With podcasting really having taken off in 2014, a lot of people contact me about the best mixer for podcasting. It’s as if, having listened to a stack of podcasters, folks suddenly think they need a mixer to be a podcast pro.
I rushed out and bought a couple of mixers in my first month of podcasting but with several years experience behind me now, my first response is to actually suggest you hold off on getting a mixer until you’ve properly assessed your needs.
As far as I’m concerned: you only need a mixer if you are going to have guests on your show. Say, on Skype or in the studio.
A Great Mixer for Skype Recording
I only ever use my mixer, a SoundCraft EP8 (pictured above), when recording interviews over Skype.
The rest of the time I use a Focusrite Saffire Pro 14 8 In / 6 Out FireWire Audio Interface to record solo shows or voiceovers. The Saffire Pro, and its crystal clear mic preamps, allows me to record straight into Adobe Audition, sweetened only with a bit of compression via my DBX 286S .
For Skype calls I ditch the Saffire Pro. This is partly because I’m wary of running Audition and Skype simultaneously, but also because I find working with the mixer allows me to get better audio sound quality. And as any podcaster knows, great audio matters!
My Podcasting Skype Set-Up
Because I want to sweeten my audio and the guest’s separately when editing in post-production, I pan the channel with my mic to the left and the channel with the Skype line coming into my mixer from my Mac to the right.
Panning my mic and the skype audio like this allows me to split the stereo track into two mono channels in Adobe Audition that can be sweetened independently. For example, I run a bit of EQ on my voice, remove a bit of the hiss from the Skype call, balance the volume levels of the two mono tracks in Adobe Audition’s multi-mix set-up and then, when I’ve added the intro and outro music, mix the multi-track down into a single mix. This ensure I’ve got both my voice and that of my guests optimised as well as I can.
So What’s the Best Mixer for Podcasting?
It’s a tough one, I know, but personally I would go for the SoundCraft EPM 8.
I quickly ditched a Mackie 8-channel 802-VLZ3 because I found the controls weren’t easy enough to manage. Although it’s a pretty robust analogue mixer and probably quite good on the road, I hate having to adjust volume levels by turning a knob; faders are much, much easier to adjust. The 802-VLZ3 has got plenty of high headroom and is very low in noise and fits well on an office desk; however, the bottom line for me was that I just couldn’t get on with turning the controls.
I had a similar response to the Alesis MultiMix 8 USB 2.0, which also doesn’t have faders. This wasn’t a purchase, I will admit; I borrowed it from a friend after I started to fixate on getting a USB mixer. I found it played very nicely with Adobe Audition when recording straight into the Mac, but decided it was a bit of overkill compared to the Saffire Pro. Besides, I didn’t want to ditch that little gem of a box because it has much better preamps in my opinion. Besides, I didn’t need multi channel mixing when recording straight into the computer.
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Finally, I settled on the SoundCraft . I’d never heard of them before but a radio engineer I know who works at Swedish Radio recommended a SoundCraft to me for it’s “amazing British amps”. I didn’t know what she meant but I took a chance on the EPM 8 and haven’t regretted it for a minute. The sound is clean, with plenty of headroom, and the machine itself is very robust.
The mixer has plenty of inputs, no unnecessary EQ to complicate things, extremely sensitive faders for sound control and produces a clean, crisp sound. Coupled with the DBX 286S, a few blocks of soundproofing foam and I’m starting to get somewhere need the kind of sound I want. For a perfectionist like myself, I couldn’t be happier with my mixer. If I was to fault it on one thing, it’s ugly. But that’s something I can live with.
What do you think’s the best mixer in 2014 for podcasting ?