Testing Behringer's Podcastudio USB and Firewire for podcastingTweet
In Chicago, I used to teach a class: How to Start Podcasting for Under $100.
It was a very popular class. The principle is simple: the hard part of podcasting is creating compelling content and delivering it on a regular basis, which requires a great deal of creativity and discipline. The audio production is the easy part. Sure, there is a learning curve, which I happily train others to deal with, but in truth, the technical audio production is the easiest part of podcasting.
That being said, it's really fun being an audio geek. Especially for under $100.
I've been using the combination of a Blue Snowball USB mic, Audio HiJack Pro, Audacity and GarageBand to produce podcasts for the last few years. And upgrade to a mixer and XLR mics hasn't seemed practical, since they still run pretty expensive, and the Snowball mic plugs right into my MacBook via USB. What can I say? I'm a lazy podcaster.
But last week, my audio guru Brian Crouch of Behringer offered to demonstrate their Podcastudio product, and I was eager to give it a try. There's just something about all the dials on a mixer that have always fascinated me as a wannabe audio geek.
So here is what comes in the Podcast Studio USB box for $100:
- Studio-class 5-input 2-bus mixer
- 2 In / 2 Out USB audio interface
- Dynamic microphone
- Mic stand and XLR cable
- Studio headphones
- 2 stereo RCA cables
- Podcasting how-to book
The mixer The interface plugs into your computer using USB and to the mixer. The mixer can take up to four separate microphone inputs, so it would work great for a panel discussion. Or, if you like, the host could use one mic, and guests, say on a panel, could pass a second mic among them. One nice thing about this setup is that the mixer allows the podcaster to control the input for each mic. So if you have a loud talker and a soft talker, the podcaster can adjust the incoming audio live and eliminate the need to level the file after the fact. Pretty good deal for a lazy podcaster like myself!
The mic A studio-quality dynamic mic is included, which is pretty amazing, considering they usually run at least $150. And a word of caution: the mic is unidirectional, so be sure to monitor and make sure the speakers are speaking directly into the mic. No broad cardioid patterns here. Of course, if you want to purchase additional mics, you could choose omnidirectional ones.
Other inputs I was also wondering about music input--say, if you wanted to record a live show and actually play the intro/outro music live and fade it up and down. Turns out you can use audio input (e.g. from your iPhone) to the 1/4" input on the mixer; just make sure you get a 3.5 mil audio output adapter first (not included).
Firewire Since I prefer Firewire, I tried out the Firewire version. As you can see on the right, I actually used a bigger mixer than the set actually comes with, just for grins. The Firewire version does cost a bit more, about $170. The mixer has eight inputs (versus four), and it comes with a condenser microphone (C-1) instead of the dynamic. It also comes with two 1/4" cables and two Firewire cables (instead of USB, of course).
Sometimes, I have to shake my head in jealousy of how darn easy you kids have it these days! In the early days of podcasting, there were bundles like this--usually priced around $500. I remember listening to a how-to podcast in which the host insisted you couldn't produce decent audio for anything under $1,000. No beginning podcaster would invest in something like this for fear the podcast would never gain an audience, and the gear would gather dust like so many holiday gifts by February.
But $100 is a pretty reasonable price for a cool starter pack. And when your podcast hits #1 on iTunes, you can tell the interviewer, "Oh, I got started for like $100."