Thursday, January 30, 2014

Audio Gear for Geeks

I spend a lot of time in my day job building up various recordings for videos. Having high-quality sound for videos makes a huge difference with your audience. As a very experienced podcasting pal once told me, “Don’t give them an excuse to turn your stuff off.” He used a word other than “stuff.”

In The Beginning

When I first started out in my evangelism (now developer advocate) role, I used this Logitech H390 headset for my recordings.  It’s a great headset which does a fine job with audio. The quality was completely acceptable. I still use this headset for all my webinars, webexes, online meetings, Skype calls, etc. It’s comfortable and the inline mute/volume switch is awesome. Plus at $28-ish it’s an insanely great value.




Nowadays I’m using the setup below, and it’s getting me awesome results:

Microphone: The Audio Technica AT2020 USB condenser mic. It’s just plain awesome. Carl Franklin gave this a big thumbs up as he used this extensively in his professional sound studio for years. This mic is roughly $100, but it’s an incredible value. I know folks who are using $300 mics for podcasting/video recording and their audio doesn’t sound any better than what I get out of the AT2020.

The best thing about this mic is its utter elimination of echoes in my recording room. My home office is a small room with extremely nasty echoes from the hard plaster walls. With earlier recording devices I’d tried all kinds of workarounds, including (honestly!) recording while hiding under a blanket draped over my workstation. The AT2020 scoffs at echoes in my office and gives me great, clean sound.

Shock Mount: A “spider” mount isolates the mic from the boom. This Samson SP01 mounts on the boom listed below and holds the mic in a cool web. Vibrations can’t pass the web mount. Neat. (Insert trite Gandalf “THOU SHALL NOT PASS!” joke here.)



Boom: You know you want more boom in your life. Get some. A mic boom helps isolate the mic from noises and vibration, and it’s great for swiveling around so I can record while futzing around between different systems and sitting positions. It’s surprising how big a difference this “simple” gadget made. This one’s a Rhode PSA1, and it comes with a couple different mounting options: a clamp for your desk and also a more permanent threaded nut/bolt arrangement if you have a hole available in your table. (Or pull out a drill…)

An additional benefit from the boom: I can swivel the mic down enough to get nice recordings from my acoustic guitar. (No, I am not sharing those! )

Pop Filter: I got one because I see all the cool-looking videos of recording artists and actors in ADR. OK, actually I got this Nady 6”  pop filter because they really do help out with eliminating harsh sounds while you’re talking. I’m not sure how it works; I just know it does.

This clamps on the boom and has a nice flexible arm to position it around. I found the filter arm tends to droop a bit, so I use a small velcro strap to help hold it in place.

Putting It All Together

I tried getting a shot of my setup in the home office, but I couldn’t get anything I was satisfied with. (And I actually even cleaned my desk.) All this stuff goes together quite easily, and the swivel lets me keep the gear out of my way when I’m not recording.

You’ll spend a couple hundred dollars on all the gear above, but it’s really worth it if you want to step up the quality of audio you’re creating.

1 comment:

Jim Evans said...

Re: Pop filters, and why they work: The short answer is, "Physics." When you vocalize a word using a plosive consonant (like "b", "d", or "p"), you expel a relatively large mass of air forward out of your mouth. This is normally not a problem, unless you're using a microphone with a sensitive diaphragm, in which case the air mass may overwhelm the diaphragm. The pop filter stops the mass of air without sacrificing the audio sound of the plosive consonant.

I *knew* all those long nights in the recording studio would come in handy one day!

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