November 12, 2017
I’ve been helping my friend Neha produce her podcast Who Reads Poetry? for the last few months. While preparing for it I read a slew of different blog posts and articles about recording podcasts so I could get an idea of the different equipment, software and production techniques people use. I thought it might be helpful to share what I’m using so that others (and myself) might learn from it.
In this blog post I’ll be going over the equipment I’m using. In the future I’ll write about the software and recording/production processes I use.
Microphones - Shure SM58
After futzing about with a couple of large diaphragm microphones (a Rode NT1A & Audio-Technica AT2035) I decided instead to use a dynamic microphone - the Shure SM58 I’ve had for 20+ years! I bought a second one for the guest to use as well.
We record the podcast in my Brooklyn apartment which is not acoustically treated, doesn’t have an isolation booth and is privy to outside noises (neighbors, sirens, dogs, etc.). The SM58 is really good for picking up the thing right in front of it and not much beyond that. The large diaphragm mics are just too sensitive for a room that isn’t treated or isolated.
Mic Stands - Neewer Suspension Booms
I originally used some floor boom mic stands I had but they proved to be too stiff, wobbly and space consuming to use. I picked up a few NEEWER Adjustable Microphone Suspension Booms which I clamp to the kitchen table instead.
Mic Clips - Shure A55M
After trying a few different mic stands and clips I discovered that Shure makes a shock mount microphone clip for their dynamic mics called the Shure A55M. These help prevent any bumps on the table from transmitting to the microphone. These were a great discovery!
Mic Activators - Cloudlifter CL-1
The signal coming from the SM58s was a little too weak and when I increased the gain on my audio interface I just ended up turning up the background noise as well. I did some reading on the issue and eventually found the Cloudlifter CL-1 which gives the signal a really clean boost in volume.
They also make the Cloudlifter CL-2 which is like having two CL-1’s combined for a slightly cheaper price.
Microphone Windscreens - Shure A58WS
To reduce breathing noise and pops I use a few Shure A58WS. I got a few different colors to easily tell the microphones apart. I couple them with some Colored Masking Tape that I put on the mics, cables and Cloudlifters so I know where everything is going just by looking at the tape color.
I use two different audio interfaces depending on wether the guest is physically in the apartment or if they’re joining via Skype.
Focusrite Scarlett 18i8
I’m a musician and songwriter that likes to record songs. For that I use a Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 plugged into my iMac. This is a great unit and I especially like the dual headphone jacks it has when I’m collaborating on music.
This is the unit I use when the guest is on location. I can run one headphone jack out to the guests and use the other to monitor things myself.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
Before I had the 18i8 I used a Focusrite 2i2. This unit is a little more portable since it only requires USB power but has only 1 headphone jack.
This is the unit I use when the guest is using Skype. This is because I use my MacBook Air to record Skype guests instead of the iMac. This allows Neha to sit comfortably and see the guest during the interview.
Headphone Amplifier - Behringer Microamp HA400
Since there can be up to 3 people in a recording session at a time (host, guest, engineer) I wanted a way for each person to be able to adjust their individual headphone volumes to a comfortable level. The Behringer Microamp HA400 lets you plug in up to 4 headphones and each has their own volume control.
It feels like sometimes the audio ends up distorting in this unit so I need to spend a little more time figuring out the optimal volume to send it from the Focusrite interfaces.
Headphones - Shure SRH240A
For headphones I use the Shure SRH240A. These are decent quality headphones that get the job done and help the host and guest hear each other over any outside noises.