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Posted by Carl on Nov 28, 2010

Behind The Mic Part 1 – Equipment

Behind The Mic is a series of Blog Articles we are going to release about the trials and tribulations of two guys starting a podcast. We will go over how we got started, what goes into each show, and finally just explaining how the whole thing comes together. Even if you aren’t interested in running a podcast yourself, we thought you might enjoy this series.

Sound quality is, in my opinion, the most important piece of a podcast. Even for a video podcast. The audio quality of your podcast is much more important than your picture. No matter how good the content of a podcast is, Without a clear audio track you will not be able to get your message across.

When we decided to form The Independent Characters, we knew that the failure of many podcasts was due to their poor audio quality. In fact, many podcasts we had attempted to listen to, we had given up on due to poor audio quality. As a result of this, we were determined to make the audio quality of our podcast the best it could be.

As neither of us had any prior sound engineering experience, I turned to help on the Internet. I wrote emails to several major podcasts, both inside and outside of the 40k hobby, but received no responses. In addition I purchased the book “Podcasting for Dummies”. This book, while pretty badly outdated by now, still provides some basic knowledge that hasn’t changed much.

Now I have never been one to take on a task like this half-assed. So after about a month of research and shopping online I was ready to make my purchase. Fortunately, I have a dedciated game room at my house that I planned to turn into a recording studio as well.

So with a dedicated area set aside, I looked to making purchases that would allow us to record the best possible show we could.

So here is what we ended up purchasing:

  • 2 MXL 990 Condenser Microphones with Shockmounts ($50ea on clearance!)
  • 2 Nady QH560 Deluxe Studio Headphones ($50 but special “Buy One Get One Free” clearance price!)
  • 1 Behringer XENYX 1204USB USB Mixer ($129)

I chose to go with the condenser mics because in all of the research I had done – it seemed as though these were the types of microphones that were most often used in studio settings and could capture the best possible sound quality. At the time of purchase, I hadn’t really considered the mobility of the show, as that wasn’t something we had thought we would need. I still really like these mics, but they aren’t the most portable solution.

I purchased all of this from Musicians Friend (https://secure.musiciansfriend.com), which had some great clearance deals.

Additionaly, I headed down to my local music store and picked up the following:

  • 2 Microphone stands ($40 ea)
  • 2 Microphone cables ($15 ea)

So to buy in, I have now spent about $400. Whew, this was a lot to start… but again, our focus was producing a great audio show.

I already had a laptop (thanks to work) and I downloaded free our recording program: Audacity. (http://audacity.sourceforge.net) This is a great piece of software that just keeps on giving. There are other programs you can purchase – some relatively cheaply, but for now I am sticking with Audacity. I keep learning new things about it and I am really enjoying utilizing it so far.

This was working great for just the two of us, but then a couple of episodes in, we added our first guest. Having already spent quite a bit of money to get up and running, we didnt want to continue to spend without limits.

So we picked up from our local music store the following hardware:

  • 1 Microphone ($70)
  • 1 microphone stand ($40)
  • 1 microphone cable ($15)

There went another $125… However, this turned out to work well with the sound board. Because we were now dealing with a different microphone it required a few adjustments on the sound board to compensate for the differing amount of sensitivity.

Then came the day we wanted to conduct an interview with two people. So back to the music store I went and picked up the following:

  • 1 Microphone ($35 – half off sale at Guitar Center!)
  • 1 Desktop Microphone Stand ($40)
  • 1 Microphone cable ($15)

As you can see, it gets really pricey really quickly.

Interestingly enough, the desktop version of the microphone stand costs about the same as a full stand. It also weighs a TON! Which is a good thing, this allows the microphone to sit securely in it and you don’t worry about it getting knocked over. It doesn’t offer quite the flexibility of the full microphone stands but it works really well. All in all, I wish I had two of those and two of the full stands.

Also during this time, we needed a place to host the files for the show. I have used this same hosting provider for some time with my regular gaming site, and they also boast unlimited bandwidth and storage – so I decided to put that to the test! This is extremely affordable at about $100 a year.

Fortunately I work in the Internet Industry and I have a little experience with web design. To make it easy on ourselves I went with WordPress (free) blogging software and a few plug-ins to make hosting the podcast and registering it with places like iTunes relatively easy.

Additionally, we knew we wanted to host a forum. Again, my prior experience came in handy and we utilized PHPBB (PHP Bulletin Board). Another free piece of software.

Ultimately, I would spend another $25 buying a template I really liked for the website… the cost does add up after awhile. We could have done this much cheaper – but I think the sound quality of our show speaks for itself. And as I said in the beginning of this article, I think sound quality is the most important part of a podcast.

Next Time: Editing the Show

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