So I've had a few people contact me and ask how I record my podcasts, and for the most part I've been using a Macbook Air with Ecamm Call Recorder software ($30 U.S.) and an Audio Technica ATR2100 Microphone (between $65 and $80 depending on current deals). This is a great setup until you want to have multiple people recording in-person or if you want to start playing audio files for your Skype caller during the interview. I actually invested in a mixer that had excellent reviews when I first set out to start my podcast, and I'm ashamed to admit it has taken me this long to figure out how to set up a mix-minus with it. You see, most tutorials online right now involve non-USB mixers. What's great about this one is the USB interface allows all sound going into the mixer to come out of it and into some recording software. I use Adobe Audition to edit in post, but it will also work with Audacity if you want to record directly or, as I've demonstrated in the video below, you can send all of the audio to a digital recorder for editing later.
The Mixer's Job:
Now I'm no expert, so I'll break this down in a way that helps me understand it. For this setup, it helps me to think of the mixer as the "command central" of sorts. The mixer needs all audio routed into it, and it's the mixer's job to allow you to select where all of the audio goes. It will even allow you to select different audio sources to go to all or only some of the destinations.
- Behringer X1204 USB Mixer
- XLR Cable
- connects ATR2100 mic to mixer (via channel 1)
- Two: Stereo Mini 3.5 mm male to 2 Mono 1/4" male insert Y-Cable
- #1 goes from headphone out jack on Mac to mixer channel 7/8 inputs. This takes the Skype audio and feeds it into the mixer.
- #2 goes from "FX out" (just used black mono - the red one is not connected) to the Griffin iMic "in" port. This takes the mixer's audio and feeds it into Skype (minus the Skype caller's audio)
- Griffin iMic USB adapter
- Female Mono 1/4" to 3.5 mm male adapter - used to plug my earbuds into the headphone jack on the mixer for monitoring
- 3.5 mm TRS cable to dual RCA (optional) - I used this in the video to connect audio going out of the mixer to a digital recorder
Step 1: Connect the microphone to the mixer so the mixer will receive the audio from the mic. I've used the XLR cable to connect the ATR 2100 mic to channel 1 on the mixer. I have my gain knob set at about 2:00, and make sure the "Aux 1" knob is turned to 12:00. This will insure that the Skype caller will hear your mic during the call - you can turn this up more if needed:
Step 2: Connect the first Stereo Mini 3.5 mm male to 2 Mono 1/4" male insert Y-Cable. Insert the 3.5 mm end into the headphone jack of the Mac or PC. The two mono connections go into channel 7/8 on the mixer. This brings the audio from the Skype caller into the mixer. Note: To insure that your Skype caller doesn't hear their own voice, the "Aux 1" knob on channel 7/8 will need to be turned all the way down.
Step 3: Connect the second Stereo Mini 3.5 mm male to 2 Mono 1/4" male insert Y-Cable. For my setup, I used only the black Mono cable and plugged it into the FX Out. Then I plugged the 3.5 mm end into the "in" jack on the Griffin iMic. Make sure it's set to "MIC" instead of "LINE".
This is used to take any audio (that you will eventually designate with your faders) from the mixer and route it back into your Mac or PC so that the Skype guest can hear it. The trick with this one is you don't want the Skype caller to hear their own voice, so we're going to keep the "FX" knob (or "AUX" on some mixers) turned all the way down.
Step 4: I highly recommend monitoring the master audio out of the mixer into headphones, so make sure you utilize that feature by plugging in headphones to the "PHONES" jack. Some of you may have a Mono connection on your headphones, or you can use the female Mono to male 3.5 mm adapter I have in my setup. Also, make sure the buttons are pressed in for "2-TR/USB TO MAIN".
Step 5 (Optional): In the video, I ran a 3.5 mm TRS cable to dual RCA cable to an external digital recorder. Plug the RCA cables into the "2 TRACK USB OUTPUT" jacks on the mixer. Then connect the 3.5 mm end to the "LINE IN" jack on your digital audio recorder.
If you're using Ecamm Call Recorder, you do not need to worry about the USB connection that goes from the back of the mixer to your Mac or PC. However, if you'd rather record directly into your audio software (regardless of whether or not you want to follow Step 5 above), then you'll need the USB connection.
Also, if you want to use a cell phone or tablet to play audio clips and have your Skype caller be able to hear them during the call, remember that whatever channel you use to plug that device into the mixer, you will need to turn the "AUX 1" knob up and the fader for that channel to allow this to happen.
Channel 1 (ATR 2100 Mic): I started with my Channel 1 fader at 0 and my gain around 2:00. If your Skype caller tells you that your voice volume is low on the call, slide the fader up a little until you achieve the desired volume. Remember, the "AUX 1" knob must be turned up here to allow the Skype caller to hear your mic through the mixer.
Channel 7/8 (input from headphone jack on Mac or PC): I started with this fader at 0 as well. If the Skype caller's volume is too low for you to hear through your monitoring headphones, you can increase the volume on this fader. Because you do not desire the Skype caller to hear their own voice, this channel's "AUX 1" knob needs to be turned all the way down.
Main Fader: Always start your calls with this fader below 0, then gradually increase the volume during sound check. Make sure to look on the EQ both on the mixer itself and in your recording software (if using during the Skype call) that you are not clipping. You shouldn't see the lights going into the red. If they do, drop the volume on the main fader.
As I said, I'm no expert here, but I hope this will save someone the ridiculous amount of time I spent trying to figure this out. If I had to do it all over again, I might have used a non-USB mixer that the other tutorials I found seemed to be adequate for. I'm sure there are features that I'm not using on this mixer as well, and there are most likely some additional fine-tuning adjustments that could be made to dramatically improve the audio quality on the recording end of things. As a novice, I highly welcome any tips, tricks and/or criticism of anything you see here. If there's a better way to do it, or even an alternate way, please leave your feedback.