Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 Audio Interface Review and Demo

Why did I buy the Focusrite?

I bought the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4* (2i4 on B&H | 2i4 on Amazon) after my beloved Griffin iMic died on me after a few years of hearty service. The iMic is a simple, small audio interface that accepts both line and mic. level sources with a 3.5mm connector and it does its job really well. So why not just buy another one? I was going to but I’m a gear junky so upgrading is common place.

The iMic is a little pricey for what it does ($35-$40) but again it’s well worth it. The price of the iMic led me to see what I could get if I invested a little more and I’ve been wanting to try the Focusrite series of audio interfaces for a very long time. This was my chance and a better justification for finally getting one. If I tripled my investment in a new iMic (give or take), I could get a lot more capability and power from the 2i4.

First Impressions and Test

In the audio (above) you heard my very first recordings using the 2i4. I plugged in my ATR2100 and recorded using Adobe Audition. The first same is raw (as recorded) and the second was lightly processed and loudness normalized. [Read more…]

Mackie 402VLZ4 Mixer

The Mackie 402VLZ ultra-compact mixer* is an excellent audio mixer for first time podcasters. “Built like a tank” the 402 is encased in steel with quality feeling knobs, sealed to prevent dust from invading the insides of the mixer. The first thing you’ll notice when you pull this mixer from the box is how well it’s built and its small size. This thing feels like a road warrior, built to be taken with you when necessary.


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Behringer Xenyx Q802USB Mixer Overview

The Behringer Q802USB mixer* is a great choice if you are looking for a mixer that can handle most podcasting applications for less than $100.

A good preamp is where a good mixer starts. The Q802USB has Behringer’s Xenyx preamps and they perform very well in this mixer. With plus 60DB of gain, the preamps in this mixer are enough to power most dynamic microphones including the Heil PR40 and the ATR2100, two of my microphones that require the most gain. Even at the top range of this preamp, I was able to get clean audio.

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How to Setup Any Mixer – Gain Staging without PFL or Solo Buttons

For many podcasters, mixers do not include Pre Fader Listen (PFL) or Solo buttons which are commonly used on more expensive mixers for properly setting audio levels.


Gain staging is the process of setting proper audio levels through your entire audio chain. On a mixer this starts with the gain knob (located at the top of each channel strip) which controls the sensitivity of your microphone or input and finishes at the output, your main mix. [Read more…]

Aspen Mics HQ-S Stereo Lavalier Microphone

Aspen Mics* has a new series of lavalier microphones called HQ (High Quality). I first saw these mics tweeted out by @cheesycam who often reviews lower priced gear for DSLR video shooters. For a mic called HQ, these mics had an interesting price point around $50 but what made that attractive was their quality. Upon first listen, the mics seem to produce nice clean audio without having to run your recorders preamp at full gain.

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Webcam Lighting Setup

One of the biggest ways to make your Google Hangout or any other type of video look its best is to make sure you have good lighting. Really any lighting that you put a little effort into will do wonders. The key is to get adequate amounts of light in front of your face so the audience can easily see you and the camera will look it’s best.

You can accomplish this with any lights you have in the house, office or wherever you are broadcasting from. Often I just use a nice large window (see below) with plenty of daylight coming in. This looks wonderful but can be hard to control. When the clouds pass in front of the sun, your lighting will change dramatically. While I love the look of natural light, the best way to ensure you have consistent, great looking light is by using lights that you control.

Lighting setup for HOA

In the image below you’ll see a more advanced lighting setup that I recently used on my G+ HOA based show, Podcasters’ Roundtable. [Read more…]

How to Setup a Mix Minus for Recording Skype

If you need to setup a mix-minus to record Skype for your podcast, this tutorial will show you the gear* you’ll need and how to connect it all together.

Below is a complete photo walkthrough of the mix-minus setup demonstrated in the video above.

The basic concept of a mix-minus is to input multiple sources of audio into an audio mixer (your microphone, sound cart, phone messages, Skype, etc.) then send that audio back out to Skype, minus (without) the Skype caller’s voice.

This setup is achieved by using an auxiliary output to selectively send certain audio out of the mixer. If you send all the audio that is in the mixer, back to Skype, then the person on the other side will hear a feedback loop of their own voice. So we need to exclude (minus) Skype’s audio (the person’s voice) from going back into Skype.

Depending on your mixer’s manufacture, the auxiliary output may be labeled Aux, FX or Mon Send. They’ll all work as auxiliary outputs in this setup.
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Recording Skype with No Mixer or Software

Recording a Skype interview can be a tricky process. There are “easy” ways to do this with software like Audio Hijack Pro for Mac and Pamela for Windows but they can still be hard to setup and of course anytime you’re using software you are at risk of it crashing and losing the entire interview. My other complaint about using software is that it’s not as easy to monitor the audio that you are recording to ensure that everything sounds right throughout the recording.

Here’s a very specific setup that while it uses a particular piece gear (ATR2100 or AT2005)* it gives you lots of flexibility with the final audio file(s) as well as a more reliable system for capturing your Skype interviews and achieving latency free monitoring.

In the video I say that you have to have an ATR2100 style microphone. For this exact setup that is true however you can achieve a Skype recording with your audio recorder with any XLR connected microphone (see section below).

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Podcaster’s Pilgrimage – My Visit to the TWiT Studios

If you live in Northern California or are ever visiting and you’re a podcaster, I highly recommend you make the “podcaster’s pilgrimage” to the TWiT Brick House in Petaluma, California. The best part is that anyone can walk right in and see the studio for themselves. Here’s the experience through my eyes and lens.twit-logo

Following a week in Las Vegas, Nevada where I attended and spoke at New Media Expo, my friends and fellow podcasters Mike and Izabela Russell were taking an extended vacation which included a visit to San Francisco. At first, I was planning to show them wine country in the Napa Valley, a great California experience but then it hit me, what’s in wine country and specifically tailored for podcasters? TWiT! [Read more…]

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