Basic but quality / "growable" podcast setup

Onus

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I am giving serious thought to doing some podcasts / audio recording, initially limited to commentary, but possibly to grow to include remote guests (e.g. Skype or phone). These might be provided to specific others interested in them, placed on YouTube (if sufficiently well-done; think "Wild Bill for America" as a simple but very professional example). Build videos / tutorials are another possibility.
To that end, I'd like some suggestions on equipment.
I believe the first item needs to be a decent microphone. Should I want something as nice as a Blue Yeti or Snowball? If I do build tutorials, I'll need a good clip-on; I think that should probably be a future upgrade.
I don't need a mixer at the outset, but probably would in order to take callers. Do any of them work with USB mics, or are "pro" level ones with XLR connectors required? Will "line-in" on my mobo suffice to import sound recorded in other ways? If not, I probably will want the mixer, sooner rather than later.
For software, I've heard there's a basic package called "Audacity" that is free; I'd try this first.
I'm not planning to start with any video; quite frankly I'd probably need to make that a separate thread later.
Budget is flexible but expenditures should be reasonable. A $100 mic might indeed be fantastic, but makes no sense if a $50 mic will do an essentially equivalent job.
Thanks for your input.
I'd like to find components at Newegg, Amazon, or other vendor source unless lower prices elsewhere don't carry the risk of damaged / underperforming parts. Thanks.
 

ssddx

Glorious
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@onus

i saw your little link to here in my other thread (good call... i've been a bit busy lately and might not have seen it otherwise)

yeah, i'm really trying to make those guides turn out well however for the last few days or so i've been too busy to work on them. i'll be adding more content soon though. can you let me know if the images in spoilers shows up fine for you or not (its bugged half the time on my browser)

---

usb or xlr?

generally all of your cheaper microphones are usb and have an internal dac so that they send signals digitally to your pc. they can be used with any pc without any other special equipment. if you wanted to listen to your voice as you talk you need one with a 3.5mm headphone output. without a mic output the only way is through your pc which generates a slight lag to your voice.

generally all of your high end microphones use xlr which is analog. they require a 48v phantom power source to work. this can be via an audio mixer or via a special phantom power adapter which makes it useable for pc without a mixer. most mixers have headphone jacks which make listening fairly simple. if you connect via the 3.5mm input on your soundcard i'm not sure if there will be any lag or not when using headphones (sorry, not something i've tested)

can i upgrade to a mixer later?

while you would think there are mixers with a usb input (and there may be some out there) i'm not aware of any. typically they are analog inputs only.

if you are using a usb microphone i would suggest using a DAW (digital analog workstation) which is the software equivalent of a mixamp. generally they have the same layout and same controls but keep the signal completely digital which may actually be better. the downside is that they dont have physical knobs you can turn if that is your sort of thing.

is the 3.5mm mic input jack on my soundcard okay?

unless there is some sort of electrical interference issue going on i would say that it would suffice for now. this could be used for an xlr mic (with phantom power adapter) or other inputs like headphone outs on mp3 players and such.

in order to work with the files though you would need a DAW (which there are free ones like audacity)

what microphone to pick?

do you want to use a DAW (digital/software) or Audio Mixer (analog/hardware)?

if digital you want usb. if analog you want xlr.

next what kind of recording patterns do you want? if only voice then standard cardioid is fine but if you want to record more than voice then perhaps a multi-style unit is better for other pickup patterns.

next what sort of quality are you after?

while units such as the blue snowball are generally half decent quality-wise they arent up to the same level as say the at2020/blue yeti which are more professional style mics. at the low end of that linup for sure but perfect for good sounding vocals for youtube or amateur recording.

did you need a dynamic or condenser mic?

condensers are more sensitive (which is why they are most used for vocal recording) while dynamic are less sensitive but pretty durable (which makes them good for travel mics or ones used in the field). i would suggest a condensor mic for you which is why all the ones below are of that style.

----------------

where are my choice... i'm getting to it! here are the ones i would look at closely...

audiotechnica at2020.... this is considered fairly high end for youtube and is what many use for excellent voice reproduction. it comes in cardioid pickup pattern only which makes it great for voice but less suitable for other sources (such as recording a whole roomfull of sources or duets and the like...but it doesnt seem like that applies to you) it has three models..
at2020 (xlr) $99 @amazon
at2020usb (usb, no headphone jack) $129 @ amazon
at2020usbplus (usb + headphone jack) $169 @ amazon

blue yeti.... this is another microphone which competes with the at2020 and has excellent sound. it has 3 different pickup patterns. it is however rather large sized. it has a headphone jack. it comes in different colors and two models... but the pro model is out of budget
blue yeti (usb + headphone jack) $97-110 @ amazon
blue yeti pro (xlr + headphone jack) OOB...

if you liked the at2020 and want something similar in quality but slightly below... you may want to look at the

audiotechnica atr2500..... similar audio quality to the 2020 (perhaps 85% or so... very minor distortion). recently another user here on toms tested one out please see the spoiler below for his comments (and my own suggestions for it). you can ignore the part about the headphones.. i just direct copied the whole discussion.
To: ssddx

From: Joshua Lange
Sent on: May 17, 2014 12:32 PM
You obviously won the best answer award for your post, because that was absolutely amazing, but I'd like a little bit more advice if you have the time. I'll be moving into residence in the Fall so as much as I want to get the G930's , I'm worried about how it would affect the signal if there were hundreds of other signals buzzing around. Anyways, 300 is my budget for the set and you've provided a lot of useful information that will help me with my search. Assuming that I get a single room in residence (please please please XD), a cardioid mic will work just fine. The only catch is that if I splurge a little and get something like the AT2020, that cuts into the amount of money I have for the headphones, which is a bit of an issue because if I buy a pair of new headphones, I want them to last for quite some time.

Which is why I've narrowed my choices down to the g930s and the ATH-M50x, or if I must, the prior version to those (ATH-M50). Closed design seems to be where I'm heading with this purchase because I do enjoy being able to step out of the world because I am easily distracted. Looking at the price at Amazon.ca and Ebay, I can probably shave the price down to about 215 after shipping costs are calculated, which leaves me with about 80 bucks to spend on the microphone.

Personally, how much better would you say the AT2020 is over the ATR2500? The latter fits into my price range nicely, so I think that's the one I'll have to go with if I want to satisfy my musical needs. Or should I just say screw it all and wait for when I have some more cash to play with and get the good pair of headphones then and just go with the g930s now? Is there another option that could be presented?

If you read all of that, I thank you for your time and hope you can help me in this predicament.

Kind Regards,
Josh.
From: ssddx
Sent on: May 17, 2014 1:34 PM
i've heard from another user on here that they greatly enjoyed their g930. then i've read reviews about how people dislike it. honestly i'm not sure what to believe in terms of quality. it seems like one of those products which either fits your needs or it doesnt. still nowhere near what you can expect from good headphones though.

i'm not sure how they will work with all of the interference you mention (i'm guessing you are moving to a college dorm?). they could be fine or they could act up. i cant promise you anything in that regard.

--

first i would like to say... since you mentioned amazon.ca i take it you are from canada. be aware that you also have ebay.ca you can deal with. also you can probably have items shipped from the usa to canada correct?

--

for clarification the audiotechnica model numbers ATH-
M50X: new version which has removeable cables and comes with 3 styles.
M50S: old version with long straight cable (this is what i have and the cable is really long... but thats good too)
M50: old version with short coiled cable

as i said i personally own this pair of headphones and i definitely do like them however as i said before some people might not like that the soundstage is supposedly a bit narrow. i suppose this is the reason why it sounds like all the sound is coming from close around you however to me i always felt that it was more immersive that way. i'm not sure what your feeling are on that.

i do like the sound they produce. they are slightly warm sounding and dont have sharp ear piercing highs like some sets do. while not the bassiest headphones around they are more than capable in that regard. some say that they focus more on mids and highs and that mids are a bit weak however i've personally never thought they sounded bad in anything i've pushed through them.

they are easy to power with any device so you shouldnt need an amp of any sort.

they are built very sturdy and are foldable. this makes them nice for traveling back and forth to places. mines been through a knapsack for several years without breaking so far. i also love the cable. its thick! and it has a solid metal end with a metal spring strain relief (not a rubber molded one).

the only cons i can say about them are the soundstage (covered earlier) the fact that they get a bit hot if you wear them a long time (all closed headsets are like this) and that the pleather pads will eventually need replacing if you wear them alot (sweat hardens them... but this is quite common for most headphones)

a great set of headphones if they fit your need.

--

an alternative would be the dt770. its really not out of budget... please see this link http://www.ebay.ca/sch/i.html?_sacat=0&_from=R40&LH_BIN...

they look to be shippable from the usa to canada for $185 free shipping (take your pick of the 250 or 80)

they are available in 32, 80 (both which compete with the m50) and 250 ohm models (the 250 may need an amp but it sound great).

they have a wider soundstage than the m50s do and are probably one of the wider soundstages you will find for closed headphones in your budget range.

they get as much praise and hype as the m50s do for quality of sound. the 250ohm version also can hit pretty hard. i've heard it highly recommended from someone who tried all 3 versions out.

they are not foldable like the m50s but i've heard they are very comfortable.

this would be a great set as well and might be better suited for gaming (although this all comes down to personal preferences... audio is a very personal thing).

--

as far as microphones are concerned... the 4 choices i would suggest are:

blue snowball, audiotechnica atr2500, samson co1u or modmic.

(what i didnt mention is the blue yeti or at-2020usb+ because of cost... but i'll come back to that in a moment).

--

a few factors to help narrow it down?

-did you need to be able to hear the input from the microphone in your headhones? if the answer is yes then you want one with a microphone jack.

-did you need to record things other than a single voice? for instance a duet commentary or perhaps music? if the answer is yes then you might want to get one with multiple recording modes. however, for most things standard cardioid mics work fine.

--

the blue snowball is a highly respected mic for amateur youtubers. it has good quality and is fairly inexpensive. it also has multiple pickup patterns. it doesnt have a headphone jack though. this is a very good mic to start out with for youtube however some may outgrow it quickly.

the atr2500 is comparable to a cheaper built at-2020. its not built as nice but i've heard audio quality is pretty good. it also has a microphone jack but only one pickup pattern. if possible i would splurge for the full at-2020 (see my note about that later) but this might work.

the samson co1u is comparable to the atr2500 in quality and that it only has a cardioid pickup pattern but it doesnt have a headphone jack. also not a bad mic for on a budget.

then there is the modmic. this is a boom mic which attaches directly to your headphones. they are shipped from the modmic website and are rather hard to find anywhere else. the cost is rather low at $40 but they get good reviews. if you really would like to spring for a high quality mic (below) but are worried about budget right now you could always get a modmic now to use for gaming and recording then trade up to a better mic when you can afford it. then you can always keep the modmic when you're playing causal or when you are traveling (like if you went home for the weekend) and keep your full setup at your dorm.

if you went for the idea above about trading up in the future then the two i would suggest are the at-2020 and the blue yeti. both are EXCELLENT microphones with great quality. they sound better than the others i listed. as far as which you want... that depends on your needs.

the blue yeti has multiple pickup patterns and a headphone jack. the at-2020usb has only cardioid and no headphone jack while the at-2020usb+ (note the plus symbol or plus text added after the usb part) has a headphone jack. they are what some of the professional youtubers are using.

i've seen the yeti on ebay.ca for $120 and the 2020 for $140.

--

TLDR? or just wanted a recap?

the m50s is a nice pair of headphones but i'd be tempted to suggest the dt770 instead (if you get an amp the 250ohm version might be great!)

if you were game to get a high quality mic in the future or if you managed to fit it in budget now i'd go with an at2020usbplus or blue yeti in a heartbeat. if it was to be in the future i'd get a modmic for temporary audio. its no slouch and i've heard is quite excellent for the low cost.

if you didnt want to upgrade in the future or wanted something cheaper i'd spring for the blue snowball or possibly the atr2500 (though some question its durability).

--

as for what works best for you? thats hard to say but i've given you a few choices in your thread and recapped here.
From: Joshua Lange
Sent on: May 19, 2014 1:56 PM
As always, you seem to put a lot of time and effort into every posting you do, at least all of the postings that I've seen! I've put my order in for an ATR2500 microphone and pop filter to go with it ( was gonna make one, but for 6 bucks it is almost easier to buy them), and I should have just enough money to cover the headphones and any possible duties that happen when the package goes over the border! Once again, I thank you for your knowledge and insight. You being an owner of the ATH-M50x was extremely helpful because it allowed me to understand what everything would sound like coming out of the headphones. My friend kept suggesting Beats and they're great headphones (if you disregard the pricing) but he's way more into the bass heavy playlists whereas I like to mix up a bit of classical in with my dance music, so I need that well rounded pair of headphones. I figured that if I was going to buy a pair of high end headphones, I should get the latest model and not worry about upgrading for some time. I also noticed that the upgraded versions supposedly had a better build quality and if I'm spending this kind of cash on a pair of cans then I'd like them to at least last for a considerable amount of time.

I considered your ideas on microphones as well, I decided to go with the atr 2500. I'll have to be careful with it if there is some sort of durability issue with it, but at the same time I really wanted that headphone jack so I can hear what I sound like while making my videos or talking to my friends.... Not only so I know if I'm screaming or not, but also so I can get used to the sound of my own voice as everybody else hears it :p

And yes, you were correct in your assumption of my current location, Canada, the land of where the heck can I get a good deal on anything without paying 50 dollars shipping haha. Again, thank you so much for your assistance and I will definitely be filing all of this information away for use in the future. It not only built on my preexisting knowledge, but introduced me to new concepts.

Thanks a bundle,
Joshua Lange.
From: ssddx
Sent on: May 19, 2014 2:48 PM
my posts tend to be on the lengthy side but only because they are chock full of usefull information. it does take me awhile to compose sometimes but only because i spend time to make sure its the best answer i can provide. i also provide reasons behind every suggestion i make and it takes time to pull links and cross reference data.

let me know how the atr2500 works out. for $6 you are right its not worth making a pop filter.

i actually dont own the m50x. i own the m50s (s as in sally). its the older version of the m50x (the x as in x-ray version added a detacheable cable and 3 different cable styles to pick from). generally though they are the same thing.

beats headphones are complete junk for the price they try and charge. they are worth $50 at most in terms of value. yes, i've listened to them in person and the audio quality is on par with $50 headphones in my own opinion. the build quality also leaves much to be desired.

i was reluctant at first the first time i spent that much money on a pair of headphones (though i spend full retail of $180 on my m50s) however they have been very good to me. they are at least 3-4 years old now and still going strong. i need to buy some new earpads for them now (like $10 for a set) but i consider that normal wear and tear for any headphone set. if you treat them right they will last a long time.

hearing your own voice is very odd. its almost unrecognizable and i cringe every time i hear it .

yeah... for being so close canada has it rough for pricing.

no trouble... just let me know if you have any troubles when your stuff comes in.

do remember to break your m50 in for at least a few days (they will sound better after a few days of use).
From: Joshua Lange
Sent on: May 19, 2014 2:53 PM
Roger, I'll get back to you with my thoughts on the m50x's sound quality, feel, etc.

I assume breaking in is the "burn in" period that everyone is talking about? I'll probably run music for 10 hours or so, wide range of music. That sounds like it would work
From: ssddx
Sent on: May 19, 2014 3:00 PM
to be honest the break in period can be just normal listening.

no need for any special break in sessions or the like.

they just sound slightly better after a little bit of use is all (though to me they sounded great out of the package)
From: Joshua Lange
Sent on: May 24, 2014 7:08 AM
So the ATR-2500 microphone came in a couple days ago and I've have a couple days to test it out. I've found that, as far as microphone quality goes, it's a huge step up from anything I've had before. There's still slight distortion in the background, but it's almost non-existent unless you were looking for it. I have nothing else to compare it to other than other YouTube channels, so I'd say the quality is about 85% of this streamer's microphone quality:

https://www.youtube.com/user/gbay99

So it's a pretty good microphone, but I don't think I paid as much as he did for his microphone setup.

There are only two issues that I have with the headset, one is cosmetic and one is an actual problem that may or may not have a way of fixing it. The cosmetic issue has to do with the blue light on the front. They chose a SUPER bright LED light for it, so bright that if can cast a beam of light a good 2 feet easily in a half-lit room ( haven't tested it in the dark yet). It's almost blinding, to be honest. When I'm not recording I usually rotate the microphone a little so it isn't pointed directly at me. It's almost like they strapped a blue laser pointer onto it just to make sure you noticed it was on.

The other issue has to do with the audio out function that they put on the device and, using my limited knowledge of this product, I wasn't able to make it actually play my voice through the headphones with disabling my other headphones, which is all right I suppose. But even then, I had to put my mouth right up to the microphone to get it to send audio through the headphones, which makes me sound like I'm yelling into the microphone. Apart from that though, I find this microphone to be pretty amazing. The distance you can sit away from the microphone without having to pump its power up to huge amount is pretty good too. I have it set about 1 1/2- 2 feet from me and it picks my voice up perfectly with the microphone volume set to around 70. ( it could probably go lower to be honest). All in all though, if you really all looking for a headset and you're strapped for cash like myself, I'd personally go for a slightly cheaper one without a headphone jack. That is, if I'm not missing something crucial when it comes to making this feature work.

I'll send you another message when I get the headset, but you were interested in this product so I thought I'd shoot you a message about it
From: Joshua Lange
Sent on: June 5, 2014 4:37 AM
Headset came in, 2 day shipping hooray! It's a pretty nice headset so far, I've noticed that it does have a short burn time where I assume it's cleaning out all of the particulate matter in the headset and getting used to actually working, but it's been 3 days since they came and I'd say the burn in period is over.

Much like the reviews, they have clear sound, at least that's how I would describe it. I've played classical music in them and it sounds clear and crisp, hitting opera highs without losing it's depth. Dance music has a good amount of bass but because they are studio monitor headphones, you shouldn't expect anything super bassy coming from these headphones. I personally enjoy the amount of bass that comes out of the drivers, as it doesn't muddle the other sounds that are usually lost with high bass.

The detachable cords are amazingly convenient; If you're going out, detach the 3m cable from your headset and hook up the shorter straight cable or the coiled cable if you feel like relaxing. It also comes with an amp connection, though I find little use for it because they already perform extremely well without an amp (plus that's extra cost on top of the 200 dollar price tag, something I definitely did not have :p )

There's two joints that allow the headset to conform to your personal head shape: one is the usual joint that allows for movement on the frontal plane, but there's a second rotational joint that allows the ear cups to rotate around your ears instead of just the usual up and down motion that headphones usually have.... which means the headphones actually sit on your head instead of half on if you didn't have that second joint. The latter joint is stiff so as to keep it on in the position you set it at. Also, the band that lengthens and shortens the headset's circumference is made of both what I assume to be aluminium and plastic, very sturdy design. The only issue I have with this pair of headphones is that the amount of memory foam on the inside of the headband is a little lacking, but not enough to be uncomfortable. I usually can only sit in front of my computer for 2 hours at a time before I have to get up and move around, but the headset hasn't caused me any issues in terms of loss of comfort ever, with the longest time with them on being 4 hours. I haven't had enough spare time to try them on for longer, but I'd assume I could in theory keep them on for 8 hours at a time, take a 10 minute break, and put them back on for the last couple hours of the night.

All in all, the headphones are what I consider to be an extremely high quality build with a lot of attention to detail put into them and I'd recommend them to anybody looking for a pair of studio grade headphones.

Again, thanks for you help in this venture :)
From: ssddx
Sent on: June 8, 2014 12:00 AM
good to know about the atr2500. considering the price (which is still rock bottom as far as recording mics go) i dont think you can expect *perfect* but it sounds like its going to be good enough for your purposes without breaking the bank.

i'm not sure what your issue is with the headphone out on the mic. perhaps there is an adjustment for volume (and i'm unsure if its an amped connection or a line-out which would make a major difference)

your opinion on the m50x is similar to mine on the m50s. good sound, great build quality and decent comfort. the earcups are *just* a little to shallow for my liking but that doesnt affect comfort. i've had them on for 9 hour days and the only issue i've had was that my ears get hot (which would happen with any closed headphone) so i just take them off every hour for a few minutes.

unless you're running on a line-out jack or on a source with a weak amp you shouldnt need an amplifier for them since they are only 38ohm.
atr2500 (usb + headphone jack) $66 @ amazon

blue snowball... a low cost solution for entry level recording. the ice version has 1 pattern, the normal has 3. while quality is decent (but not quite the atr2500) they are plagued by low volume output. a good choice for entry level but you may need to fiddle with them a bit to get it to work right for you. there are two models...
blue snowball ice (usb, no headphone jack) $49 @ amazon
blue snowball (usb, no headphone jack) $61-68 @ amazon

eventually i would like to get into some recording myself... when i have a propper area and setup to do so and i would likely go for the at2020 or at2035. both are at the upper end of what would be youtube-worthy mics and i've had great luck with audiotechnica thus far and i like the design. an alternative would be the yeti if i wanted additional features.

i think that you couldnt go wrong with either the yeti or 2020 but if thats out of budget then you may like the 2500.

what about a clip on?

most clip on microphones are omnidirectional and pick up on alot of noise you dont want them to. instead of going that route you may be better off using a lightweight headset or bluetooth over ear type headset. something with a cardioid style mic not omnidirectional.

if you did use a clip on... you would want near dead silence in the room or else it will pick up on it.

an alternative would be to use a mic stand and just move your microphone (like the 2020) near to your work area and record on that from a few feet away. quality is going to be better.

anything else i need?

i would highly suggest a microphone stand (for positioning your microphone better) technically you can make your own provided you buy threaded adapter kits (microphone thread to 1/4-20 for example...) and make it out of pipe or whatever you have around but i would suggest one of the adjustable arm styles you buy. a floor mount stand (with weighted base) may be more usefull if you intend to do build videos but takes up more room. a desk boom isnt as intrusive but would require a bit more effort to move around (though its still completely viable).

i would also highly suggest a shock mount so that vibration doesnt affect your mic. you can buy one (suggested) or make your own (works, but is ugly) out of anything you have laying around and rubber bands/nylon stretch cord.

i would also highly suggest a pop filter. you can buy them (cheap) or make one (cheaper but uglier) out of pantyhose and a wire
 

Onus

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Nice, thorough answer, much like your guides are shaping up to be.
After poring over reviews, and asking some Internet DJ's I know (www.haywiregulch.net) what they use, yesterday, I ordered a $60 Blue Ice Snowball, http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=0H9-00C9-00001 which is currently showing Out For Delivery.
One of them recommended something called Voicemeeter (a free DAW, as you described), which I will try.
I've drawn up what rather looks like a syllabus, and I'm going to try to start recording ten-fifteen minute segments I will call something like "The Onus is On YOU" regarding political awareness and current events.
 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
i would do some thorough testing when to get it to make sure it fits your expectations

thats always a good thing to do whenever you get a new piece of hardware in case you arent satisfied and need to return it.

the only thing that worries me about the snowballs is how they keep getting reviews stating that they arent very loud (i'm not sure if this is because its a mic issue or if they are just completely daft and cannot fix fix it). regardless, they are very popular.

let me know your thoughts when you get it.

----

you might want to practice a bit if you arent used to recording. you might have several takes before you can act natural on microphone.

 

Onus

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It arrived today. I've only hooked it up to test, but according to Windows, the levels were fine, and I was at least a foot from it and not sputtering directly into it. I think it will be good. I suspect people saying it's quiet have never even seen the [ ] Boost checkbox that a lot of mics need to have set (I didn't even need to look on this one; it just worked).
 
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