This is an annual post describing my method of making podcasts. For comparison, see the 2014 January post as well.
I was recording the show from my desk at my loft for a long time, but switched to doing it in my walk-in closet. This helps eliminating the ambient noise from the street, as well as completely shuts off echo because of the clothes in the closet.
- Shure BETA 57a ($130)
- Mackie Onyx Blackjack ($150)
- Cloudlifter CL-1 ($150)
- DS7200B microphone stand ($13)
- MY325 Microphone Clip ($10)
- Ultimate Ears UE200 noise isolating earphones ($18) I had been using ATR2100 USB dynamic mic for a long time and I still love it when I need it on travels, but switching to XLR-based USB interface was a big upgrade.
Most XLR based dynamic microphones require a lot of gain in the preamp, and that usually results in a fair amount of static noise. Cloudlifter’s CL-1 helps cutting them down to a minimum. That being said, I’ve done most of the episodes in 2014 without CL-1, so you probably don’t need it if you’re on a tight budget.
On the picture above you see Klipsch’s Image S4-II headphone and I absolutely love it, but it just died a couple of days ago, and am currently using much cheaper UE200. If you have a guest, be sure to let them have good earbuds that do not leak audio!
Normally I record the show on Skype using the Double ender technique, but a) often guests do not have a good audio setup like mine and b) conferences are good opportunities to interview great developers (like I did for tenderlove or Matz).
My gear for such “off-line” mobile recording has been the same as with Skype: Mackie Onyx Blackjack and two XLR microphones. But this setup has some limitations — I can only have 2 microphones at most, and that Blackjack is a quite heavy instrument, that weighs about 0.8 kg.
To eliminate these two problems I just bought Zoom H5 ($270). This is a much lighter recording device (about 200g), and it can record to a SD card by itself, or could work as a USB interface if I have a Macbook to go. Either way, it can be plugged to stream the show live using the monitor output as well (more on that later).
- QuickTime Player
- ecamm Skype recorder ($29.95)
- GarageBand and Soundflower for mobile recording For double-ender, I can just use QT to record local audio, and Skype recorder as a reference sync-point as well as a backup recording, in case when guests mess up the recording. It happened a couple of times.
For mobile recording, I use GarageBand to do the multi-track recording, with the monitor output piped to Soundflower, to do the live stream (on that later).
- Audacity for noise reduction and level normalization (free)
- Logic Pro X for editing, compression, EQ ($199)
- Auphonic for leveler ($89)
- LAME MP3 Encoder Logic Pro X is a huge upgrade from GarageBand. Sure you can live with GarageBand (like I did until a few weeks ago) but Logic Pro X fixes virtually all the problems I have with GarageBand; all operations can have keyboard shortcuts, “Strip Silences” to remove all silent parts (instead of Noise Gate which could result in some unnatural silences), just to name a few.
I changed the leveler from Levelator to Auphonic; not sure how much of the upgrade it has been, and now that I have Logic Pro X I probably don’t need Auphonic at all — but this makes the perfect sound leveler even after bouncing the audio in Logic, at least for me. YMMV.
- Icecast 2 running on my Linode box
- Nicecast ($59) Whether I record at home with Skype, or with mobile studio using GarageBand, I always use the skype bot running on my Mac mini to do the streaming.
I was previously using darkice and Jack, but it somehow stopped working when I upgraded the OS X version to Mavericks, and I didn’t bother trying to fix it. Plus, Nicecast has an ability to record the show locally as (another) backup.
- SoundCloud Pro ($15/mo)
- Linode VPS ($20/mo) I was using FeedPress to host the feed, but given the amount of downtime and errors the service has given over the past year, I switched to my own host to serve the feed, statically generated.
For the audio files, I’ve been using nginx to serve the files (and I still do, for most old episodes), but I sometimes hit the sweet spot of 3TB transfer per month — which is the traffic $20/mo Linode VPS can serve within its limit. From month to month, I needed to increase the bandwidth pool by purchasing another instance, because an overage could cause significantly higher amount of money on Linode. This was easy, but wasn’t really healthy thing to do.
In late November I switched to Soundcloud and its Podcasting program to host the audio, which is about $15/mo and gives the unlimited bandwidth and great stats for the downloads. I still point the feed to my own domain, and setup nginx redirects from there; which might not be necessary for most podcasters, but I just wanted more control over the feed and audio URLs at this point.
In 2014 I’ve upgraded hardware and software a lot as compared to my setup last year. It might look like a lot of money (and certainly not affordable for a beginner), but given the amount of time and effort I could save by just throwing some money to good hardware and software, I’d say they are worth it.
Looking forward to more podcasting fun in 2015!
Appendix: Budget Recording
If this amount of money is out of your budget and you’re still reading, my recommendation would be:
- USB dynamic mic such as ATR2100 AT2005 or Q2U
- Noise isolating In-ear headphones: SHE9700-A or UE200
- and free software such as QuickTime, Audacity, GarageBand and LAME You can make a perfectly good sounding podcasts with free software and cheap hardware, if you try hard enough. It just requires much less efforts if you have good hardware/software. And that way I can be more focused on the content of the show.