So you’re ready to upgrade your podcast set up and sound even better. That’s fantastic! Hopefully you have your XLR Mic picked out, but there’s one more piece of e1uipment you need: an audio interface.
Now these things come in literally all shapes and sizes, as well as budgets. But here are a few I recommend, at various levels of complexity and pricing.
A Basic Interface for your XLR Mic
If you’re just podcasting by yourself, you probably don’t need too much. These basic interfaces are great if you need a single XLR input and maybe an instrument input, if that’s your thing!
If you came here looking for a simple, “just tell me what to buy” answer, here it is: The Focusrite Scarlett Solo.
This is the latest version of the interface I first used when I upgraded my setup. It’s unopiniated, so it won’t color (or change) your input much. It includes 48v phantom power for the mics that require a lot of gain (or volume) to sound good, and the newest models have an “air” mode, to give you a brighter sound. Though that might not be great if you’re talking for a long time because it can emphasis hard “S” sounds. It also comes with lots of software extras like loops and instrument banks.
That said, this is one of the easiest interfaces to get up and running with, and it will only cost you around $100. If you need 2 inputs, check out the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2.
If you’re looking for something with a little more gain (and some might argue, something better for vocals only), check out the Tascam US-1×2.
It’s got a very robust sound to it still remaining clean. It also comes recommended by lots of professional podcasters, like the guys over at Relay.fm.
Interfaces That do More
Now, if you do want to do more to your audio with hardware, you’re in luck. There are lots of interfaces out there to help you do that…but they come at a price. Here are two I’ve used and recommend.
The Universal Audio Arrow Is some heavy duty equipment with a small footprint. In fact, it’s completely powered by a single Thunderbolt cable.
But the beauty of the Arrow is that it’s a piece of hardware that can emulate basically any preamp or interface you can think of. UA makes some legendary gear that’s filled classic recording studios (like for The Beatles!) and now it all fits into a tiny box on your desk.
Fair warning: the box is $500, and the plugins can get expensive. But you can get your sound dialed in perfectly, no matter what mic you’re using. If you want to sound as best as you possibly can, this is the box you need.
My current interface is the increasingly popular Rodecaster Pro. It’s $600, but you get a full, 4 input podcast studio – you don’t even need a computer to record your show.
That said, it plugs right into your computer, and with the Rodecaster Pro software, you have lots of control over what tracks get recorded.
The thing I love about the this piece of hardware is that it gives you control over the processing, but you don’t need to be an audio engineer to use it – just a little knowledge will go a long way. With the Arrow, I felt like I didn’t know nearly enough about audio processing to use it to it’s full potential. Plus it fell down when I tried using it with multiple profiles on my computer.
All of that goes away with the Rodecaster Pro. So now I can dial my mics in just the I like, plus I can easily record to a microSD card as well. I’m a big fan so far. The only thing to keep in mind is that it has a big footprint. It’s basically an 8-channel mixer (4 mins, USB in/out, phone, bluetooth device, and sound effects).
If you already have a simple interface and you’re looking to upgrade, I’d strongly consider this.
Some other considerations you should make as you look for an interface for your new XLR Mic:
- If you have a mic that requires a lot of power, like the Shure SM7B, you should also get a Cloudlifter. This provides a little extra phantom power on top of what the basic interfaces provide, and it makes a big difference.
- If you’re just doing VO, you probably don’t need a ton of processing. Just some simple things like boosting the voice a bit, and evening out the sound so you don’t have too many hard “S” (something called sibilance). You can also fix that in post. This really all depends on your mic and your voice. BUT starting small never hurts!
- If you need something to get rid of noise or echo, remember environment is more important that equipment!
All in all if you want to move to an interface and upgrade your gear, I recommend the Focusrite Scarlett Solo. It’s affordable and works really well.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments!