Podcast Studio Equipment - Basic Setup

While I found the equipment described earlier in my Budget Setup post great for early experimenting, I soon moved away from USB equipment to more traditional XLR and TRS cabled equipment.

I like to have this mini-studio available at my desk at all times. It's perfect for the majority of my work: inputs for two standard microphones plus additional plugins for Skype/Google Hangouts/Phone interviews, CD/tape/iPod/mobile phone inputs for sound effects and music. It could also be used to record guitars and vocals for home music recording.


Mackie 402VLZ4 4-Channel Compact Mixer: I love this mixer because it has enough inputs and controls to be useful, without being overwhelming. It is quiet, compact, and encased in solid metal: an amazing product for the price. This model has a standard audio cable output. Why? I've had bad luck with USB to digital devices like USB Interfaces.  Me, I like to use the standard RCA-out plugs to the microphone-in jack on my PC. I keep the input level to my computer pretty low (10% or -60dB) to avoid distortion. The resulting recordings have good signal and very low noise. I'm very pleased with the results. Some nice features also on this unit: 8-level dB meters and 100 Hz lo-cut switches to make vocals sound nice and clear.

Headphones: To monitor the sound in the mixer, you'll need decent headphones. I really like my Sony MDR-V300 series -- warm sound and an extra long cable so I can walk around without taking them off. But... they're not available through Amazon in Canada. I like the Sony MDR-7510 Professional Studio Headphones (with 50mm drivers!), but if you need something good and basic, check out these Sony MDRZX100 Series Stereo Headphones.  You can also use your own pair of headphones, if they include a 1/4" plug or adapter.

Behringer XM8500 Dynamic Cardioid Microphones: While there is much debate, these microphones compare favourably to the Shure SM58, particularly when cost is factored in.  They have a warmer low end than the SM58 that sounds wonderful for speech and they cost a fraction of the price. Impossible to resist, and I didn't. Zero regrets.

5 Pack-Microphone Ball-Type Sponge Windscreens/Foam Covers - Black: To prevent (or at least minimize) P-pops, you'll need to cover the mics with these. Why a 5-pack? They are cheaper to buy as a pack than individually, and you won't have to worry if one tears or gets lost. 

CBI MLC20 Low Z XLR Microphone Cable, 20 Foot: Some mics come with a cable, but good ones often don't.  You'll need these to connect the XM8500s to the mixer. Twenty feet is a bit long, but I found these to be of fair price and good quality, and maybe I will need the extra length someday. For podcasting, I keep them coiled up, with a foot loose on either side.

Samson MD5 Desktop Microphone Stand: These are a wonderful, sturdy, solid metal microphone stands, but are incredibly pricey. I got mine on sale. If the Samsons are full price, or still too expensive at sale price, check out this comparable stand from On Stage, instead. Boom stands and scissor-arm stands are also a possibility, but my studio was designed for easy setup and easy tear-down.

Monoprice 3-Feet 3.5mm Stereo Male to RCA Stereo Male Gold Plated Cable for Mobile, Black : This is used to connect the Tape Out connectors on the mixer to the microphone input on your computer, to record the audio. Not long enough?  Order a 6-foot length instead.  If you opt for a USB mixer, you don't need this.

HOSA Stereo Mini Male to Phone Y-Cable, 3 Feet Optional. This cable can be used to bring sound in from your smartphone. On Toddcast, I use this type of cable to bring Skype call sound into the mixer, and I talk back to the caller using the built-in mic on the phone. Simple. There is a more complex technique called mix-minus that uses two cables, and I won't bore or confuse you with it.

If you can find a cable like this cheaper at local music or electronics store, buy it there instead. I bought a 6-foot version from Long and McQuade for $11. I've included the HOSA brand cable as an  example, or for your convenience if you'd rather just order multiple items from Amazon than store-hop.


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