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  • I would like to make a podcast with up to 3 people, all together at one place once a week.

    I have a mac, what kind of mic and tune-in adapters do I need?


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    Question by arth

Here are three condenser microphones I’ve used and liked for recording podcasts. Any of them will give you great sound, but none of them are perfect. Listen to sound samples of the three mics here. (https://soundcloud.com/boing-boing/mics)

A Blue Snowball ($60) is an excellent low-cost choice. (Beware: there’s $40 “Blue Snowball iCE” model that looks the same but I have read reports that it has quality issues and should be avoided.) The Snowball has a 3-position switch, which is unhelpfully marked 1, 2, and 3. I always need to go to bluemic.com to look up what switch setting I should use (position 1 is for podcasting, 2 is for live music and loud sound sources, and 3 is for conferences, interviews, and environmental recordings). I stopped using the Snowball when its USB jack broke. (I eventually repaired it just to have a backup microphone).

The next step up is Blue’s Yeti ($100). The great thing about the Yeti is its built-in amplified headphone jack that lets you hear your own voice along with the voices of your remote guests. It also has a gain knob to adjust the sensitivity, as well as a mute button (which is nice to have when your guest is speaking and you need to cough or hide the drone of an airplane flying over your house). I used a Yeti for about two years and was very pleased with the sound of my recorded voice, but I stopped using it because it has three problem: First problem: the padded mount is not good at damping external vibrations. If I set a coffee cup on my desk, the Yeti will pick it up. It even picks up my computer’s spinning hard drive. I finally solved the problem by placing a rubbery iPhone case between the Yeti’s base and my desktop. (Blue sells a shock mount for $60 that is supposed to solve this problem but reviewers on Amazon say it’s awful). Second problem: the gain knob is on the back of the microphone, making it hard to reach, and hard to adjust, because you have to turn the know in the opposite direction you are used to turning a knob (like when you need to remove a screw from panel that’s facing 180 degrees from you). Third reason: Sometimes the mic simply doesn’t work and I have to whack it with the heel of my palm (like Han Solo did with the instrument panel on the Millennium Falcon) to get it to work.

I have an Amazon credit card, and when I noticed I had accumulated a few hundred bucks in earned Amazon credit, I picked up the Audio-Technica AT2020 ($130). I’ve been using it since the end of March 2014, and have had great luck with it so far. The sound quality is as good as the Yeti (but not better, in my opinion). It feels very heavy and sturdy, and it doesn’t seem to pick up vibrations like the Yeti. The AT2020 has no switches or knobs. You simply plug it into your computer and use your computer’s built-in gain control. It also doesn’t have a built-on headphone jack like the Yeti does, which is too bad. (I like hearing my amplified voice when I record, because it keeps me from shouting into the microphone.) The other negative thing about the AT2020 is the tiny tripod it comes with. I had to put in on a stack if books to elevate it to mouth level until I got smart and bought an adjustable desk microphone stand ($15) (http://amzn.to/17zrnsE).

Other Microphone Accessories
Because microphones are such an important part of recording, you can buy a number of accessories for them to improve the recording. I mentioned shock mounts and adjustable stands above. The one item you should get is a pop filter. This is a circle with a two layers of sheer cloth that will muffle “plosive” sounds, such a the “p” in pop. The pop filter also projects your microphone from droplets of saliva, which will over time ruin the innards of your microphone.

Microphones for Guests
I rarely have guests come to my house to record a podcast. Most of the time, guests call in using Skype. On the rare occasions when I do have a guest come over, I’ll use the Yeti or the Snowball and set the mic mode to “Interview.” That creates a bit of a hollow sound, but it’s bearable.

The co-hosts on my podcasts (who live all over the place) have setups like I do (most of them have Yetis). But what about our guests? Some of them, such as John Hodgman, are seasoned podcasters themselves and have better equipment and recording studios than I have. But some guests have never been on a podcast before. They don’t have a USB microphone, and they don’t even have a USB headset. In those cases, I use a trick that Roman Mars, creator of the excellent 99% Invisible podcast taught me. I order a cheap USB headset ($12) (http://amzn.to/1wpvjI4) from Amazon and send it to them (I have an Amazon Prime which lets me send stuff with free shipping to anyone in the US). When Michael Goodwin, author of Economix, appeared on Gweek, he used this $10 headset. You can listen to it here (http://boingboing.net/2014/03/04/gweek-podcast-136-zombie-jugh.html). I think it sounds fine, apart from the plosives and sibilants.

Answer by mark
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