An iOS based podcast rig… kinda

| Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Today I sat down to record a podcast with Jim Dalrymple of Loop Insight. Things didn’t start off so well. The line in on both my Mac Pro and MacBook Pro didn’t seem to want to co-operate. The only thing that’s changed in my setup was a Skype update on both machines. Turns out that my line in stopped working after that, so I was left scrambling to find a solution.

I thought you might be interested in my new ghetto setup that helped save the day.

A couple of years back I spent some cash on a Cardiod microphone from Audio Technica, and a Tapco mixer (here’s a cheaper mixer). Both worked extremely well, and provide amazing quality when my setup actually works.  Today, the setup failed.

Out with the old

The normal podcast setup consists of Mic > Mixer > Computer. I record in Quicktime, then send the audio files over to Grant for mixing.  This setup usually comes complete with headphones attached to the computer so that I can listen in on the Skype conversation taking place, but record on a separate track.

We do this (it’s called a double ended recording) so that remote guests can also record their own end of the conversation, and then edit it together.  It usually sounds a lot better when we double end record.

In with the new

Today my system consisted of Mic > Mixer > iRig > iPod touch. It worked out a lot better than I thought it would. So well in fact that I might continue using the setup moving forward.

The only problem that this setup has is the inability to listen to the audio playback easily. I had to unplug the iRig, plug in headphones, listen, and then revert back, plugging in the iRig so that I could continue double end recording. The iRig does come with a headphone jack that lets you listen to the audio, but I was plugged into the computer to hear the Skype conversation. I didn’t want to record on an iOS device while talking on Skype on the iOS device because it would capture both ends of the conversation.

The benefits that I’ve found with the iPod touch setup is that it frees up my computer from recording, and gets the audio files directly onto a mobile device. You can then send the files one by one directly over email, or sync your computer to get the files into iTunes.

It’s not the best setup on the planet, but it goes to show that you don’t need much more than an iOS device and a decent microphone to record an audio podcast these days.

If you’re recording locally, then you can do the whole process directly on an iOS device.

Quick or local podcast setup

With the mixer and mic plugged into an iRig, you can then attach headphones to the iRig as well. This “Quick” setup is perfect for recordings that don’t require a double ended recording session. You can then place a call using Skype, “multi-task” with the Voice Memo (iPhone 3GS+) application that ships with iOS, and hit record.  You’ll then capture your voice and the other voices on the call directly from iOS.

This setup doesn’t allow for simple double end recording sessions since you’re capturing both ends of the audio on the same track, but it’s great for when you’re in as bind, like we were today.

If you want to get really crazy, you could record on one iPod touch using the Voice Memo application, and then listen to the Skype call on another iOS device (iPod touch, iPhone, iPad). There are a ton of alternatives to our setup, but don’t be dissuaded by the price of the equipment to record a podcast. You can probably get one up off the ground with devices you have kicking around at home. For instance, you could record using your iPhone, iPhone headphones with the built in microphone, and Skype.

The possibilities are endless.

A standalone option for double ended recording

Our very own Paul Skidmore has come up with a nice work flow that lets you double end record directly on your iOS device.  Here’s his thoughts:

“FiRe only records the line-in signal. This means you can connect with a voice Skype call, then background it. You’ll be able to hear the Skype conversation in your headphones, as well as the mic audio. The iRig plus FiRe give you a complete, professional-sounding, self-contained podcast recording setup. Just don’t skimp on the mic.”

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