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

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.

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