It doesn’t matter how large your audience base is — podcasting can be a great joy if you are getting some positive feedback and happen to enjoy the whole process. In such a case, it doesn’t take long before you’re itching to maximize sound quality by investing in the best usb mixer for podcasting. Of course, you want to know what you’ll need to consider when narrowing down the available options.
What To Look For In A Good Podcasting Mixer
Size and Placement
An ideal mixer is one that fits within your sound booth without requiring any renovations. Common sense dictates taking a good look at the space before you start shopping. Size aside, you want to consider how you’ll connect the unit to other devices, and where the cables will flow. While it’s commonplace for I/O jacks to be placed on the back panel, some models have them located at the top. For the latter, you want to include some extra space for the connectors.
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Mixer Channel Count
Also known as frame size, this indicates the number of sources that can be connected to a mixer’s channel inputs at the same time. This could be as high as 24, but an entry-level model will likely come with just a couple of channels. Of course, that would be perfectly fine if you normally record one or 2 signals simultaneously. As a rule of thumb, however, you want to get more channels than you currently need — you never know what the future holds.
Studio equipment can connect to computers in various ways. This means the method of data transfer will vary across models, but what’s more important is the speed at which the process takes place. The latter is what determines the number of channels that can be passed via the interface simultaneously (known as bandwidth).
To a large extent, your choice of interface will depend on what connections are available on your PC. Nevertheless, it can’t hurt to look at the available options and, of course, the bandwidth available on each:
- USB: You can’t go wrong by choosing either a Firewire or USB2 audio interfaces — both share similar bandwidths and the ability to handle multi-channel systems. USB1, on the other hand, can only handle a meager amount of channels.
- Thunderbolt: This has such a high amount of bandwidth that it’s capable of handling hundreds of channels simultaneously. It is however limited to Macintosh computers.
- PCIe: This is has a very large amount of bandwidth, but can only support internal audio interfaces.
- Ethernet: You’ll only find this on high-end devices, specifically those capable of creating audio network systems.
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Equalization and Processing
Depending on the type of content you podcast, you’ll want to look for a mixer that has extra inline features. At the very least, it should have an equalizer, gain control and lo-cut filter. These effects will let you add some extra dimension and feeling to your audio. Most entry-level units are designed to accept just one effect at a time to the output channels. Having said that, the best podcasting mixer should be capable of applying several effects to all the channels/buses.
Ideally, you want a mixer that has control faders in addition to the standard knobs. The latter work fine for variables that don’t need changing in the course of a recording (such as Pan, gain and EQ). On the other hand, faders will offer finer control over the more delicate elements (read main volume control).
Other handy control mixer features to look for include:
- Assignment buttons: These’ll help you direct each channel’s signal to its appropriate output bus.
- On, off and mute buttons: The ability to mute/switch off channels that are not in use is crucial in avoiding loud accidents.
- Buses and signal routing: These provide better routing flexibility and signal paths, both of which will be helpful if you use external effects mixes.
- Pre-fader listen: This cuts out external noises to provide uninterfered control over sound quality.
- Peak lights: These turn on when the device senses distortion, thus alerting you to something that needs to be turned down.
All in all, a podcasting mixer could be one of the best investments you ever made with regards to sound quality. Keeping the aforementioned points in mind should help you find one that fits your kind of podcast and preferences. Even so, it’s worth taking time to get yourself up to speed before complicating your recording setup.