The Pod-Kit

Someone asked me recently for a breakdown of what equipment I use to record my Virtual Memories Show podcasts. At home, I use a Blue Yeti USB microphone with a Blue Universal pop filter. It feeds into my Mac Mini and I do the audio capture in Audacity, because I had trouble the one time I tried doing audio capture in Garage Band and never went back to figure out what I was doing wrong.

The setup for recording my interviews is a little more involved. I don’t do interviews via Skype/phone, because I prefer being face to face with my conversant. Here’s what’s in my “studio in a bag:”

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My primary recorder is a Zoom H4N with a 16 gb Class 10 SD card and plug-in power. The base of the H4N has XLR connections, which allow me to hook up two Blue enCORE 200 Phantom Powered Active Dynamic microphones, via a pair of 3 ft. XLR cables. The 200s were recommended to me by my podfather, Marc Maron, via Twitter. I tried to go cheap and use Blue enCORE 100 mics, but the signal wasn’t very good (the 200s use phantom power, while the 100s are passive). At one point, an instructor at Tekserve suggested I use AT2020 Side Address Cardioid Condenser Studio mics. I did, but they picked up too much noise and I found their signal to be a little strong/fuzzy, even when I adjusted the recording levels on the H4N

After a few months using the AT2020s, I visited B&H Photo in NYC and did test recordings with the enCORE 200 alongside my 100s and AT2020s. The 200 gave a much warmer sound than the 100, while being less all-recording than the AT2020. (I should note that the AT2020 is a condenser mic and that means it’s intended to pick up a wider sound; that is, it’s a feature, not a bug, but it’s just not as good for the more intimate setting of this podcast.) B&H had the 200s on sale for $120, which was $30 cheaper than Amazon, so I bought them there. The price is back up to $149 now. B&H was so helpful that, if the prices had been the same, I would have gone through them (except on Shabbat).

I always keep a backup recorder on hand for interviews. I use a Zoom H2n with a 16 gb Class 10 SD card. The H2n has a little stand that’s pictured beside it. I can’t find the power adapter for the H2n, so I usually bring along a pair of spare AA rechargeable Eneloop batteries. I’ve never had to resort to the backup. (Actually, I did need to resort to it once, when the H4n inexplicably failed to record a podcast, but that was the one time the batteries died in the H2n. . . .)

A pair of Musician’s Gear Tripod Desk Mic Stand with Clips from Guitar Center are pretty compact and suffice to position the mics. In fact, the staff at my local Guitar Center stores — we have three pretty close to my office and home — have been pretty helpful with suggestions and advice (less for the engineering, more for the technical stuff regarding cables, stands, etc.).

The microphone clips come with the microphones, but they need a thread adaptor to connect to the tripod stands. I leave the adaptors screwed into the stands, but sometimes I connect the clips too tightly and they take the adaptors off with them. I like to leave them connected to the tripods because that way I know where they are, so I also bring along pliers, in case the clips won’t come free.

Everything (including the Canon PowerShot S95 I used to take this pic) fits in an Occidental Leather 6512 Machinist’s Bag. I usually pack some spare business cards in there, along with the aforementioned spare batteries, and maybe an SD card reader if I’m traveling and want to get the audio file transferred to my laptop right away. I could also connect the H4N to a laptop via a USB cable, but I prefer to pop the card out to get the file.

Next time: how to line up guests!

Now go listen to some of my podcasts!

2 Replies to “The Pod-Kit”

  1. For road casts, I have the same Blue Encore 200s to H4N setup. I get a nasty hum from that connection though. I’ve tried several cables, too. Do you have the same result? Is there anything you do extra to make that not happen?

    1. Nope! The only problems I’ve had were from plugging the H4 into the wall socket at a hotel in Toronto. Gave a weird reverb / flutter on one channel. If the hum is pretty uniform, here’s my suggestion: get 5-10 seconds of room tone, then run a noise removal effect on the file in Audacity. Select the “room tone” section to get the noise profile, then select the whole file and run the noise removal effect. I started doing that a few months ago, and it’s helped a lot.

      I also moved up to a Zoom H5 recently, which sounds a LOT better than the H4. You can pick up a plugin module that allows for 2 more (non-phantom-powered) mics, if that’s your thang.

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