The Podcasting Gear Show

Revealing the Equipment Podcasters Use and How They Use It

The Podcasting Gear Show - Revealing the Equipment Podcasters Use and How They Use It

010 – The Podcasting Gear Show – Never Lose A Skype Interview Again – Troy Heinritz from the TV Talk and Noodle MX network Talks Audio Hijack Pro

thepodcastinggearshowalbumartSummer evening’s hot, muggy air permeated the podcasting studio as Miles McLoughlin and I recording our interview with Leviathan Chronicles’s podio-drama creator Cristof Laputka. It was an awesome interview, complete with his story of the Wall Street underwear incident. When the interview ended, I stopped the recording on my TASCAM DR-07 I was using and something glitched on the SD Card.  I lost the recording.  Cristof was gracious enough to grant us a second interview, but while it was good, it never had the same vibe and feel, and the stories were different.

If I would have known Troy Heinritz then, I could have avoided all this hassle. Troy Heinritz from the Noodle MX and TV Talk Network talks about an application he uses called Audio Hijack Pro. Audio Hijack Pro is a product of Rogue Amoeba. Their site tauts Audio Hijack Pro as “Record from applications like iTunes, Skype or DVD Player. Record from microphones, Radiosharks and other hardware. If you hear it, you can record it.”

Here is what this means: If you are recording using your laptop and a USB mic, and are doing a Skype interview, you can record that Skype, or Google Hangout, or Facetime call with no issue.  You don’t have to worry about Mix Minus or anything.  It will capture exactly what you hear and save it in the file format of your choice.

And if you are recording your Skype calls through a mixer and into a Digital Audio Recorder, you can still use Audio Hijack Pro to record a backup of your interview.  This would have saved Miles and I the hassle of having rerecord our interview with Cristof.  Believe me, it is worth the $32 dollars to save yourself the aggravation.

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AAC And The Demise Of The Enhanced Podcast

thepodcastinggearshowalbumartOne of the very first podcasts I listened to was the Engadget Podcast, a podcast that focussed on all things technology. What I loved about their podcast was that as they would talk about the latest phone or TV, pictures and links to what they were talking about would flash across the screen of my iPhone. I loved the idea that podcasts could be more than just audio, and be visual and interactive as well. So around the time I rebranded the SciFi Diner Podcast, I began to publish an enhanced feed, as is was called, displaying pictures that coincided with what we discussed on the show.  I did this for about 30 episodes, and then closed the curtains on it.

Enhanced podcasts use a file format called AAC which stands for Advanced Audio Coding.  Despite it being associated to Apple as their format, it was developed by a conglomeration of companies such as AT&T Bell Labs, Dolby, Sony, and Nokia and meant to be mp3′s successor.  Indeed it is superior in many respects.  An AAC file recorded at a similar bit rate to that of a mp3 file will have a higherquality. And it allows podcasters to add media and links into their podcasts. So why aren’t a plethora of podcasters using it?

Let me posit a couple of reasons:

First, despite the range of devices that play AAC, including Microsoft Zune, Sony PlayStation 3 and PSP, the Nintendo Wii, and mobile phones running Google’s Android OS, there are enough devices, especially older ones, that cannot play AAC files.  That means if you want to reach your widest audience, you need to publish two feeds.  The Scifi Diner Podcast did this for a while.  If you choose to publish two feeds, that means more space is needed to host your files, meaning adding cost  for hosting space.

The other reason I stopped using enhanced podcasts, despite their coolness factor, was due to time poverty.  The podcasting adage says that for every minute of recorded audio, expect to spend four minutes of editting time. I think that might be a bit distorted, but it is safe to say, and I know from experience, that running an enhanced podcast does add to your editing time. Not only do you have to find pictures and links, but then you need to copy and paste them and line them up in your editing software.  If you are trying to reach your largest audience, that means you are rendering your files in both an AAC and a mp3 format. That takes time. It takes double the upload time. Double the configuring time. If you are crunched for time as a podcaster, then enhanced podcasting is NOT the way to go.

And video casting has really come into its own and become more accessible and user friendly in the recent years.  Google hangouts and other applications make it really easy to record a video show and demonstrate products and show pictures. You really want a visual podcast, then put a little more time into vidcasting. People who want to see you and what you are demonstarting on your show will be able to find you on youtube etc.

Seriously, when was the last time you stared at your screen when listening to a podcast?  Its been a long time for me. Podcasts are meant to be audio. People listen to them running, biking, commuting, and in a ton of other situations where looking at the screen would only cause accidents.

95% your listeners, which is an accurate statistic I just made up, will not be able to  distinguish between the quality of a mp3 file and that of an AAC.  Most won’t care, the differences are too subtle, and the ambient noise surrounding them too great.

May the almighty mp3 live forever.

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009 – The Podcasting Gear Show – Troy Heinritz from TV Talk and the NoodleMX Network Talks About The iRig Pre

thepodcastinggearshowalbumartPodcasting is a Pain

Yeah. You heard me. Especially when I try to break my podcast out of the confines of my studio and let it loose in the wild.  It doesn’t know how to survive. It has become too domesticated. Too reliant on its compressor, mixing board, and digital audio workstation. In the wild, I end up with noises I can’t control, poor condenser mics from easily portable equipment, and the end result is, well, not that enticing.

I experienced this at the Shore Leave, Farpoint, and Balticon while recording interviews for the SciFi Diner Podcast.  We would land these awesome interviews with genre actors and actresses like Amanda Tapping and Edward James Olmos only to have them sound mediocre due to the recording quality of our portable equipment. The interviews themselves were great, but the sound quality deviated greatly from the shows we normally produced.  But alas, no more.  Troy Heinritz has a solution.

Troy Heinritz, from the Tv Talk and the Noodle.mx Network, introduced me to the iRig Pre iRig PRE, a device that allows podcasters to use their sweet XLR microphones, the one they use in their studio, and plug it into their iPad, iPhone, or Android device and record clear, qulaity sound, very similar to what listeners experience when listening to their studio recording.  It takes portable podcasting to a new level and uses what podcaster already has with very little investment. If the iRig PRE would have been out when I bought my first outside of studio recording device, I could have saved myself $150 dollars. The  iRig PRE will only runs $40 bucks.

Basically, the iRig PRE acts as a bridge between a my favorite mic, in my case my Heil PR-40, and my iPhone, and allows me to record using a variety of Apps.  The sound recording is clear.  Troy has used it for podcasting while on many of his business trips when recording his Resurrection Revealed Podcast with Wayne Henderson. There was no drop in show quality.

If you would like to pick up and try out the  iRig PRE, You can buy it here. Let me know what you think.

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Struggling with Sibilance in Shows

thepodcastinggearshowalbumartAs kids my brother and I used to have these throwdown word challenges. It would go something like this. “I’ll bet you can’t say ‘She sells seashells down by the sea shore’ 5 times in 15 seconds without messing up.” We of course tried, messed up terribly, and died laughing in the process.  The alliterative sibilance in that series or words caused us to trip up. And it is sibilance that causes some podcasters, for perhaps different reasons, to trip up in their shows.

Sibilance is the intrusion of sibilant sounds, (the “s”, “z” and “sh”), when podcasting.  It can be really grating for someone who is trying to get good content out of a podcast.  Sibilance can be the result of podcasting vocal technique, compressions, and even microphone choice. Typically Sibilance occurs between the frequencies of 2–10 kHz.  The good news is that sibilance can be controlled.

De-essing is the technique used to reduce and minimize sibilance. In a sense, it acts like a gate for sibilant sounds.  My DBX 286s Microphone Pre-amp Processor has a de-esser built into it as many pre amps do these days.  I prefer handling de-essing issues this way. However, many programs like Adobe Audition and Audacity have de-essing algorithms that can handle the issue in post production.

My preference is to always use hardware to take care of an issue when I can.  If you would like to try out the DBX 286s Microphone Pre-amp Processor, you can find it here. Let me know what you think.

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008 – The Podcasting Gear Show – Dave Jackson from the School of Podcasting Podcast Talks About The DBX 286s Microphone Pre-amp Processor

thepodcastinggearshowalbumartI remember as a kid huddled around my parents’ late 1960′s GE stereo, tuned into the sounds of the local radio station as the announcer counted down to the number one hit for the week.  I still can remember the silky smooth, deep richness of his voice as he announced each song.  When I entered into podcasting in 2008, it was a tone I wanted to achieve.

Dave Jackson, from the School of Podcasting Podcast, shares one of the ways such tone can be achieved.  It is true. There many factors that can influence sound. Last week we talked with Wayne Henderson about the Heil PR-40, which in my opinion is one of the best sounding mics out there.  Another way is through the use of the DBX 286s Microphone Pre-amp Processor.


It seems pretty simple to use and provides the rich warmth so often coveted by podcasters.  It delivers pristine compression and has a frequency tunable De-Esser that reduces sibilance and high frequency distortion.  Basically it tones down your S sounds. The Enhancer on it, the part that really gives a voice its warmth, increases the detail and definition of the high and low frequencies. And, if you are sick of editing out your breathes, the adaptive Expander/Gate on the DBX 286s Microphone Pre-amp Processor is perfect for you.  And me for that matter.

Dave demonstrates this on the podcast.  If you think this might be a good fit for your studio, you can buy DBX 286s Microphone Pre-amp Processor
here.

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What Is Normalization?

I have a distinct memory of driving down Route 222, listening to an early episode of the SciFi Diner Podcast. I could barely hear it over the engine of my Jetta and the din of highway noise around me.  When I would flip to The Instance, a podcast by Scott Johnson, I could hear the audio clearly.  I knew there was problem. Probably more than one in the early days.  I knew my audio recording levels weren’t high enough.  What I didn’t know at the time was that I could have fixed it by normalizing it.

When you normalize audio, typically in post production, you change its overall volume by a fixed amount to reach a target level. Unlike compression, which changes volume over time and in varying amount, it changes the audio file only in its volume. Track dynamics remain unaffected.

One reason to normalize an audio file is due to it being recorded too quietly. Like the illustration above, an audio file that is too quiet can cause problems for people on mowers or commuters.  Another reason you might want to normalize your audio is to get matching volumes on multiple tracks. For example, one of my co-hosts for the Dune Saga Podcast records his track on his end when we use Google Hangouts and then shares it with us via Drop Box. If our levels are not in sync, we could normalize them to get matching volumes.

So normalization just changes the volume level; however, its not a compression replacement. It can’t bring your highs down and your lows up.

thepodcastinggearshowalbumartThere are different ways to measure volume that can dictate how you normalize. Peak Volume Detection considers only the highest peaks of the wave form. This is optimal if you are trying to get the max volume possible. Another way is RMS Volume Detection. This considers the average volume of the file and when normalization is used with this method, it will take it from the average rather than the peak. The human ear works this way and this method tend to give more natural results

If you have a term you’d like me to address on the show, please e-mail me podcastingguru@gmail.com

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007 – The Podcasting Gear Show – Wayne Henderson from the Resurrection Revealed Podcast Talks About the Heil PR-40

thepodcastinggearshowalbumartA few weeks ago I had the chance to chat with Wayne Henderson from Media-Voiceovers dot com and the critically acclaimed Resurrection Revealed Podcast about his favorite piece of equipment, the Heil PR40 Dynamic Microphone .  I first heard about this microphone from Cliff Ravenscraft while listening to Podcast Answer Man five years ago and also have heard Leo Laporte speak about his love for this mic. So, based on their recommendations, I bought one around the time I started one of my other podcasts, the Scifi Diner Podcast, in 2009.  I have never regretted that decision.


The Heil PR-40 is one of the richest and warmest microphones I have ever spoken into.  There is a clarity to the sound they produce that is hiss free.  I know I struggled for a bit to shell out the three hundred dollars to get one. At the time, it was the most expensive piece of equipment I was looking at.  But the difference between the Shure SM-58 I was using, which was a good microphone, and the Heil PR-40 was startling. I do demonstrate this difference in the attached podcast. This a great microphone for podcasting and worth every cent. If you are serious about your podcasting then the PR 40 is an awesome choice.

You can buy Heil PR40 here. 

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What Does “Dynamic Microphone” Mean?

thepodcastinggearshowalbumartLast week we talked about what it means to have a condenser microphone when I talked with Scott Roche about his CAD GXL2200 Condenser Microphone.  Since we are we are chatting with Wayne Henderson about his Heil PR40, a dynamic Microphone, it makes sense to look at what that means.

Like the condenser microphone, the dynamic has a diaphragm but it is not free floating like the condenser. The diaphragm is attached to a coil of fine wire (see image below). The coil is mounted in the air gap of the magnet such that it is free to move back and forth within the gap.

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When you are podcasting, your voice enters the microphone and strikes the diaphragm, and the diaphragm vibrates in response. The coil attached to the diaphragm shakes back and forth in the field of the magnet. As the coil moves through the lines of magnetic force in the gap, a small electrical current is created in the wire. The magnitude and direction of that current is directly related to the motion of the coil, which in turn in affected by the intensity and tone of your voice. The current is an electrical representation of the sound wave.

One of the major drawbacks of the dynamic microphone relates to the mass of its moving coil. Due to this mass, the dynamic mic has a relatively poor transient response (how quickly it responds to changes in the sound wave), and is less sensitive on the average than the condenser mic. Some dynamic microphones, like the Heil PR40, are touted as low mass dynamic microphones, suggesting they have a better transient response.

So the real question you must ask yourself is this: will I be recording in a setting, such as a convention, where I want to pick up ambient noise or am I trying filter out extraneous noise and focus only on my own voice?

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006 – The Podcasting Gear Show – Scott Roche from the Dead Robots Society Podcast Talks About The CAD GXL2200 Microphone

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Podiobook author Scott Roche joins me on the Podcasting Gear Show this week to talk about the CAD GXL2200 condenser microphone. Scott Roche helps run the Dead Robots Society podcast.

I am gonna be honest; I am not a fan of condenser mics, mainly because I have been unable to make them sound great, but you’ll hear it in the podcast; Scott makes his sound dynamite. So what the heck; even those set in their ways can have their minds changed.

If you aren’t sure what the difference is between Condenser and Dynamic microphones, I will do a little write up as to what a Condenser is this week and what a dynamic is next week.  If you just can’t wait, I did do a write up on the subject at Podcaster News.

The CAD GXL2200 Cardioid Condenser Microphone appears to be a solid beginner, microphone with the ability to handle just about any sort of recording you throw at it.  You want a mic for live settings like conventions? It will do the job.  Recording in your home studio? It has that covered too. It is the perfect microphone for voice recording, which is what we podcasters mainly do. And for a really incredible price.

It lists at $119 but most retailers sell it as low as $60 bucks.  You can’t find another condenser or dynamic microphone at this price for that quality.  You can buy it here. CAD GXL2200 Cardioid Condenser Microphone

Let me know if any of you are also using the CAD GXL2200 or if you have in the past. I would love to hear your opinions.

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