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Do you need a mixer for your podcast?

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WANT TO START A PODCAST BUT HAVE NO IDEA HOW? THIS GUIDE TAKES YOU THROUGH ALL THE TOOLS AND TECH YOU NEED TO GET GOING!

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Mixer for audio

Are you making things too complicated? 

Buying the right equipment when you’re starting a podcast can be confusing and it’s easy to get stuff you don’t need.  Like a mixer.

So, if you haven’t bought your podcasting gear yet and you think you might need a mixer let’s make sure you’re buying one for the right reasons.

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What does a mixer do?

As the name suggests a mixer takes a bunch of different audio elements and mixes them down into one track that can be recorded on your computer.

The different elements (or ‘inputs’) are determined by you, depending on what you need and what your mixer will allow.  Then all of the different inputs are controlled via faders.

You could plug in microphones (one per fader), attach your phone to record callers.  Or you could plug in your computer and play audio from YouTube.

The possibilities are endless and it allows you to add interesting elements to your show while you’re recording rather than adding everything in post.

Do you need to edit your podcast?

Read

Some common reasons people think they need a mixer…

They want to record their podcast on a computer

In this case, you don’t actually need a mixer you need a USB microphone.

If you’re planning to record your show directly onto audio editing software all you need is a way to get your voice into that software.  The easiest way to do that is by plugging a microphone into your computer via the USB port.

If you’re planning on using more than one microphone, be warned, it’s not as simple as plugging two mics into two USB ports.  It should be but unfortunately, computers weren’t designed with podcasters in mind.  So it takes some configuring to get both microphones to register.

But if you’re just looking to record yourself or you’re going to be chatting to guests or your co-host via Skype or Zencastr all you need is a USB mic, not a mixer.

How to record a podcast with people in different locations

Read

They bought an XLR microphone

Now we’re getting closer to “I need a mixer” territory but it’s still not essential.

If you bought an XLR mic and you plan to record your podcast directly into audio editing software on your computer you will need a way to turn the analogue signal into a digital one.  A mixer can do this but if that’s the only reason you need one, it might be easier to get an audio interface (DAI).

An audio interface doesn’t have the bells and whistles of a mixer but it can connect your XLR mic to your computer via USB port.

Or if you have a Zoom you can use that as an audio interface as well as a portable recorder which is a good way to get more bang for your buck.

What’s the difference between USB & XLR microphones?

Read

They want more control over their audio 

Now we’re talking.  In this case, you probably DO need a mixer.

Mixers come with a lot more features than your standard mic or recorder and you can play around with things like EQ and low pass filters.

If you don’t know what any of those things are then buying a mixer for your podcast could be a waste of money.  But, if you do have decent audio skills or you just want to experiment, a mixer will give you more control over the audio you record.

How to make editing easier when you’re recording a podcast

Read

They want to add interesting audio to their show 

If you’re looking to add audio texture to your show with callers, stings or other sounds you can do this with a mixer. 

You can also do this by recording those elements and adding them after your record in the edit.  In fact, if you’re new to podcasting I’d stick to putting this stuff in when you’re editing.

This is because when you’re getting comfortable behind the mic and improving your presenting it’s better to be in the moment than lost in the knobs and faders of a mixer trying to play sound effects.

If you’re a pro at recording audio then go for your life, but if you’re starting out, it’s best to focus on doing the best show possible and put all the fancy stuff in later.

Do you need a podcast intro and outro?

Read

They want to record a live show

This is the one scenario you’ll definitely need a mixer.

This is because you’ll want everything to play out live as you’re recording e.g. you might play your intro music as the show begins then fade it down as you introduce your show over the top of it.

Maybe you want to play some audio to your audience or take a call from one of your listeners?

To do this you’ll need a mixer although in this situation you’d ideally have an audio person at the venue twiddling the knobs and recording for you.

How to record a podcast

Read

Still keen on a mixer?  Here are some things to consider…

Don’t buy a cheap one

One of the annoying things about cheap mixers is they tend to come with a feature no one wants – an irritating hissing sound.  In fact, the more technology you add to the recording process the more potential for hums, buzzing, hisses and general noise which isn’t great.

You don’t have to spend thousands to get something good but I’d avoid anything under $100-150 (unless you get a solid recommendation).

The four things you need to start a podcast

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Faders give you more control over audio than knobs

Some mixers will come with faders (the long sliders) and others will come with knobs (volume dials like you’d have on a radio).

As a general rule faders give you more control over volume.  And when you’re recording audio it’s useful to be able to make subtle changes to the levels.

This isn’t a deal breaker if there’s a mixer in your budget you like with knobs.  But it’s good to know because it’s always a good idea to have as much control over levels as possible.

Why you need to wear headphones on your podcast

Read

Not all mixers plug into your computer

If you’re buying a mixer and you want to record your podcast directly onto a computer make sure you buy a mixer with a USB output.  If you don’t get that you’ll need another audio interface in between your mixer and your computer to connect them up.

Unless you love cords going everywhere and using more equipment than you need it’s best to avoid this situation.

What are the best podcast microphones?

Read

So, what mixer should I get?

This is a tough question to answer because it will depend on personal preference and what you need it for.  So, make sure you do your research.

But, if you’re looking for a mixer designed specifically for podcasting check out the RODECaster Pro.

RODECaster Pro

Photo: RODE.com

It’s slightly different to a traditional mixer in that it has touch pads so you can upload audio including stings and sound effects that you regularly use in your show. 

It’s also got pre-assigned settings that can help you get the best possible sound out of your mic even if you don’t know much about audio.  And you can link up devices like your phone via Bluetooth so you can record audio or include callers in your show.

If you’re really keen on being able to utilise the great functions of a mixer but you’re not an audio expert this is a great option because it’s been designed with first time (and experienced) podcasters in mind.

And there you have it!

A few things to consider when you’re thinking about whether you need a mixer.

When you’re starting out it’s always best to keep things simple but if you’re a ‘balls to the wall’ type who wants to jump in the deep end hopefully this will help you make a more informed decision.

Got a burning question you’d like answered on the podcast? Send me an email.

Want to start your own podcast but need a little help?  Download my “How To Start A Podcast” guide or sign up for my online podcasting course, PodSchool.

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GET MY FREE PODCAST GUIDE

WANT TO START A PODCAST BUT HAVE NO IDEA HOW? THIS GUIDE TAKES YOU THROUGH ALL THE TOOLS AND TECH YOU NEED TO GET GOING!

SEND IT TO ME!