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Recording Jawns – How We Make The Super Jawncast

Now that I’ve been recording a podcast for a little over a year I got to thinking, maybe somebody out there would be interested in seeing how we make the thing happen every week. Since the beginning I’ve largely flown by the seat of my pants. I got little snippets of advice here and there from people but I found it oddly hard to find a basic rundown of just what people used to record podcasts and how they did it. So I thought I would show you what we use and where applicable where we got it from. I’m not going to claim my setup is the best because I’m sure it isn’t, just keep in mind I was trying to figure this out as I went along. I don’t even know if I did everything right, but if you listen to our podcast you (hopefully) will agree that we sound pretty decent. More than anything I see people talk about $300 “podcasting microphones” and things like that and how daunting that seemed to me at first when you know what? I was able to spend a little money here and there and build a setup that I am proud of. So here’s what we use accompanied with low quality smart phone pictures!

Behringer XENYX 1202 12-Input Mixer
We had this tiny mixer that was part of a “podcast starter kit” or similar and you know what? It was horrible. I would avoid any sort of podcast starter kit if I were you because you will be severely limited and be wishing you had just gone with a regular mixer. Being able for each of us to each have our own input and volume that can be adjusted to the individual user is very necessary. I simply run the dual phono outputs into the microphone jack on the back of my PC. I also have an input from my PC here so everybody can hear our “hilarious” sound clips of The Ultimate Warrior and b-movies you’ve never heard of. Being able to use the PC for both input and output is a godsend and makes using Skype and makes the actual recording process very easy. This also allows me to have headphones for everybody, though I had to rig up some splitters because this mixer only has one headphone out.

Behringer HPM1000 Multi-Purpose Headphones
Cheap, good sound and comfortable. We didn’’t need anything more fancy than these. I can wear these for hours without discomfort because they have nice big cups for your ears.

Nady MPF-6 6-Inch Clamp On Microphone Pop Filter
Pop filters are just what they sound like, they lessen the effect of certain sounds we make through speaking that can cause a “pop” on the microphone, this is especially for strong “p” sounds so if you have a podcast about pornorgraphy or pilates or parallelograms or pilfering perfectly proportionate pears from professors then you’re really going to need this, but I would recommend everybody get one. Or you can take a crack at making your own if arts and crafts are your thing.

Pyle-Pro PDMIC58 Professional Moving Coil Dynamic Handheld Microphone
I read all sorts of stuff about condenser mics or “podcast mics” that were hundreds of dollars. I’m not making that serious black yet so I had to go for something a little cheaper and these Pyle Pro PDMIC58s have been rock solid for us. I’m sure those hundreds of dollar microphones have all sorts of advantages that audiophiles will be able to tell you about but for us these have been fine. You can also get really cheap desktop mic stands too, the only issue is if you have a co-host who likes banging his fists against the table constantly (Tom).

If you need certain cables, like the ones I have running to and from my PC and from the microphones to the mixer, do yourself a favor and check out Monoprice, they have every cable I could have possibly needed, their prices are great and their shipping is speedy and reasonably priced.

On the software side, I have not paid one cent for anything that I use and it has remained entirely legal to boot. I’ve been using Audacity 1.3.14-beta for the bulk of the time we’ve been recording. They have moved up to 2.0.1 now but I have had so few issues with the version I have I was afraid to upgrade. I had heard stories about Audacity crashing and losing recordings but (I am knocking all kinds of wood right now) this has happened exactly one time during our recording and Audacity’s auto-recover feature meant we only lost the last five minutes. Audacity is open source so has the ingenuity and boundless enthusiasm of a whole bunch of coders who make free plugins for the fun of it so there is a ton you can do with the program. I’ve looked at software suites you can buy that I might replace Audacity with but it’s testament to what a solid piece of software it is that I have stuck with the free option. It’s just never given me a reason not to use it!

The other piece of software I use on the recording is The Levelator. Export your program as a WAV, drag it into the Levelator and it will automatically adjust the audio levels of your recording to even out any volume decrepancies you may have. This is invaluable if you have voices from different sources that are different volumes, this will go some way to making those levels more even. It’s not perfect and one major caveat is that if you have background noise on your recording, this can accentuate those along with the rest of the recording. However, if you’re willing to play with Audacity’s noise reduction plugin you can at the very least lessen the affect of that noise. Finally, you’re wondering how I play all of those amazing soundclips of crazy people screaming about chains or Chrimean Attacks? Well, I needed a soundboard app. The problem with just playing the clips in your audio player of choice is they need to be loaded in so if you want to use multiple different sounds there’s going to be an annoying pause before it plays, and there are already enough annoying pauses on our podcast. So that is where The Sitter Downers Soundboard comes in. It needs the audio clips in WAV form and you simply add your sounds into the available slots and then save the setup. You can have multiple boards for multiple situations or podcasts, it’s incredibly simple to use.

Seem daunting? It really isn’t, we could not have spent more than $160-$180 for everything and Audacity certainly does not need some powerful PC setup to use. Also keep in mind that this is for three of us sitting in a room together recording, if you use Skype or some other way to do your thing than you’re going to need less stuff. Heck, some of you might just need the mixer and believe me, having one makes all the difference. It diversifies what you can do, allowing greater freedom for production during and after recording and it is definitely where I would suggest you start.

Got a cool recording setup you’d like to share? Any questions? I would love to hear from you through jawncast at nerdylittlesecret dot com or @SuperJawncast on Twitter, heck, pester us on Google+ too we love it.