TPS084: USB Power and When Do You Need a Mix-Minus?

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You’ve decided you want to record Skype interviews or a remote co-host and you’ve heard about using a mix-minus setup. How do you know if this applies to your podcast?

On this episode I talk about how to know when you need a mix-minus as well how I’m using a new piece of gear to power my mobile podcasting rig without plugging into a wall or having to throw away batteries. Anker USB Battery

There are really only two scenarios where you’ll need to setup a mix-minus for your podcast. The first one is if you want to record Skype and have the person on the other side hear your primary microphone; the mic you are using to record your podcast. In this setup, you need a mix-minus because you have to send the Skype audio back to the person on Skype minus their audio to prevent a feedback loop (hearing their own voice back). The second is if you want to do “live to hard-drive” podcast production.

In the first scenario, if you only use Skype as a communication tool and are willing to let your on-board computer mic be the mic that Skype hears then you can forgo a mix-minus by using that mic and letting your recording software (Audacity, Audition, etc) take the feed from the mixer. The on-board mic won’t be recorded, it will only serve as a way for the Skype caller to hear you. In most cases the person on Skype (if you sit close to your computer) will never know you’re using this mic. However, since this method still involves a mixer, the only reason I could really see using this method over a mix-minus would be if your mixer doesn’t have an aux out channel or you want a slightly less complex way of recording Skype on a single computer.

In a live to hard-drive workflow you’d bring in all your audio (mic, music, sfx, etc) in realtime while recording and when you are done you’ll have a completed podcast episode ready to be published. Post-production is not required but can still be done to polish the final audio. In this case, the person on Skype will need to hear all the audio elements minus their own voice and therefore you’ll want to use a mix-minus setup.

Not needing a mix-minus setup could save you money if you haven’t purchased a mixer already. Other ways of recording Skype are software such as Audio Hijack Pro (Mac) and Pamela (Windows) as well as a recorder that has the proper inputs (see the embedded video below) or a double-ender which I detailed in on TPS047. There are also more difficult solutions using a series of virtual audio cables.

Record Skype with an Audio Recorder

How-to record Skype using an audio recorder. Two things to note in this video. First, you’ll see me using a Zoom H4n. They have since updated this recorder with the H5 and H6, both are linked below, and I would purchase these over the H4n which has weak preamps that introduce noise into your recording. Second, you don’t need the ATR2100 or similar mic to pull this off. You can any mic and use your computer’s on-board microphone to communicate with Skype. The good audio from your mic that is plugged into your recorder is what will be recorded for your podcast.

*Links mentioned on this episode (in order of appearance).

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About Ray Ortega

Full-time podcast producer and host of The Podcasters' Studio and Podcasters' Roundtable, I enjoy sharing my ten years of experience making podcasts to help others improve or start their own show.

Comments

  1. Hi! I am an emergency doctor and run a blog/website/podcast “The EDECMO podcast” that teaches ER doctors how to initiate heart-lung bypass in the Emergency Department. Right now, I am the only ED in the Western Hemisphere doing this…and it should be the future of the resuscitation or crashing patients. I began using a mixer but moved to the simplicity of the H6. Love the H6. I use Skype for many of my interviews but now that I’ve moved the H6 I haven’t found an elegant way to do a mix-minus with it. For now I do “double-enders” using Skype as a communication tool and then sync up the audio in post – usually receiving lesser quality recordings from my interviewees. I’d like to do mix-minus via H6 for these reasons: 1. take complete control of the recording process and not rely on the ‘other ender’, 2. avoid having the hassles of the post production sync with inveitable drift, etc.

    I’m currently using Audicity to edit in post.

    Do you know of any way to make the H6 functionally do a mix-minus?

    • Hi Joe, sounds like some really cool stuff you are doing and sharing, congrats. You can’t really do a mix-minus with the H6. If you still have your mixer then you’ll need to work that into the setup and use that. You can then use the H6 in conjunction to get the results you want.

      The issue with doing a mix-minus on most audio recorders is that you can select which channels come into the device versus which leave. All channels go in via the inputs and all leave via the output.

      One way to hack this is to simply use your computer’s built in microphone to communicate with the other person on Skype. This way you have your audio and your guest both coming into the H6 but nothing going back out. Since you are only sending Skype audio, the quality won’t matter beyond your guest being able to hear you. And in most cases they would never know the difference between microphones.

      The other option involves an ATR2100 microphone which allows you to output via USB and XLR at the same time. This would give the guest better audio but again most would never know the difference. So it can be done, just not in a traditional mix-minus setup.

      Here is a video and blog post where I show the setup for the ATR2100 and a Zoom recorder but again you can achieve this same thing by just using the built-in mic. http://thepodcastersstudio.com/recording-skype-with-no-mixer-or-software/

  2. Thanks for the great info, Ray. I already have an ATR 2100 mic, so if I get a Tascam DR-60D, can I do a setup like you show in the video, but also connect my smart phone to the line-in 1/8″ jack and run a soundboard app to pipe in music and effects?
    Thanks

  3. Hi Ray,
    This is an old post, and I’m not sure you’re even still monitoring it. But here goes…

    Here’s the equipment/software we have:
    >Scarlett 18i8
    >Zoom H6
    >Heil PR-40 mics (2)
    >Headphones
    >Skype (and FaceTime)
    >iPhone
    >Audio Hijack

    Our setup is 2 in-studio mics with a host and co-host, and a remote guest via Skype or FaceTime.

    Here’s the issue I ran into. First, when I recorded a Skype or FaceTime call that included just myself (1 mic) and the remote guest, I had no problems. They could hear me; I could hear them. In this situation, I was using the Scarlett on my end and Audio Hijack to record Skype.

    However, when I tried adding my co-host (second in-studio mic), the Skype guest could not hear the co-host, yet they could hear me just fine. And in post-production, the co-host volume was normal without any problems.

    So…is mix-minus what I need to allow the remote guest to be able to hear my co-host? Using the equipment/software I noted above, how would I set this up?

    Finally, how could I include the Zoom (or my smartphone) to make sure I’m recording a backup of the Skype interview?

    Thanks!
    Josh

    • Hi, Josh. I’m still here!;) So here’s the issue you’ve run into; it’s one that I’m still working on the best solution.

      Skype only takes a mono input which means that on a multichannel interface like the Scarlett, it only takes what comes into channel one. This is really unfortunate because it kind of rules out these devices for use with in-studio co-hosts. However, with the 18i8 you should have also gotten some software to let you do various routing of the outputs/inputs. I don’t have this for my 2i4. There may be a solution in there where you can connect Skype’s input to the software and have it receive all the audio via a mix.

      Or you might be able to use Audio-hijack to send an output to Skype so that Skype “hears” on channels. I need to play with this setup as well since I have AH. There is also Soundflower, a free audio routing app that might provide a solution.

      Typically this is where an analog mixer with an aux send for preforming a mix–minus would come in handy. You might also try using the H6 as an audio interface and see how that works. I suspect the same thing will happen but it’s worth a shot.

      If you get it all working and you are using AH to record, then you’d want to connect the H6 to the Scarlet so that you get a backup recording of the (at least) the mix.

      • OK, I did some testing today and boom, I managed a solution via Audio Hijack. See this tweet https://twitter.com/PodcastHelper/status/860639896876138497 I also have a setup that will allow you to record both the in-studio mics as well as Skype onto separate channels (it’s a bit of a hack) using two “recorders.” Use the contact page to get in touch if you need the setup. Hope this helps!

        • Looking at your diagram…so it’s as simple as downloading SoundFlower? Maybe simple isn’t the best word.

          Of course, now our Scarlett is going in for repairs so this is shoved to the back burner, unless we can hook up our Zoom H6 in place of the Scarlett on your diagram?

  4. Hi there Ray. Thanks for getting back in touch. I’ll take a closer look at your solution this week and let you know if I have some questions.

    Thanks!!

  5. Shawn Holton says:

    Hi Ray,
    I watched your video on mix minus and it was helpful, thanks. Do you know if a mix minus can be set up using a Yamaha MG06X? Here’s what I’ll be using:
    iPad recording everything through BossJock
    2 ATR2100-USB into the mixer line 1 & 2
    iRig2 out and into the iPad
    2 Sony headphones plugged into the iRig
    We want to use an iPhone for a skype call

    We’ve got the 2 mics into the mixer and out to the iPad through the iRig but the mix minus iPhone is where I’m having problems.
    Thanks

    • I don’t see an auxiliary output on that mixer so it won’t work for a mix-minus setup. But what you could do is bring someone is via the Skype on the iPhone and just use the iPhone’s microphone so that the person on Skype can hear you. Since you are not recording that part of the conversation (going into the Skype iPhone) the person only needs to hear you. You’ll get your high-quality audio into the recording along with theirs.

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