10 reasons you should get a mixer for podcasting – TAP124

Do you need a mixer to podcast

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The simplest reason to get a mixer is to mix things and have more control. But mixers can make many tasks much easier for podcast production.

@SavageTechman asked me to cover why a podcaster should get a mixer. Here are my ten reasons and I would love to hear why you use a mixer for podcasting!

1. Skype mix-minus

Many programs can do a great job of recording Skype calls on your computer. Namely, I recommend Ecamm Call Recorder for Skype (OS X), or Pamela (Windows). But either of these put more reliance on your PC and each have their own limitations.

Running a Skype “mix-minus” sets up your mixer so that it sends everything to Skype except for the Skype audio. This prevents the Skype guest from hearing themselves.

2. Multiple in-studio cohosts

If you have more than one microphone, then a mixer will be your best way mix the mics into a single recording. Depending on your PC and software, you can sometimes get by with a few Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB mics, but you’ll have to hack things together and use extra software.

A mixer simplifies the process. Just plug in more mics, turn up their volume, and you’re ready!

3. Mixing sounds

Playing sounds—music, sound clips, voicemails, and such—into your recording will save you a lot of post-production time. Instead of editing your sounds into your recording, you can simply play them in with a mixer and they’re recorded!

4. More control

Have a quiet cohost and need to raise their volume? No problem! Want to fade out your music while you’re talking? No problem! Want to quickly mute while you or your cohost coughs or adjusts a mic? No problem!

A mixer gives you more control over the audio in your recording. You can mix, mute, solo, adjust volumes, and much more. And it’s all done live, while you’re recording, and can be quite seamless.

5. Connecting professional gear

USB mics and headsets are popular ways for podcasters to start, but they’re usually cheap equipment that produce poor audio. If you want to step up your quality, you’ll most likely get a microphone with an XLR plug. This is no problem for connecting to a mixer!

Having a mixer also allows you to connect with almost any other audio device: RCA, 1/4″, stereo, mono, XLR, balanced, unbalanced, inputs, and outputs.

Investing in a quality mixer also means you can continue to upgrade your other equipment but keep the same mixer for many years.

6. Higher-quality mic preamps

All microphones require a preamplifier. It powers the mic and amplifies the signal to a usable level. You can get XLR-to-USB adapters or use other XLR inputs. But if the preamps are cheap, you’ll record a constant hiss into your recording.

Professional mixers above the $100 price floor usually have moderate-quality preamps that will raise the volume of your mic without introducing hiss. Cheap mixers are cheap because they use cheap preamps.

7. Real-time audio enhancement and effects

Most mixers give you at least basic equalization control for highs and lows. But many professional mixers offer 3 or 4 bands for equalization, and real-time special effects processing.

You may not use the special effects often, but the EQ is a great way to give a subtle enhancement to your voice or other audio. Again, this is added straight into your recording and saves time editing later.

8. Connecting a wireless phone for easy live calls


With a simple $7 (or less) iPod AV cable, you can connect almost any modern wireless phone to your mixer for easy phone calls. No software and no fancy hacks! The output from the phone is usually on the red and white lines while the input is usually the yellow line.

9. Multichannel recording

Depending on your mixer and recording setup, you may have the easy option to record you and your cohosts into separate audio tracks to make editing and post-processing much easier. This could be a simple left and right split, or as elaborate as a USB 2.0 or Firewire mixer that outputs more than stereo.

I’ve used a Behringer X1204USB (Amazon.com | B&H) and X1832USB (Amazon.com | B&H) to record in four channels when outputting to my Zoom H4n (Amazon.com | B&H).

10. More output possibilities without relying on software

Not only do mixers have a lot of inputs, but they also offer a lot of outputs! You can use one output for Skype mix-minus, another for a wireless phone mix-minus, another for recording, another for headphones, another for live-streaming, and many more options.

The mixers I recommend

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Learn Audacity in an upcoming webinar

My first Audacity webinar was a great success and was highly praised. This is where I teach the basics and some of the more advanced techniques of using Audacity for podcasting and other audio-editing. If you want to edit your own audio for high quality and with efficiency, then join me for my “Learn Audacity” webinar on Saturday, May 18, at noon (EDT/GMT-4).

Tickets are $100 for this 2-hour webinar (including Q&A). Reserve your space today!

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  • http://twitter.com/ryanmr Ryan Rampersad

    All of these reasons are great reasons to have a mixer. Over time I have adjusted each XLR channel to the way I’ve wanted it — it’s a setup and kinda-forget it thing. I don’t often toggle anything but the small fine-tuning gain for in studio guests, and I usually end up doing more balancing in post (normalizing, compressing, etc). The mixer also allowed us to run remote shows, and while we’re not on skype (we use google+ hangouts), the mix-minus is indispensable.

    I have a previously used Mackie 1202-VLZ3 (donated to us from an older teacher/professor). It has its quirks due to its age and extended use, but overall, it works great and without it, podcast the way we want to wouldn’t work.

    I would love the chance though (funds permitting) to upgrade to one of the Onyx models one day.

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      You’re saying that you would take your mixer on the road with you?

  • http://www.facebook.com/dangmanhcuong Đặng Mạnh Cường

    Thanks so much! Daniel. By the way, I’d like to share a free software named IFree Skype Recorder – a software I use to record skype call on windows. You can get it from http://www.ifree-recorder.com
    I recorded some audio with one co host through skype using this software. The software puts each person in a channel, so I can edit it easily.
    Hope that useful.
    Cuong

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      Thank you, Cuong. There’s another free app for Windows called MP3 Skype Recorder.

  • Maciek Sokulski

    Thank you Daniel for a great show! I just wish you had recorded that a few months ago, when I was looking for my mixer :) Right now I use the Alesis MultiMix USB 2.0 FX (http://www.alesis.com/multimix8usb20fx) and it’s a great little thing. Me and my co-host, started of with USB mics, and software called CallRecorder for Skype (http://www.ecamm.com/mac/callrecorder/), it is a Mac only software, but what’s great about it, is that it will record a conversation into 2 separate channels. This allowed me to edit our voices separately. Problems started with interviews. The interviewee would be part of my co-host channel, and if they had bad audio I was stuck. We tried a double-ender approach, but unfortunately most people we interviewed did not have technical skills to move a big file from their computer to me. Thus I had to get a mixer. Now what is really cool about the Alesis is that it will show up on the computer as a 10 channel interface via USB. Mix-Minus, effect, etc. Not the cheapest mixer as it comes to about $416 on Amazon. So that’s my story…. sorry for rambling…. and thank you again for a great show!

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      Yeah, the Alesis mixer is great, but expensive and rare (B&H doesn’t sell it anymore).

    • http://GymCastic.com/ OtotheBeirne

      This episode and the conversation has been SO helpful! I use ECamm/CallRecorder for my podcast right now. Sometimes I have as many as five people on Skype at once (all audio, no video). No one is ever in studio. I’m trying to find a mixer solution that will allow me to adjust each individual caller’s audio in real time, rather than having to do it in post-production.

      My question for Maciek, Daniel and Dang (below) – using Skype, is there a way to record multiple people on Skype on their own separate channels, *without* being limited to only two sides of the conversation (as CallRecorder does)? Do Alesis or iFree-Recorder split up each caller’s audio, so that each individual has their own channel? Remember, I always have more than two people on. If not, do you know of any tool or Skype equivalent that does this? I have co-hosts and interviewees from around the world so Skype is the most cost-effective and best sounding tool I have found so far.

      I have tried having each host record their side of the conversation. That is a solution but a giant time suck for me in post-production. Any advice would be greatly greatly appreciated! Thanks for the podcast and for all of the great comments here!

      • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

        You would need a different device for each Skype caller. This could be a selection of iPod Touches that are each signed into different Skype accounts, or this could be different computers. The main thing is that each Skype caller should have their own audio source and come into the mixer through their own channel.

        But the more Skype devices you add, the more audio sends you need on your mixer in order to make a mix-minus—one for each caller.

        What is your budget?

        • http://GymCastic.com/ OtotheBeirne

          Thanks for the quick response Just to make sure I understand here. You are saying, rather than having each host record with eCamm on their side (which I have done and is a giant pain to put together in post production), I should sign in to my own Skype conference call with multiple Skype accounts (enough extra accounts to match the number of callers. We’ll call these Recording Accounts). Then record the Skype audio from each Recording Account onto it’s own external recording device (iPhone, iPod, iPad etc.). Is that correct?
          I have two iPods, an iPad, a Google Tablet and a Shuffle. I’d like to spend under $300.

          • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

            Actually, don’t have your cohosts use eCamm. They could record just themselves with Audacity or any other recording program. But you would want to attempt a synchronization with a countdown.

            But to use a mixer, you need multiple Skype devices, not recording devices. You can install the Skype app computers, tablets, and smartphones, so those can be your Skype devices. But your mixer needs that number of auxiliary/FX sends.

            I can help you pick a specific mixer, or we can schedule some one-on-one consulting to help you connect everything properly. Feel free to email me with more details: feedback@theaudacitytopodcast.com.

          • http://GymCastic.com/ OtotheBeirne

            Gotcha. Thanks! Sent you an email.

  • http://www.qualitylivingmadesimple.com/ Joshua Rivers

    Thanks for sharing these tips, Daniel. I’m not ready to make this advancement, but definitely gives me some more to think about before I make a move.

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      Then I’m very glad that I got the information to you before you took that step!

  • Matthew Candler

    Very helpful, thanks for this. This is the very question I have debated before I begin podcasting. I have seen in your podcasts that you use a Zoom H4n. I was under the impression that this device can also be used as a mixer, is this the case? Granted, not as diverse, but could be adequate possibly?

    I was thinking about holding out for the upcoming release of the Zoom H6, which is up to 6 channels and using it with the ATC2100 and at times just the device mic(s) themselves. Have you ever recorded directly with your H4n and used it for a podcast or video?

  • Tony

    DKJ – Just listened to this podcast. Not that I am against using a mixer since I am not a professional, but could one make the argument that if you do the mixing of sound effects, intro/outros, etc. in post production, that would allow you more flexibility? For example, what if you hit the wrong sound effect? What is your mic was set incorrectly and too bassy? Etc. That would mean these would be all “hard coded” into the recording, or am I misunderstanding this? So, in other words, if someone were to simply record their voices at a “standard” level and then adjust in post processing along with adding the music/effects, wouldn’t that give the person more flexibility?
    Thanks. Tony

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      Good question, Tony. That’s why I use my mixer to record in four channels into my Zoom H4n. The puts my in-studio voices on one track, and sounds and remote voices on another track. So I can process them independently.

      But even without the advanced recording setup that I use, it’s still best to get everything right at its source. You can release podcast episodes much faster if you’re mixing and producing them in real time than in post production.

      Yes, there can be mistakes that end up baked into your recording. That’s why I use four channels so I always have the option to fix those mistakes. But I rarely need that.

  • Tonya Mork

    Thank you, Daniel. We are setting up our new podcast and looking at what equipment we need. We’ll have one in-studio mic, feed in from the computer or iPad with pre-recorded content (voicemails, intro music, etc.), Skype, and then the out to my computer for recording (recorder we’ll add later), will the Behringer Q802USB work to start (knowing we’ll upgrade later) or do we need more channels?

    Thank you.

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      Yes, I think the Q802USB will work well for you to start.

      • Tonya Mork

        Can we still do Skype mix-minus with the Q802USB too?

        • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

          Yes. It has one Auxiliary Send that you can use for that.

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  • Emily Taylor

    podcasters are such stupid dipshits than radio scanner hobbyists. always typical business hype bullshit idiots like this acting like they’re doing shit. Bunch of worthless fucking morons

  • Terry

    Hey Daniel…I’m a long time broadcaster and ready to do a professional podcast. I have a Mackie 1202VLZ3, and an EV RE-20 but my question is, how is the best way to get from my mixer into my MacBook Pro with the best sound quality? Do I need an interface. I plan on using GarageBand and will do my mixing on the Mackie. Kind thanks for you help. Best, Terry

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      Since your mixer doesn’t have USB output, I recommend the Behringer U-Control. It has RCA inputs and outputs and connects to your computer as an extra USB audio device. This will give you higher quality and reduce the noise and other electronic interference.

  • Taylor Sandefur

    Thanks for much for the post, its super informative. I just had a quick question. I plan on using three mics that are supported by USB with the Behringer X1204USB as my mixer all ran by a Mac. Would this work? I’m hesitate because on the product pictures of the mixer I couldn’t locate any usb ports where I would plug my mics into? I apologize if this is a stupid question. I am really new to this and I am just looking for some solid advice.

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      No, there is no mixer than can accept a USB microphone. That’s why I never recommend USB-only microphones (like the Blue models)—you’re stuck with them or have to throw them away if you want to do something more.

      If you use Windows, buy Virtual Audio Cable to combine multiple USB audio devices into a new virtual device so you can still record them. But three microphones may have some performance issues.

      If you’re on OS X, then you can look up how to create an aggregate audio device to accomplish the same thing.

  • Marafiola Pelló

    You have right in every point, Daniel. To sum up, with the mixer you have more control over your production.
    I own the Behringer QX1002USB (to which I hook my condense mic), an external sound card Terratec DMX6FIRE USB and a DJ control (to mixer music on the go)and an external line-in recorder (Zoom H1). Sometimes I think it’s too much, sometimes I don’t think that way.

    My problem began when I wanted to assign the Skype calls internally. I can do this, that means I’m able to record Skype calls with music playing in the background both to my external line-in recorder as well as Audicity in the same PC (I have tested another laptop for Skype use only… but too much gear drives me nuts). I almost forget: I’m always looking for live recording, not postproduction.

    Is there some mixer that would allow me to keep Skype call internally while the music is on for recording and then bring all signals to the main output? In other words: is there some mixer with indepent outputs that I could check in any moment?

    It’s a very troublesome process to me keep an eye on all the controls and the software on the screen. It sounds easy and sure it is if you can switch channels as you wish but in my case I don’t see how.

    Thank you for any hint. Remember: I do my show live so the setup it has to be the simpler possible.

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      Hello! Yes, there are two mixers you could consider. The Behringer X1832USB offers four-channel output. Each input channel can be assigned to one or both of the outputs.

      Alternatively, you could look at the Behringer UFX1204. It records every track independently to a USB drive.

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