Episode 2.5 - A Podcast on Podcasting

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For this .5 episode Mark and Shawn discuss the art and nature of podcasting and try to answer the questions "What exactly is a podcast?" and "Is there a right or a wrong way to do it?" During the course of the show Mark promised to write an article describing a few different equipment setups for podcasters with budgets ranging from the meager to the relatively flush, and below is the result. (Note: The Tightwad Tech podcast is in no way affiliated with Musician's Friend. All prices are as of the date of this writing and are, of course, subject to change.)


Bare Bones - Less than $100:

If you have very little money but still want to make something relatively high-quality, here are my recommendations.

Microphone: Audio-Technica M4000S Microphone - Buy One, Get One Free - $49.98

This is a good-quality microphone with crisp high-end and mellow bass for between $20 and $50 depending on how many you buy. Personally I like the 3-pack for $60.

Mic. Cable: Musician's Gear Hi-Z Mic Cable Black 20 Feet - $8.99

Mic.-to-PC Adapter: Live Wire TRS(F)-Mini(M) Stereo Adapter - $2.39

You'll need this adapter to take the 1/4" plug from the microphone cable and convert it to the 3.5mm plug that your computer's sound card can accept.

That's it. For about sixty-five dollars spent on equipment you can plug a pretty good mic into any PC, Mac or netbook and use a free audio editing tool like Audacity to record and produce a podcast.

Low Budget - Around $100:

If you have a little more money to spend, use the equipment above and add the following.

Mic Stand: Musician's Gear MS-220 Tripod Mic Stand with Fixed Boom Black - $15.29

Having a mic. stand will let you and your students keep their hands free to hold a script and will drastically cut down on any noise created by handling the mic. It's only a few dollars more and can make a huge difference in the quality of your recording.

Pop Screen: Musician's Gear Double Pop Filter - $16.99

Most really high-quality microphones have some sort of pop filter built into them, but the bargain-basement units we're dealing with don't. The 17 bucks you spend here will really help.

Modest Budget - $100 - $200:

Add the items below if you have a bit more money to spend and want to maximize what you can do.

Mini-Mixer: Nady MM-141 4-Channel Mini Mixer - $29.99

This very small, battery-powered mixer will allow you to plug up to four microphones into the one mic. jack on your computer and give them all their own level.  Obviously you'll need to purchase more of the mics and stands listed above to make use of it.

Connector Cable: Live Wire TRS-TRS Balanced Patch Cable 3 Foot - $5.99

You'll need this cable plus the adapter above to connect the mixer output to the microphone jack of your computer.

Medium Budget - $200 - $400:

Adding the items below will allow you to do more advanced mixing allow for more input devices, and allow your podcasters to all hear themselves as they speak.

Mixer: Behringer EURORACK UB1202 Mixer - $79.99

Stepping up to the next level of equipment means replacing the Mini-Mixer above with this compact studio mixer. It will allow up to 12 devices (microphones, music players, etc.) to be used and mixed simultaneously and provides a real-time headphone output so that you can hear what you're recording as you do it.

Headphones: Sony MDR-XD100 Studio Monitor Headphones - $19.99

These are very basic headphones, but they sound good and most importantly are comfortable to wear.

Headphone Amp: Behringer MICROAMP HA400 Headphone Amp - $29.99

This device allows up to four users to hear the same signal.

Big Budget: $400-$1000

If you want to go all-out and set yourself up to produce near professional quality podcasts, a digital multi-track recorder is a great tool to have in your arsenal.

Digital Recorder: Fostex MR-16HD 16-Track Digital Recorder - $399

This is pretty much a portable recording studio which will allow you to do all your mixing, editing and even post-production work on a single device.


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Comments

"Nady or Behringer"? Both are on my blacklist of sorts. I've seen lots of reviews out there that make them seem mediocre to poor.

I agree with you to a point, Garrett. I wouldn't use either brand in a true studio setting, but this post was about providing options depending on your budget. Nady and Behringer both tend to be noisy and would never hold up to touring conditions, but for a classroom setup on a tiny budget, they do the job.

Ah, true.
I have a little experience with Behringer stuff from working the sound room at my church, and you're right about the noise level; thankfully, I was able to eliminate most of the noise generated by the mixer by lowering the overall output volume and raising the gain on the input channels. We also have another piece of equipment that I don't entirely understand, and it's by Behringer but it doesn't seem to contribute any noise to the system. (It may not be this exact model, but it looks very similar to this.)
We do have one piece of Nady equipment, an assisted-listening system, but we've never used it because the 9-volt battery compartments in the "client" units were too small to take the rechargeable batteries we were using, which were slightly longer than a normal 9-volt for some weird reason. (Plus, I don't think we have anyone who really needs something like that at the moment.)

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