A brief gearhead post – my podcasting setup

A couple of blog readers have asked me about the gear I’m using to do my podcasts. Happy to share, in the hopes that it might be helpful to anyone else thinking about trying the experiment.

I use a Powerbook G4 as my main computer, and generally try to use open source software whenever it’s reasonable to do so, so my choices reflect those biases.

I’m bringing audio into my Mac using a microphone pre-amp box made by M-Audio, called the MobilePre USB. It accepts inputs from two XLR mics, or one mic and one 1/4″ source, or from a stereo (mini) mic jack, and gives level control for those two sources. It connects to the Mac via the USB port, and draws its power from the USB port as well. The price was right (about $150 USD from an online retailer), and setup was extremely easy. My only gripe – it doesn’t provide very much amplification – I’m running it turned up pretty high to get a good signal. This may well be the tradeoff for the fact that I don’t have to carry a separate power supply for it. The box appears to be pretty sturdy, and is about the size of a paperback novel – it fits nicely into my briefcase.

At home, I’m using a pair of AKG C1000S microphones, low-end studio microphones from my days as a musician. They’re cheap by audiophile standards (about $200 USD each) and pretty versatile. But they’ve got a record of being a little fragile, so when I’m recording remotely, I’m using a Shure SM57, a cheap ($80 USD) microphone known for its indestructability.

I’m recording into Audacity, an open source sound editing program that’s capable of outputting to mp3. Idiot that I am, I’ve been recording at a very high sampling rate – I’m going to try doing my next recording at 11Khz, which should give me decent sound quality and much smaller files to work with.

In other words, if you’ve got a Mac and want to get started doing this, you should be able to spend less than $250 USD and get gear that allows you to do this in a way that sounds significantly better than plugging a mic into your mic jack. Not that there’s anything wrong with that approach either…

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