If you're going to get serious about podcasting, I'd really encourage you to save up for a Zoom H6 Recorder. It's just a simple device that requires almost no training to record with. Add some Shure SM58 microphones, portable microphone stands, and you've got a studio that you can take anywhere and get great sound with.
However, while this is great for a podcast where all your guests are with you, having a remote guest via the web really makes things difficult. The problem is audio latency via the web. If you just wired in your laptop for an external guest, the guest would get a nasty echo of their own voice. Typically, the work around for this is to buy a mixer and then you can customize multiple buses… one with all your local guests, then one with everything. You can pipe your local bus out through your laptop, and then use the other bus to record everything.
But what if you don't have a mixer or you don't want to carry one around? I've been doing so much remote podcasting that I've decided to shut down my Indianapolis podcast studio. However, i still record a lot of remote guests, so i needed to figure this out.
I purchased everything that I need to take my studio on the road so that I can record at any event or corporate headquarters. Outside of my laptop, I didn't actually spend a ton of money, either. I believe all the cables, splitters, headphones, Zoom H6, and my bag cost around $1,000. That's a fraction of the small fortune I'd spent on my studio… and I'm having a difficult time hearing any quality difference!
Recording in Garageband AND the Zoom H6
The trick to this setup is that we're going to record each of our individual local guests on the Zoom H6, but we're going to record the remote guest on their own track in Garageband. That's because we need the aggregate audio of all of our guests to pipe into Skype (or other program) without feeding their own voice back to them with an echo. While this seems really complex, here's an overview of the steps:
- Wire your headphones, mics, zoom, and your laptop correctly.
- Configure Soundflower to make a virtual audio device for recording the caller in Garageband.
- Setup a Garageband project with Skype and your Zoom as individual tracks.
- Setup Skype's audio settings to use Soundflower as your speaker.
- Start recording in Garageband, start recording on your Zoom, and make your call.
- After you're all done, bring the Zoom Tracks into your Garageband project and edit your podcast.
Step 1: Connecting Your Zoom and Laptop
Remember, we're using the output of the zoom as an input bus to our Skype call, so you're going to use the Zoom in a normal mode… not passing through via USB to Garageband.
- Connect a headphone/mic splitter to your Mac.
- Connect a 5-way headphone splitter to one side of the splitter. I thought I might need a small headphone amp, but this worked great!
- Connect the other side of the splitter to your headphone jack on the Zoom H6 using the male/male cable that came with the headphone splitter.
- Connect each of your microphone XLR cables to your Zoom inputs.
- Connect each of your headphones to your 5-way splitter. I use cheap headphones for guests and then plug my professional headphones in to ensure the audio is good.
Step 2: Install Soundflower and Set Up a Virtual Device
- Download and install Soundflower, which enables you to make a virtual audio device on your Mac.
- Use Audio Midi Setup to create an aggregate device that can have its own tracks in Garageband. I called mine podcasting and I utilized the built-in microphone (which is where the Zoom headphones come in) and Soundflower (2ch).
Step 3: Setup a Garageband Project
- Open Garageband and start a new project.
- Navigate to your Garageband preferences and select Podcasting as your Input Device and leave Built-In Output as your Output Device.
- Now add a track with an input 1&2 (Podcasting) and an input 3&4 (Podcasting). One track will be the Skype incoming voice and the other will be your Zoom output (which you don't have to use since we're recording individual tracks on your Zoom H6). It should look like this:
Step 4: Set Up Skype
- In Skype, you'll need to set the speaker to your virtual device, Soundflower (2ch) and your microphone to your Internal Microphone (which is the Zoom H6 output for your microphones).
- Put on your headphones, do a Skype test call, and make sure your audio levels are good!
Step 5: Record on both Garageband and Zoom
- Test your microphone levels on your Zoom and press record to get started recording your local guests.
- Test your audio levels in Garageband and press record to get started recording your Skype call.
- Make your Skype call!
Step 6: Edit Your Podcast
- Now that you're all done, just import your audio tracks from your Zoom, mute your aggregate track, and edit your podcast.
- You're all done!
Last note, I found an amazing shoulder bag that fits all of my cables, my Zoom, my microphones, stands, and even a tripod and tablet if I want to do some live streaming. I'm calling it my Podcast Go Bag… basically an entire podcast studio in a single, padded, waterproof bag that I can bring anywhere.
Disclosure: I'm using my affiliate links throughout this article.