Need Advice for Recording a Podcast using Multipl Mics

Hey everyone,

I searched through the forums to try to find answers to my questions and one thing I’ve come to realize is I need a mixer no matter how much I don’t want to cough up the money to get one, but I’m dedicated to the podcast I want to do so it then it leads me to questions about mixers that I can’t seem to find answers to. I’m brand new to this, so I realize I may be lacking some common knowledge about mixers and recording, but I’m trying to learn and I’ve searched for a couple of hours without finding the answers I need. I apologize if this specifically has been answered before, I couldn’t find it. I also realize I learn better with visual tutorials rather than written ones and that may be why I’m so confused.

Mainly, I don’t quite get how mixers work. Well I do and I don’t. I understand it allows you to connect multiple audio and recording sources to one output and you plug it into a laptop and go from there. But exactly HOW. Where do you plug in your multiple microphones? What kind of microphones do you need to purchase? So let’s say if I wanted to use 4 usb mics, what kind of mixer would I need? Can I use multiple USB mics or do I need regular jack mics? (You know, mics that plug into the pink headphone jack type input) What about if I just use 2 usb mics or 1 usb mic and 1 jack mic?

Similarly, what mixer would you recommend? And of course, I’m on a budget, so the cheaper the better. I’m just basically trying to figure out how this mixer thing works before I actually go out and buy one. I don’t want to buy it and then find I got one that doesn’t do anything I need.

I basically want to be able to connect 2 mics, eventually up to 4 mics later on so I can do a roundtable podcast with some friends. I want to be able to use my laptop, and it’s basically an HP Pavillion dv5000 with Audacity. Any insight into what would be the best method would be really appreciated.

A few notes:

USB “digital” microphones have some serous limitations for production. One big one is you can never get very far away from the mixer or computer. Have you ever seen a USB cable longer than about five feet? There’s a reason for that. They fail longer than that.

You would need to plug a USB microphone into a digital mixer and that certainly has problems. Most people expect to use their mixer to provide a signal for headphones during the performance (trying to do that in the computer is a nightmare). Trying to do it in the mixer has problems, too. Any signals around a digital system are always late, so the headphone may sound like a bad satellite phone call.

USB and digital systems tend to come pre-packaged. Plug this into your USB port, load the Windows Drivers and you’re doing your first PodCast!!! But probably not much more than that because adding a second mic is a real problem. The upside of packaged systems is they can be insanely cheap. That can give fresh, new people an unfortunate idea of how much it can cost to do this.

I’ve seen (but not actually used) a USB PodCast Package that cost about 2/3 of one good “real” microphone.

I haven’t had to actually buy analog equipment in a long time, so I’m going to sit in the corner and watch. If somebody forced me to do this right now, I’d be shopping for a small Mackie sound mixer. Go look around Sweetwater or Guitar Center for everything else.

If you’re on a Mac, it’s just plug the mixer in and record. If you’re on a PC, you’ll probably need a USB interface since most PC sound connections are trash.

Many people have analog “PodCast Packages” and some of them aren’t bad. Pick enough microphone channels to handle your wildest dreams plus having one go dead in the middle of a serious production.

Go ahead. Ask me how I know to do that.

Koz