What's the best quality podcast recording solution under these circumstances?
March 20, 2011 11:20 PM   Subscribe

Starting a podcast (spoken word) and suddenly have the opportunity to interview the exact people I really shouldn't be "practicing" on. I'm a radiophile, want decent sound, but have no time to learn the technical side of sound recording before my interviews in a few days. Can I spend a little up front to make decent sound or do I just need to spend more?

- Recording 1 interviewee and myself in a room. My voice can be faint.
- Would love to spend under $50 and had imagined going up to $200 when I actually know what I'm doing.
- Have a Macbook and an iPod
- Hope to do over-skype interviews in the future

(1) Sounds like iTalk is unreliable (previous threads) unless someone tells me otherwise I'll skip working something out with my iPod

(2) Will a $35 USB Logitec USB mic work? Or how expensive a USB mic would I have to get? (no mic jack in Macbooks)

(3) How does the cheapest mac-compatible digital sound recorder compare to just using an iPhone? (need a new phone anyway but was planning on waiting for the next version)

(4) What haven't I thought of?
posted by lotusfeet to Technology (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
A few tidbits without answering these in precise numerical order, and without ever having personally used an iPhone for this: I have peers who do this sort of thing using GarageBand or Audacity with a Blue Snowball or one of Blue's other USB mics.

Another option, if you want a portable, great-sounding, easy-to-use solution and you want to be able to easily swap SD cards in and out, is something like a Zoom H2. These are really good for recording live music, too.
posted by treblemaker at 11:37 PM on March 20, 2011

Get the Zoom. I have friends who do freelance radio work and they love the little thing. The H2 model will be your best bet if you don't need the multi-track recording options of the more expensive H4.
posted by Orchestra at 12:20 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

(4) What haven't I thought of?

It's quite possible that the room itself may hamper your recording. Can you test with a few rooms to see which is best?
posted by pompomtom at 12:21 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, although you didn't ask for this, check out the tips on transom.org, I'm sure there's stuff there to help you along as well.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 1:35 AM on March 21, 2011

It's not just the mic, you also need to make sure your software is setup right to make it not sound like poop. If you can afford it, get a compressor. Get the best mics you can.

Interviewing tip-wise my biggest advice is: talk as little as possible. Write and rewrite your questions until they are a short as they can be but have confidence in them, don't hem and haw and qualify. Good luck!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:25 AM on March 21, 2011

The mic isn't nearly as important as these things:
  • A good microphone stand—you ideally want the speaker's mouth to be a relatively fixed distance from the mike; one way to ensure this is to use a stand of some kind.
  • A completely dead room—no echos, no fans or air conditioners, no windows facing loud streets. Carpeting on the floor = good. Tile floor = bad. Things on the walls (e.g., bookshelves with books on them) = good. Bare walls = bad.
  • Put a sock or fabric over the mic to reduce splosives.

posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:57 AM on March 21, 2011

Slight correction: the microphone stand doesn't need to be fancy or special to be good. The mere presence of a mike stand is usually good.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:58 AM on March 21, 2011

The Zoom H1 is nice as well, a little cheaper, compact and simpler than the H2. Bult in condenser mics sound pretty good for being built in tiny things. It has a has a foam cover, built in compressor/limiter. And yeah, definitely do what Civil Disobedient says and pay attention to the room. I know professors that have just set the thing down in front of class with minimal setup and made decent sounding recordings.

And yeah, you really don't want to use one of those logitech mics, those are good for gaming/chat but will sound bad on a podcast.

I guess another option would be finding a used USB condenser mic, but you definitely really want to get a condenser mic, regular dynamic mics won't sound good for an interview.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 7:57 AM on March 21, 2011

For over-Skype interviews, I use this program called "Call Recorder." The thing that's awesome about it is that you can separate the two tracks (your voice and their voice). Which you'll appreciate if you're doing any sound editing later.

Nthing the Zoom H2 as a great little device for in-person recording.

Happy podcasting!
posted by hungrytiger at 9:02 AM on March 21, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!! Looking into both Zoom H1 and H2 (will likely go with the H2) Reading about room noise (who knew!) and exploring transom.org. Super excited.
posted by lotusfeet at 6:38 PM on March 22, 2011

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