Audio Week: Battery-Powered Mobile Podcasting

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If you’re keen on producing podcasts, but can’t be tied down to a studio, you need equipment that you can take anywhere and use anywhere, even in places without power. Equipped with highly portable, battery-powered gear, you can finally start “One with Nature” (your soon-to-be solo podcast in which you rant about random requests in remote locations) or “Coffee Shop Critic” (you and a friend doing a podcasted comparison tour of your city’s coffee shops, their clientele, and their best and worst consumable offerings). Thanks to B&H’s vast selection of goods from companies like Zoom, Audio-Technica, AKG, Samson, Saramonic, and Deity, you can get the setup that’s perfect for you.

The Minimalist

Let’s approach the “One with Nature” podcast idea for the first example. Since this solo podcast involves only you and no one else, it only requires one microphone, an audio recording device, and some headphones. When traveling to remote locations such as shady thickets, babbling brooks, and abandoned buildings, you’ll want to keep your podcast setup as small and lightweight as possible.

If you opt for a lapel mic (a.k.a. lavalier microphone), you won’t have to worry about carrying a mic stand or finding a surface to set the mic on; just clip the lapel mic to your shirt. I recommend the Deity Microphones V.Lav because it’s a battery-powered lapel mic with a built-in microprocessor that automatically configures its 3.5mm TRRS connector to work with most 3.5mm mic input jacks. That’s fancy for sure, and it means that you can use the mic with a smartphone, tablet, or handheld recorder. It also includes a carrying pouch and a faux fur windshield that reduces wind noise in outdoor environments. However, you will need to snag some LR41 or AG3 batteries for the V.Lav.

Deity Microphones V.Lav Omnidirectional Lavalier Microphone with Microprocessor

In choosing a recording device, you should prioritize ease of use and battery life. Although the aforementioned V.Lav mic will work with most smartphones (a Lightning to 3.5mm headphone adapter is required if you have an iPhone 7 or later), recording to your smartphone will drain its battery life, siphon its storage space, and prevent you from hooking up headphones. Instead, use a handheld recorder like the gray Zoom H1n. It circumvents those disadvantages and provides sound-enhancing functions such as low-cut filtering, audio limiting, better converters, adjustable gain, uncompressed audio resolution, and manual or automatic level adjustment—all things your smartphone or tablet cannot guarantee. Plus, the H1n’s ultra-simple operability ensures that you can record without having to read a manual or learn an app. Just be sure to get a microSDHC card before you head out to record.

Zoom H1n 2-Input / 2-Track Portable Handy Recorder with Onboard X/Y Microphone

On the headphone front, how about the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x? They’re foldable for compact transport (a carry pouch is supplied), closed-back for optimal noise isolation, and cabled with a detachable cord on just one side for easy avoidance of tangles and undue connector strain.

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Monitor Headphones

Connect the V.Lav mic and ATH-M40x headphones to the H1n recorder, and you’ll be recording podcasts in no time.

Be My Guest

Now let’s tackle the “Coffee Shop Critic” podcast concept. In this scenario, you and a friend will be visiting various establishments to unleash your inner food and beverage aficionados upon the podcast listeners of the world. So, you’ll need two microphones, an audio recorder, and two sets of headphones. Battery power is still a priority because the electrical outlets in most coffee shops are taken by those pesky patrons who seem to stay from dawn to dusk.

Since coffee shops are inherently noisier than serene spots provided by nature, the microphones you buy need to be quite directional. Here, the omnidirectional V.Lav’s propensity to pick up sound from all directions would be a real problem. So, what should get added to your cart instead? Two Samson Q2U Recording and Podcasting Packs (available in silver or gray) would be swell. The Q2U utilizes a cardioid polar pattern and a dynamic microphone element to significantly reduce how much off-axis sound is captured. Plus, it comes with a desktop tripod stand, a mic clip, an XLR cable, and a plosive-attenuating foam windscreen. It’s worth mentioning that the Q2U can also connect directly to a computer via USB for solo podcasting on a laptop.

Samson Q2U Recording & Podcasting Pack

In regard to the audio recorder for this situation, I’m going to stick with the Zoom H-Series. Since the Zoom H5 has two XLR inputs and a detachable stereo mic array, you can use it to simultaneously record your voices through the two Samson Q2U mics while capturing the ambient sound in the coffee shop through the stereo mic. The H5 is comfortably simple to use; you can arm tracks, adjust gain, and operate the transport from the front panel without having to enter a menu. Like the H1n, it records to removable media cards, so don’t forget to obtain an SDHC card or two.

Zoom H5 4-Input / 4-Track Portable Handy Recorder with Interchangeable X/Y Mic Capsule

Ooooh, what headphones will I pick? Honestly, I see no reason not to recommend the ATH-M40x once again. They sound good, travel well, and offer great noise isolation. The only problem is that you can’t connect two sets of headphones to the single headphone output on the Zoom H5… unless you have a little 3.5mm stereo Y-cable like this one from Kopul. Problem solved!

Kopul 1/8" Stereo Y Cable

Fights at the Roundtable

Another podcast permutation is called a roundtable, which features several people engaged in lively banter, spirited discussions, or unbridled verbal brawls. Although an optimal environment would be a studio with a large, luxurious table that smells of rich mahogany, you can rig up a roundtable anywhere with the right gear.

On the subject of microphones for a portable roundtable setup, one approach is to select this bundle—an AKG D5 dynamic vocal microphone, a windscreen, a mic stand, and a mic cable—for each person in your podcast. However, if that crosses the threshold of how much stuff you’re willing to carry, there is an alternative solution that can fit in a fanny pack (assuming you’re willing to wear one). Just purchase a Saramonic XLavMic-O lavalier mic for each ruffian at the roundtable. Although both the D5 and XLavMic-O have XLR outputs, the XLavMic-O does require phantom power.

AKG D5 Handheld Vocal Microphone Live Performance Pack

The Zoom H6 is a great candidate for remote roundtable recording because it has four XLR inputs with selectable phantom power, supports two additional XLR inputs via the EXH-6 input capsule (available separately), and can record up to six tracks. So, it can easily handle a handful of the aforementioned mics. Unsurprisingly, I’m taking this opportunity to remind you to get a media card (SDHC or SDXC) for the H6.

Zoom H6 6-Input / 6-Track Portable Handy Recorder with Interchangeable Mic Capsules

You’ll also need enough headphones for all the podcast contributors and a headphone splitter like the Belkin RockStar, which will let you connect up to five pairs of headphones to the H6’s headphone port.

Belkin RockStar 5-Way Headphone Splitter

Conclusion

As long as you provide the ideas, B&H can provide the equipment and accessories to power your podcasting endeavors. Since we’re all about sharing knowledge, let us know what you use in the Comments section.

Interested in expanding your knowledge, fine-tuning your workflow, or figuring out what gear to get? Visit B&H’s Audio Week page to read tutorials, comparisons, and buying guides about audio for video, podcasting, live sound, music recording, and more.

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