As the kudos come rolling in for our podcast (you have subscribed, haven’t you?) so do the questions. Specifically, questions about our podcasting gear. Episodes of our show are much more highly produced than the standard record-and-release or two-dorks-and-a-microphone shows I’ve been (at least partially) responsible for in the past. How do we make such detailed shows without the advent of a complete recording studio? Read on, Macduff...
Of paramount importance is mass and space. Remember, we’re each carrying the sum total of our worldly possessions in a suitcase, backpack, and guitar case. We don’t have the free hands, back space, or extra cash to pay for additional baggage fees to transport a full podcasting rig. We must keep our equipment footprint small and lightweight, with every piece ideally serving multiple functions. That requires a bunch of sacrifices to get us down the the bare minimum. In no particular order...
- Zoom H4n - There’s plenty of power and versatility packed into this small, solid-state recording package. The built in stereo mic is great for picking up ambient sound, or I can plug in external mics via the XLR inputs on the bottom. The onboard software is pretty great, giving me lots of choices in formats, multiple folders, and more things I’ve yet to play with. It’s portable, noise-free, and easily fits in a jacket pocket when we’re out and about. Even better: It’s not much bigger than a deck of playing cards, so it easily tucks in a shoe in my suitcase. All of our voice overs are recorded on this device.
- Shure SM58s - Yes, there are better mics to use for voice over work. But the SM58s have one advantage over every other microphone: near indestructibility. That comes at a mass-premium, but it’s what makes them so damned rugged. Plus, they’ll make an excellent stand-in should I need to hammer a nail into a board, or fend off a mugger.
- 15’ mic cables - We could have (and perhaps should have) gone with shorter cables. But longer gives us better separation should we need (or want) to record people in an interview-style environment.
- iPhone 6+, Apple earbuds, and the Voice Memos app - Our “in the wild” portions are recorded with this way. That lets us keep the conversation much more natural, as you (at least we) just talk differently when there’s a microphone in our face. The mic on the earbuds works fine for this low-fi audio capture, and the barely-hanging-on buds themselves don’t shut out the outside world. It also doesn’t look like we’re doing anything more than having a conversation, which is exactly what we are doing. We just happen to be recording it.
- Audacity on a 13” MacBook Pro - Yes, I still use Audacity to edit my shows. I always have. It’s a fine tool, and I’ve yet to run across something I’ve been unable to achieve with it. It’s free, familiar, and relatively fault-free. Sure, it crashes from time to time, but I know of its quirks and have adopted the save-early-and-often philosophy. So far, I’ve not lost anything of great import. All of the audio, captured as a Voice Memo or via the Zoom, gets imported, mixed, and finally (oh, so finally) mastered down right here.
And that’s it. Everything you hear in our episodes is done with that equipment and software. It works for us, and if judging from our download stats is any indication, it works for you as well. All the links above are to Amazon. If you click thorough and buy anything (even if you don't buy the item listed,) we get a piece. An itty-bitty, tiny piece, but a piece all the same.
On my list of Things To Eventually Get To is recording a new intro and making a more permanent cover image for the show. What we have now will work, but I’d like to kick up the quality on those a notch or two before long. Hrm. Maybe I’ll solicit your help with that, fellow podcasters/graphic designers?
Thanks for listening to our show, and supporting us as we make our way on the world tour. Tell your friends to subscribe, say nice things about us on iTunes, and look for a new episode at the end of the week.