TPS091: Gain Staging Any Mixer

Setting up a mixer can be a difficult task. Even on the smallest mixers there are numerous buttons and knobs that all affect the audio you put into it. Knowing exactly which knobs to turn and when can be confusing at best and can wreck your audio at worst. In this episode I talk about how to gain stage (setup your microphone for proper audio levels) any mixer you might use as a podcaster.

Because beginning podcasters often start with a very limited budget, we tend to purchase mixers that don’t feature all the tools that some higher end mixers have such as PFL/Solo buttons for easier gain staging of your microphones. But even the cheapest mixers have the minimum controls to setup your levels properly. I talk about how to use both a channel’s peak light and/or the main mix meters to get your mixer operating a level that the manufacture intended it to be used at.

After that, as podcasters, who are not usually in ideal recording environments, it’s all about adjustments. I talk about compensating for podcasting related issues like heavy reverb, background noise and cheaper preamps.

Ever since I’ve been producing podcasts, I’ve been putting audio files on facebook and when possible, using whatever method that would create a native player in the facebook feed. Native players are ones that take a link to an .mp3 file and create some kind of audio player that a user can simply press play and begin listening to your podcast on their facebook page.

The main motivation for doing this was ease to the end user. Podcasting has always fought the barrier of being “hard to consume content.” Any opportunity that a producer can seize to make it easier for someone to listen or watch your podcast is a good strategy in my opinion.

Facebook however has not always cooperated. They had a nice, clean audio player back in the day and took it away. After that SoundCloud showed up and once again we were able to place native players inside Facebook. What I love about the SoundCloud player is the look of the player including a nice customizable, large image. Images have traditionally done very well on facebook (eye catching, get more likes, more shares, etc).

Now Libsyn (my chosen media host; see below for a free month) is amongst those service providers who have worked with facebook to create a native player when you link to one of your .mp3 files on Libysn’s servers.

I’ve recently switched from using the SoundCloud player on facebook to using Libsyn’s option simply because I am already paying for Libsyn and my facebook play stats will be included in my Libsyn account. And while it works, the part I enjoy most besides having a native player, the image, has been tricky to employ as easily as a simple SoundCloud embed.

In order to get the Libsyn link to display a custom thumbnail image you need to insert an image into “Thumbnail” section of your post inside the dashboard. Facebook will scrape this image, sometimes. I’ve had hit and miss experiences getting facebook to recognize this image on the first try. With enough persistence, I can almost always get faecbook to recognize the image but it can take many attempts. Also it’s difficult to control the size of the image that facebook will display.

SoundCloud wasn’t perfect either, they inconveniently crop the image you are trying to display leading to many attempts to get the crop just right. However, in each case I new what I was going to get as far as facebook was concerned.

This not a harsh criticism of Libsyn’s new feature (facebook could be the issue) more than it’s simply sharing my experience using one service over the other for this very specific and narrow use case. However, I am seeing some really nice traffic and response to several podcasts I’m affiliated with and the image plays an important role in this uptake…getting people to notice the player and press play. I just wish it was a consistent experience. But again, I applaud Libsyn for working with facebook to make this possible in the first place and I highly recommend that you use this feature. And for the possibility of having more success with the player, try using unique thumbnails for each episode so that your facebook friends don’t see the same thing every time, perhaps even subconsciously skipping the player altogether due to over saturation.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Do you need a reliable host for your podcast? Consider using Libsyn (my chosen host) or Blubrry (the only two podcast hosting companies I recommend) and get your first month free when you use promo code: PODCASTHELPER at checkout.

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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.