Such a mournful sound

Image of Frasier at his desk at the radio station.
Hello Seattle

One of my first graphic design jobs was back in college, around 2006, working for a small audio company. They had an online store that sold pro sound equipment and also did custom commercial installations. (Think, the ceiling speakers in schools/restaurants/etc)

My thing was taking pics of the product and making ads for print and the website. While there I got to know a little about live sound equipment since everyone that worked there was in some sort of band. The back room where I worked had all kinds of mixers and mics etc for testing so I got to see how things connected and why you needed a pre-amp, effects, and power supply to make a mic sound a certain way.

This was when podcasting was still a new thing, we sold kits that were comprised of a small Alesis or Behringer mixer, headphones, mic stand, and a Samson condenser mic. (It was a few hundred bucks.) Your computer would need to have some sort of sound card capable of taking in RCA connections or adapters for the 1/4 inch plugs. The majority of pro audio interfaces back then were all rocking firewire outputs because so much of the industry was using Macs for ProTools or Ableton. I even had a firewire PCI card installed on my home computer to take the inputs for stuff like a handheld camcorder because so much stuff was firewire only.

I think Blue had just come out with the USB ball mic, and I knew of people in small bands using a mixture of Fruity Loops and Audacity to record their music on a budget. Everyone having an iPhone or MacBook with easy access to Garageband was still a ways off. Anyway, the point is that recording yourself or instruments was way more involved and expensive back then for sure.

What brought all this up was an article I read yesterday where someone asked about how NPR set up their broadcast studios to sound so nice. If you don’t want to click that basically they use an ultra high end condenser mic with the bass rolled off as not to make everything sound so ‘boomy’ in the car. (To test this, switch from your local NPR station to a music station and listen to the DJ’s voice as the door panels rattle loose from your vehicle.) But yeah, the mics alone run over three grand a pop which makes total sense in a professional audio environment.

This got me to thinking about the eventual recording set up I purchased a year or so after I left the audio company. The goal with it was to record a live D&D game with all our friends. Remember that video chat back then was basically garbled skype calls and not everyone had a webcam/mic setup that wasn’t cell phone quality. The setup consisted of a Behringer XENYX 802, a Shure SM57, a pair of M-Audio monitors and a decent length of cable.

Even though we never recorded a live D&D game I still used the setup for a podcast I attempted in 2012 called Art History 2-Go. (Which I can’t find the audio file for, but there is a Frieda Kahlo episode on a hard drive around here somewhere.) I still have the mic, the monitors were upgraded years ago and I’m using a basic USB phantom power supply for the mic-to-computer connection. Good enough to record my short fiction over at MOSFET when I get around to it. So much of what I see online are complaints that audio/visual media (podcasts/video/images) don’t have transcripts to make the stuff accessible to everyone. Well, what about text only media? I thought it would be nice to have an audio version of each piece available that isn’t being done in the Microsoft Sam voice.

If you do podcasting/streaming etc what mic setup/interface do you use?

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