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.
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
- Behringer Q802USB (Amazon.com | B&H)
- Behringer X1204USB (Amazon.com | B&H)
- Behringer X1832USB (Amazon.com | B&H)
- Mackie ProFX 8 (Amazon.com | B&H)
- Mackie ProFX 16 (Amazon.com | B&H)
- Mackie 802-VLZ3 (Amazon.com | B&H)
- Mackie 1202-VLZ3 (Amazon.com | B&H)
- Mackie Onyx 820i Firewire (Amazon.com | B&H)
- Mackie Onyx 1220i Firewire (Amazon.com | B&H)
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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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