Many first-time podcasters look to get a USB mic, mainly because they are a little intimidated by all the fancy nobs of a mixer. While a mixer is not required to produce a good show, I think it is a great addition to your studio and will allow you to have a higher-quality sound. Most of the higher-quality mics (like the Heil) only use XLR cables and while you can get a USB adapter nowadays, you still get the best sound by using an XLR cable.
So, what exactly is a mixer anyway? A mixer “mixes” various sound inputs down into one sound output. For example, it’s the device that allows you to have one in-studio host, a Skype interviewee, sound clips playing from your iPad, and a second in-studio guest host all recorded on your Roland R-05 digital audio recorder. Actually, the above scenario is how my studio is set up, and a mixer makes that possible.
I am going to give you two mixer recommendations, a basic and a premium. The Mackie 802 is the clear winner, especially if you plan to do interviews or expand your studio to multiple mics or inputs one day. There are several versions of Mackie mixers, with one of the main differences being the number of channels. The amount of channels that you need will depend on the type of shows you are planning to do. I recommend eight channels. Here’s why: your mic (Channel 1), Skype interviewee (Channel 2), sound clips from iPad (Channel 3), second in-studio mic (Channel 4). If you look at mixers you will notice that while they say 8 Channels, a couple of the channels are controlled by the same dials. Personally, I want these four devices to be separate from each other on their own dedicated channel.
My other mixer is for those who are more price conscious. I have used this mixer for a while and still keep it around as a back-up. At about $50, the Behringer 802 is one of the best deals you will find on mixers. It is very similar to the Mackie, but the Mackie is constructed better and has a few additional features that, if you can afford it, make it a great upgrade. However, I ran my entire podcast business off the Behringer 802 for the first nine months using the same four-input set-up as described above with zero issues.
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