Although we’re constantly improving and updating the method of recording Wealth Nation, I spent the day going through and setting up a new configuration of our recording studio for the podcast, and I figured I would document explicit instructions on exactly how you can duplicate the setup we use.
Keep in mind that I am NOT an expert at this type of thing, so don’t bother asking me questions about variations of different setups. I won’t have the answers. However, if you care to do exactly what we have done, you will hopefully have the same experience but without the steep learning curve it took me.
Let me start off by stating our requirements. There were a specific set of goals we had which caused us to set things up the way we did. If you have any different requirements, your desired setup could be very different.
- We need the ability to have 3-4 studio microphones to accommodate hosts and guests all in the room here.
- We need the ability to allow Skype callers to dial in so that we can do interviews or take questions live.
- Everyone in studio needs to hear everyone else in studio. Everyone in studio needs to hear Skype. Skype guests need to hear everyone in studio.
- We are going to do the entire show on a single 17″ MacBook Pro notebook PC.
- Audio recording will be done with GarageBand or Audacity.
- The entire thing needs to be portable for times we might take the show on the road.
To meet the first requirement, it is essential to have a professional audio mixer. Luckily, these things are cheap! Our producer, Dave Moyer, had me purchase a Behringer 1202FX Xenyx Premium 12-Input 2-Bus Mixer with Xenyx Mic Preamps, British Eqs And 24-Bit Multi-Fx Processor. Sounds like a real mouthful huh? But the great news is that it’s only a $99 piece of hardware! Amazing.
In addition to the mixer, we have ElectroVoice RE20 microphones for the in-studio hosts and guests which are mounted in Electro-Voice 309A Suspension Shockmounts. Each of the mics is suspended from a ProBoom Elite Microphone Arm and Riser System which allows speakers to adjust their mic to the position that is most comfortable. Finally, each person in the studio has a set of headphones so they can hear themselves and each other, and the headphones are connected to a Rolls HA43 Pro Headphone Amplifier which splits the one headphone output from the Xenyx 1202FX mixer into 4 outputs that are independently volume controlled.
Now that the hardware is out of the way, lets talk connections:
- The microphones are hooked into the XLR inputs. Typically, if only Cali and I are doing the show in the studio we’ll only take up ports 1 and 2. This leaves 2 more for additional mics.
- On mic port 3 (or 4 or 5) there is an XLR (or 1/4″) to 1/8″ cable that plugs into the headphone jack on the MacBook Pro. This takes the audio from the laptop and brings it into the mixer and allows you to hear skype callers or other audio sources. It doesn’t handle stereo sources such as music from iTunes, so we’ll get to that later!
- The mixer also has a pair (left and right) of 1/4″ audio jacks labeled as Main Out which are connected to the MacBook Pro’s microphone input via a Y-Cable 1/8-inch (3.5mm) TRS to 1/4-inch adapter.
- The last connection is the headphone out jack, which is simply going to the headphone splitter that I mentioned previously so that everyone can hear all of the sound from all sources.
Now lets talk about software configurations. It’s very important that all of the audio settings are set up correctly in order for this physical setup to work properly. Here is what I have going on (which works for me).
- In Skype go to the Preferences and under the Audio tab make sure that all of the settings are using the Built-in Outputs and Inputs as illustrated in this screenshot:
- In GarageBand go into the Preferences and under the Audio tab choose Built-in Output and Input as illustrated in this screenshot:
- In the Mac OS System Preferences choose the Sound option. Under Output make sure that the Headphones are selected for output as illustrated in this screenshot:
- Also in Mac OS System Preferences in the Audio adjustments under Input, choose the Built-in Input:
All told, this entire setup cost around $2,800 with 3 of these high end microphones, the mounting equipment, mixer, headphones, headphone amp and cables. This doesn’t include the computer or software – which I’ll assume you already have before thinking about getting started.
You could cut this cost down to only a couple hundred dollars if you went with lower quality microphones, cheap headphones and desk mounting. The sound would likely be 75-80% as good as our setup. And of course, if you simply start with that Behringer mixer you can continuously add to and upgrade the system from there.
I hope this helps anyone who is really wanting to get started with podcasting. It was a huge learning curve, but once I had all the right pieces it was actually pretty easy to get things set up and working. Let me know if you follow our lead!