The Lab – Setting Up My Home Podcasting Studio

My Home Podcasting StudioI’ve just started what is now my second (or maybe third?) podcast, this one being recorded directly out of my home studio. Or, as it was formally called, my spare bedroom that I converted into my office. After a few weeks of trying out different pieces of equipment, I’ve finally settled on several items and have it setup to where everything sounds great and flows smoothly. I figured I’d share this info for anyone that has an interest and hopefully it’ll save you some time and effort.

Before I go on, I just want to add in a little disclaimer: I will be including links to the products that I purchased on Amazon and those links are affiliate links. This means that if you click on one and subsequently buy something, I will get a commission on that sale. I’m telling you this because I want full transparency. I’m not promoting these products because I will earn a commission, but because I actually purchased them myself and use them to produce my podcast.

There are several pieces that you need to buy, the most important of which is a microphone.  I had previously purchased, and still own, a Yeti microphone from Blue. This is a fairly high-end USB microphone that produces fantastic sound. For my first few attempts at podcasting, this is the microphone that I used and it works very well. However, I soon realized that I needed more control over the sound that is coming into my computer (which I am using to record the podcast) then what the USB mic was giving me.

To have better control over the sound coming into my computer, I invested in a desktop mixer. I originally bought the Behringer Q802USB. This features two XLR inputs for microphones, but I quickly realized that I needed more. I returned the Behringer and purchased an Alesis Multimix8USBFX mixer which features four XLR inputs, all with phantom power, as well as two other stereo inputs. It also, as the name implies, features a USB port that connects to your computer that is used to channel the sound from the mixer into whatever software you’re using to record. More on that in a minute.

As the Alesis has XLR inputs, my Yeti Blue mic could not be channeled through the mixer. Blue does make a versions of this mic that features both a USB and XLR connection, but it’s considerably more expensive than just the USB version. Wanting full control of the sound being piped into the computer via the mixer, I invested in a CAD GXL2200 XLR mic. This is a fairly inexpensive XLR mic, but one that receives very high marks on Amazon for its sound quality. I have to say that I am very impressed with its quality both from a build and sound standpoint. I think the Yeti sounds a bit better in terms of richness, but not by much.

The podcast that I record here, Coming Up Short, features another local South Florida comedian, Eric Rosenblum. He decided to purchase his own equipment and ended up buying a ‘package’ deal from Amazon meant to simplify the process. The package he purchased contained an MXL 770 XLR mic, boom stand, pop filter and cable. While this definitely simplified the process and the MXL is a good mic (though not as good as the CAD or the Blue), the boom and filter are kind of cheaply made and I wouldn’t recommend either. I think you’re better off buying a mic and a boom separately. You might spend a little more, but it’s worth it.

The reason I upgraded the mixer is because in addition to Eric and I, we wanted to have in-studio guests. This means that we’d need a third mic (and headphones) for the guest. For this duty, I purchased a Behringer ULTRAVOICE XM8500 and Behringer HPM1000 headphones. Both were pretty inexpensive ($10 for the headphones and $20 for the mic), but they both received lots of positive feedback on Amazon. Furthermore, as this was just the ‘guest’ mic, I didn’t want to spend a ton of dough on something that wasn’t going to get used too often.

To hold the guest mic, I bought a Pyle-Pro PMKS3 Tripod Microphone Stand. It was less than $20, but the quality is FAR superior to that of the one Eric got with his package.  I also grabbed a Hosa HMIC010 XLR cable and foam ‘ball’ windscreen, which completed the guest mic setup.

So, now we’ve got three microphones and the mixer, but we were still missing one crucial piece: a headphone amplifier/splitter. This little box plugs into the headphone-out port on the mixer and, like the name implies, splits and amplifies the signal so that up to four people can use headphones to monitor the sound live. These amp/splitters range in price from $15 to over $100. I originally bought a $15 one made by Pyle and almost immediately sent it right back (it was a pile, alright). The sound that came out of it was scratchy and distorted and it was just all around terrible. I took a step up for my next purchase, which was a Behringer MicroAmp HA400 and it’s perfect. It was only about $10 more than the Pyle and the sound that comes out of it is crisp, clean and clear.

The headphones I use the V-Moda Crossfade LP. I didn’t buy them specifically for the podcast (I bought them a few years ago), but I absolutely love them, especially in this application. The sound is warm and rich and they’re very comfortable to wear.

With our hardware set, I needed to figure out which software to use. Probably the most used recording software for podcasting is Audacity, mainly because it’s available on both Windows and Mac (I’m a Mac user) and it’s free. It’s a good bit of software that’s been around for a while and it’s pretty powerful. Having said that, it’s still pretty much a straight-up recorder/editor. There are some effects that it comes with and you can add plugins, but there’s not much else to it.

As a Mac user, I chose to go with Audio Hijack 3 from Rogue Amoeba.  This has been a pretty amazing piece of software since the beginning as it allowed you to grab sound from any application on your machine (hijacking the audio, get it). With the 3.0 version, it’s gotten even more amazing.

Now, you’re able to build setups using drag and drop ‘blocks’ that you just connect to each other. You can create multiple setups, then save and reuse them. The beauty is, you don’t have to mess with the rest of your system settings. You just create these setups in Audio Hijack and they work while you’re recording. Once you close the program, everything goes back to the way it was on your system. So, for example, I use Spotify to pump music into the podcast. However, I don’t want Spotify (or my entire system’s sounds) running through my mixing board at all times. With Audio Hijack, I set it up so that when I’m recording the podcast, Spotify gets routed through the mixing board. Once I’m done, everything goes back to the way it was.

You can add it effects, record in multiple formats, get audio from literally any program on your computer (great for bringing on a guest via Skype) and so much more. I love it and recommend it to anyone using a Mac.

Finally, and while this really has nothing to do with my home studio, it’s still a part of the process, I use Podbean to host the podcast. For $36 a year (yes, a YEAR). You can upload your podcast episodes and Podbean will do the rest. They create an RSS feed for you (for subscribers), you can send your podcast to iTunes and it’ll even track statistics (plays, subscribers, etc.,). It super simple and is definitely worth the money.

Well, that’s it. I hope this helps if you’re trying to setup your own home studio. If you’ve ever been interested at all in having a podcast, I say go for it. It’s lots of fun and starting one is (fairly) cheap and easy.

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