We recently started toying with the idea of putting together a DadCast, a 2FatDads podcast, so I dusted off the old mic stand and put away my reels of spliced tape and decided to put WireTap Pro to the test of recording a Skype conference call between three or more of the Fat Dads. Unfortunately I made a few mistakes in the set up.
- The first being that I recorded all Mac audio in WireTap and not just the Skype call.
- The second problem was that I should never have routed the Mac audio out of the Mac into one of the board channels and then feed the whole board back into the Mac’s line in.
Any audio engineer or a younger me from 1o years ago would quickly tell you that the second point will cycle the audio and create a reverb in the recording. As you can see in the image above, I’m listening to the audio off of the desk/board (The small sliver 4 channel mixer) and not from the MacBook. So of course I’m monitoring clean audio and from both feeds and not the output of the podcast recording. In radio, this is what is referred to as listening the transmission and not the desk. When you listen from the desk, everything sounds great, the levels are almost always perfect, but you also run into the problem of listening to the pre-cue and never broadcasting anything rather than listening to the station output and finding out immediately that you’ve left the mic fader down. I made this mistake only once in my broadcast career where I played out only one side of a phone call I had recorded while a track was playing out. Needless to say that I destroyed the illusion of live radio and the suspension of disbelief was ruined for the rest of the night.
I’m including a small portion of the audio from Monday’s Dadcast session so you can get a fell of the “cycling reverb” issue and also as a preview of what is to come for the 2 Fat Dads podcast.
For the next session this is my recommended setup:
- Sennheiser e845 mic on desktop stand. I like this mic a lot, I like the way I sound in it and I the fact that it has a supercardioid pickup pattern for higher signal output, which means that it cuts through high onstage or room sound levels. It’s got a smooth warm tonal response and full dynamic range with presence lift for vocal clarity and projection. It also has this amazing ability to only pickup what is 2 inches in front of it, meaning that as long as I stay behind the mic, it does not pick up echoes form the walls behind me.
- Rugged all metal body
- Exceptional feedback rejection
- Full dynamic range and smooth frequency response for excellent signal quality
- Consistent on-/off-axis and proximity response
- Very good rejection of handling noise
- Hum compensating coil
- BeyerDynamic DT770 PRO: My all time fave set of cans, I used to wear’em in London when I worked at Capital Fm hosting and producing live appearances from in studio and on stage guests. When I first got started in radio, I used the DT 100 and DT 150 as they were professional work horses and the engineers could take them apart and rebuild them blindfolded very much in the same way a US Marine can reassemble a rifle in the dark. But the DT 770 PRO are closed dynamic headphones and are designed for critical music and sound monitoring in an open environments (Live shows and loud clubs). Also the cushion systems and light weight allow them to be used in complete comfort for long periods, I use to wear mine for 6-8 hours at a time without any ear fatigue.
- Closed, diffuse-field studio headphone
- “Bass reflex” technology for improved bass response
- Comfortable fit due to rugged, adjustable, soft padded headband construction
- Robust, easy serviceable construction as all parts are replaceable
- Single-sided cable
- Velour, circumaural ear pads
- Audio-Technica AT-PMX5P This is a cute little 4 channel mixer with 1/4 inputs and Phono line in and line out. From the diagphram in the link above, I think it was designed for over dubbing camcorder videos with voice tracks and even a stereo. I got this mini-desk off of a friend who just happened to spend a lot of time in Japan. That would be why you can’t make out anything on the page that is linked.
So that covers the hardware in most part. One of the biggest differences in this rig over what I would have used 10 years ago to record voice overs is the MacBook and the lack of CoolEdit (now known as Adobe Audition) and the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz Sound Card. You just don’t need a full rig to record pro sound anymore. It used to be that the PC would have to wired to the desk and that it just served as a tape reel for recording mics and ISDN full duplex voice lines. Two things killed this need a long time ago. The first being Skype and it’s fantastic VOiP sound quality. The second being the threaded nature of the way a Mac can capture various audio sources. Glen Fleischman explains this a little better in his 2005 article: How to Record a Podcast
Because the Macintosh treats each sound stream as a separate item, hijacking the audio from Skype only records what the other person is saying; your microphone input is not mixed into that output. Very nifty for separation and quality and full duplexing of sound; not so nifty for my purposes.
Soundflower was part of the solution, allowing me to pass sound through from both input and output to a single audio stream that I could record, but monitoring it was a problem: I heard myself in a slightly delayed echo in the headset earphone.
Rogue Amoeba finally gave me a solution: their pro software includes a number of audio effects, and one of them was the ticket to making this work.
And he’s right the newest versions of WireTap Studio , which basically took over from Audio Hijack, can all record the Skype audio in one channel and the mix mic and line in audio on another channel. It’s what really makes the big difference in getting a professional sounding conversation recorded without everyone recording their own mic inputs and then sending them into the producer to mix down into one audio stream.
Even though Adobe Audition makes the PC a better solution for general broadcast audio production, we’re not talking music production here, it just can’t record multi-source audio as easily as the Mac can. Add in the final production/encapsulation power of Garageband and you don’t even need to open up Logic ever again for podcasting. I know, they’ll be coming for radio union card soon if I keep talking like this. But this is the rig and set up we are going to use next week and I really hope it works as well as I’m making it sound here.