The recording gear you need to start your Podcast

A lot of people ask me what recording gear would I recommend if you are starting a podcast.  Now to be completely honest, simply using the recorder on your iPhone is a good start!  But what if you want to take it to the next level.  Here is a list of recording gear that could be on your shopping list

  1. Hardware voice recorder

    For the perfect balance of robust recording capability, as well as the flexibility to have more control over your recording when you improve your skills… the Zoom H5 Four-Track Portable Recorder is a great place to start.  It has a great on-board microphone, as well as the ability to add specialist microphones via the XLR inputs… or as a capsule attached directly to the recorder.
    is a great place to start.  Recorders like the H5 make it easy to record anywhere!

  2. Microphones

    My “go to” microphone I use now for almost every podcast I record – whether I am out in the field interviewing people in their office, or at home connected to my PC… is the Audio-Technica AT2005USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone.  Great sound quality, with the flexibility of an XLR input (for your hardware voice recorder) and USB connectivity (to connect it to your PC or Mac).  I now have a couple of them which enables good quality two person recordings.If you are using the Zoom H5 and you want a great way to capture voice in crowded or public spaces whilst minimising the need for bulky microphones or cables, I really like the Shotgun Microphone Capsule you can attach directly to the Zoom H5 (or the Zoom H6 Six-Track Portable Recorder).  It is small, portable and doesn’t draw attention — and enables you to capture great voice from yourself or your talent

We are all looking forward to hearing your podcast!

Zoom H6 vs Zoom H4n

So, you are thinking of buying your first (or next) digital audio recorder. Which one should you pick? The Zoom H4N, or the Zoom H6 Six-Track Portable Recorder? Let’s explore the pros and cons of each model and help you decide which portable digital recorder meets your needs.

What is the difference between the Zoom H4N and the Zoom H6?

Apart from price – the Zoom H6 is around 180-200 dollars more expensive – there are some features which set the H6 apart.

  • You get six recording channels with the Zoom H6 – four XLR inputs, and two on device microphones. On the Zoom H4n you only get four channels – two XLR inputs, and two on device microphones
  • You can use an SD card to record up to 128 GB of audio data on the Zoom H6. On the Zoom H4n you can only record up to 32 GB of audio data on a single SD card
  • There are physical gain knobs and pads for each XLR input on the Zoom H6. On the Zoom H4n you can control gain through the on board menu system
  • You can detach the on device X/Y stereo microphone from the Zoom H6. On the Zoom H4n the stereo X/Y microphone is permanently attached
  • You can purchase additional microphone capsules for the Zoom H6 to extend the versatility of the device. For example, the Zoom SGH-6 Shotgun Microphone Capsule can give your Zoom H6 a highly directional shotgun microphone. The Zoom XYH-5 Shock Mounted Stereo Microphone Capsule can minimise vibration and handling noise, perfect if you are capturing audio whilst the Zoom H6 is attached to a camera. The Zoom EXH-6 Dual XLR/TRS Capsule adds an additional two inputs so you can capture more lines in.
  • The Zoom H6 has a separate line out, whereas the Zoom H4n just has a Microphone Out option
  • Finally, you should get about twice the battery life out of a Zoom H6 than a Zoom H4n

So which one should you pick? Here is how I would decide. If you are just starting out, looking for an affordable portable digital audio recorder with the option of XLR inputs and good quality on board microphone recording, you can’t go past the Zoom H4N. It is a great device.

However, if you are looking to get into videography, and want to attach the audio recorder to the top of your camera rig – or are looking to record many different inputs, like different instruments in a live band set up, the Zoom H6 is worth the extra investment.

Creating a Blockbuster Podcast – Alex Blumberg on the Tim Ferriss Show

This evening I was listening to the Tim Ferriss show – and for anyone who is interested in creating podcasts I highly recommend you listen to this episode. Alex recently started Gimlet Media, and before that was on the team at one of the most popular documentary style radio/podcast shows – This American Life.

Tim’s interview with Alex goes under the covers of the long form documentary style of production – which includes great insights into how to structure, edit, and ultimately produce very high quality shows. Early in the episode, Tim and Alex discuss podcasting equipment. Whilst Tim uses the ZoomH4n
voice recorder (as I mentioned in the post about recording my first podcast), Alex uses the TASCAM DR-100mkII Portable Digital Recorder
. Bottom line from the discussion is that the recording device at that level of quality doesn’t really make a difference…. They are both equally as good! As Alex suggests, the more important focus is the microphone you select. For example – make sure you use a uni-directional microphone, not an omni-directional microphone to ensure that you capture a better recording in the field. Specifically Alex uses the Audio-Technica AT8035 Shotgun Microphone
, which is a different style of Microphone from what I use for recording my podcast about Yammer Community Management (and also different from what Tim uses for the Tim Ferriss Show).

The advantage of a shotgun microphone like the AT8035 is that you can focus in very closely on your interviewee’s voice and drown out all other background noises. It gives you more control over what you are recording.

Presentation voice recording with the ZoomH4n and Sennheiser EW112P wireless microphone

I have the great fortune in my job that I get to deliver presentations regularly to audiences of various sizes – from 10 people to 500 people or more.  For example, recently I had the pleasure of delivering a keynote of a track at an Education conference held in Singapore at the Marina Bay Sands!  My usual routine as a speaker is to pop over to the audio desk and introduce myself to the audio tech – clip on the wireless transmitter that the venue has provided, and then try to weave my lapel microphone through my shirt and up to my second top button.  I love the freedom that a good wireless lav mic gives you as a presenter!  No longer tied to the stage or the lectern!

Up until recently I had never thought of recording my own presentations… every now and then the event organiser will record a video of the presentation – but usually they use the on board microphone and the audio quality is horrible.  Since getting my hands on the Zoom H4n recorder, getting a good quality recording of a presentation has been on my to do list.  At first I looked at wired lav microphones like the Audio-Technica ATR-3350 Lavalier Microphone but the thought of walking around on stage with my ZoomH4n clipped to my belt didn’t really excite me!

The last couple of events I have spoken at where I have used a wireless microphone, they haven’t invested in an audio technician that could handle the “out of the ordinary” request to plug my ZoomH4n into their sound desk to get a recording (or they had a policy which meant I couldn’t do it)… so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

After reading how the team at VaynerMedia put together the #askgaryvee videos and podcasts – and in particular the wireless lav microphones they use to get a great voice recording… I purchased the Sennheiser EW 112P system (pictured above) – which comprises of a wireless transmitter to clip on my belt, a good quality lapel mic to clip on my shirt, and a wireless receiver to use with a mixing board, or in my case, plug directly into my ZoomH4n audio recorder This was a great solution to my problem – getting a good quality audio recording when presenting to an audience…  I simply:

  • plug the receiver into my ZoomH4n,
  • clip the transmitter to my belt
  • weave the lav mic up my shirt and clip it on
  • make sure everything is turned on
  • hit record on my ZoomH4n to test the levels
  • hit record again to start the recording

And the resulting sound quality is great. Don’t have a ZoomH4n and want to record your presentation??  I found this great deal over at Amazon.com which bundles a Zoom H4n recorder with the Sennheiser EW 112P wireless microphone system – make sure you check it out!

The next question though… should I buy another  Sennheiser EW 112P system so I can record good quality conversations for my podcasts, or record panel discussions?  It is certainly tempting after the performance of the wireless microphone so far!

Portable field recording at a conference with the ZoomH4n

I had a great opportunity to travel from Australia to Singapore to deliver a presentation this week.  At the conference I wanted to capture some field based interviews for my Yammer podcast.  As I was only going to be in Singapore for about 47 hours, I decided to travel with carry-on luggage only.  The small and light nature of my Zoom H4N
and my two microphones made traveling and recording a breeze.

I have taken the ZoomH4n through airport security at least eight times now – I thought due to the design of the voice recorder (and specifically the stereo microphones on the top of the audio recorder which look similar to the silhouette to a stun gun) my bags would be stopped for closer inspection more regularly.  To be honest it has only been picked up once, and that was by a trainee xray machine operator.

At the conference I wanted to capture a few different pieces of audio.  Firstly, I captured some background noise – the vibe or buzz of the conference room that we were speaking in.  To do this I turned on the Zoom H4N
and then used the built in stereo microphones.  After pressing record, I checked the levels and notice they were a little low, so I used the “rec level” button to push up the sensitivity of the recorder.

After I had captured the ambient noise of the room, I decided to record my the introduction / preamble / monologue for the podcast.  To do this I switched from the built in stereo microphone on the Zoom and instead used my Audio-Technica AT2005USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone
connected via its XLR connection.  The sound was fantastic – despite the loud voices in the room from the 10 tables of 8 people working on desk exercises in the room – I could talk with my normal voice into the Audio-Technica Microphone and get a very good recording.

Finally I plugged in another Microphone – my Behringer XM8500
– to do some 1 on 1 interviews with some of the conference organisers and attendees.  Again some great conversations were captured with next to no issues.  Despire the loud background noise of all the people speaking in the room the ZoomH4n coupled with the two microphones did a stellar job!

You can check it out for yourself – listen to Episode 8 of The Yaminade at http://www.theyaminade.com

Is the ZoomH4n any good for recording the sounds of nature?

If you have been reading any of the other articles at The Best Voice Recorder you will know that the Zoom H4N Portable Digital Recorder
is a great piece of kit for recording research interviews, podcasts, or your kids first off key notes :)

This week I am on leave from my day job, and have a great opportunity to see how the Zoom H4N
goes recording the sounds of nature.  I will be at Hamilton Island, which is in the Whitsunday Islands off the Queensland Coast in Australia.  A beautiful part of the world.   I am going to put the Zoom to the test to capture the sounds of the beach, the rain forest, the birds in the sky and a lot more.  Not only that, I will capture some of the ambient sounds around the island. The goal is to see how the ZoomH4n handles different ambient sound recording scenarios.

Whilst I would love to be recording with microphones like the Rode NTG2 Condenser Shotgun Microphone, on this field trip I will be simply putting the Zoom H4n’s built in stereo microphone goes in the wild.

I will post the results and sample recordings from the trip once I am back!

Recording Skype / Lync calls for Podcasts with the ZoomH4n

It has been about 8 weeks since I kicked off recording my new podcast – The Yaminade – using the Zoom H4N Handy Portable Digital Recorder.  Previously I have posted about how I use the voice recorder to capture  my voice, and the voice of my guests in person using the Behringer XM8500 and Audio-Technica AT2005USBmicrophones.  In person this set up works brilliantly!

But for the past three episodes of the podcast, I have interviewed people that I couldn’t sit down with face to face.  For example, with the episode where I interviewed Stan Garfield from Deloitte about how they use Yammer as part of their knowledge management strategy – because he lives in Chicago and I live in Australia, I had to record it over Microsoft Lync, or Skype.  Sure, I could have used a call recording application for Skype… but to be honest my biggest fear was if the app crashes half way through an interview.  I wanted to use the ZoomH4n so I had a robust hardware based recording solution.  So how can I record a Skype call using a hardware based voice recorder?

One way I discovered online was to use a very clever hack using the Audio-Technica AT2005USB.

First – plug in the USB cable you received with the Microphone and connect the microphone to your computer. This basically sets it up as your skype Microphone. Which means the person you are interviewing will be able to hear you.

Second – plug in the microphone using your XLR cable into the #1 input on the bottom of the ZoomH4n. That will enable the ZoomH4n capture your voice when you are on the Skype call. Your voice is going both to your PC or Mac for the Skype call, but now also to the ZoomH4n to be recorded.

Third – because there is a headphone jack on the microphone (so you can hear what you are saying) your PC or mac treats the Audio-technica USB/XLR microphone as both a microphone, and a speaker. Which means you can use a CMS105 1/8 inch TRS to 1/4 Inch TRS Adapter Cable to connect that headphones jack directly to the second input on the bottom of your ZoomH4n. This will enable you to record the voice of the person or people you are interviewing on the Skype or Lync call.

Finally – we need to be able to hear the person talking! Plug your headphones into the headphones jack on the ZoomH4n, and hit the record button once so you can test your levels and hear the people on the other end. When you are ready to record (with the permission of the people on the call)… hit record again!

Here is the YouTube video from Ray Ortega which inspired me to buy this gear, and has enabled me to quickly record some great guests on the podcast

Recording a podcast in a noisy café with the ZoomH4n

Just a few days ago I had the pleasure of recording episode 2 of “The Yaminade” – my new podcast about Yammer and Enterprise Social I am working on. The guest is a good friend of mine and we organised to meet at the café we normally catch up at. It has a good blend of inside dining, and alfresco outdoor long black sipping options. I thought we might find a quiet spot in the café to do the recording.

Unfortunately because it was Friday morning at 10:30am, a lot of people had ventured out from their offices for morning tea and some extra caffeine to finish off the week. Which meant our quick and hopefully quiet catch up to record a podcast episode was starting to turn into what would be my worst nightmare…. BACKGROUND NOISE! But not just any café background noise… we were seated right beside 4 lanes of city street (which you can see in the background of the photo below!)

Now… If I was recording on an iPhone, on the built in microphone, USB headsets or even an entry level digital voice recorder, this may have been a disaster. But to be honest the ZoomH4n absolutely showed how valuable a tool it is. Especially at one stage there was so much noise from the road as a large B-Double Truck/Lorry as it hit the brakes as it went past that we couldn’t even hear each other talking!!! When you listen back to the recording you will wonder why on earth we paused and had a good laugh as the truck is only just audible in the background

Here is the process I went through to make sure we got a usable recording.

  1. Turn on the ZoomH4n, and plug in your external microphones via the two connections on the bottom of the device. I was using my Behringer XM8500 and Audio-Technica XLR/USB Dynamic Microphone. Note that without the external microphones in this case we could not have captured the conversation without all the noise. Whilst the built in stereo microphone (which is awesome by the way) would have done well… the background noise would have still been significant as we were simply conversing across a tall café table
  2. Plug in some headphones into your ZoomH4n
  3. Hit record once so you can start to check the levels. I tried a few settings using the recording levels button on the side of the ZoomH4n – at 80 it was definitely too noisy. At 30 the vocal’s from myself and my guest were just too weak, down on the left hand side of the level monitor. I settled at Rec Level 50 – a good balance of audible voice, and little background noise.
  4. Then I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best as I hit record to start the interview!

The result was pretty surprising. I though the background noise would have totally detracted from the interview and we would have had to re-record the episode. But as it turns out the background noise was nearly non-existent. Apart from the soothing very low level clatter of cups and teaspoons and saucers every now and then – which just added a bit of atmosphere to the recording… you can’t hear much at all. It is chalk and cheese compared to the noise we heard whilst recording. In hindsight, the biggest challenge was being able to hear each other to have a good conversation… the ZoomH4n coupled with external microphones did all the heavy lifting!

You can listen to the finished product where we talked about how a government agency is using Yammer to accelerate cultural transformation. Note that the only post processing on this was the application of the Compressor effect in Audacity – no background noise removal was done at all!

Recording your kids singing with the Zoom H4n

Today was a pretty lazy Saturday and my girls wanted to put on a “singing show”. Usually I just sit on the couch and watch (after one of them charges me a pretend admission) but today I thought I would step it up a bit and let them loose with the Zoom H4n and my microphones.

It was a lot of fun. After turning the ZoomH4n on and then plugging in the Behringer XM8500 microphone into plug number one (held by the little tiara wearing princess on the left hand side), and the Audio-Technica AT2005USB into plug number two (held by the street smart hoodie wearing princess on the right hand side) I checked the levels and then started recording. For this I had the recording level set at around 80

The biggest challenge with four year olds and microphones is ensuring that they have them close to their mouth as much as possible so you can capture their voice consistently. My two in particular decided they wanted to throw some dance moves in which impacted the volume of the recording as they moved the microphones away from their mouths… but to be honest that doesn’t really matter does it!

After our puppy got tangled up in the XLR cables we decided to try singing using the built in stereo microphones on the ZoomH4n. After packing all the microphones and cables away, I sat with one of my daughters on the couch to record her tunes. The first thing to remember is that when you switch from external microphones to the built in microphones on the Zoom, you need to press the “Mic” button (the small red button on the left hand side of the Zoom in picture). Otherwise you will not capture any audio at all!

In this scenario where I had a very enthusiastic four year old, with the microphones so close to her mouth I needed to reduce the recording level down to about 40. Otherwise it was just hitting the limits when she was starting to belt out a tune!

Recording my first Podcast with the ZoomH4n

So today I took the big leap into podcast production. It was a secondary goal of mine when I first purchased my ZoomH4n – and now that most of my research interviews are done for my Masters degree (only a few more to go) it is time to start exploring the podcast angle.

I have been listening to a lot of podcasts recently – and have found a few that I really like the style of. I am really enjoying the informal interview style of the likes of Tim Ferriss’s new podcast “The Tim Ferriss Show“, as well as Pat Flynn’s “Smart Passive Income“. Whilst my topic is different… it is all about how to create and grow engagement on enterprise social networks like Yammer… I love the style and I wanted to replicate it.

Ironically – I was listening to a back episode of Smart Passive Income tonight – Episode 110 where Pat interviewed Tim – and Tim talked about how he uses the ZoomH4n as his “out and about” recording device. AWESOME I think I have made the right choice!!

So… here is a quick and dirty look at how I bootstrapped my first (just be published) podcast episode… “Welcome to The Yaminade

Setting up for the podcast recording

In this case I was recording what I call “Episode 0″ – basically a monologue which sets the context for the ongoing podcast series. That makes it a pretty simple process to capture the recording – one voice means only one microphone! To set up I simply:

  • plugged my Behringer XM8500 microphone into the ZoomH4n using the XLR cable;
  • placed the microphone into a little desk microphone stand that I have;
  • turned on the ZoomH4n

To make sure that there wasn’t too much background noise I closed the office door – then put my fluro yellow ear buds in. Hitting the record button once (as you will know by now) gives you a change to check the levels and ensure you are recording with the right microphone at the right level. In this case the recording level was way too high and I was capturing a lot of noise. I turned it down using the Rec Level button on the right hand side – down at about 60 percent it sounded good. Then…. I took the leap and hit record again

*NERVES KICK IN HERE*

Then I fumbled through talking about the target audience for my Yammer Podcast, the goals of the podcast, and the real reason why I wanted to start the podcast (basically to go deep into topics that matter to people who manage Yammer networks and communities for their organisation)

So… I will be honest… it took 14 takes to get my very first 5 minutes recorded at a standard I was somewhat happy with. And I am sure in 6 months’ time I will look back and thing “WHAT WAS I THINKING THAT IS RUBBISH”. But hey it is a start. I have shipped the first episode of my first podcast.

 

As for how to do all the other stuff with publishing a podcast – like setting up the platform to publish on (I prefer WordPress), Podcast file hosting (Libsyn), and editing (Audacity) – that can wait for another post at another time J