Equipment

Below is the equipment we use to do our shows.  Not all of this equipment is necessary, but it gives great sound quality and gives more control to the producer.

Alesis Multimix 8 USB Mixer
Behringer HA400 MicroAmp Headphone Amp
AKG K99 Headphones
Zoom H2 Recorder (for recording in the field)
Zoom H2n Recorder (for studio recording)
Fender Passport P-51 Microphones
Shure SM58 Microphone
Sennheiser HD25SP Headphones
Pro-Line MS112 Desk Stands
On-Stage Mic Stand with boom
Systemax Desktop PC
Dell & Alienware Laptops
Samsung Chromebook

Services we use
Web Hosting/Domains by Hostica
File Hosting by Libsyn
Conference calling by Free Conference Calling.Com

UPDATE:  We have terminated the LIVE feature on our shows.  After 6 months of seeing how we were being listened to, it was obvious that “time shifting”, or podcasting, or On-Demand, was clearly the preferred method of downloading and listening to our shows.  So, many of the headaches involved with LIVE shows, and there were many along with the added expense, have been eliminated and our downloads have actually gone up since the change.  The quality has also gone up as we’ve changed the bitrate from 96kbps to 128kbps (CD quality) since the higher bitrate on LIVE and streaming was much more expensive (which is why we went with 96kbps in the first place).  So we’ve removed that limitation and restriction.

Since we aren’t doing any LIVE shows anymore, we don’t use all of the services and equipment that is listed on this page.  While we don’t use Museter (for SHOUTcast streaming) anymore, it still comes highly recommended if you need that kind of service.  I can’t say the same for BlogTalk Radio.  I’ll leave the older information below for those using BlogTalk Radio, those thinking of leaving BTR, and/or those looking for alternatives.

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After terminating our BlogTalk Radio account due to low sound quality at a high price, proportionately, we switched to Museter for our SHOUTcast streaming needs.  We have since terminated the LIVE/streaming feature on LRRN and have gone strictly to a podcast/time-shifted model.  But we still highly recommend Museter for your streaming needs, we had great service from them and only changed our format due to where the traffic was coming from – nearly all downloads.

One of the main advantages of using an external mixer is the ability to hear yourself through your headphones, which go into the mixer and not the computer.  Multiple listeners require a headphone splitter.  Another advantage is that if there are two or more people in the room on-air, there won’t be the annoying and distracting echo that can and will happen using mic/headsets combos plugged directly into multiple computers (each person would need their own computer/headset).

This setup also gives you the flexibility to have multiple sound sources (mics, mp3 players, televisions, iPads, cellphones – basically anything with an audio out) which are only limited by the inputs on the mixer.  Newer USB mixers make connecting to a computer easy, and some, like the Alesis model above, even come with sound effects.

If you have any questions, comments, or tips relating to this or other equipment email chris@lightningrodradio.com .  If you found this information helpful (which if you are trying to learn this the hard way, you won’t find much on the internet about how to do this), please mention our website on your show or site.

Technical aspects:  The USB from the mixer acts like an in and out, but you’ll also need the headphone out from your computer (3.5mm mini-stereo) cabled to the input (usually 1/4 inch) to 2 channels of the mixer.  If you go into the RCA Stereo in’s of the mixer, you may not have as much control over the volume.  In this setup you can play audio files on your computer and they will play on the show – otherwise the audio may not be heard on the show.

Condenser microphones need “phantom power”, make sure the mixer you consider has this built-in, or you’ll have to buy a preamp to power the mic.  Non-condenser mics (like the Fender P-51 or Shure PG58, which are in the $50 range – or the Shure SM58 in the $100 range) work fine and don’t require phantom power.  Condensers are extremely sensitive and without a shock mount will pick up the slightest vibration and probably will require a “pop filter” to lessen P’s and B’s in normal speech.  There are much more expensive articulating mic booms available that the pro’s use for radio work.

Headphone splitters can be had cheap at Radio Shack, to around $50 for a splitter/amplifier through Amazon or music stores.

It takes practice and patience to get things right with a setup like this.  Do as many “test shows” or record into Audacity (free software) to make sure that not only all of your sources come though, but while using Skype that callers and show audio all come though also.  This will take some trial and error to get it all right.

Suggestions:  There are expensive and complicated, as well as cheap and simple, ways to do a podcast/internet radio show.  How you do your show and how complicated you want it to be will determine what route to go.

Example 1:  Is it important that you are able to hear yourself in your headphones while you talk?  To some it is, to some it isn’t.  Some people don’t want headphones at all so they can hear themselves naturally.  But if you do a call-in show or play any music, you won’t hear it without headphones – and playing it through computer speakers will cause an annoying echo effect.  Finding headsets with built-in mic amplification is nearly impossible. But there is a USB mic called the Blue Yeti (and others) which has a powered headphone plug built into it.  From all reviews this is an excellent mic that can serve all kinds of purposes, it prices at about $99.  This setup works well with a single person, or two people sitting directly across from each other (with a headphone splitter).

Example 2:  The only problem with the above suggestion is music or multiple microphones in the same room.  Using a mixer gives you great control over music and multiple sound sources; a Blue Yeti  plugged into your computer doesn’t.  The Blue Yeti is a condenser mic which tend to pick up possibly more than you may want, and if you don’t have sound dampening in the room you are broadcasting in, you will pick up echoes off the walls and every stray sound.  Having two people share a Blue Yeti (it has a “Figure 8″ pattern available which will pick up voices on both sides) sitting across from each other might work, but I would guess you’d each need to be within a foot of the mic.  If you will always do the show alone, a Blue Yeti and a good pair of headphones (or earbuds) may be all you need and should give you good results.  This may possibly all be done on an iPad or similar device.

…more to come as questions/suggestions come in.  If you have any questions or requests for this page, email me at chris@lightningrodradio.com . If you found any of this useful, mention our site on your site/show – and if you feel this was any value to your production, feel free to drop a donation via PayPal to the same email address above.

For even more help and very helpful information, I suggest you visit the following sites:
Podcast Answer Man – Cliff Ravenscraft
School of Podcasting – Dave Jackson
Audacity To Podcast – Daniel Lewis

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