A lot of people ask me what equipment is used to record ZDNet's podcasts. The last request came from Bob Swofford who wrote:
I'm listening right now to your podcast, "Next-gen RSS reading platform (Attensa) demos power of Attention.xml", recorded December 14, 2005. Could you tell me briefly what microphone and recording device you used to record the on-site interview? It sounds great!
Bob was referring to one of the several podcasts that Dan Farber and I did from the recent Syndicate Conference in San Francisco. Here's a picture of us (shot by Technorati's Niall Kennedy) recording that week's Dan & David Show from the event. I wrote back to Bob saying that we used a Marantz PMD 670 along with some low-end Sennheiser microphones and that I haven't been entirely happy with the Marantz's sound quality. The unit seems underpowered for the MP3 compression it must do on the fly when recording and we've heard some strange fluttering-like audio artifacts in the background of our podcasts that were recorded with that device. One reason for this is that when we post-produce and recompress the files, these artifacts are getting introduced during that post-production process. What I'd rather have is the recording in a far less compressed format (or none at all). In response, Bob asked "In that case, which one do you like?" Here's my answer:
Which do I like the best? Well, first, my goal is to find something that works in both a stationary and mobile environment. So, if I could have any device, I'd start with the Sound Design's 744T. But it's expensive. This handles recording and mixing at the same time and it supports multiple simultaneous mixes which can be helpful for incorporating Skype-based guests into an recording (I won't explain why here, but it has to do with how two mixes avoids a feedback problem). In lieu of the 744T, you can try to find a separate battery operated mixer and recorder. The problem with many MP3 recorders is that they have just one mini-plug input (as opposed to multiple XLR inputs) which makes it harder mic up multiple people. Also, with most of them, you can't see any recording levels. The Edirol R1 is an exception (on the recording level visuals), but it's also pretty expensive (Dan Bricklin swears by the R1). You really need visuals on your recording levels because you can't trust your ear. I'll be trying a new rig very shortly; one that's a combination of a discontinue battery operated mixer made by Behringer that I found on eBay (good, cheap battery operated mixers are hard to find) and a rechargable iRiver H320 for recording. The mixer has decent visuals for the recording levels which means you can adjust the outbound audio level to 0 db: the level that the iRiver would be looking for on its line-in jack. With its five XLR inputs, it also allows me to mic-up up to five people with XLR-based mics (much better than most other mixers which can only support two). We'll see how it goes.