|Software & Mics for Podcasts (Updated)

Updated 10/4/2017

I’ve written here a bit about my attempts at podcasting (Introduction), and I thought I’d follow-up with comments about two pieces of this puzzle — mics and software.

Lav Mics

Specifically, I’ve become more interested in XLR lav mics. These three to be specific:

I don’t have that kind of budget, so I bought a used AT899 from eBay. I really like how it sounds. You can hear Michael Nixon using it in this episode of Adventist Peace Radio.

So far I’ve been using low-budget / no-budget lav mics. First, the Polsen OLM-20 (dual for interviews, battery powered, $45). More recently I picked up a Pro JK Mic-J 044 (less noise than the OLM-20, needs plug-in power not phantom power, $29).

I use an Audio-Technica ATR2100 USB/XLR mic ($65) when I do Skype interviews, but for most in-person conversations, I’ve used the lav mics.

Software

So far I’ve mixed my first 11 episodes using Audacity (PC/Windows). This has worked decently, but I’m finally starting to learn Adobe Audition, which I can access through my work (I could never afford the subscription otherwise). It is a lot more complicated, but if I can learn the basics, it should simplify my work flow. Work flow, you ask? This:

  1. Edit audio files for intro, interview, and conclusion.
  2. Export them so I can upload them to Auphonic to run their magic (clean it up and set to -16 LUFS). Maybe Audacity can do this; I’m still learning about it. I do this before I add music because Auphonic ruins the fade in/out of music. It levels it up to the same volume, which is what I want for the conversation, but not the music.
  3. Import the newly minted audio files back into Audacity to mix with the music.
  4. Export .WAV file so I can upload the episode to iTunes to convert it to an MP3 format. I haven’t figured out how to use LAME.
  5. Copy the MP3 file back out of iTunes so I can edit it in MP3Tag (add picture & change tags).
  6. Upload it to Libsyn to let iTunes and Stitcher know the episode is available.

After watching some tutorials, it appears that Audition can do all of that — clean up the sound, set it to -16 LUFS, edit the tags, and export as an MP3 file instead of .WAV. So that sounds good to me even though I’m a bit intimidated by learning a new system in my limited “free” time.

Including these two options — Audacity and Adobe Audition — here are some of the software packages podcasters can choose from:

General

Audacity (Free)

Garage Band (Free for Apple Users)

PreSonus Studio One (Free Basic Version)

Adobe Audition

ProTools

Hindenburg

Hindenburg looks really interesting to me since it’s designed for audio projects. Very intriguing.

For now I’ll keep learning Audition, but if I ever change jobs, I’ll be ready to experiment with the other options.

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|How To Podcast, Introduction

I am not a professional podcaster, but I’ve written two blog posts about what I learned while setting up a podcast last year–Part 1 and Part 2. This week a colleague at my university said she wanted to start a podcast interviewing professors around the campus, and she asked if I could help. I shared those two original blog posts, and said we should get together to talk it over. Then I followed-up with an email describing the three major steps of the process because I felt those 2 posts were too overwhelming as an introduction. So here is what I shared with her regarding a simple, mobile, inexpensive system. As a background, she mentioned she had done recordings with her phone in the past but that incoming calls had messed up the recording. Because she mentioned the phone, I included it in my list (airplane mode solves this problem).

Podcasting has 3 basic stages, more or less:

  1. Recording (studio/field audio recorder)
  2. Producing (studio/computer)
  3. Distributing (online)

STEP 1: RECORDING

Balancing quality, ease of use, and cost, I initially recommend one of these three options for recording:

(1) STUDIO

  • If you can convince professors to meet you in the university’s studio, your quality will be unsurpassed. If you have to go mobile, see the next two options.

 (2) AUDIO RECORDER

  • Audio Recorder: Zoom H1 ($80-100)
  • Mics: Polsen OLM-20 Dual Omnidirectional Lavalier Microphone ($45). The OLM-20 will allow you to record 2 people at once (you and the person you’re interviewing). If you just want to record yourself, the JK MicJ 044 Lavalier Mic is a decent cheap option.
  • Headphone:
    • Earbuds (free if you already have some) OR
    • Sennheiser HD 202-II Stereo Headphones ($25)
    • NOTE: You need to monitor in real time how your recording is going. You want to know if there are problems there, not when you get back to the office.
  • Total: $125-$150
  • NOTE: A step up would be to use a Zoom H4N ($200) with 2 separate lav mics (need inexpensive adapters, but then mics like the MicJ 044 that need plug-in power [different from phantom power] won’t work, I’m told; read this, this, this, and all of these). This way they would be on separate tracks, so you could edit each track independently if needed. But this might be more than you need; I think the Zoom H1 would do very well for you.

(3)   SMARTPHONE (iPhone)

STEP 2: PRODUCING

In this step, you’ll edit your recording and add the intro and outro, at a minimum.

EDITING SOFTWARE (on your computer)

  • Audacity: Free and easy to learn. There are tons of YouTube tutorials.
  • Adobe Audition: I have not used this, but it’s available on campus.

STEP 3: HOSTING & DISTRIBUTING

PODCAST HOSTING (online)

These are some of the most common platforms for hosting your podcast files. You can advertise your podcast anywhere, but when people click to listen, they’re actually accessing the file stored here:

PODCAST DISTRIBUTION

You need to set-up a feed so people can subscribe to your podcast through iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and other sites. If you want to make this super simple, just use the services offered by your hosting platform. To retain a little more control, see my comments in Part 2.

CONGRATULATIONS, you have a podcast! Now you can focus on your content!

For more details, see my earlier two podcast blog postsPart 1 and Part 2.