Someone on Twitter asked me what my audio setup was after sharing this monstrosity of a wire management “system”.
Some IT person out there would be LIVID at my cable management “system”. pic.twitter.com/3TWAy139Va
— Kevin C. Whelan 🧨 (@kevincwhelan) November 20, 2020
I’ve been asked this before, so I thought I’d just write it here to make it easy to reference later.
Here’s what I use currently:
1. Shure SM7B
I use this any time I’m recording audio for a podcast.
The sound quality is excellent and it’s used by many of the biggest podcasters out there.
But it definitely costs more than your average USB mic and requires the pre-amp and Cloudlifter to get it sounding right on your computer.
Details on that are below.
2. Rode PSA1 Boom Arm
I originally bought this when I started out with the Rode NT-USB (listed below), but I’ve since added the Shure SM7B to it instead and use a little stand that came with the Rode NT-USB for that mic.
It’s a good boom arm and I’d recommend it to just about anyone who needs one.
3. Scarlett 6i6 pre-amp
A friend of mine sold me his used Scarlett 6i6 pre-amp interface. Since the mic used an XLR cable, not USB, you need this to send the sound data to your computer’s USB port. It’s the middleman.
The only problem is, the Shure SM7B is quiet, so you need something to boost the sound without creating lots of hiss. Another downside to the mic, but that’s the cost of having good sound!
I use the Cloudlifter CL-2 Mic Activator for that, which seems to be the most popular choice on the internet.
Both the Cloudlifter CL-2 and Scarlett 6i6 come with two XLR ports, so I could do in-person interviews with separate mics, if I wanted. Since I had the 6i6 from a friend already, I figured I might as well get the CL-2 to go with it.
If you only need one audio input port, I think the 3i3 and CL-1 would work just fine and would save you a little bit of money. But I’m not an expert on any of this stuff.
4. Cloudlifter CL-2 Mic Activator
As mentioned above, the Cloudlifter boosts the sound without creating added background noise.
If you have a USB mic you wouldn’t need the Cloudlifter OR the Scarlett since it would connect right into your computer.
But you do lose a little bit in the sound quality, if that matters to you.
5. DBX 286 S Preamp/Processor
This device lets me use my Shure microphone on live streams and Zoom calls. Without it, the volume tends to be too low.
It also lets me control things like the input volume, has a de-esser, compression, a noise gate, and a lot of other tools that ultimately reduce background noises and other odd sounds from getting into my audio.
It’s much easier than editing things in post, and gives me a series of physical dials to play with if I get bored on a podcast or Zoom call. 🙂
It’s not pictured in the photo above, it was bought some time afterwards.
6. Rode NT-USB (with Shure SM7B’s backup wind guard)
The Rode NT-USB was my first external microphone and works very well. I use it for my Zoom calls instead of the Shure SM7B which can be a bit finicky to get to the right volume on Zoom.
I added the Shure SM7B wind guard to the mic since my pop filter that came with the Rode mic broke off when I knocked it over (I had set up the stand backwards so it wasn’t balanced).
7. Microphones for when I’m travelling
I also use a Samson Go mic when I’m on the road and it comes with me in my little tech kit. It connects via USB and creates surprisingly decent sound in a pinch.
Lastly, I use an Altson Ultra-Compact Clip Omnidirectional iPhone Microphone for quick iPhone audio recordings. It plugs into the lightening port on my phone directly. The sound ion this is also decent, surprisingly.
8. Sony MDR-7506 Headphones
I bought these after seeing several people recommend them. I’ve heard they last for years (decades).
I’m a big believer in buying right not twice, so I grabbed them.
The big benefit is they plug directly into the pre-amp so you can hear yourself in the monitor in real time vs. a slight lag you hear when plugging into the computer. The lag makes you hear yourself too much and it’s distracting.
They also have an adaptable size output so you can plug them into standard audio ports or larger ones like the pre-amp has.
9. Garage Band
Where would we be without Garage Band? I don’t do robust editing, so Garage Band works well for me when editing podcasts or audio for Mindshare.
It was super easy to learn, so once I reach my technical limits with it, I’ll try other things.
If you’re on PC, you might look into Audacity which is free.
10. HyperDrive GEN2: Next Generation USB-C Hub
This is the magic box that pulls it all together. I bought it off a Kickstarter campaign and lets me plug all my things into one box, which then plugs into my Macbook’s USB-C port.
Simple, clean, easy to grab my laptop quickly to go, or plug things back in with one wire.
If I were to buy it again, I’d get the one with 18 or more ports because I’m already using up most of my USB/USB-C ports. But for now it works.
You can buy one here if you want (not an affiliate link).
So that’s my audio setup. Perhaps in the future I’ll do a full rundown of the rest of my tech if anyone is curious.