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Gear and Cabling recommendations for Podcast, Radio, Broadcast
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MrCrowbar
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3rd February 2010
Old 3rd February 2010
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Gear and Cabling recommendations for Podcast, Radio, Broadcast

I've been working with internet radio for a while and would like to share my recommendations. Enjoy and feel free to ask questions or add your own insights.

==================================================

This is valid for shows with up to 4 hosts and a really professional broadcast sound on a budget.

Here's the cabling diagram (5000x5000 px): http://img27.imageshack.us/img27/1069/podcastgear.jpg




Rode Podcaster in shockmount an mic boom -> SM Pro TB202 (or TC 202 for more compressor parameters)
This gives you plenty of gain (needed for dynamic mics), a warm sound and a rather nice compression for talking. Use TC 202 if you're comfortable with using a compressor, it's a bit more expensive but has the usual compressor parameter instead of an EQ.

SM Pro TB202 -> Allen & Heath ZED 14 Input 1-4
The SM Pro Preamps are 2-channel units (more or less equivalent two channel strips in one) are plugged into the line inputs of the Mixer. You can add some more gain using the mixer's gain knobs, and EQ it to make your voices sound nice.


Skype -> Allen & Heath ZED 14 USB (channel 13-14)
In Skype for Windows and Mac you can select the input output and ringer devices. If you want to take calls during your show/podcast, I recommend settings Skype's input and output to the ZED 14's USB interface. This way, you have a dedicated fader for Skype and can choose what channels you want to go to Skype.

When you get calls over Skype, they're usually way too loud or barely audible so the fader really helps to level it out. Skype only does mono and ignores what comes in on the right channel, so set AUX3 on the mic input channels to 0dB (9 o'clock on this mixer) so the caller can hear you. Don't forget to depress the "AUX 3-4" switch so the AUX sends are routed to USB (Skype), leave the "AUX 1-2" and "LR PRE" switches disengaged. You DON'T want to route the Main Outs to Skype, because that would get you terrible delayed feedback.

If you wan't the Skype caller to hear your music or jingles, turn up the AUX3 knob on the PC channel (11-12). Maybe don't turn it up to 0dB but a little less to make sure the caller can clearly hear you talk over the music. If you want to ridicule your caller by playing fart sounds or having a co-host make fun of him without the caller knowing, turn down the AUX3 all the way down on the channels you don't want the caller to hear. ALWAYS keep the AUX3 on the Skype channel (13-14) all the way down, otherwise the caller will hear himself on an annoying delay.

If you're doing a show where you want to take random calls from listeners, it's a good idea to have the Skype channel muted on the mixer and set Skype to auto-accept all calls (and set Skype up so it doesn't make ringing noises). This way, when people call, they immediately hear the live show (remember that streams on uStream, Stickam or any other service are on a significant delay) on Skype and If you wanna take the call, just unmute the Skype channel and say something like "you're on the show" and adjust the fader to a comfortable level.


Behringer Autocom MDX1600 on the Main Mix
One of the cool things about the Allen & Heath ZED mixers is that they all have inserts for the Main Mix. Although your mics are all individually compressed, their volumes still add up if more than one person is talking at the same time or someone's talking over music. Music is also mastered on different levels (old music is quieter, Hip Hop is way loud, indie music all over the place). Jumping volumes is highly annoying for listeners so having a compressor/limiter on the main mix is a good idea. Any stereo compressor/limiter will do but the Behringer is as cheap and totally up to the job. Go easy with the noise gate and use the "Peak Limiter" to get the levels up. If the Mixer's VU-Meters yellow lights never light up and the 0 dB light occasionally lights up whether you're talking normally or yelling over music, it's just right. Press the "Couple" swith on the Behringer so you just dial in your sound on the left half of the unit and it will be stereo.

If you're using a different mixer without main inserts, just connect one output pair of the MDX1600 to the audio interface and the other output pair to the headphones amp. In that case you need to set the input levels on the interface itself and your main output level meters are on the Behringer, not the Mixer.


Behringer HA4700 headphones Amp
This thing has 4 outputs with a Bass and Treble EQ per output so you can compensate for cheap or different headphones. Either connect the headphones amp to the Compressor/Limiter on the Main Mix (the MDX1600) or to spare main mix outputs on the Mixer (provided it has Main Mix inserts like this ZED14).

You could have multiple headphone mixes using the mixer's AUX sends but that's rarely necessary for radio. If you have a dedicated DJ/Prodicer, you could turn up the AUX1-2 knob on the PC channel (11-12, where the music comes in) and mix in the microphones and Skype channel just a little. This way, the DJ/Producer can pre-listen to the music or jingles without the hosts hearing it. AUX1-2 are pre-fader and the host of the show would need to turn down the ch11-12 fader all the way down when not playing music. The Mixer's AUX Send 1-2 need to be connected to an AUX In on the front of the Headphones Amp via a Y-cable (TRS on one end, two mono jacks on the other).


Tascam US 100 Audio Interface
Now this is a rather low end interface but it uses the default system drivers (ASIO on Windows or CoreAudio on Mac) so you won't have troubles with outdates drivers or software not working with it. It only has RCA inputs but those are fine, just connect it to the 2-track input and output of the mixer. The signals going into it are already heavily compressed, so 16 bit is totally adequate and 44.1 kHz should be used anyway. Set up your stream (and recording software) to the interface's inputs.


Headphones
I personally love the AKG K240 Studio because they're comfortable and not tiring after hours. Don't go for closed headphones, these are usually very tight on your skull and you don't have a click track or anything that you don't want to bleed into the mics. Any semi-open cans will do.


If you're really on a budget
- Only use one mic boom for the main host and use heavy table mic stands for the co-hosts, the ones with a heavy round base (like the K&M 232BK)
- Use one cardioid condenser mic for the co-hosts. You don't need to be so close to condenser mics so two people can share one. It will sound better than using two SM58 but you'll have some room sound coming into that mic.
- Use the Mixer's preamp if you can't afford the SM Pro stuff, you still need compressors though.
- If you can't afford the Headphones amp, the Mixer has two headphone output and most audio interfaces have one two. You won't get different levels though or get the main mix compression on all
- If you're only doing a one or two person show, you can get by with just one stereo compressor. In that case, just put one MDX1600 on the 2 mic channels and set it to limit a lot. Your music and jingles won't be compressed, but you can't have them both. If you just put a compressor on the main mix, either your music/jingles will be way too compressed or your voices will not be adequately compressed.
Behringer also makes 4-channel compressors (Multicom). They have less parameters and you could just use the first 2 channels on the mixer's channel inserts and the remaining 2 channels for main mix limiting.
- Use just one stereo audio interface. This will give you just one fader for music/jingles/skype but you can get by. You could also just have a second computer and use its built-in input and output for skype.
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3rd February 2010
Old 3rd February 2010
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jersey drape is offline
MrCrowbar, thank you for all this information. I'm putting together something like this myself and you answered almost all of my questions in one post. I hope other people find this post as useful as me.

Thanks again!
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14th February 2010
Old 14th February 2010
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The Soundcraft Spirit M4 is also a good option as a mixer.

it's about the same price as the ZED 14, has only 4 preamps (instead of 6) but it has direct outs so you can use it for recording. the faders are 100mm, the main mix has insert connectors (why don't most small mixers have that!?).

The AUX returns are RCA connectors which is unusual but cool for connecting things like turntables, iPods/computers (1/8" jack to RCA cables are super cheap), standalone CD players, VHS recorders (most reliable and cheap stereo backup recorder IMO).

The only thing I don't like about it is that the Mute and PFL (solo) switches are not illuminated; there's just one light below the VU-Meters indicating that something is solo-ed.
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15th February 2010
Old 15th February 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MrCrowbar View Post
One of the cool things about the Allen & Heath ZED mixers is that they all have inserts for the Main Mix.
It might be cool to have yet another connection point on a desk but i never understand why anyone uses it. Cabling gets more complex and running unbalanced cabling picks up noise. You should run your main out into the compressor then the compressor outs into your next device.
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15th February 2010
Old 15th February 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aussie_techie View Post
It might be cool to have yet another connection point on a desk but i never understand why anyone uses it. Cabling gets more complex and running unbalanced cabling picks up noise. You should run your main out into the compressor then the compressor outs into your next device.
This is so you can use the Main Mix faders. When the compressor is inserted, it gets the same signal even with the Main Mix faders all the way down. If you do a fade-in or fade-out and apply compression after it in the chain, the fade will be compressed (i.e. sound clumsy) and you get a lot of noise from the compressor amplifying a quiet signal.

You have a good point for broadcasting applications though, what you want there is a signal touching the 0dB mark all the time so it does make sense to have the compression post (Main Mix) fader. This way, you can kind of control the main mix compression threshold with the faders.


For podcasting, I need three output pairs, preferably after the main mix compression:
- into the computer (stream and recording)
- into the headphones amp (assuming more than one host)
- into the backup recorder (VHS recorder)

Most stereo compressors just have two output pairs (XLR & TRS) so that takes care of the computer and headphones amp. The backup recorder would get the uncompressed signal from a 2-track mixer output, but that's acceptable, you need to play back the whole tape back anyway so you might as well apply the compression there (or do it in software).
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15th February 2010
Old 15th February 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MrCrowbar View Post
This is so you can use the Main Mix faders. When the compressor is inserted, it gets the same signal even with the Main Mix faders all the way down. If you do a fade-in or fade-out and apply compression after it in the chain, the fade will be compressed (i.e. sound clumsy) and you get a lot of noise from the compressor amplifying a quiet signal.
A good point when you need do a fade out but you have to ask your self when you actually would want to? With any broadcast you want it to flow and not stop in the middle so while you may fade out subgroups or cross fade channels you wouldnt be touching the masters. As for the end of a pod-cast you can always fade in the digital domain if you choose to.

I have also found bus inserts on some desks to be post fade. I don't know the signal flow of the ZED but i never assume anything is as would make sense.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrCrowbar View Post
You have a good point for broadcasting applications though, what you want there is a signal touching the 0dB mark all the time so it does make sense to have the compression post (Main Mix) fader. This way, you can kind of control the main mix compression threshold with the faders.
not just in broardcast but any application when a comp/limiter is being used to give a constant level or for system protection it must be the last thing in the chain or else what is the point of having a comp/limiter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrCrowbar View Post
For podcasting, I need three output pairs, preferably after the main mix compression:
- into the computer (stream and recording)
- into the headphones amp (assuming more than one host)
- into the backup recorder (VHS recorder)

Most stereo compressors just have two output pairs (XLR & TRS) so that takes care of the computer and headphones amp. The backup recorder would get the uncompressed signal from a 2-track mixer output, but that's acceptable, you need to play back the whole tape back anyway so you might as well apply the compression there (or do it in software).
there are so many way around this its simply not an issue. The 4ch behringer headphone amp has XLR & TRS through which is a split in its self so right there you have a solution without adding anything else. If you were to have a different headphone amp wiring a couple of Y-splits is a no brainer.
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5th March 2010
Old 5th March 2010
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The Yamaha MG series mixers and the upcoming Behringer Xenyx boards have built-in one-knob compression. These boards might be interesting for the people on a really tight budget just starting out because you wouldn't need the 19" compressors and it's easier to use (just one knob), although less flexible.

The Yamaha MG 124 C (http://www.yamaha-europe.com/picture...c_high_jpg.jpg) could be interesting: 4 compressors built-in, nice and big "ON" buttons on each channel so you know when you're "On Air". There's also the CX versions with added reverb effects and USB versions with built-in stereo audio interface.
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