Tag Archives: microphones

Microphone and microcast details

A few weeks ago I started a new short-form podcast called Timetable. Each episode is 3-5 minutes. It has been really fun to record the show because I can try new things without investing too much time.

One goal from the very beginning was to record from iOS so that I could easily record outside the house. I wanted not just the flexibility to be away from my computer, but a stereo microphone that could capture some of the surrounding environment, to give it a more informal feel. (I’m actually cheating in some cases and using multiple tracks, to make editing easier, but I think the effect works. All the episodes have been exported to mono so far, though.)

I ordered this cheap iPhone microphone for testing — only $10 when I ordered it! — and figured after some experiments with my iPhone 4S, I would invest in something new. I liked it enough that I’m still using the mic with my 5S via a Lightning cable adapter. I’m also using a foam pop filter that I already had from a previous old mic.

Microphone

This may be the single best value in a tech gadget I’ve ever purchased. Total cost for producing the podcast:

I certainly didn’t invent the idea of a “microcast”. There are other good short podcasts, such as Bite Size Tech. But I’m happy to see even more people trying out the idea. Michael even started a new podcast called Driftwood to chronicle the development of his Jekyll template for microcasts.

Ferrite also continues to impress. It’s a very high quality iOS app and is competitive with Mac multi-track audio editors. For a good introduction, check out Jason Snell’s review.

Marco’s mic review and the quality trade-off

Marco’s review of his favorite microphones is comprehensive. You can’t go wrong by following his advice. I recorded my first podcast 10 years ago, and Daniel and I are about to hit 200 episodes of Core Intuition, yet I still learned a few new things from reading Marco’s review.

As with most things, though, it’s a personal choice too. Take this part:

“If you’re just getting started with podcasting, a USB mic is good enough. If you’re established and looking to upgrade your production quality, or if you just love gear like me, you’ll likely find the jump to XLR worthwhile.”

I did the opposite of this. For years I used an XLR mic along with a chain of two additional audio devices: the M-Audio FireWire Solo for getting the audio into the Mac, and the PreSonus TubePRE preamp for boosting the signal. This produced a nice sound and gave me knobs to fiddle with, but the extra complexity was just not worth it. I now use a simple USB mic and prefer it. (It’s the Rode Podcaster, which gets a mediocre endorsement in Marco’s review.)

This kind of “downgrading” is a common pattern with me and computers. I used to run a Mac Pro with 2 external Cinema Displays. Now I exclusively use a 13-inch retina MacBook Pro without a monitor.

In both cases — Macs and microphones — I find the trade-off worth it. If I want to work from a coffee shop, it’s the same resolution display, so I don’t need to change how I use Xcode. If I travel and need to record a podcast, it’s the same as if I was home, so I don’t need to risk messing up my audio settings. You give up some performance and flexibility, but in exchange you get the simplicity of having the same setup no matter where you are. And best of all: no more cables all over my desk.