I’m not really a sound engineering but I like audio. I did a few mixes myself and done some voice acting. I still play the guitar when I can. And if there’s one thing that I’ve learned from all of that, talent is one thing, but equipment counts. I’ve done some personal recordings using a cheap headset microphone and as a novice, found them okay. But as soon as I got to try out pro audio stuff, I realized that quality doesn’t come cheap.
And for aspiring podcasters, you really have to invest on some equipment if you want to have a quality cast, not one filled with hisses and pops and varying volume levels. So here are my takes on a starter set-up (emphasis on “starter”).
Given that you have a computer which has a sound card with a line-in jack or a PC with USB ports, all you need to add are some other hardware, particularly a microphone setup. I hope I wouldn’t be too technical with what I’ll be writing. And here are my picks:
- Microphone – There are two types of microphone in the market today. Recording studios mostly have condenser microphones which uses a capacitor. They have a very broad range and can really capture the softest of sounds. It also uses a heap of juice. Most of the microphones we have (including desktop mics) are dynamic microphones. These use magnetic fields to capture sound. They’re a lot cheaper than condensers.
Now there are a lot of mics out there but you may want to try a dynamic microphone. One brand, Shure, is a trusted one for pro audio. They’ve got the SM58 to get you started.
- Pop Filter – Yes, the English language aspirates the “p”s as an initial sound. The effect? They pop in recordings because of the gush of air. To combat that, you might need a pop filter. OnScreen has some good ones. Or you can even build your own.
- Mixers – Mixers get your sound levels right even before reaching you computer. Now this maybe the most expensive piece in the set-up. Some people try to skip this and do the tweaks post-recording, but believe me, mixers make a big difference.
Now everyone’s been hyping on Behringer mixers and for good reason. They’re quite great for the value (it’s cheaper!). And if . I recommend either the UB802.
You have an assortment of inputs going to your computer. The most typical would be to connect to your line-in. But many mixers today now have USB or firewire connectivity. I suggest getting the USB.
- Headset – You may have great speakers but nothing beats getting to hear details better than a good headset. Now Sennheiser have a great range of headphones for you. You can try out ones listed under home entertainment, they work quite well for simple editing. Behringer‘s got some good ones too.
- Packages – Heck what’s the point me writing a lengthy piece if you can get it out of the box right? Anyway, assembly’s one thing that I believe any novice should experience. If you want to get started right away, some pro audio manufacturers bundle everything for you. Behringer has some starter sets that include the mixer, mic, headset and input control.
Now with the hardware settled, we now go into software:
- Editing - Hands down I’ll put in Audacity which has versions for both Mac and Windows. It’s free (better than paying for Sony Sound Forge or Adobe Audition) and it does the job. It records, it cuts, copies, splices… For a list of complete features click here.
- Instant Audio Tweaks – This one I got from Blogging Pro – The Levelator. It effectively evens out audio levels within a file by having a compressor, normalizer or limiter within it.
If anyone can suggest a better set-up pray do tell!
Thanks to the Blogging Pro for some of the ideas.
Image Credit: Richard Giles.