For Podcast Nerds Only

I got a query asking about our recording set-up, and I thought I’d post my e-mailed reply here, in case any other folks were curious (or, for that matter, if they think we’re doing something horribly wrong and have alternate advice).

Original message below:

Hey —

I can give you the skinny on our set-up. It’s nothing special, since I tend to do the bare minimum of research necessary to find out an effective way of doing things and then refuse to learn more (not really true, but not UNTRUE). 

We have three Nady mics, which (despite being incredibly cheap) seem to work just fine. As you reference below, I’ve discovered that expensive condenser mics work TOO well, picking up all kinds of noise you don’t want, if you’re not in a soundproof studio. We use these little tabletop  stands with the mics and a few cheap foam guards to cut down on plosive “p” sounds.

Those connect up to my mixer with XLR cables. You’re gonna want to get the shortest cables you can find, because long cables in an unshielded room have a tendency to act as antennae picking up stray radio signals (which, as you may be aware, was a problem we dealt with briefly). Even so, you may also want to clamp some ferrite chokes onto the wires to cut down on RF interference.

The mics all feed into this tabletop mixer, which allows me to set separate levels for the three of us, which I can’t do in the computer, since the audio outputs as a single track. I tend to set the levels then forget them, rather than trying to adjust things on the fly, because if I listen to the audio using headphones while we record, I find that it distances me from what’s happening, and my performance suffers. Your mileage may vary.  Obviously, if we had a producer, he/she would keep an eye on those levels.

The mixer outputs into the computer via its included USB hookup. We record in Garage Band.  I’ve downloaded Audacity and have meant to mess around with it a bit to see if it would be better for our needs, but since I’m comfortable with GB, it’s hard to commit to experimenting with another program. When you plug your mixer into your computer and open Garage Band, you’ll need to go into the Utilities folder, find the Audio Midi Setup, and change the input to the mixer’s audio driver. You also need to change the audio driver in Garage Band’s preferences.

If there’s a lot of noise where you’re recording and/or you’re talking with people (Stuart) who vary their volume a lot, you may want to fiddle with the compressor to equalize things a bit and cut out some of the stray noise. You can read a bit more about how compression works here. One of our listeners complained about our sound and, at his advice, I’ve taken to manually setting the compression at Threshold -36 dB, Ratio 3:1, while bumping the Gain up to 6 to compensate for the fall in volume. I’m not convinced this is any better than using GB’s pre-programmed “Male Radio Noisy” filter, which is what I was doing before… but whatever.

And that’s about all I know about home recording. Hope it helps.