I recently received an email from someone asking me how I got the voice recording in my videos to sound so clear and strong. The answer to that question is much more complex than I'll deal with here, but that person asked me mostly about the microphone I used, and if that could make a big difference in getting better recordings. Here's what I replied:
A few weeks before this year's pandemic started affecting the US, I started live-streaming on my YouTube channel.
In the past, I've helped run live streams for various events, from liturgies in a cathedral to youth events in a stadium. (I even wrote a blog post on the topic a few weeks ago.)
For larger events, there was usually a team of camera operators. We also had remote control 'PTZ' cameras, and dedicated streaming hardware like a Tricaster.
For my own livestreams, I had a very limited budget, and only one person (me) to operate the camera, produce the live stream, and be the content on the live stream!
Note: I also posted a video with more information and a demonstration of how I live stream.
I've been working on video streaming on a tight budget for years, and have scrambled to get live-streaming going for some liturgies on short notice, so I figured I'd put together a video showing a few options from 'cheap using what you already have' to 'a little more expensive but within a reasonable budget'. Note that if you plan on having regular video streams for the long term, it's better to invest in a proper streaming system with remote-controlled PTZ cameras and hard-wired connections.
All of the options in this post will require at least a smartphone or computer (laptop preferred) with a good WiFi connection. Ideally, you can also plug your phone or laptop into power so the battery doesn't run out in the middle of the stream
I always love when I find a really dumb solution that works reliably to fix a problem that should never really be a problem in the first place. But having worked with audio devices before—though nothing nearly as complex as the AirPods—I am willing to cut Apple some slack in building a seamless aural experience with using AirPods across phone calls, VOIP, iOS devices, Macs, music, and Apple TVs... it's hard to execute perfectly, and as I said in my review of the AirPods two years ago, these little earbuds are as close to perfection when it comes to a wireless sound solution for someone like me.
Anyways, here's the problem:
Sometimes (maybe 10% of the time) when I run
vagrant up to build a local development environment for one of my software projects, and I'm listening to music, my AirPods suddenly switch into super-low-quality audio mode. It sounds like you're listening to a song played through a long subway tunnel or something.
In the world of radio and professional podcasting, there are fewer than a dozen 'go-to' microphones. Each of the classics (e.g. the Shure SM7B, the Neumann U87, or the EV RE20) has it's own advantages and a few marquee users, but one mic seems to rule the roost when it comes to versatility and ability to color almost any voice with the 'talk show' sound, and that's the EV RE20.
The RE20 mounted in the 309A shockmount.
A few months ago, I decided to get more serious about my recording setup in my home office. I do a lot more screencasts both for my YouTube channel and for other purposes than I used to, and I can't stand poor audio quality. Therefore I finally decided to get some sound absorption panels for my office, rearrange furniture a little for better isolation, and—most importantly—buy a proper USB audio interface and microphone.
The blog has been a little bit Drupal-heavy the past couple months, as I've been stalled a bit in terms of my 'maker'-style projects and other hardware-based projects. The main reason for that is this guy:
I'm halfway through rebuilding/re-foaming an old Electro-Voice RE20, beloved by many a radio personality, and the process has taken a bit longer than I expected!
I've been doing a lot more screencasts lately, and as part of my retooling of my downstairs office for better screencast quality, I'm also trying to get the best possible audio recordings. The RE20 is one of the best mics I've ever used in terms of taking a not-professional-voice (like mine) and making it sound halfway decent.
About ten years ago, I bought a pair of used JBL J520m bookshelf speakers. They have nice, wood cabinets, a great-sounding woofer and tweeter, and a classic look (they don't really look dated, like 90% of 80s and 90s-era speakers).
Doesn't it look stately?
Whenever you buy used speakers, you should check the woofer cone and foam surround, as these are usually the first parts to deteriorate and cause terrible distortion in certain situations. In my case, the speakers had been stored in someone's garage for a few years, so I knew the foam wouldn't last long. When purchased, the foam flexed okay, but this year I noticed both speakers started making funny noises during explosions or low bass notes during movie and music playback.
Whether you call it Cat5, Cat-5, Cat5e, or even the newfangled Cat6, it remains the best cable in modern history. Never has the humble element Cu (copper) been so adaptable, flexible, and amazingly helpful in so many areas.
This article explains how you can utilize Category 5 cabling to route just about any kind of multimedia or network signal over short, medium or long distances, and many tidbits of extremely helpful information and links to products to help make your life much easier.
A few examples:
tl;dr: Offers little more than the built-in iPhone microphone, but it's a good mic for the price, and is very useful in certain situations.
Since adding my comprehensive overview of audio input and microphone options for iPhones a couple years ago, there have been many purpose-built microphones that are made particularly for smartphones. IK Multimedia's iRig Mic Cast microphone is one of these purpose-built devices.