Welcome to the studio! This is the first in a series about the studio setup. First up, the most important bit, the audio!
Let’s start with the inputs….
Shure SM7B. This is the best microphone I’ve used to date. It’s off-axis rejection is especially good, which is handy when myself and a guest are sitting across the desk from each other.
Shure SM57. Bit of an unusual one for podcasting but it sounds great and it’s rear rejection is also pretty good. It was cheaper than buying a second SM7B….
Misc Dynamic Microphone
3 Pack of Behringer XM1800S
Used for primary guest / CAST/ZenCaster. Stereo+balanced audio feeds for best quality
Intel NUC BOXNUC5CPYH
Remote audio – Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (Gen 1)
Used for secondary guests / Browsing
Intel NUC BOXNUC5CPYH
Remote audio – Creative Sound Blaster Play! 2
Browsing audio – Onboard Sound
Running Reaper for multi-track recording
Intel NUC DN2820FYKH
Radio Playout PC
Running RadioLogik (Yes, I know I haven’t registered it yet.)
Late 2011 MacBook Pro
Live Stream / Soundboard PC
Running OBS and PlayWall
HP Spectre x360 Laptop
Live stream input – Behringer ?? Mixer
Soundboard Output – Creative Sound Blaster Play! 2
General Output – Targus USB3 Dock soundcard
Casio CDP-200R Digital Piano
Audio piped through to the mixer, and USB through to the recording PC.
Walden D350CEB Electric Acoustic.
I’ve had this guitar for at least 10 years and apparently Walden don’t make guitars anymore!
- 3.5mm inputs from Host, Guest and Piano positions. Provided through mounted sockets that also provide 5V 2A power via USB for charging phones. Handy!
- iPod for other music. An old 120GB HDD iPod I’ve had for a very long time.
Phew! That’s a lot of stuff. It adds up to 21 inputs. On to doing stuff with the inputs… Processing!
A cheap and cheerful tube preamp from Behringer. It has some pretty decent clean gain, so I’m using it to bring up the levels of my Shure SM7B and Shure 57 which have super low signal output. It saves me from cranking up the preamp on the mixer too high.
Two channel DI box for the inputs from the Piano and Guitar. Pretty simple really
Ground Loop isolators
Due to the varying range of equipment there is a tendency for ground loops. My ground loop isolators have isolation transformers which remove the hum you often get. I’ve lost count of how many I have… lots.
Stereo to Mono Converters
I have lots of 3.5mm to XLR converters to get enough inputs, so I have to convert the stereo signals to mono. To do this, I use a super simple circuit that looks like this:
It puts a filter between the two channels which stops the signals from fighting against each other, and we get a clean sound. Surprisingly this very simple circuit works perfectly and sounds great!
The central part of the studio. The Behringer X32 Producer!
I went for the producer model because it was smaller (and cheaper!!). The main thing I miss is the lack of LCD scribble strips. To solve this, I’ve written some software that uses an iPad mounted above the mixer to display labels:
While I’m talking about tablets, I use an Android tablet along side it to get VU meters for all my channels at once. Handy!
This is a very powerful digital mixer. I’ve pretty much maxed out it’s 32 channels, 16 mix buses, 22 physical inputs and 14 physical outputs. I can add more inputs and outputs by using a stagebox, but I don’t need it right now (just!). You can check out my studio wiki page to see all the channels and routing.
I’m using the built in Gate, Compressor and EQ on each channel to do a fair chunk of processing live to tape, because I like hearing this live and means it’s one less thing to think about when editing. This does mean that I have to keep on top of the settings, because I can’t undo it later! It takes a bit of thought during recordings.
The mixer is connected via USB to the Recording PC and provides 32 channels of input and output, which I pipe into Reaper for multi-track recording.
I’m using mix buses for mix minus out to PC 1 & 2, and also some pre/post fader magic to allow me to pipe the radio station audio through the same mixer that I’m using for podcast recordings, but keep them totally separate. I can have the radio running and record a podcast without the audio crossing over (unless I choose to). I go into more detail about all of this in the next section… Outputs!
Host, Guest and Piano positions have their own mix buses and all of them get all audio. I have found that being able to hear yourself with no latency helps with microphone technique, especially for those with less experience.
I have a Roth tube amp and speakers, which I use for monitoring the main mix. There is also a cheap set of USB speakers which monitor the radio station audio only.
PC 1 has balanced stereo outputs from the mixer. I use this PC when I’m appearing on other podcasts especially, to ensure the sound quality is as high as possible. PC 2 is using the microphone input of the Create Sound Blaster Play! 2, which is still pretty decent. These two mixbuses are set up as a mix minus, so that the incoming audio from each PC is not sent back to itself.
I use a Tascam DR44WL as a backup recorder. It receives all channels and records line level plus -10dB to ensure a usable recording is made. As of writing this post, I haven’t had to use the recording from this yet!!
I have a separate mix bus for the live stream so that I have fine grained control over what goes out. This goes into the recording PC via a Behringer mixer, used as a USB audio interface
A stereo mix bus goes out to the radio processing gear, and then out the transmitter to the airwaves! More about this in a separate blog post to come.
A total of 14 physical outputs, all of which are in use. Oh dear.
Apart from the cable gore below, that’s it for this post. I plan to record a video tour at some point, and I need to produce a guide to how to use everything for when I’m not the one in front of the host microphone. Keep an eye out for Video/Live and Software posts about the studio too.
I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to keep the cables for this much equipment tidy.. Here’s some photos of what the back looks like. (Click to view larger)