Favorite Podcasting Hardware
by Derrick Story
I've learned the easiest way to end up with good audio is to record it cleanly from the start. After testing various set-ups, I've settled on two important pieces of hardware that help me record crisp tracks for my podcasts.
My expectations weren't that high when I ordered M-Audio's Podcast Factory -- it was so affordable at $149 US. The kit included software, a mic, desktop stand, and USB interface. The gem of the kit is the Fast Track interface. If I had to do it over, I'd just order the Fast Track interface separately for $99 and save a few bucks. Regardless of which way you go, this hardware interface paired with Audio Hijack Pro -- or software of your choice -- produces clean, full bodied recordings. (You can check out my podcasts on The Digital Story as an example.)
One quick note... when using an audio interface with your Mac, be sure to choose your "quietest" machine. I have an older PowerBook that the fan never goes on -- perfect for audio recording. I usually restart before the session to make sure I don't have any other processes running that might fire up the CPU and kick in the fans.
For those situations where lugging my Mac along is inconvenient, I've been using the MicroTrack 24/96. This super-compact digital recorder captures stereo or mono audio in .wav or .mp3 formats and writes it to a common CF memory card. I like that it's a USB 2.0 mass storage device, so I can plug into my Mac and simply drag the files from the MicroTrack to my hard drive. It has a nice variety of input and output jacks, especially for such a small device. For example, you can use both 1/8" and 1/4" mics. If you have an XLR mic you will need to get an XLR female to 1/8" TRS male cord.
I really like the audio captured by the MicroTrack, and it's so light and small. it fits in my top shirt pocket. The only downside is the battery -- it isn't accessible. I'd love to be able to swap out batteries in the field. You can read a review of the MicroTrack on our Digital Media site.
One final thought: be sure to shop around if you're considering any of these items. For example, the MicroTrack lists for $499 US, but can be found for $399 or less with a little research.