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How to Make Your Podcast Sound Great

Lesson 3 of 10

Setting Up the Gear

Ray Ortega

How to Make Your Podcast Sound Great

Ray Ortega

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Lesson Info

3. Setting Up the Gear

Lesson Info

Setting Up the Gear

This section right here, the setting of the gear this is the actual physical connection. I'm just gonna plug some stuff in, or just kind of talk through what is plugged in, and then we'll get into some actual settings. So let's start off with what I would imagine is probably one of the most common setups. It's the USB mic. And that's because it's really simple, right? And this is a budget option, so it's really easy to get in less than $100, and you plug it in and you go. So with this one, because it is plug and play, normally I wouldn't show you plugging in a piece of gear, but it's just to make the point that it's that simple. Our USB is in our microphone, in the bottom there. And the USB is in our computer. And we're pretty set to go. So, oh, on this microphone there's a little light. You probably can't see this but a green light comes on. That just lets me know, hey you're connected. This microphone turns on and off. Doesn't affect, affects the audio you hear, but it doesn't affect...

that light. So that light lets you know you're plugged in, your computer sees it. Interestingly I discovered on this microphone, I don't know if you can see it turning red? That's telling me, hey you're clipping the mic. Stop doing that. Now I don't know what good that is because I'm up here. (laughter) I'm not gonna record like that, but we have other indicators to see clipping. I just thought that was interesting. The ATR 2100, which I showed in my previous class, has a blue light. It will blind you. I mean, so like, I put tape over it. It's just, like, blinding. So this this one is a little nicer, it's subtle. Alright, so we're ready to record. I got my microphone. We're gonna put some audio through it, but not really. You don't want to handhold your mic. You're gonna get hand-holding noise. This is not comfortable. What are you gonna record for a half hour, an hour? This is the sound you're gonna make when you're done. (groan) Maybe just cause I'm old, that's the sound I make, but this arm is gonna hurt. And you're gonna you're gonna get inconsistent results. Because this mic, you're gonna be like this, like this when you're talking, otherwise you have to be, like, really still. So we don't want to do that. So you get a basic mic stand like this. Really affordable. And we'll just go ahead and put our microphone into that stand without knocking the USB cable out. And, once that I have that pretty much in a position for my height, which is something like that. I'm normally not standing when I'm podcasting. Actually, you know, that's an interesting tip. If you stand up when you're podcasting it'll give you a different energy. You should try it. Like, sitting down you're just kinda like, hey, what's going on, guys? Standing up you're kinda like, Hey! What's going on? And so, it actually comes down to the microphone. I feel like you have to be a little more of yourself in audio, because people can't see you. So to hear that excitement you kinda have to get up. So, standing up is interesting. I've tried recording like that. It does give you a little more energy. So, that's plugged in. It's in the stand. And, we're not hand-holding so that's good. But, There's things inside this computer, like hard drives that spin. There's fans. And every time I make a good point I tap the table. (chuckles and murmurs) So what am I doing? I have a host that does this. I told him for months, hey, are you tapping the table when you make a point? No, there's like, an air conditioner in my office. I'm like, no, it's a distinctive sound. Finally he paid attention to what he was doing, he was like, Ray, I am doing that! I had no idea! So this is going right through our mic stand and up into our microphone. So, you know, having a mic stand, this is an affordable, easy way to mount your microphone, but you have to be cautious of the things you do. Maybe you're even tapping your foot all the time. That's going up through the floor, in the legs of the table, right into the mic. So, this might be a case where you get a shock mount. Basically, this is gonna isolate the microphone and you can see over here. I'm gonna mess with the camera guys. We're over here. This microphone's in a shock mount. And so it's on the table, but it's a little more isolated because essentially it's suspended in mid air. So it's less susceptible to these types of noises. You still wanna be cautious of what you do on the table, but this is optional. You might not need it. I have done things, like take an old mouse pad, cause who uses mouse pads anymore? I think people do. Who has a mouse pad? Do you use it? Awesome. Alright. (laughter) You just like the kitten that's on it. (laughter) That's why you use it. [Woman In Audience] It's a fish, but yes. It's a fish. Alright, well as long as the cat's not eating the fish. (laughter) It's cute. Slide that underneath. If you can decouple this stand, create some kind of buffer. I've taken packing material and put it under and that was enough. But there's an interesting test. You might not need to do any of these. So, a cool tip is to plug in your headphones. So you would do that at the bottom of this microphone. It gives us direct monitoring so we hear exactly what's going into that. Instead of monitoring out of the computer which would, our voice would come back a little slower and you'd have to talk like this (stilted speech) in order to talk. Have you ever heard yourself a little delayed, you can't do it. So we direct monitor from here. And, um. Do that. Put your headphones on and just, you know, have everything that's ready to record and just lift your stand off the desk. And, when you have it down here like this and you're listening, you're like, yeah, we're good. And you do this and you literally will go, ah. That's so nice! Like, you heard this hum. Noises just go away and it gets really quiet. If that happens, that's when you need to think about how do I decouple this mic from the desk. If you're not getting it, you're good. No problem, right? You're not creating noise as long as you're not tapping or doing something on the desk. And finally, because I am close to this microphone, we talked about that's going to help you with the reverb. Getting close. Because you don't have to turn this mic up as much. It's hearing less of the room. And you need to be close, they're not sensitive. But now, those Ps and Bs and bah that's coming out of my mouth, it's overloading the microphone. So, we can just mount a shock mount. And I actually, I mean a shock mount, there's a pop filter. I actually like to call this training wheels for podcasters cause once you figure out what the proper distance is for you, it'll be different for everyone. Maybe it's like, two inches, and you figure out that's right here, you can kinda put this pop filter right at the point. I don't have this positioned well for me right now, but you can put this right at the point of where it's perfect for you, or your guest, and tell them hey, just stay right on top of that and you'll always be good. So this is blocking the Ps and Bs, but it's also giving me that point of reference of where do I? So out here it's like, oh where do I talk into. Hey. Just stay right on the pop filter and you'll always be good. And you'll probably find yourself, you'll tell them, hey, if you see me doing this it just means come back to the microphone. So you can non-verbally be like, gently just bring them back. Cause people will do this, and you'll get in a conversation, they'll slowly drift off and you'll be like, you can hear it. If they have headphones on, hopefully they do, maybe they can hear it, but probably not. You're in the conversation. Just bring them back. Give them the verbal. So, that can do a couple different things for you. So that's set up, our microphone's on that stand, and, sip some water. You're about to talk into the microphone, and uh, I'm just building some of my presentation so I can sip water, but seriously, one of the most important pieces of gear is water. Mouth noises, nasty. People don't want to hear what it sounds like to be eaten by you. It's that simple. (laughter) It sounds terrible, but. Yuck! Alright. We're gonna move over to the audio interface. And this here is if you have an XLR mic, professional microphone. We know that this one moves with us. When we decide, hey, I do need an audio interface, because I need an extra channel, I have an extra person in the room. XLR connection on this mic too and we can plug it right in. But we have a different mic. We have the SM7B. This is my newest mic. It's really nice, but it can be a little tricky to work with cause it needs a lot of gain, which we'll look at. It needs a lot of power to make you hear it at the right level. So, this is, okay. We are connected via XLR. XLR cable's just going into our audio interface. And like this one going USB, then this just goes USB into our computer. And we're like, set up with that. Our microphone is plugged into our computer. If you're on Windows, make sure you go out and get the most recent drivers. You don't really have to deal with this on a MAC, but Windows you wanna make sure you get their most recent drivers so it plays well with your operating system. Otherwise you just get into, it just keeps telling you messages like, hey, this is not talking to the computer. So, the Steinberg that I looked at as opposed to this Focus, right? In the previous class? Is better. These Focus Rights are good. I don't find that they're as good on Windows. I don't think Focus Right does as good a job updating their driver, so that's Steinberg that I talked about in previous class, it's, I don't remember the exact, it's a Steinberg. It looks just like this except it's black. I have a backup recorder into this. It's just coming out of the two little RCA, those two little VCR cable looking plugs. This is optional, but this allows me to record into my computer. This mic's going into my computer, and I can record a backup. So if something goes funky in my computer, oh, I didn't lose that hour long interview, the best one I ever had, thank goodness Oprah was able to call me. (laughter) Still here. I love backup. Cause, I mean, let's face it. If you record long enough, something will go wrong. You'll forget to hit record here, or here, something will go wrong and you'll be super happy when you're backed up. But it's optional. (exaggerated whisper) I'll admit I don't always do it. So if you're feeling like you wanna push the edge a little bit, go without backup. (chuckles) So this, the interface again as I mentioned, it's a better connection. Instead of USB, this is flimsy. It can get loose. It can come out. The cable's not as good, it's not as protective. We have a nice XLR cable. It's balanced. It sort of fights some of the interference that may be coming from this. Other issues in your room. We're connected to the Focus Right that way. We're not really gonna move this. The USB connection of this is actually more solid than something like a USB microphone. And it's expandable to two mics, like I said. We can plug another person in here if you have two people in the studio. I have quick access to my controls. I can turn knobs here. So if I need a little more gain out of this, I can just grab it. Instead of going into a menu like I would have to do on this. Like, oh, where's my controls. How do I turn this up? I just twist a knob. If I need more volume in my headphones, I just twist a knob. So, I like having access to those hardware controls. Just easier. Just one reason why you might want to get into an audio interface or something even like a mixer. It has peak indicator, so when we're, we've set this up and it's too loud, this is gonna glow a color. It's gonna be one indicator that lets us know, hey we need to adjust the settings. And we'll look more at that. In a previous class I talked about a DBX-286S It's a processor. It's a pre amp that gives us our power here, but it does a few other processing things like compression, let's us tile out some of the sibilance. This takes line levels. So the inputs to this, our XLR, the XLR. But right in the middle of the XLR, you can't see it here, is just a, it's a jack that takes this kind of connection. It's a quarter inch TRS connection. I can plug in professional gear like that DBX right into the interface. That's a really hot signal that's coming out of there. You can't just plug it into your computer. Your computer's looking for a really low level signal like your earbuds that it's gonna boost and it will just overload the signal. So this also lets us put professional gear, like the DBX, into it. Which can be, which is really cool. (cables clanking against table) Put this back together. And then, of course, as I mentioned we've got this microphone and it's on our boom arm here. And, you know, this. We talked about the issues of the mic stand and how things can happen where it brings up noise. This is a little more isolated. It's still connected to my desk, so you could still potentially get those issues. A shock mount for your microphone's gonna sort of help that. This is shock mounted inside on the SM7B so it's sort of doing that. As I manually grab this, if this wasn't shock mounted you would hear all those movements. You see other microphones that have a big, giant shock mount into it, it's just this. The shock mount that we saw on this little microphone. It's isolating. This does it internally. It's one of the cool reasons, one of the reasons I like this microphone. But this lets me put the microphone anywhere I want. I can move it. I can move around. And I just put it in position, get it close, and I'm also free to work on my computer. So, just an advantage of a boom arm if you have the space to mount it. Alright. Recorder setup. So, this one, if you're using an audio recorder an XLR microphone, again that can be this. I call this the simplest one cause it's literally under the desk here. So I can just keep this in my desk. I feel like school, when you went to school and you'd lift up your desk? (laughter) I bet kids don't have that. My daughter just started first grade. She got her first desk. She can put stuff inside, she's so excited. Alright. I'm gonna give her an audio recorder for her birthday. (laughter) She does get to play with this mic cause this is the SM58, but like a tank, you can't break it. So I'm like, and she wants to pretend sing. I give this to her and she goes crazy. It's a lot of fun. Total tangent. So I have this SM58, the XLR microphone is plugged into my audio recorder. Super simple. If you wanted to be super portable, again, it's grab and go. Where do you wanna go? I gotta go out to the car cause the kids are going crazy. I can just go out there and record my podcast if I had to. But, you can also easily put it away. When it gives out on your desk and you don't want it on your desk, audio recorder is a great option. It's also, I'm not relying on software, so software's not gonna crash on me. Of course, I can screw that up in the recording itself. But I like having the manual control again, easy access to controls. I can turn things up and down here. Battery backup. So I have batteries in the recorder itself. That's how it's being powered. But I like backup. And I have a power brick somewhere. This USB power brick will plug into this recorder and it'll power it for like, days. So I plug this in because if that batteries inside ran out, this would still be going and my recording would still be going. I wouldn't lose it. That can be recorder dependent. On this DR60D I have, it works that way so I use an additional battery for that. So, kind of one another advantage of some good power options for audio recorders. We're gonna insert an SD card into here. So make sure that's in there. Some recorders won't let you do that, but if your SD card's not in, you're not gonna get a recording. And consider formatting it. The main thing is you wanna make sure, do I have enough space on this card? I'm gonna talk for an hour, and I'm talking to a guest, and now I'm talking to a person who wants to talk to you about the same super niche topic as you do, and you say you're gonna record for an hour, but now you're talking to like, your best friend in the world who understands you, you're gonna find yourself there two hours later and if you were set up for an hour, you might lose that recording. You run out of space on your card. So make sure you have enough space. I would consider formatting your card. Back it up. Empty it. And so then you're gonna have a 16GB or 32GB, you can talk for like, 18 hours, right? Cause all the stuff that no one else wants to hear you talk about? This person does! So you're gonna talk for a long time. Just be prepared for that. And then of course we attach our headphones into whatever headphone output you have cause we want to monitor our audio. In that situation where the SD card stops? We're gonna set this up so that if it stops all the sudden I lose audio in my ears. So I'm gonna get an audio cue. Oh, ho, whoa, something went wrong. And I can come back. You're not gonna stare at this the whole time. You're having a conversation. Especially if you're in person. So there's some things you can do to help give you cues that hey, something went wrong here. Finally, dare I even approach this mixer setup? (laughs) We have the mixer. And again, you're not really getting into a setup like this. I would say unless you're trying to do a lot of different routing. You have various items. It's hard to see here, but I've got a phone, two microphones, a computer, an iPad. It's all coming in this mixer. Because we're talking to people on the phone. We're talking to people on Skype. I wanna play some sound effects. So that's all going on. Unless you're doing that, you probably don't need a mixer. An audio recorder can do a lot of things that a lot of mixers can do. So that can be an option. But, in this case, just for some of the connections we have here, I explained that's all going in to this mixer, but, I have, (clears through) excuse me. I have two microphones. This is my microphone and I have a guest microphone. Why I have this here just to show you is that, you want to take advantage of what the mic is doing for you. Again, that has a cardioid pulley pattern so the back of the mic is not really picking up audio. Same with the SM58 that's on this one. So, if you're in guest studio, point. The area with the microphone rejects sound. Point that at each other. So my voice is going into the back of that microphone. It's not really being picked up. And vice versa, right? So I'm getting mic. We're going to try to prevent my voice from going into their mic, and their voice coming into mine as much as possible. That'll also manifest itself. It'll sound like reverb. If too much of my voice is going in when they're talking, or when I'm talking and when they're silent, you stack those tracks in your editor. You're doing the stack you, several times. So, taking that out as much as possible is gonna be friendly for you in post production, or whoever's doing your editing. And then separate yourself. Not something crazy uncomfortable. Hopefully everyone in the studio's wearing headphones so that you don't have to shout across, but, you know, three, four feet, whatever. Get a little distance. Don't be right up next to each other if you can avoid it. Don't sit right next to each other because the pulley pattern is more sensitive from the side. Again, put the other person in the zone of rejection. Separate yourself a little bit and then go have. Does that sound, zone of rejection sounds like (laughter) Friend zone! (laughter continues) Yeah, or like, you're gonna have the worst conversation ever! (laughter) Why won't you talk to me? (laughter) So, a couple extra pieces of gear. Just the way I'm doing this. This is an iMic. I'm really messing with the camera guys here. The iMic is giving us, because we have special outputs that are letting us send the audio that we want out of this and not send, we get to choose. So basically a mixed minus set up is all this stuff is being mixed into the mixer. And an auxiliary send, they also label it as a FX send. They're the same thing. It's a special analog channel like that that let's me say, hey. I want channel one, two, three, four to go out to the computer, because that's where my person on Skype is. But what I don't want to send out of that channel is them, the people on Skype, or they're hearing themselves back. So whatever channel they're coming into on the mixer, I just use the Aux in. In case, this one's labeled monitor. I make sure that channel's not going back. So they hear everything. I'm gonna roll in my show intro. I have an iPad here that has a little sound card on it. I can just press a button and sound effects happen. They hear that. Maybe I have caller feedback that we want to play and you want the person on the phone to hear that, they play that. So I have that same setup using this iRig2. And it just lets me interface my smartphone. I'm living the Donga life now in this new iPhone. But it still works. They have newer versions. They're more expensive than the lightning. This older version still works with the adapted lightning connector. So I've got the same setup, except in this case I'm not sending the phone back to the person. I am sending Skype channel. Oh, the person on Skype. You want to hear them? Send it to them. Themselves? Don't send it to them. So, I have a tutorial video on how to set up a mixed minus, you want to check that out because it will walk you through all of that. And, what else do we have hooked up here? Those are the mix minus'. Those are our remote people. I've got a headphone amp, so this is, we have one headphone output. On our mixer. Most mixers, a lot of mixers like this until you get into really big mixers. That's no fun for two people in the studio when you're trying to share the same volume. I don't hear at the same level that you do, so my headphone amp let's us each plug in our own pair of headphones and decide, hey, I want a little more and you want a little less. You know what? You can go ahead and turn that knob all you want. So a headphone amp can be a nice addition to a set up. That's one of the things that's going on here. And of course, I would use that backup recorder when I plug it in because I want that backed up as well. Again, we have the same sort of RCA connections. I can just come right out of this mixer and back it up. And, this is a USB mixer so this is also going into the computer that's on Skype. And the reason that we can also record all of this onto the same computer, is because everything is coming out of that USB channel, and that's going into my software, and that's recording, just, everything. That auxiliaries in, the mixed minus is going in again, in its own channel, sort of this analog connection, is going into the computer. So we can do it all on one computer. All mixed minus setups used to like, have to do two computers and it got weird. You can do it all on one computer. That's kind of the advantage of having USB computer, I mean a USB mixer, that also has these auxiliaries in channels.

Class Description

So you’ve bought, borrowed, or bartered all of your podcasting gear. Congratulations! Now it’s time to figure out how to use it. In this comprehensive technical course, Ray Ortega will show you the ins and outs of how to record audio and process it for publication.

You’ll learn everything from how to connect your equipment to how to speak into the microphone to how to record the cleanest audio possible. By the end of this course, you’ll have the knowledge and confidence you need to embark on your podcasting journey and create a high-quality recording.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Record audio that’s clear and free of noise.
  • Connect your gear.
  • Use your microphone correctly.
  • Set recording levels.
  • Identify audio issues.
  • Add in recording effects.


Julio Lemmen Meyer

Great detailed information and technical best practices for the new podcaster. Ray is a great teacher. He explains complicated technical stuff in an easy to follow way. I got a lot of value from this class. I am sure that it will allow me to avoid and headaches and some time consuming mistakes in the future. Thanks Ray!

Chrissy Gabelman Dunham

Such a Great Course! Wish I would have had this before I started my podcast and bought the wrong equipment, twice, LOL! SO Good!

Michelle MartinF

Ray had a lot of information to cover in a short amount of time and he was generous with his hard-earned insights, well-organized and offered detailed information on hardware. He did a great job talking about the must-haves as well as the great-to-have-when-you're-ready items.