Over the summer I wrote about my podcast gear and setup. While I was happy with what I had, there were a few optimizations I wanted to make. I had a lot of long wires, which compromised the audio. I had lots of things plugged in, and with the purchase of my iMac Pro, I took the opportunity to simplify things.
Podcast Setup: Gear
First, let’s start with the fun part of the podcast setup – the gear. I’ll write everything here in the order in which the audio (my voice) hits the device, starting with the mic.
Microphone: Shure SM7B
My mic is the Shure SM7B, which I’ve wanted ever since I heard about it. I thought I could get away with the cheaper Rode Procaster, but in the end, the SM7B is better for my voice – it sounds more natural, less muddy (or muffled/deep). This mic is also known by many as the “podcaster’s mic,” though it’s used by all sorts of professional vocalists, from Michael Jackson to the Pentatonix. This article breaks down why wonderfully.
That goes into a Cloudlifter CL-1. The SM7B is a power hungry monster. Because of that, it needs extra gain (or power) to get good volume from the mic. Even with my interface (which I’ll talk about next), it could still use some clean, extra power. The Cloudlifter provides that.
Other Mic-Related Gear
- Wind Screen: The foam piece on the front of my mic protects it from hard breath sounds, wind, and plosives (hard P-sounds), improving the audio a bit. The SM7B comes with one specifically for podcasting / close talking.
- Boom Arm: This is what my mic is attached to. It keeps the mic off my desk, and gives me a lot of flexibility on placement, allowing me to improve my mic technique.
Preamp / Interface: UA Arrow
The last link in the chain before my computer is the UA Arrow, an incredibly powerful preamp, equalizer, and interface. To be honest, at the time of this writing, I just got it, and I’m still learning the ropes. But I love it because it reduced my setup from 4 machines, many plugs, and many cables, to a single device with 1 Thunderbolt cable, and 1 XLR cable.
It also emulates in software dozens of real-life machines through UAD Plugins. These plugins physically change the hardware, so it’s doing more than just fixing the raw audio in software. It’s literally changing the device, so I can pick any setup I can imagine to make my voice sound exactly the way I want. SO far I love it – I’ve got it dialed in the way I’d like for now, but that may change in the future (and probably will. It also helps that my friend Shawn helped me set it up).
I’m also still using my Audio-Technica ATH-M50s for listening / monitoring / hearing myself sing along with whatever I’m listening to.
Podcast Setup: Production Process
I switched back to Mac for my production machine – an iMac Pro to be exact. I’ll do a separate write up on that. Other than that, my production process is still pretty much the same.
I’ll get guests 2 ways: 1) they reach out to me, I look into them, and I decide if they’d be a good fit for the show. Or 2) I reach out to them.
Once I’m ready to book a guest, I will use Calendly so they can pick a time that works for them. I have specific blocks throughout the week where I record interviews and do meetings. When they pick a time, they’ll get a calendar invite with a set of instructions, a Zoom link, and this show notes gist. It has the usual questions, how to record their side of the audio, and some tips for a smooth recording. I’ll also ask what their title is, and their company, so I don’t mess that up in the recording.
I have a Zapier automation setup so that when someone books with Calendly, several things happen:
- The guest gets added to a Trello board. This helps me track where in the production process a particular guest is, from booked to released.
- A new note is added in Evernote. It will have my show notes template, the info they filled out, and some prompts for me. This note is also automatically shared with my transcriber so she doesn’t need to spend a ton of time researching terms and looking up spellings
- An entry is added to Airtable. This is where I work out the schedule of episodes and where I add the sponsors.
Speaking of, on the day of recording, I’ll get that gist and relevant links. We’ll speak on Zoom (I like to see my guests, even if we don’t use the video). I’ll record my audio using Garageband, and I’ll use the built-in Zoom Call Recorder as a backup.
After a sound check, I make sure I know how to pronounce my guest’s name, and that we’re both recording our audio. Then we get to it. At the end of the recording, we wrap up, and they send me their audio.
Post-Production has been greatly simplified since the summer thanks to automation and Dropbox. I collect all of the audio files: my audio, my guest’s audio, the intro and outro bumpers, and sponsor spots. All of this is done in GarageBand because it’s free, on my Mac, and I like their noise gate plugin best for filtering out clicks and breaths.
I put them all in a Dropbox folder I share with my editor. He’ll take it from there with a few instructions from me. Once he’s done, he’ll put it in a separate Dropbox folder called “Needs Transcribing.” My transcriber will get a notification, and she’ll take care of it from there.
The only manual process I want to automate here is uploading to Libsyn. I know I can with a combination of a few tools – I just need to set aside some time to do it. But once I move everything to Dropbox, it’s pretty hands off for me as far as the audio goes.
With the audio set, there’s a couple more things I do before launch:
- Create images with Adobe Spark. I make an episode image and a quote image to share on social media. Spark has replaced Canva, which is terrible on iOS.
- Put together a simple description and show notes (which my transcriber will do as soon as I get a few weeks ahead of schedule).
- Upload the transcript. My transcriber gives me a Google Doc, so I copy and paste it into WordPress, with the help of a simple filter I created.
- Create an automated list of Tweets on Social Jukebox for promotion.
Then I schedule the episode. Ideally, I do this for 4-5 episodes at a time; this highly depends on what sponsors I have and when I get their assets.
Controlling Environment Sounds
Aside from improved recording gear for my podcast setup, I added three things to my office to diminish outside sounds. I’m in an upstairs office and share a wall with the nursery, so this is important.
- Book Shelves: My book shelves, right behind me, diffuse any sound bouncing off the wall and back into my mic, so there is no chance of an echo.
- Auralex DeskMax Sound Panels: These bad boys provide a little extra soundproofing/dampening, and prevent echo off the wall that’s very close to my desk.
- Blackout Curtains: I got some blackout curtains for my windows, which dampen sound by 60%. Between those and the noise gate on my preamp, I get no outside noise in my recordings.
At this point, the only improvements I want to make are streamlining the publish process a bit, and continuing to play with my UA Arrow. There’s just so much to play with, I know I can get my audio perfect (to me). I know 99% of people won’t notice the changes, but it will make post-production and editing a lot easier.
For publishing, I’d like to automatically upload the episode to Libsyn and publish it. Bonus points if I can grab the URL post upload. With my transcriber taking over most of the content responsibilities, it would just be up to me to push the publish button. I also want to streamline the social media aspect of things. I think using Social Web Suite will help with that.
That’s About It!
So that’s my whole podcast setup – gear and software. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments!