CategoryAudio for Podcast Production

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 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


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

//Track outbounds