In the time between episodes of the podcast1 I got some new equipment that will give my side of the audio better quality2 and let me see my computer and notes better while recording.
I thought it might be interesting to go through my current podcasting setup and talk about the whats and whys.
See the pic above for each item…
Item 1 is the Asus VS239H-P 23-inch HD LED IPS monitor. This was a Black Friday deal I got this year for around 40% off. It’s no Apple Display but it looks nice and is more than enough for me. It’s connected to my Mac mini, obvs. And I have it on a Tyke Supply Single Monitor Stand which is excellent, especially for the price3 . I got the dual monitor stand to hold the two monitors for my work pc and I was so happy with it I got the single as soon as I had a monitor with the VESA-compliant mount point on the back. I have a Logitech webcam on it too, but that doesn’t really get much use.
Number 2 is the new microphone I got, the Audio-Technica ATR2100. It’s a dynamic mic, rather than the condenser-type we’ve been using all along, which offers me a few advantages. First, it doesn’t pick up as much background noise because it’s just not as sensitive as a condenser. Also, it suits how I use it better. I tend to get right up on the microphone – literally just an inch or so away – and dynamic mics work better in close. Finally, it’s just smaller. I can see around it more easily to look at my show notes and recording settings.
The mic is on an On Stage Stands MS7701 Tripod Boom Microphone Stand and although it’s moved out of the way for the purposes of taking the picture, I have a pop filter, also.
I have the mic connected to the Mac mini via USB to record through our favorite app Audio Hijack Pro. That is how I record my side of the conversation. Brandon does the same on his side and I combine the tracks to edit them afterward. I was using Garageband for editing but since the latest update it’s become nearly unusable for podcast editing. They changed all of the loops and the export settings are very limited now. Instead I’m using Hindenburg Journalist for all editing and exporting. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth every single penny. It’s so easy to use and powerful that I can often get episodes – at least the ones without a lot of audio drops – turned around and posted in less time than it takes to record them. And, at least in my opinion, the sound quality is much better because the settings and voice profiles are better.
I have number 3 because of number 4, so I’ll do 4 first. Those are a pair of Sennheiser HD–380 Pro headphones. They are AMAZING. I was pretty happy with the sound quality of my Grado SR–80i’s, but these 380’s blow the Grado’s out of the water. They were another Black Friday deal. The only issue – not really a problem – is that they are closed headphones. The problem with the Grado’s was that, being open-backed, they would make too much noise on my recording. With these they are so quiet to external sounds that I can’t hear myself. It’s pretty disconcerting to hear Brandon so clearly and only be able to hear myself in my head. It’s like a muffled mumbling and it’s crazymaking.
I thought I could solve this problem by just changing settings so I hear both sides in my headphones but the software processing puts a delay in that’s just enough to be completely disorienting. What you say and what you hear are out of sync by a half second4 .
So, I needed a way to mix Brandon’s side of the Skype call with my mic signal live and with hardware only. Thus the mixer (number 3 in the picture). The one I got is the Behringer XENYX502 5-Channel Mixer. It’s perfect for doing this kind of simple signal mixing. I’ve got the mic connected through an XLR cable and the computer audio through just a stereo input. They get mixed and sent to my headphones with practically zero delay between my mic and my ears – at least no delay I can hear.
The only output is the phones. I certainly could use the mixer to combine our signals and record that for the final podcast but I see two problems with that. One, that would crap all over Brandon’s audio quality because his signal would be going through Skype instead of being recorded locally on his machine. And the final output would depend on how I set the mixer. I would have no control of the separate tracks after recording. That’s a big enough deal for how I edit that I just won’t do it. I do record both sides of the Skype conversation each time but that is just for a backup and, thankfully, I almost never have to use it.
So what’s all the other crap on the desk?
Number 5 is my keyboard, a Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760 which I bought solely because it was on sale and so I wouldn’t have to keep replacing batteries. The trackpad is your standard Apple Magic Trackpad, which I love. I even edit photos with the thing. I haven’t used a mouse with my Mac in several years.
Number 6 is just miscellaneous stuff. Lets go clockwise from the left…
My amp is an Onkyo TX–8255 Stereo Receiver that I got a year or so ago to listen to music and podcasts and movies while I’m working at my desk. It’s got a bunch of RCA inputs so I can connect several different sources to it5 . I keep a bunch of audio cables and headphone stuff on 3M Command hooks on the wall behind the amp. I also keep my guitars – which sadly only get played very rarely – on hooks above the monitor. The one you can see there is a Fender Marcus Miller Jazz Bass. There’s a standard Telecaster up there, too. The speakers I have hooked up to the amp are a pair Sony’s that came with a home theater system my Dad bought probably 15 years ago. They’re old but they’re in great condition. That’s the right one, obvs. The left is on the other side of the desk by my work pc monitors and the subwoofer is on the floor to the right of the desk. Finally the white remote-looking thingy is a remote. I have two fans in my cabinet keeping my Mac and all my drives and stuff nice and cool. But they’re pretty loud so I plugged both fans into a remote power switch so I can easily turn them off when recording so they don’t crap up the sound.