

Shure SM7B

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. Meagan sounds 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.

Audio-Technica AE5400

This one surprised me! I absolutely love the sound of this mic, I really expected it to be kind of behind some of the other options but I was very wrong. This thing picks up great, sounds phenomenal (if you know Audio-Technica on a mic-level then you could guess that) and is built tough. It’s heavy due to the higher-end element on the inside from the AE4050, which is a beloved studio condenser. HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommended!

Shure Super 55 Deluxe

This is the sexiest mic I own! If it doesn’t remind you of the 60’s, on a mic-level at least, I don’t think much will. The blue windscreen makes it stand out further than the already old-fashioned chrome grill does. It sounds super clear and sparkly, really pickups whatever you put in to it like a champ and leaves nothing to really be desired aside from more sound control. Dynamic super-cardioid and great!

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!

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

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.

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.

Allen & Heath Qu-Sb

Another mixer? Yep! This one is different though, it’s extremely mobile and is controlled by mobile devices. It’s really nifty and fits virtually anywhere and weighs very little, what more could you ask? Okay, sure, the pre-amps sound fantastic, the FX are sweet, the AMM feature (lets you specify who the main speakers are and give them priority and it automatically ducks others when the specified ones are talking) is really freaking cool, you can record directly to a USB drive (which isn’t common for a mixer), has some presets for specific mics to make the most of them (FX, compressor, etc) and gives you 16 inputs via XLR or line. It does what the X32 does, essentially, in a very very different way while allowing you to setup shop anywhere, just you, a router and everyone being able to easily control their own volumes and FX (if you desire). Yes, you need one.

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

Audio-Technica ATH-m50x

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.

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.

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.

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.

Rack Gear

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.

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.

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.

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.

Software

X32 Edit

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

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.

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.

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...

Samsung Galaxy S9+

Any cell will work so long as it has an audio out (headphone jack) somewhere on there. I use my S9+ but have also used others. 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 S3

While there are a few methods, I mostly use my Galaxy Tab S3 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 S3 because of the price and timing.

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.

iPad Pro 12.9

This thing is HUGE and does the job great! From using it for research during a show or as a controller for the Qu-Sb, it’s super fast, a terrific size and I got the 256gb version so have a ton of room. I’ll be honest, you don’t need all of that, but I got a great deal on it locally.

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.

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. I recently realized this again, ORDER PLENTY OF GOOD QUALITY CABLES!