audio

What's a good video camera to use for short YouTube videos?

I've gotten this question enough times via email that I thought I'd create a quick blog post mentioning what I think is a good deal for a video camera setup for recording short videos, ideally with one person speaking.

In such a situation, since you probably won't see a major difference in picture quality in anything under $500, I'd skimp a little on the camera itself and just make sure the video camera you buy has an external microphone input, then buy a microphone like the Audio-Technica ATR-3350 to clip onto the person being recorded.

A microphone goes a long way towards making quality video—many people think the camera's the most important part of a video recording setup, but it really isn't (unless you're doing a top-notch production!). That's how I can use the tiny iPhone camera as my primary video camera and record good videos, since the iPhone accepts external microphones so easily.

Review: iPhone 5 and External Microphone Comparison

iPhone 5 Safari

As I have done for my past three iPhones, I've put together a video that shows how well the iPhone 5 works with various wired and wireless microphones. You can watch the video below, and you can read through my comprehensive day-one review of the iPhone 5 in the Reviews section.

Under the video below, I've listed all the microphones and adapters I used in the video, with links to Amazon for each. (See my full article on iPhone and iPad microphones and audio inputs here).

Microphones and adapters used in this video:

Hum or Buzz with a Logitech USB Headset

Logitech USB HeadsetProblem: I've heard from a lot of people about hum or background 'buzz' in recordings and Skype conversations when using a USB headset (like the one I have, the Logitech USB Headset H350). Almost every time I hear someone having this trouble, they're having the problem while using the headset with a laptop.

Solution: about 99% of the time, the problem is fixed by simply plugging the laptop into a grounded (3-prong) outlet.

Review: Audio Technica PRO88W-R35 Wireless Lavalier System

Jeff's Rating: 5/5

tl;dr: A solid value for a reliable wireless mic solution. Perfect for most uses up to 35', and usually good even further away.

Audio Technica Pro-88W/T and Pro-88W/R with accessories

The Audio Technica Pro-88W lavaliere microphone system is a very good wireless lavaliere microphone system for a very low price (in comparison to most quality UHF systems). I've been able to use a wide variety of wireless gear, costing from tens to thousands of dollars, and for my money and my projects, I'm quite happy with the Pro-88W.

Buzz or Hum in Computer Speakers

I recently spoke with an audio engineer (my Dad, who has worked in radio for many years) about something that's been bugging me for many years: Why do almost all computer speakers have some sort of annoying buzz or hum?

I know it has to do with voltage differences, power, RF emissions, etc... but I wanted to know more about what I could try to do to reduce the level of the noise. I've tried things like plugging everything into one outlet/power strip, using a filtered power adapter, using a ground loop reduction magnet, etc., with varying degrees of success.

Power/Amp-induced buzz

60hz buzz in a speaker is typically induced in the power lead. If that is the case, the buzz will be in the speakers even if the audio connections are removed.

If the buzz is there with audio input to speakers is disconnected, the problem is the AC adapter, the actual power supply (from your mains), or the amplifier for the speakers (usually, for computer speakers, these are in one of the speakers or inside the subwoofer).

Review: GuitarJack Model 2 - Audio Interface for iPhone 4/4S, iPad

Jeff's Rating: 5/5

tl;dr: For stereo audio input, mic input, and guitar input, there's nothing better. Sound quality is excellent, and the unit is physically solid—almost too solid!

[Update on iPhone 5 compatibility: Sonoma says the GuitarJack works like a champ with the iPhone 5 if you use one of Apple's 30-pin to lightning connectors.]

In my quest to find the killer solution for audio recording/input on my iOS devices, I've tested a ton of different external microphones and audio interfaces for the iPhone 4/4S, iPad, and iPod Touch. One class of device—a multi-channel input through the iPhone 4's dock connector—has been elusive until just recently, when three different devices were introduced a year after the iPhone 4:

Review: Fostex AR-4i iPhone 4/4S Stereo Audio Interface

Jeff's Rating: 4/5

tl;dr: Five stars for the capabilities, four for the fit and finish. It's a great tool, but not without a few rough edges. (See note about iPhone 4S compatibility).

[UPDATE on iPhone 4S compatibility: I've heard many reports of people having trouble with the AR-4i and the iPhone 4S; my own usage indicates that there is one quirk with this combo: the wireless signals on my phone go away while plugged into the AR-4i. Example recordings with various firmwares below:

Review: Bose Companion 2 Series II Multimedia Computer Speaker System

Jeff's Rating: 4/5

tl;dr: Five stars for sound quality (especially considering the size of the speakers), but a 3 for the price (you still pay for the Bose® name).

For a very long time, I've used my computer, with a 24"+ display, as my TV, computer, DVD/Blu-Ray player, Xbox 360 setup, etc. Because of this, I had my 5.1 surround sound system, with some very nice speakers and a great sub, plugged into and surrounding my computer. It enveloped me in the most amazing aural arena I've ever experienced.

However, after marriage, I moved the surround sound system into the living room, along with a new TV and the Xbox and and Apple TV. That means I went back to the stone-age days of computing sound, using the tinny built in speakers on my iMac (now MacBook Pro). For a while, I was satisfied with this, as I didn't do a lot of music listening or gaming on my Mac.