Capturing Audio for Podcasts with Mike Phillips
By Kirk Harnack [TWiRT] on Dec 19, 2015 2:25:00 PM
If it sounds sketchy, distorted, or muffled, they won’t listen. Podcasting studio guru, Mike Phillips, divulges his secrets for capturing clean, clear audio. Mics, pre-amps, consoles - what he recommends and how to use them. This is a must-watch for podcasters and any audio content creators!
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Kirk: This Week in Radio Tech Episode 285 is brought to you by The Telos Alliance, wishing you a Merry Christmas. Watch Santa's visit to Telos coming up in the show. By the Z/IPStream lineup of audio processors and stream encoders. Stream like you mean it with Z/IPStream, software or hardware. And by Lawo and the crystalCLEAR virtual radio console. crystalClear is the console with a multi-touch touchscreen interface.
If it sounds sketchy, distorted, or muffled, they won't listen. Podcasting guru, Mike Phillips, divulges his secrets for capturing clean, clear audio. Mics, pre-amps, consoles, what he recommends and how to use them. This is a must-watch for podcasters and any audio content creators.
Hey. Welcome into This Week In Radio Tech. I'm Kirk Harnack, your host. Glad you're here. It's Episode 285 of our fine podcast. We've been doing this for a while and today it's going to be a great show because we're going to head back to basics and learn about some analog audio technology.
We're going to get some picks of favorite microphones, audio mixing consoles, things to make podcast, things to do production right in your mama's basement, okay, in your home, wherever you are, how you're going to make the best sounding audio from your place, from your small studio to do podcast or whatever.
So I'm delighted to have our guest on the show. We will get to him in just a minute. Let's bring in our usual co-host from an undisclosed location somewhere in the New York City greater metropolitan area, it's Chris Tobin. Hey Chris, well, come in.
Chris: Well, hello Kirk. How are you doing?
Kirk: Terrific. I'm good. How are you?
Chris: Doing well. Just trouble shooting a barracks situation, but other than that, things are going very well.
Kirk: Hey, if you need to get up and troubleshoot [inaudible 00:01:46], that's fine. Just let me know.
Chris: Yes. Okay, fine. I'll be right back.
Kirk: Okay. All right. Chris, seriously? Are you leaving? For a minute?
Chris: Yes. Just give me a minute.
Kirk: Okay. Sure. Take your time. All right. So our show has Chris Tobin. He usually gives us a weather report. I'm sure he'll be back to give us one in a moment. I'm Kirk Harnack. I work for the folks at The Telos Alliance and I appreciate them being one of the sponsors on this show.
So this is a show, This Week In Radio Tech, where we talk about everything audio and sometimes we talk about RF technology, all the stuff that has to do with radio and now radio more and more is getting content from, say other places outside the radio station.
Hey, at my radio stations, we have news, local news done by a guy who is a little out of the market. He's got stringers in the market, but he reports the news from out of the market and FTPs or actually Dropboxes that those newscast to us. Extremely reliable. He sounds great and my point is that more content is coming in from all over the place.
And so we're going to talk about content creation and what are the simple things you can do to have great sounding content creation in out-of-the-way places. Not a real, what we think of as a real professional broadcast control room or production room. And to help us with that, we're going bring back on the show a guy we've had on before, it's Mike Phillips. I call him the Guru of audio podcasting. Hey, Mike. How are you? Glad you're here.
Mike: I'm doing well, Kirk and thanks for having me on your show.
Kirk: Well, thank you for joining us and I'm always impressed with your mic situation. You've got a lot of opinions on microphones and I enjoy hearing them. What is that contraption you have in front of you right now?
Mike: What do you mean contraption? What do you mean? Come on, Kirk?
Kirk: That looks like a big boy's microphone right there.
Mike: Well, see, this is why we need Chris. Chris knows exactly what it is. Let me see if I can help.
Mike: Sorry about that. Does that help?
Kirk: You can poke somebody's eye out with that thing.
Mike: I understand. Sometimes you have to. This is a Sennheiser MKH 416.
Kirk: Well, I have heard about that microphone. Isn't that the one that all the big boy voiceover guys in Hollywood and places?
Chris: News reporters.
Kirk: Or news reporters use it?
Chris: Yes. I just set one up for a guy the other day.
Kirk: Is this mic about $1,000?
Mike: It is exactly $1,000, unless the price has changed since I looked last.
Kirk: All right. I see guys like Joe Cipriano using this thing and Mike Phillips, it must be good. Tell you what, let's keep the audience hanging on. We've got to do our first commercial of the show, but I want to know why I should spend $1,000 and I've been tempted to. Why should I spend $1,000 on that microphone? And if I do, what accessories do I really, really need to go on with it?
Because I've noticed they sell the mic by itself or with an accessory kit. So we're going to get to that. Mike Phillips is going to be with us and Chris Tobin will be with us, but first of all, I want you to sit through this. This is fantastic. Our sponsor, The Telos Alliance, has done this video with a visit from Santa and it is just amazing. You're going to want to watch it, you're going to want to find it on YouTube later on and spread it to your friends. So let's hear from The Telos Alliance.
Commercial: Ho ho ho. Merry Christmas, everybody. Santa is here today to get some nice goodies for all our good engineers and maybe some of our naughty ones. So let's get into it and see what I have in my goodie bag here. Oh, a Telos VSet6. This is going to be for a special engineer, I just know it. Now you can call the North Pole and tell me what else you would like. What else do I have in here? Looks like an xNode. Yes. Oh, it's a beautiful xNode right there for another great special engineer. He probably has been very good.
Let's see what else I have in the bag. Some of our newer products, the Omnia.7. What a wonderful product. Great online tools inside for making your audio sound wonderful on the plant. Oh, let's see what else I have got in the bag. Oh, it's another Telos VSet12. Beautiful piece here. Pick up the phone. Make a phone call to Santa. Oh, that's wonderful. Some lucky engineer is going to get that one. What else I have got in the bag. Z/IPStream. Yes, beautiful Z/IPStream. You can send your audio via codec. It's wonderful. Great present for a nice lucky engineer.
Oh my goodness. This is a very huge large piece of audio processing, the Omnia 11, the flagship, the Telos Omnia Axia, it's wonderful. Make your audio processing just scream up the dial. Want to make your audio for Christmas song sound great by ho-ho-hos nice and deep? Yes, this will be a great present for a wonderful engineer. Oh, the 25-Seven PDM, the program delay. Good for your profanity. Click that button and all those naughty words go away. Some lucky engineer is going to save their station a lot of money on the fines they could impose on that.
Oh, it’s a Linear Acoustic LQ-1000. Oh, for those TV engineers that have been really good. This is going to make their lives so wonderful. Yes, I know that there is a Santa Claus in Virginia and it is going to sell great with this product. Oh, it's a Telos Hx2, dual hybrid. One hybrid for Santa and one hybrid for the mistress, Mrs. Santa Claus. Yes, your audio on the telephones will sound wonderful. Oh, it's an Omnia 1. I kind of gave 12,000 of these out so far and a wonderful engineer is going to get this one whole unit and they're going to be very happy with sound of their station. Oh, let's see what else I have got in here.
Oh, how did this get in here? Oh, this is going to go to one of my engineers on my naughty list. He's going to be very disappointed. Well, it's so may gifts. Let's see if there's still something left in the bag here. Oh my goodness gracious, this huge beautiful Fusion console. Some special engineer is going to get this thing. Oh, they are going to make their station really happy.
Well, that seems to be all that's in my bag here. Lots of wonderful presents here for all those wonderful good engineers. Yes and from all the people from Telos Alliance, we wish you a Happy New Year and a Merry Christmas.
Ho ho ho. Oh, cookies for Santa. Oh I see there is some other holiday spirit for me. This must be for Santa. Definitely warms the soul for my trips. I'll take that with me. Merry Christmas.
Kirk: All right. I don't know what to say. Thanks very much to the Telos Alliance for sponsoring. They're one of the sponsors on This Week In Radio Tech. I really appreciate that. And Merry Christmas. Yes. You saw that.
Kirk: Yes. Okay.
Chris: And that's all I am going to say. So anybody who wants to know the middle part in the bound, you're going to have to watch it again.
Kirk: You have to rewind, okay. All right, hey, welcome in to This Week In Radio Tech Episode 285. Chris Tobin is back with us. Chris, a quick report from the New York area. What's up?
Chris: Rain is everywhere.
Kirk: Is there really?
Chris: Yes, it's pouring, it's flooding. It's like flash flood. City mass transit is all upset. It's just amazing at traffic control. But I guess it's to be expected since there is no snow on the ground and it's just rain and warm weather. I think this weekend is going to be a little chilly, but that's about it.
Kirk: Yes, we had that rain a couple of days ago here in Nashville. So you're getting it now. All right. Mike Phillips, where are you? You're in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. Aren't you?
Mike: Not at all. I am Riley, North Carolina.
Kirk: Riley, not the mountains, okay.
Mike: Not the mountains.
Kirk: How's your weather?
Mike: It is horrible today. When I drove into the office, I'm on vacation, but I drove into the office, I had to do detours twice to get around accidents. My wife texted me to ask me what the weather was like. I said it was horrible and then my son called me to tell me he had just gotten rear-ended.
Kirk: Oh, no.
Kirk: Let's try and find something good to talk about then.
Mike: Absolutely. Well, let's see, I have got a buddy who is in the body shop business. He is really happy today.
Kirk: Okay, I guess he would be. So back to the microphone. We teased that. I've been wondering, should I lay out $1,000 for a mic? I do a fair amount of audio work. I've done four audiobooks on Amazon so far and I've got more to do. Should I get a mic different from the one I've got for audio work, mic work?
Mike: Well, it depends. And the answer that I give to anyone who asks a question like that is, you have to try the microphone on your voice. Now do you need to spend a $1,000 on an MKH 416? No, not to do it, not to be in broadcasting, not to be in voiceover, not to be in podcasting, absolutely not. But I will tell you that I bought this mic after some research. I have had it number of years and I bought it because I was actually engineering some sessions for a good friend of mine.
He is passed away now, but I mean, this guy has Charlie Van Dyke voice and the first time that we use the mic on him in the studio in my bedroom at home and when I hit the playback the guy started crying. He had never heard his voice the way he heard it with this microphone. It doesn't sound that much different with my voice because I don't have the voice to take advantage of the proximity effect and the particular sound this mic has. But what I would say to you is, get your hands on one, try it, listen critically and then decide whether it's worth the money.
Kirk: So this is the Sennheiser, you said MK 416?
Mike: MKH 416.
Kirk: Okay, H.
Mike: However, there is an alternative to it that you may like as well or better that's cheaper and that's RODE NTG-3. R-O-D-E, RODE NTG-3. It's just a matter of preferences. You may like it better. You may not.
Kirk: Wow. So before we went to break, I told you I had looked at buying one of these before for my own voice work and I noticed that it comes either with or without some accessories, like the windscreen that you've got or a second windscreen or a shock mount. What's important if you are going to spend $1,000 for a mic, you need to spend another hundred or two on accessories?
Mike: Probably so. I mean I'm going to pull this over and make a lot of ugly noise to show you, but this is actually an Audio Technica Shock Mount. It's one that I like. The diameter of the microphone is a standard small diameter. It's a condenser microphone. It's a standard case.
And this shock mount, I forget exactly the number from Audio Technica, but it's in their catalog. It is one of the best I've seen. It holds it really well. Very happy with its performance. I do recommend that because when I hit the desk, you hear me in the desk but you're not hearing. You're hearing absolutely nothing, right.
Mike: So I do recommend that. Now as far as the windscreen is concerned, I'm not going to take it off again. I don't know how badly I would pop the mic if I took it off because I do like to work it a pretty close. I'm in a room with bad acoustics. I want to minimize as much room echo as I can. I work it closely. The windscreen helps with that. I don't recall whether it came with it. I just don't recall, but the fact is this, since I have it, I put it on there, it doesn't hurt anything.
Kirk: Yes, yes. I've always thought of shotgun mic's obviously as being the kind that they used on The Johnny Carson Show or when they're shooting movies, somebody with a mic boom has it just out of camera range and they're pointing it at the person who is talking. They can usually turn it quickly to whomever is speaking.
And so I was so surprised years ago when I heard that voiceover artists use that MKH 416 microphone from Sennheiser for close talking their voiceovers. What do you think is the reason for it? And you alluded to earlier, one reason would be getting rid of other room noises because it's highly directional.
Mike: I mean, the fact is that it's a multipurpose microphone. It's probably the design spec was for a boomed long-distance type microphone, but my fear is what happened is because from what I understand where the microphone really grabbed a lot of popularity was with Ernie Anderson, The Love Boat guy.
Kirk: Oh, yes.
Mike: The love boat. And my theory is that he had to do some sort of a crawl or had to do something and was in the TV studio and they said, "Well grab that mic over there," and they grabbed it. He recorded it and played it back and he said, "Wow," and all of a sudden it became the go-to mic. That's my theory. I've never read that anywhere. And he has passed away. So we'll never know. But that's what I am thinking anyway.
Kirk: I can always think of him as, not only the love boat, but Tonight on Starsky and Hutch.
Mike: He was amazing.
Kirk: Tonight on Automan. Chris Tobin, you work in a big market. Lots of high paid talent. They get whatever mic they want. You've seen these Sennheiser mics around?
Chris: Well, in a world where we think like this. No, sorry. Just know the reference. Oh, yes, oh, man, voiceover, that's a talent [inaudible 00:15:53] God bless people that can do it. There are a lot of folks here in town that use the 416. There are folks that use the Neumann U87 microphones.
As Mike pointed out, it's personal preference. A friend of mine who does voice work and goes to several different ad agencies and works in different booths, he will tell me that there are times that the client will ask for a certain sound and the production facility he is at will go for a box of microphones, if you will, a cabinet and select one that sounds the way the client thinks it should.
He will sit there and just wait, like okay, "How about this?" Read the script, do his thing, blah, blah, blah. Like "What about this one?" And once in a while he said one recording was with an SM 58 microphone, a vocal mic.
Kirk: Yes, he liked that the best.
Chris: The client did. He didn't care, but the one thing he did discover and he realized afterwards, the sound booth he was in, the voice booth was so dead, that he's figuring that the different sound of the microphone or the nuance that each microphone has is what the client was hearing the differences between and nothing else was causing like an interference, artificial adding to it, like Mike pointed out, his room, his acoustics may not be ideal, so he is close up talking on the microphone, blah, blah, blah.
That's what he figures because he hasn't done it in a while, but every time he has had those particular requests for a special microphone, well, not that special, the room he was doing the reading in was dead. I mean it was so dead that he felt uncomfortable. So it either was a floating studio booth or it was just really, really dead and your ears, your inner ears, your equilibrium is lost.
Kirk: So Chris, you said to fix one of these recently. What kind of thing might go wrong with a mic like that?
Chris: Oh, the battery compartment. The little spring for the battery, for the negative element.
Kirk: Oh, Yes.
Chris: When he pulled the battery out, he ripped out the spring with it. I mean it's seen better days, but it's been used a lot, but he has now been using Phantom Power for the last couple of months. So he didn't panic over the connecter being broken, but he realized he probably should get it fixed, just in case one day he's plugged into a device that doesn't provide Phantom.
Kirk: So if your console or your preamp doesn't supply Phantom Power, I think that this is a condenser microphone with all that that baffling or direction, those elements on the front, it will run on batteries? And if so, how much of that inside that mic is filled up with batteries?
Chris: Well, the one I was working on was just a single AA. I don't remember, probably think that some of the longer length shotguns, I had one that had two AAs in it. But that was it. I don't recall being anything more than that.
Kirk: Mike, the one that you in front of you, does that take batteries? If you want to?
Mike: No. What Chris is talking about is called the T model, MKH 416T, which is for a remote battery-operated. This one is 48 volts only.
Kirk: Okay, interesting. Well, I have one more question about, oh yes, okay. So, you have got this $1,000 microphone and Mike, it sounds great on you and I've always wanted to try one, okay, let's say that you are a podcaster or a content creator of some kind, watching to, listening this podcast, you're thinking, you know, I would like to get what a lot of the big-time VO guys have and see how it sounds for me.
What is the next critical thing in the audio chain after this microphone? The answer is a preamp, but do you have to have a really expensive preamp to get the benefit of this mic or can you use something a little bit more pedestrian? I've got a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 here which I like fine. What kind of money do you have to spend on a preamp for a mic like this?
Mike: Well, as some people may know in the recording industry, you can spend thousands of dollars for a mic preamp, I mean the Manley preamps are $3,500. I can think of the Great River preamps, $2,000. There are all sorts of various esoteric type pieces of equipment and a lot of people will argue with me and that's fine. I'm used to it. But I will tell you that you do not have to spend a lot of money on a preamp. The preamp I am using right now is built into my PreSonus 16.4.2 StudioLive mixer, which is a recording quality mixer.
Now there are some really cheap preamps out there that do not do a good job. For example, don't mean to step on any toes, but the Blue Icicle for example is an XLR-to-USB preamp converter. There is also the Shure X2U. I find them to be noisy. They don't sound that great, but they're useful for what they're used for. But if you go out and spent $1,500 on a Millennia Media TD1 preamp or whatever the current model is, when you plug it in, you're going to say, you know what, I don't hear any difference. And that's probably true.
Kirk: Chris, in year experience, lot of money on the mic preamp? Or can you find something that's a couple of hundred bucks?
Chris: You can find a couple hundred bucks. I actually have here at this facility, one, two, three different types of preamps. They average about $1,500 bucks or more. One or two of the ones that Mike mentioned. I have noticed on musical recordings, some stuff that we've done, some of the lower end priced preamps could be a little coloring.
But if you're doing voice work and I helped a friend of mine build a studio and we went through preamps like crazy and compressors and you name it. You can go low end and still do fine because you're not screaming into the microphone, you're not pushing it to its limits. If you do musical recordings, you might want to be careful because some preamps may not have a good front end, enough dynamic range and the microphone is more than happy to deliver it, but the preamp may run into a problem.
It is, as Mike pointed out, it's application. I will say, I'm not going to say, spend $3,000, you get the best thing since sliced bread, because it's just a lot of hype. You do have to listen. You have to apply it. You use a microphone for different environments, different recordings, different sources and you match it up. That particular microphone has got nice output, it's solid. I forgot what the exact voltages are but you can say, it's a high output. I never really checked it out. So if you really yell into it, I'm sure the preamp could take a beating, but...
Kirk: I would think that, my limited experience in preamps and usually as a broadcast engineer, I'm using mic preamps that are built into audio consoles or built into a separate mic processor. So the thing that I typically look for is a low noise floor and a high dynamic range. A mic preamp has a little bit of a tough job. It's got to amplify a pretty small signal from a microphone and it's got to amplify that, well first of all, accurately. It's got to have a wide range.
So if somebody yells in the microphone, my favorite loud phrase, "He shoots, he scores," because you can get loud on that and yet at the same time, if you're quiet, you want the room noise to be louder than the self noise of the mic preamp. So it needs to have low noise floor. Now if you go and buy, you can buy mic pre's on eBay for $39 and they have all kinds of things. I've tried a couple of these, a cable with a built-in mic pre-and USB converter. So you've got a cable that at one and as a female XLR connector and the other end has a USB connector and the idea is hey, plug this into your computer, plug the mic in and you've got a mic preamp and converter built into one.
And for $39 you just can't get the chipsets and the electronics that are going to make that work well. I've tried a couple of them and they were not pretty at all. Mike, you mentioned the Shure X2U. I used one on the show for a few years. I was happy with it, except after a while the analog volume controls began to get noisy and crummy and so I quit using that and went to a Focusrite which I realized, the Focusrite that I have here is $150 dual preamp. And it does have, I think it's got some discrete components on the front end and it's got a reasonably nice interface to the computer. So it's okay.
I've used it for audiobook recording progress, earlier I said Amazon, I meant Audible.com. I've done a few books and they have a requirement for the noise floor. They'll go measure it on your recording that you submit. I have to turn off the furnace that's next to my office and turn off two computers that are here in my office. So I get the room as quiet as possible and I had to move a clock, a battery-operated clock out to the hallway because it was, I never noticed it before but when you that quiet, you hear the little noises and so it had to get quiet.
And my point about all that is, I got the room quiet and the noise of the preamp of this Focusrite was still not a problem. So that's using that Heil PR 40 microphone. We may have pretty well killed the subject to death here, talked it to death, but a great microphone is probably worth getting if you want to do some serious recording. Although we know a great voice can speak into a Shure SM 58 and get decent results too. Mike, do you have any thoughts on mic and mic preamp selection?
Mike: Yes, let me also say, at some point we have to talk about it, that you do not have to spend $1,000 to get a decent microphone. It's just not necessary. And I want to correct something, I told you Kirk, I said I was going into PreSonus mic preamp, that's not true. I'm actually using a dbx 286s mic processor. I was playing with some things, the reason I got confused, but I don't use any of the equalization compression, any of that stuff.
The only thing I use in the dbx 286 is the preamp and also the noise gate. I have the noise gate set on this one and that helps tremendously with that noise floor that you're talking about. Now, while I don't recommend that somebody getting started to spend a lot of money on microphones, I do believe the $200 dbx 286s is a worthwhile purchase. I mean, you can use them as a mic preamp which it has in it, but you can also wire that directly into your computer soundcard and if you don't need a mixer, if all you need is good quality sound.
So that's a recommendation, but as far as the money if you are not going to spend $1,000 you will be stunned at the quality of this $54 Audio Technica ATR2100 USB microphone. It's an XLR and USB microphone that will blow you away. It is unbelievable. I was even watching a major network Internet show. The guy uses a PR 40 all the time, has a great voice and between breaks he says, "Well I got one of these, I heard they're pretty good. Let's try it." So he plugs it and says, "I don't hear much difference." They're great microphones. So that's my point for those.
Kirk: Now with both XLR and USB, so it puts out analog on the XLR, right?
Kirk: Looks like, is my video frozen or is it just me?
Mike: It's frozen here.
Kirk: Okay. All right. But I have got audio. That is the magic of Skype. I'm going to let you guys talk about finishing that up. I want to know about though using the XLR analog out and the USB. Also it looks like, is there a memory card slot in the bottom of that thing? Or what's the other slot that's there?
Mike: This slot is actually a volume control for the built-in headphone, or it's actually a built-in soundcard, is all it is.
Kirk: Oh my goodness.
Mike: Yes, well, okay, but be careful because as much as I love this microphone, the built-in soundcard is terrible. Most people are unable to get enough signal out of the headphone jack to be able to use it successfully, but some people can. So it just all depends on how diligent you are. I guess how efficient your earbuds are and how deaf you are. But as an XLR microphone, I am just so blown away with the quality of it, which by the way I have to do my little routine here. The ATR2100 is exactly the same microphone as the Audio Technica AT2005.
The only difference is color. It has a little more robust windscreen and the on/off switch is little different. So that's the AT2005. In Europe, you can't get those mics inexpensively. So the Samson Q2U is probably the same microphone. I took one apart and found all the same parts. They weren't in exactly the same layout. So it may not be the same shop that builds these for each company. But this microphone sounds the same and the studios that I have set up, the remote studios that I have set up in the last year, most of them have used this microphone, primarily because I found them on sale and bought a boatload of them.
Kirk: Wow. So in broadcast, we tend to use Electro Voice RE20s and RE27s and there is plenty of other high end Audio Technica, maybe the Neumann now and then, of course a lot of [inaudible 00:29:18] people use the Sennheiser, what, the 421 and wasn't there and one of the 441. As I remember. Yes, so in broadcast, we've used these mics that are just kind of standard for broadcast. That doesn't mean they have to be standard for broadcasting. It certainly doesn't mean they have to be the standards for podcasting. Let's chat for just a minute, Mike.
Mike: While you were mentioning them, Kirk.
Mike: Take a look at this.
Kirk: There you go. You've got them all there.
Mike: So this is the 441, the 421 and of course the PR 40 and I'm not going to get up to go get the RE20. So.
Kirk: By the way, those of you with RE20s, you may have a broken one here and there. You know the company, Bosch, they're a German company, I think, now owns Electro-Voice. Electro-Voice RE20. I had to have one repaired and they have a pay one price repair deal. They've had that for some time. It used to be Electro-Voice would fix your mic for free. I think those days are gone. Now, it's a couple hundred bucks. No matter what's wrong with it, they'll fix it. But I just wanted to report to you, I sent one in about a month ago and got it back in just few days.
They did a very good job. They were great communicators on the process. Took a credit card, of course and I got it fixed right away. So, there is way to get your RE20 or RE27 fixed, if you don't want try to figure out what's wrong with it yourself and some of the parts are so small and the wiring and soldering is so small, I didn't want to deal with. So I just sent me RE20 off to them. Just have to report, there is a way to get that done.
Hey, Mike, you want to move on to the next step, may be audio console and what a podcaster might want to consider for his home studio?
Mike: So if we're talking about the low end here, this is an interesting concept because the mixers that I usually recommend are made by Mackie and Behringer and what's sort of bizarre about these mixers is they are not designed for broadcasting. They are designed for recording. The reason that we recommend those, first is price. I mean they're really cheap. You can get a 24 channel mixer, sort of 24 channel mixer, including the left and right including RF channels, is kind of bogus way of designating the channels.
Kirk: It is. Yes.
Mike: But you can get "24 channel mixer" for $350 and it's not a durable piece of equipment. It's not a professional broadcast mixer. It is not repairable for the most part, but at $350 if you're successful, if you need to, you can throw it away and buy another one. The reason we use these mixers is because they have auxiliary sends on them that we use to create a mix-minus, typically for Skype, Blab, Google Voice or some of these online communication services. They're also useful to, in fact the last studio I built recently, we used the Telos Hx2 and we use an auxiliary send to send mix-minus to the Hx2. Works perfectly every time.
So the low-end mixers, again you get at least what you pay for, maybe a little bit more. But if someone is serious about podcasting for business and I'm not saying it because you're here, but they really need to look into serious broadcast equipment such as the Axia consoles, primarily because of the flexibilities with things like mix-minus on every channel, the slide faders that feel good. You can grab them in a hurry and not grab the wrong one when you are not exactly looking.
Actually one of the benefits is you don't have equalization controls on every channel like you do on these mixers because on these low-end mixers, with all these equalization controls, believe it or not, one of the best things that I do to help people who are just starting out is teach them to leave all of their equalization controls at 12:00. There are reasons to equalize things, but until you know how to operate your equipment, until you know what sound you're really getting, you don't need to start screwing with it.
Kirk: Yes. And you know, professional broadcast stations, there is no equalization per channel on the board. There doesn't need to be. Most things that you're going to play are already produced and they don't need a big old bump or bit cut somewhere. Especially with modern audio gear, we don't run across stuff that's, at least I don't, I don't run across stuff that's horrible anymore.
It used to be, back when I got started engineering at a rock station in Lexington, Kentucky, we would get tapes in from the agencies and a lot are more horrible. Left and right channels would literally be out of phase with each other or they would be cranked up way high on the EQ, a mistake done at the ad agency or the production company or they would be too bassy, whatever.
And yes we needed these EQ knobs to fix things. We had an outboard Orban multi-channel EQ that we could just knock some hum right out of it. But for the most part, those days are gone. It's hard to make bad audio nowadays, if you have a clue as to what you're doing. Chris, comment on what I just said. Am I right?
Chris: Yes, you're absolutely right. I mean, for the basic podcast and for doing it consistently, as Mike pointed out, you're reaching to the console and you don't what to hit the wrong switch or turn on EQ that you don't need. Keep it simple. Keep it straightforward. You could be more reliable and repeat successfully what you're trying to accomplish.
But yes, back in the day, it was not uncommon to have some equalizer somewhere in the audio path or one device whether it's a telephone or some remote feed in and what not and people were more, I guess more tinkering involved during the broadcast, changing the audio sound and understanding why they did and how they did it.
But nowadays some of the podcast folks I've helped over the years, if you don't understand that the nuances, just keep it straightforward. If you're using a Mackie or a Behringer and you have the EQ knobs, keep them at 12:00 or turn off the switch, if it's available. If you're looking to, maybe what I suggested to somebody, I just realized it, just remember this, they had four microphones in the studio, three for guests and all that sort and then the primary one for the host.
And I actually suggested to them, I said, "You have 24 channels, you have 12 channels here. Tell you what, why don't you take the first one, make that your microphone of primary choice and then blank out the next three. Don't use them, just put a little piece of tape across, so you know not to use them and then start the guest mics at four or five and six."
And the reason I suggested that was, because he kept turning up the wrong fader to talk because he was so preoccupied reading and looking elsewhere, which again, to Mike's point or to your point, broadcast consoles are designed for a workflow that we've just grown accustomed to over the last hundred years. That's basically a walk-in. Left side is the mic for the on-air, the jock, the announcer, the reader or whatever. And then down the line it goes.
Most people today have no idea what that means, why that's even done. Or unless you're in Europe and you do the BBC model, then you have the open spot in the middle the console and your microphone is the first thing on the left of that open spot.
But these are things, subtleties that people don't realize or understand and why they came to be. So I try to sort of mimic that same approach with some of the newer mixers. If you don't have the need for the channels, then blank them out and make it easy for yourself and you could just reach down and you know exactly where you are. [inaudible 00:36:52] crazy, but it works.
Kirk: I've got a question about the difference then, in the Mackie quality of console and the Behringer, but first a point I should make is okay, home broadcasters, home content creators, if you find the need to adjust an EQ knob on one of these inexpensive yet effective consoles, you really need to figure out why am I having to do this because you shouldn't have to, yes. If you've got to turn the base up or turn base down or the midrange, something's not right somewhere else.
Now if you know what's not right and you're compensating for something that you know isn't right, fine. But no broadcaster, at least in the U.S. and almost nowhere else on any regular basis has to do that and it's dangerous if they do, because a lot of mistakes are made that way.
Now, Mike, okay, a Mackie console, I tend to see them in the $600 to $1,000 to $1,400 range and Behringer consoles, I see from $39 to $350, as you mentioned. What is the basic difference? Why would I choose a Mackie over a Behringer, for example?
Mike: If you look back at the ranges, the Mackie's tend to be a little bit more expensive than the Behringer's. The Behringer's serve very much the low end, for the most part anyway, I guess, but the Mackie's do go up to several thousand. As do the Behringer's. For example, Behringer has a new digital X32 series that is really a high quality supposedly piece of equipment made by MIDAS or someone, I forget which one they bought the company or something like that.
What we are focusing on is the low end and the one thing that I like, kind of a touchy subject because I was communicating with Behringer yesterday about some things I am unhappy about. So I'm not in a good mood about Behringer at the moment, but I'm going to be honest and share my experiences and the reason that I choose the Behringer over the Mackie, most often is because the Behringer has a built-in USB soundcard. Now, so what difference does it make?
Because if you're going to do a mix-minus and a program feed, you have to have at least two soundcards. You have to have it on your computer. You can do to computers and it's not an issue, but you have to have two. If you're going to use one computer, you have to have two soundcards, one for the main audio feed and one for the mix-minus to send back to Skype or Blab or Google Voice or whatever you're using. And it's really convenient, particularly for new people when they get the mixer that all they have to do is plug in a USB cable.
Now I do think that the Mackie quality is higher. The Mackie company is easier to work with. It's easier to get a response from them. They seem to have more service outlets, if you end up having to go that way, probably for warranty purposes. But all in all, there's not a tremendous amount of difference and if you're not going to use the USB soundcard built into the Behringer, then really it's just a matter of Ford versus Chevrolet.
Kirk: Got it. Hey, we are on This Week In Radio Tech. That's what you're watching or listening to. I'm Kirk Harnack, along with Chris Tobin, he's an engineer in the New York City area, an expert on IP codecs and doing cool things. And also our guest today is Mike Phillips. Mike has been on the show before and he's an expert at helping people, content creators and podcasters, to get their studios set up. He's got great advice on microphones and audio consoles and that's what we're talking about on this edition of This Week In Radio Tech.
I'm Kirk Harnack, I work for the folks at Telos and lo and behold, they're sponsoring this slot of the show as well. I want to tell you about a line of products from Telos, called the Z/IPStream line. These are software or hardware, either way. People ask Telos, "So what's the best way to encode my stream, software or hardware?" And the answer is, it's your choice.
If you're totally comfortable with dedicating a PC and keeping up with software updates, if you want to do that and you're running Windows, Windows XP or 7 or 8 or 10 and running software on it to do your audio processing and stream encoding. If you're comfortable with that, sure buy some software. Telos and the Z/IPStream name, they have software starting as low as about $400, $450 or so for the Z/IPStream AXE.
It's basic software to process and encode your stream. And then they have more high-end software like the Z/IPStream X2 or even the 9X2, which ends up being on the order of about $1,000 a stream for the X2 and $2,000 a stream for the 9X2. Sounds like a lot of money, but hey, this is your transmitter for the Internet.
You get an awesome audio processing and metadata capabilities, the ability to follow Triton protocols, if Triton happens to be your chosen content distribution network and plenty of other benefits too built-in. So hey, from low to high, you've got choices there.
But if you want just plug in an appliance and some people want that. Hey, just give me an appliance, sell me an appliance that I plug in to the power, plug my audio in and plug my Internet in, do a little configuration and bam, I'm on the Internet, either directly or by choosing a CDN to distribute it for you, well, there are couple of choices there too.
There is the Z/IPStream R1. That is a one rack unit box that takes in one audio program and can encode it two different ways. It's got audio processing built-in, two encoders and then up to four outputs plus confidence monitoring built in.
If you need something more than that, let's say you run a cluster of radio stations and you want to put them all on the Internet, there is a brand-new product. It's called the Z/IPStream R2. And this will take up to eight programs coming in from AES or from Livewire and then encode each of them several different ways after the processing is done and you get either three band processing or Omnia 9 processing built into it and then you can send it out to as many places as you need to within the limits of your Internet connection. So if you want to send to several different CDNs or have geographical diversity on your CDNs, you can do that.
Some of the products, actually most of the Z/IPStream products also do this new adaptive bit rate stream. We have talked about that here a lot on the show, but if you want to Apple HLS or Microsoft Smooth Streaming, that's built-in to the hardware Z/IPStream R2, also to the Z/IPStream X2 and the Z/IPStream 9X2. So check them all out.
If you want to do streaming, do it right. If you use a free product that you download from some unknown source, I can't help you with what your audio processing will sound like or what even your stream encoding will sound like because there aren't any free encoders out there that meet the actual specs of AAC or MP3.
So check these out. Yes, they cost a little money but this is your transmitter. This is for a few people or a few hundred thousand people, however popular your stream becomes. So check it out at telosalliance.com and look for the Z/IPStream processing and encoding for streaming audio name. Check it out. That's what our stations use and tell you what, thousands of radio stations and other broadcasters are using these products all over the world. Thanks to Z/IPStream for sponsoring This Week In Radio Tech.
All right. We are here with Mike Phillips, our guest, the audio and podcasting guru and Chris Tobin is along too to check us and keep us sane and add his professional experience to our conversation.
Mike, I'm not sure where we want to move the conversation to next. We want to do a little bit of how-to. So we've got microphones, mic preamps, either separate or built into the audio console. What's the next part of a studio that you typically help people with? How do you help them get on the air or get recorded or whatever it is that they're going to do?
Mike: Well, podcasting and Internet broadcasting, there a lot of net related things like which CDNs to use, how to get the signal, bandwidth issues and all that. I don't usually get involved in those. There are plenty of guys who understand all that. I usually get involved in the audio side of things. But one issue that is woefully underserved in the podcasting/Internet broadcasting community, believe it or not, is program processing and part of the reason is economic.
I mean, whenever we talk about the sound and if you listen to most podcast Internet streams, they might have a 286s on the microphone or something like that, but very few of them are using good quality program processors. Again, the last one I built, we did put a multiband audio processor on the stream and it sounds fantastic. I recommend that everyone do that. I'm not sure which one is the right one. That would be your department.
But for someone who is going to, let's say, do a 24/7 stream where there is going to be audio, music, what have you, then you need a program processor or you're going to have... when we think about running a radio station with no broadcast processor. Just think how critical your EQ settings are, think how consistent the levels would not be because of the different operators. The different pieces of content, that's one growth area for podcasters and Internet broadcasters, it’s going to be program processor. So that that should be good news for you, Kirk.
Kirk: I might point out and Chris, I'm sure you will back me up or have something to add to this subject about audio processing. Why is it important? For AM and FM broadcasters, processing has been a way to be competitive, not only to even out differences on how somebody was running the audio console and that's important, but also to be competitively loud.
Now on the Internet with streaming, we don't so much have to be competitively loud. That's not much of a factor. You still may want to dial into your stream and have it just blast out your speakers, but that's not a key factor as it has been competitively in broadcasting. And of course, if you overdo it, it can certainly cause you detriment. It can cause fatigue in your listener's experience. But what you do want the processing for, is to even out differences from show to show or element to element.
Hey, so often I've got to tell you, years ago I was at a radio station in Memphis, Tennessee. It was in the FM rack room and I was talking with the engineer. We were having a great discussion. We were looking at Aphex compellor, common piece of gear in a lot of radio stations because it was like a great hand on the volume knob. So no matter how sloppily the disc jockey was running the audio console, the compellor would give you a nice even output, not process sounding, but just at a nice even volume. So the processor could do a better job after that.
And so we looked at the Aphex compellor and all the LEDs were totally up in the red and they were all the way blasted over and it was not sounding distorted at all. It had a huge dynamic input range. And so I looked at that. I looked at the engineer. I said "What do you think about that" He said, "I think Tom Prestigiacomo is on the air." He could tell which disc jockey was on by how the LEDs were behaving on the front of the Aphex compellor. And so the point is Tom Prestigiacomo is a professional guy. He's a fixture in broadcasting in Memphis, Tennessee and yet running the levels just right on the console were just not a priority for him.
And more so with so many content creators or podcasters and that's why you need some audio processing to level that out and do it in an intelligent way that ends up sounding good at the end. And if you just grab some free software or a processor just off the shelf, that's not intentionally meant for doing this, then it's not necessarily going to help you.
You don't want to be distorted, but you also don't want your signal to sound so quiet and so weak that listeners can't hear and you don't want element to element differences from one song to another, from one program to another, from one microphone to another. You want to have these evened out, so that the listener doesn't have to do anything but listen. That's what the process is about as far as holding the audio levels right.
The other thing though, that audio processing is about for streaming is that you don't... streaming is a different kettle of fish, transmission wise, than is AM or FM processing. For example, you can't use any clipping. You don't want to use any clipping for feeding an encoder.
And so our last sponsor, Z/IPStream, the processors in those products are intentionally designed for streaming. So you'll get intelligent look-ahead limiting and you'll get no audio clipping. You'll get things that make the stream sound good and make the codec more efficient and that's what you really want to do for processing.
So Chris Tobin, am I going wrong on any of that? Or do you have something to add to what I have said?
Chris: Soundcard. My approach to the audio processing, for over the air, it's been really the competition is just making sure that the station can be heard above the competition of car environments, personal earphone environments like city streets, subways and all sorts of that nature. I've taken that same thinking along for the podcast approach for streaming.
Several things I always recommend to suggest is maintain decent levels, find a spot that works for you and just stay within a certain window, downstream whatever processing you choose to go with, whether it's a software application or a hardware device. Don't set it aggressively, just set it so that it keeps everything relatively above the noise where the person you're trying to reach with the content will be listening to your product.
Perfect example, yesterday I did an event with a streaming a network and I was walking around with my iPhone with an earpiece, standard earphone, not the ones we use for broadcast stuff and I was walking around the event while the live event took place trying to understand and make sure that their settings and things work right and it was. They had enough range on the phone. I could make it really loud or make it really low.
But I've heard many podcasts, both doing streaming from their home studio or on location where sometimes, no matter how loud I am at the phone I can barely make out what they were saying intelligibly. Or the other way, they were too loud, no matter how low I made the phone, it was still fatiguing. So that's the approach I usually try to suggest to folks.
What's your goal? What's your target audience? Do you expect most of your people to be on a phone, a smartphone or maybe listening at home on an Internet radio device or maybe nowadays in their car with their phone plugged in to the Bluetooth adapter on the dashboard or maybe directly wired in and that's the approach I take. So I don't worry about the new algorithm streaming, the methods, all that stuff anymore. I more look at, is it properly streaming, properly encoded, great. Are we doing processed audio in a proper manner for a stream or bit reduced environment, right?
Now we find a happy level like. Like the big thing nowadays is [inaudible 00:52:41] television or anything, the loudness concerns and CALM Act and everything else. Well, take that same thinking and apply it to streaming. You don't have to be, as you pointed out, like the old days, louder than the other guy, because you don't have a point of reference. The only people that have a point of reference are those in a car on an AM or FM radio. After that, there is no point of reference. So being the loudest thing on the dial doesn't matter anymore, but what does matter is [inaudible 00:53:02].
Kirk: And I hope the car manufacturers are doing this right. I haven't experienced any of the really smart entertainment rich dashboards yet that are coming out. I need to get myself to an auto dealer and try some of that out. But at some point, and Mike, I want to hear your thoughts on this, when we have the connected dash, we're going to have AM, FM and everything else on the Internet, all on the same dashboard. You're going to have Pandora. You might have Sirius XM. You're going to have all manner of different streaming services.
And you know what, those big guys are, for the most part, as far as I know, they're paying attention to their levels. I listen to Pandora Christmas music here at the house and the levels are consistently good. Sometimes the spots are a bit wrong, but most of the music's all fine. And on my dash, if I'm going to go from Pandora to the GFQ network or to my radio station in Mississippi streaming, the level's got to be a little bit consistent there with the other services. Don't you think?
Mike: Absolutely. And that's why I actually disagree a little bit with what you and Chris are saying that the consistency of levels, i.e. in terms of audio processing are not as critical in podcasting and Internet broadcasting yet. And to an extent, that's true. But you know what, it's getting there. It's kind of we're in the CBS Automax, Volumax days of broadcasting, where you didn't have to have a lot. You just had to sort of maintain a consistent level of modulation. Then we found out processing could make the sound much more appealing.
And I believe that this podcasting industry, to use the term generically, is transitioning that way at a much faster pace. Now, you mention the smart dash, I hear a lot of people who say okay, radio is dead, podcasting is going to kill it and then Howard Stern of course argues with that. But I don't think radio is dead yet, by any stretch of anyone's imagination. We all know what the problems are in the industry. That's another show.
But what I would say, my prediction is that when we get to the point in time, whether it's a smart dash or whether it's now with a smartphone or whatever, when we get to the point in time that accessing This Week In Radio Tech on GFQ is a one button, push button affair, it's a game changer. Because the theory that I have is you guys, it would be interesting to hear what you think about it, but what I read is that the FCC is one of these days is going to auction off the FM band, whether they like it or not and that all radio, all audio, all TV is eventually going to be IP-based.
So I do believe there is going to be a transition to IP, that's the future as far as I'm concerned, for what I know. But we're not there yet. Radio is not dead. It's not going to be dead for a long, long time. But I do think that processing is critical. The one button smart dash is going to be a game changer.
Kirk: And you know what? I think we should probably clarify, because Chris and I come from and I'm not sure of your entire background Mike, but we come from a world where to get that last bit of loudness on the FM dial, you've got to do some unbelievable clipping that, thank goodness, the guys at Omnia and Orban and others have figured out ways to hide the clipping distortion, but that only works for AM and FM. It doesn't' work for bitrate reduced audio encoders. So we can't do that with them. We can't run square waves into them. They lose all their efficiency and it really sounds bad.
So what I'm talking about, we don't have to be loud like AM or FM. I am really talking about that last... that we put a lot of signs into figuring how to eliminate. We offer, both Omnia and the Z/IPStream brands and others, offer multiband processing that can certainly be used to great effect and I'm just saying that you don't have to have that last db of crazy loudness that we so often look for in the FM band and even in AM, but processing is important to keep it good from cut to cut and to make it sound good.
You know, what's fun to listen to, sometimes I get messages from some friends over in Europe, especially in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, they are crazy for audio processing. They just love it. And they have some streams where they're taking some products from Omnia and some others as well. And just really adjust them to where you listen to their streams and they sound amazingly good and they are incredibly loud. You guys have really gone overboard here. Have you heard any of those, Mike or Chris?
Mike: Oh, yes. But again it's another good point because my background is AM radio, when you're trying to get decent sound out of nothing. You have got nothing to work with sound wise and if it hadn't been for Mike Dorrough's Discriminate Audio Processor, would probably not have had it sounding nearly as good as it sounded. But having said that, the couple of thoughts on processing as far as an Internet stream is concerned, Chris.
I don't know whether you've run into this in the streams you've set up, but while processing is a good idea, you have to be very careful not to process it like you do AM or FM because you can hear it better and you get to hear the processing which is what you don't want to hear, but there is also one other side effect that you have to be careful about.
A home podcaster for the most part, if we're talking at that level of podcasting, is actually in a home studio that probably has no acoustic treatment. It probably has less than perfect acoustics. If you put a lot of processing on that signal, you're going to hear the echoes in the room and I have personally experienced that in trying to set up processing on several streams. And so that is a big gotcha.Chris: Oh, yes. No, absolutely and I don't... actually a friend of mine who works for a company does processing, he always laughs because I go the opposite direction. He goes, "You're the one that goes the negative. You're the one that less processing to sound louder." I was like, well in this environment, it actually works.
And you're right, home studios and podcasters at the home do not have the most ideal acoustics and that's where it's important to understand that and work with it. No, absolutely. I don't take the approach of using at AM or FM and the DAP 310, great box. Both AM and FM stations in my career and boy, did we have some great times with that.
Kirk: Just remember the days of the FET bias adjustments on those.
Chris: Hey, I did matrix processing with the DAP 310.
Kirk: Did you? Oh, wow.
Chris: Yes, I did some experiments and played with some stuff and straight wire audio, Bill Sacks, used his products for that and it was fun watching the meters move and how you function and when people would come into the shop and say "Wow, you're processing. Are we allowed to look at it?" "Yes, come on in. I don't care, you're not going to set it the way I did." And they look at the meters, "There is something wrong with your stuff." I said, "You know, I think you 'e right."
So once in a while, I used to pop out the mid-range card or the high-frequency card on the L minus R processing and they look at me like, "Is that on the air?" I would say, "Yeah, but I think we're mono now. Let me put this back." And they look at me like, what the devil just happened. But they love the station. It was a new music format, so we had a lot of dynamics, a lot of kick, a lot of highs, everything. And they just loved the way it sounded. But matrix processing comes with certain pros and cons just like regular processing does. So as much fun as it can be, it could be very dangerous.
Moving forward to the Internet, the streaming or processing, what's great is I don't have to worry about preemphasis, whether it be NRSC, AM or FM. I don't have to worry about clipping. I don't need the clipping. All I need is just consistent audio getting into the box so that I can get something relatively, I will just say fat sounding but not necessarily big fat and just something pleasing. I'm all about fatigueless listening, whether it be a pop format or not. I have done some pop formats. We were screaming, but there was no fatiguing. So that's what I'm about. I think the end-user needs to get the right thing, but you want to get the message across as far as the content you're creating.
Kirk: We've missed it a couple times now and this will make an interesting show subject. It's a deep dive off in the weeds. But this whole concept of matrix processing instead of discrete left right processing is really interesting and what benefits you get from that and what you have to look out for when you're doing it. And I'm not claiming to be an expert on that. I've played with it a little bit and obviously you've played with it on the air and it's pretty interesting. It's worth some time talking about.
Not on this podcast, we don't have time for it. In fact we're going to have to take our last break and when we come back on it, we have Chris Tobin here from the New York City area and Mike Phillips is with us. Mike, I wonder if you could, in the time that I'm taking to do this last break, if you could come up with a tip for our listeners, keeping in with our theme as well. And then in our last little segment here, Chris and I have something to discuss that is frightening and I don't want to embarrass anybody. So we're not going to show any IP addresses, but it's frightening. So we'll have that coming up.
Our show is brought to you in part by the folks at Lawo, L-A-W-O. You might know Lawo is this company that makes great big audio consoles, well they also make a line of consoles for radio broadcasters. They're smaller. It's called the crystal line of consoles and one of those consoles, a subgroup, is called the crystalCLEAR from Lawo and this is it right here. It is a console that has a touchscreen interface and this is something that's pretty cool, I think. It may not be your cup of tea, but it may be and if it is, you ought to take a look at Lawo at lawo.com.
It's a German company and they have offices in lots of countries, including in the U.S. and the idea behind the crystalCLEAR console is that it uses the same input, output and mixing engine as their crystal line of consoles. So it has got one rack unit box that has all your audio inputs, microphones, mic pre's built-in, analog inputs, AES digital inputs and as well as it has got analog outputs and AES digital outputs.
It also has a network connection that will let you bring in other sources on the network, audio over IP that are RAVENNA standard or AES67. They do worldwide standard for AoIP that as far as I know all the AoIP companies are building gear that includes that standard. So you can hook things together that have AES67.
Also a couple of power supplies are built-in. The whole DSP mixing engine is built-in and so that's the part that does the heavy lifting, if you will. Then on the network, you hook up this computer and it's a beautiful multitouch touchscreen that's got the computer built in the back of it and you can pick this up and move it around if you want to, if you need to bring it over, hey, I'm going to do my show for my office today, no problem.
Put the thing in your office, plug it into the network and let it boot up and there you go. You've got this full-screen application that is the audio console. It's your window into it. And so it does up to 10 touches at once and that's how many fingers you have. So conveniently that works out. It's got eighth faders built into it, up to 24 inputs on the console, but 8 at a time on 8 faders and then they can be anything.
They can be mics or line level inputs and outputs. They can be codecs or hybrids or computer players, automation system, whatever, like that, CD players, you get the capability of remote starts, because you've got GPIO built into the rack unit box, so you can turn things on and off and start CD players or automation boxes or whatever.
And it's all contextual too because it's a software audio console, whatever an input needs to be adjusted, that's what's available to you. So the point is, you don't have to jump through a bunch of menus. When you touch an options button on the screen, you get options for that device. Of course, the console has so many standard things you've come to expect, a couple of different program buses are built-in plus a record bus.
The clock on the thing keeps beautiful, perfect time because you can synchronize it to network time protocol, NTP, automatic mix-minus. We were talking about mix minus in our show and how that can be challenging to set up on a $350 Behringer console or a Mackie console. You're using aux buses to do that. Well on the Lawo console, it's automatic.
You assign an output to go to whatever the input was to the hybrid or the codec and when you bring that fader up, you get everything going back to that device except itself. So you're never feeding anybody back to themselves. It's really an amazing concept and the whole idea of the touchscreen is very cool. Hey, if you messed something up. No problem, just reset the scene, reset the preset for the show that you need to do.
If you're interested, check this out at lawo.com and on the product page for the crystalCLEAR, you see right there right-hand side, there is a video you can click on. Mike Dosch, the Director of Virtual Radio Products for Lawo, he explains how the console works. Check it out if you would and thanks a lot to Lawo for sponsoring This Week In Radio Tech.
All right, Mike Phillips, could you provide us with a tip please?
Mike: Absolutely. And it's going to sound so simple that you may not think it's important, but I actually made this recommendation on Facebook and that is, don't go out and buy a piece of equipment just because someone else does. Do your homework. Buy what you need.
For example, don't just buy a Blue Yeti because everyone else is using one and when you decide which mixer or console you're going to buy, make sure you buy one that's big enough that chances are that the one you need is probably twice as big as the one you think you need. And I will tell you that it's a heck of a lot easier to have four channels unused than it is to need one more.
So the bottom line, know what you're doing, buy what you need. You're going to have to spend some money. If you're not going to spend the money, then you're just playing with it and there is only so much you can do. But know what you're doing. Read the manual and use your equipment wisely.
Kirk: Great advice. And you know what, reading the manual, boy, even these little consoles, as you mentioned, have so many knobs, especially the EQ and the aux sends and how would you use those? And you can read about how to use them and hopefully have somebody who knows what they're doing show you how to use them or just experiment, figure out what you need to do.
Mike: Yes, if I may, or one of the things I meant to mention a while ago on these little cheap consoles, one of the hardest issues I have teaching people is how to do gain staging. They don't know how to set their master controls. They don't know how to set their trim controls. They don't know where to set the landing positions on their faders and that is a real problem.
Kirk: So they may be distorting at one place, even though they're turning it down somewhere else and they still have distortion. They have a quiet signal, but still distorted.
Mike: Happens all the time.
Kirk: There is a fix for that and that is to get the gain right at every stage along the way.
Kirk: Yes, wow.
Mike: If I can just jump in one more time. You'll like this one. The number one question I get is how do I put a call on the air? How do I put a call? How do I broadcast a telephone call? And there are a lot of ways to do it, but again, I'm not stroking you, but I'll tell you, we bought an Hx2 and I tell people if you want to do it right, that's the right way.
If you can't spend the money, then we'll talk about other ways, but that's the right way to do it for a small broadcaster. That Hx2 telephone hybrid is a great little box and then there is some tweaks you can do to it to actually crank up the performance even beyond what it does when it comes out of the box. And so I'm a big fan.
Kirk: Cool, I appreciate that. And that's very true. The Telos hybrids are amazing. That's the way to put a phone call on the air or on your podcast. Mike, thanks for being with us. Hang on, because I want to, with Chris, we're going to take a look at something that is a little bit shocking. I know the world of IT and security can be confusing. We've heard news stories in the past couple of years about people hacking into EAS equipment, the emergency alert system, EAS equipment and putting nefarious messages on the air, bogus messages.
So far nobody's been hurt because of it, but it's certainly possible. Well I got a message the other day from a friend who said "You won't believe what I just found on the Internet." And have you got that that shot available for us? There is a live look, live right now at a radio station's EAS box. If you Google, you can find this box. Fortunately, they've changed the password. But that is a radio station's live EAS box right there and if you knew the password you can get right into it and if you have the time to hack into it, you probably could.
Don't do this folks. Chris, my theory was the station put in the EAS box, wanted remote access, didn't really know how to go about doing that in a safe way, so they probably just told their router, hey, make the DMZ, the demilitarized zone. The easy universal access method, just point it at this EAS box and we will be able to get to it from our house or wherever we need to. And there it is hanging out on the Internet. The emperor has no clothes for all to see. What do you think? And could I be right?
Chris: I am going to say, yes. only because I have run into a couple times a couple places with the same very limited IT support where people thought that makes sense, let's do it, not realizing the ramifications. But what worries me is if you find this type of device on the Internet from a broadcaster and if they do say, "Well, that's all they do in remoting, we do this, this and this."
I have to say, well you know what, you may need to step back, pick up a book on how to remote access the office environment and learn about VPNs or Terminal Services, Remote Desktop Services, but also the other methods that you can use to get that same box remotely from any computer in the world safely. And I can say that because I've done it on many occasions with a couple of setups I have using Terminal Server and off you go and you're good. But yes, it's just, you've got to be careful.
I mean even if you say, I've got a password that's 37 characters with entropy that's enough to take you 5 billion years to figure it out. What you don't know is, if there are any other security vectors that that box has that the manufacturer hasn't told anybody or I guess we call them zero day effects, zero day hacks and that's what worries me. The product, great product, does what it is supposed. But we don't know, it's not public knowledge what methods and what testing they did to make sure that that port, that access, whether it's port 80 or whatnot, has been properly vetted.
Kirk: Yes and at least at a minimum, what you don't want to do and by the way, I can speak to this because I did something really stupid back in the early days of the Internet. In American Samoa, they would just give their customers five IP addresses that were all public and you're supposed to assign your computer, up to five computers a public IP address. And so we had our automation system sitting on the public Internet.
This was back, this may have been before Windows XP. This may have been Windows 2000 or it was Windows 95. Windows 95, which had no firewall, all of these sockets open and sitting on a public Internet address out there for anybody to hack into. And after about a year and a half somebody did and wiped out our C drive, just because they could. And so we were off the air for a couple days while we had a local computer shop rebuild the C drive.
Luckily all the commercials and music were on the D drive and they didn't bother with that one, and then we realized oh yes, well, it's wide open. So why don't we get a router that has a firewall. I have heard of these things now. But at the time I plugged the stuff in, I hadn't even heard about a router. So this was back in the, actually in the late '90s.
So okay, please excuse me, but I learned my lesson back then and there are more lessons to be learned. You don't want to do what this radio station did and put your EAS box right up there on the public Internet for everybody to see. And I wouldn't have shown that, except you can Google just a few little keywords and find that exact box. It's not hiding. Google has made it known where that box is.
So yes, be careful out there and don't do what that station does. I sent them a very nice letter, by the way, just telling the problem and letting them know that I would be happy to help them make that more secure or tell their engineer what they need to do. So scary, scary.
Chris: So password1 one is no longer password?
Kirk: What was that? Password1 is not the password?
Chris: Password1 is no longer the password for that box?
Kirk: Yes. Apparently neither is monkey or 12345678. Well, I didn't try it out. But somebody else telling me that the default password from the company that makes that box is no longer the password. So that's all I know.
Chris: That's great.
Kirk: Wow, So yes, don't to that. That's our tip from me and Chris. Don't do that. Find out how to do it better. Hey, thanks for watching This Week In Radio Tech, our guest has been Mike Phillips. Thank you for joining us, Mike, with your great... if I ever come across $1,000, I am going to get one of those microphones.
Mike: I might just send you one.
Kirk: You don't have to do that.
Kirk: I wouldn't mind buying a used one somewhere, but I would like to try that thing out. So Mike, I hope you join us again some time with some more information for basic audio stuff.
Mike: Anytime. It's a thrill, Kirk.
Kirk: All right. Chris Tobin, who is available at firstname.lastname@example.org and he keeps half of New York City on the air. Thanks, Chris.
Chris: Thanks. A little less than half.
Kirk: Okay, a little less than half. No disrespect to all the other fine engineers in New York City, but Chris is one of the finest. And I'm Kirk Harnack and we've got some good things coming up on the show, including in a few weeks... by the way next two weeks, probably no new show. That is Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, we're going to run reruns. We're taking some sleepy time off.
But coming up in January, we have got Robbie Green. He's going to be on the show telling us about this incredible world of network aggregation in the cellphone carrier industry where you can get great bandwidth and you can do remotes from lots of places that you didn't think you could.
And then another guest coming up is Dick Debartolo, the maddest writer at Mad Magazine and he does a show called The Giz Wiz and he's going to come on with some great audio gizmos to show us coming up in January. We're going to really enjoy having Dick Debartolo on the show.
So we'll see you guys next week with a rerun on This Week in Radio Tech. Take care. Bye-bye.
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