Recording Audio for Podcasts

There are many ways to record audio for a podcast episode, below are some of the ways audio can be captured.

Microphone headset, computer & Audio Software

One very simple way to record audio is to use a desktop or notebook computer in conjunction with a analogue or usb headset. Typically you would also use some form of audio recording software such as Audacity, Adobe Audition but the inbuilt OS tools such as Windows Sound Recorder or Garage Band within OSX are fine.

Analogue headsets

external image 259297980_5573ab643d_m.jpg
cc licensed flickr photo by sridgway:

Typically analogue headsets have 2 leads, one for the microphone and one for the headphones which are plugged into the computers sound card. They are referred to as analogue as the computers sound card converts the signals to digital information. The leads follow a loose colour coding convention which is unfortunately not often adhered to, pink for the mic and green for the headphones. They may also have printed symbols which denote the microphone and headphones. One of the common problems with audio is that they are plugged into the wrong sockets on the computer.
They commonly have an in-line volume control and a microphone mute switch which is also a good place to check if you have no audio signal. The microphones fold out and need to be close to your mouth, 15 cm max to work effectively.

It is also common for microphones to be referred to as noise canceling, designed to filter out ambient or background noise from the input prior to recording. This technique uses two microphones and circuitry to remove the noise. The primary microphone, situated close to the users mouth is combined with the signal from the second mic, pointed away from the user, in such a way as to cancel out the noise.

Analogue headsets range anywhere from $7 up to $50 depending on the quality of the headphones mostly and are the most common type of headset used.

Sound card settings

In the MS windows environment analogue headsets are notoriously difficult to get working as they require the "sounds and audio devices" settings in Windows to be set up correctly. Given each sound card, driver software and computer are different it is difficult to provide a definitive guide to their set-up. Once set up it will not need to be altered, however it may require some trial and error to get it right initially.

Desktop Computers

It's not uncommon for desktop computers to have 2 microphone headphone socket sets, one at the rear and one at the front of the computer. Plug the headset into the one most convenient. The rest of the configuration will be done using the Windows "sounds and audio devices" panel.

Watch this video to learn how to use the sounds and audio devices panel.

Notebook Computers

external image 259455132_17da82aff2_m.jpg
cc licensed flickr photo by sridgway:

Notebooks often have an internal microphone in addition to a socket for an external microphone. Sometimes these are referred to mic 1 and mic 2 on the audio devices panel. When an external mic is connected the internal mic is disabled.

Notebook Internal mics are fine for doing on the fly session in Skype or Adobe Connect but are not the best option in terms of audio quality as they will pick up lots of keyboard vibration and fan noise.

USB headsets

external image 259297942_3bb32f7a65_m.jpg
cc licensed flickr photo by sridgway:

USB headsets are fully digital in that the headset itself converts the microphone signals to digital information and hence the sound card in the computer is not utilised. The data is transferred via the USB port. One of the great features of USB headsets is that they are "plug and play" and don't require any drivers to be installed and will generally be ready to use once the operating system has detected and configured the headset. The advantage of USB headsets is that you bypass the common issues surrounding sound cards and drivers, all you need to do is plug the lead into a free USB port and ensure the microphone level is set appropriately in the sounds and audio devices panel.


Adobe Presentation on choosing a microphone

Using Apple Ipods with a 3rd party recorder

Another way to record audio is to utilise your Apple Nano or ipod.

apple ipod with Belkin recorder

Belkin Tune Talk Sereo attached to an iPod Classic

While Apple iPods and Nano's don't have native recording capability stand alone they have been designed to work with a range of 3rd party external attachments which can be purchased separately.

The 3 main manufacturers are

Belkin Tune talk Stereo

Belkin Tune Talk Sereo

Giffen iTalkPro

Griffen iTalkPro

Extreme Micromemo

Extreme Micromemo

Typically these recorders only work with the following Apple products, iPod Nano's 2G, 3G, 4G and the iPod Classic.

They will not work with the 1 gen nano's or iPod's pre the classic or the iTouch or iPhone/iPhone3g/iPhone3gs

The iTouch 2G and the IPhone 3g/Iphone 3gs do support audio recording via an external recorder, however you can use the supplied voice memo ecorder or download and installof one of the numerous 3rd party applications available from the iTunes App store.

This is a cool external lapel microphone for the 4 gen nano, 2 gen itouch and iphone3g/iphone3gs.

Belkin Tune Talk Stereo

Belkin Tune Talk Stereo
Belkin Tune Talk Stereo

image by sridgway

The Belkin recorder combination is a very effective tool for recording audio in variety of stationary and portable contexts and can be used with a variety of condenser microphones.

The best combination is with a 2g, 3g, 4g or 5g Nano. Based on flash memory, they consume much less power than the iPod classic which is hard drive based and hence will record for a longer period.

Battery Life

Fully charged a Nano should record for approximately 3-4 hours of continuous operation.

Recording format

The Nano & Belkin combo has the functional capacity to record to the following formats.

Nano 2G & 3G
High Quality – 44000Hz, 16-bit, Stereo uncompressed *.wav format
Low Quality – 22050Hz, 16-bit, Mono uncompressed *.wav format

Nano 4G & 5G
High Quality – 44000Hz, 16-bit, Stereo uncompressed *.m4a format
Low Quality – 22050Hz, 16-bit, Mono uncompressed *.m4a format

Memory Capacity

The Nano records in uncompressed *.wav or m4a format so the files generated are quite large.

High Quality mode - 1 hr = approx 800 Mb
Low Quality mode - 1 hr = approx 160 Mb

With a 8 Gig Nano you have sufficient capacity for a whole days recording quite comfortably. The low quality setting is ideal for podcast voice recording which are typically distributed @ 22 Khz, mono, 32 kbs encoding. The high quality setting is useful to high fidelity recording such as music.

Using the Belkin internal Microphones

Video on using the ipod Nano with the Belkin recorder & microphones

The simplest a quickest way to record audio is using the stereo microphones built into the top of the Belkin recorder.

All you will need:
  • the iPod
  • the Belkin recorder

Belkin TuneTalk Stereo Recorder
click here to see a flickr image with notes

Ensure the Autogain switch on the bottom of the Belkin recorder is set to the on position. This activates the auto gain which will attempt to equalise the level of the recordings. This is useful when a group of people are situated at varying distances from the recorder. This set-up is ideal for recording in close proximity (2m or so) where the speakers are stationary.

Plug the Belkin into the bottom of the iPod 2G, this will navigate the Nano directly to the voice memo record option.

If you navigate away from the record menu you can return to it manually via the menus Extras>Voice Memos or by clicking the record button on the left of the Belkin recorder.

The iPod is now ready to record.


Simply click the centre button on the Nano, check the timer is incrementing. To lock the Nano controls so it cannot be accidentally stopped, slide the hold button on the top so the orange is showing.

You can pause the recording by pressing the play button, press play again to resume recording to the same file.
To stop and save the recording, unlock the panel and select the stop & Save menu item. This will save the recording as a separate file.

Recording using a stereo Lapel microphone

If you are in the situation of wanting to capture one presenter where that person is standing up and/or moving around. You will need to give them a lapel microphone. You will need:
  • iPod
  • Belkin recorder
  • Lapel microphone.

Plug the microphone into the external microphone socket on the Belkin, this disconnects the internal microphone.
Ensure the autogain/line in switch on the bottom of the Belkin recorder is set to the on position. This activates the auto gain which will attempt to equalise the level of the recordings of one person.
Plug the Belkin in to the Nano connector and begin recording. Presenters can then place the Nano in their pocket and clip the microphone to their clothes, ideally approx 15 cm from their mouth. It's a good idea to place the Nano on lock to ensure the button are not accidentally clicked.
8 Gb 2g Apple Nano with Belkin Tune Talk and SCM VOX lapel mic
image by sridgway

Accessing the recorded voice memo files on an Nano (using windows)

There are 2 ways to access the recorded files on the Nano
Connect the Nano to a computer using the white USB cable supplied

Access the files directly from the Nano

The Nano will work as a memory stick so all you need to do navigate to a directory titled “Recordings” and copy the files to a convenient location for post production editing.

Once you have a copy you can then delete the files, this way once iTunes loads it will not copy the files off the Nano into the iTunes library.

NOTE: If iTunes is loaded on the computer when the Nano is connected iTunes will automatically open. Close iTunes otherwise the recording can be transferred from the Nano to your library making it harder to locate.

Using iTunes to access the files

If iTunes opens while recordings are present on the Nano you will be prompted to move them to the iTunes library. This moves the recorded files to the root of the music section of your library and will be synchronised to the Nano in the normal fashion.

You can physically find the files on your computer under in the root of the mymusic>iTunes>iTunes Music directory.
You can copy them to another location for post production editing and then delete them from the library using iTunes.

Using iPhone/iPad/iTouch to record audio

Unlike the older iPods & Nano's the current range of Apple devices running IOS 4.X such as the iPhone, iPad & iTouch have the capacity to record audio without the need for external hardware. There continue to be 3 rd party devices which improve the native recording capacity however the IOS based devices will record audio quite well when used in close proximity to the microphone.

Apples Voice Memo application is bundled in IOS and can be used to record audio using the internal microphone. The recording is encoded in the m4a format and stored locally on the internal memory where it can be either shared using email or as a MMS in a SMS.

Most audio editing software such as Audacity and Adobe Soundbooth will enable the file to be opened, edited and converted into other formats such as mp3.

This method is fine for short memos however longer recordings such as lectures can be problematic due the file size.

There are numerous 3rd party Applications available via the iTunes App store which offer greater features and flexibility for audio recording and sharing than the standard memo App.


These include a wider range of ways to share you recordings beyond the device itself. This is especially important if you wish to edit the file and export it to another format such as mp3.

These vary between app by may include

  • Cloud storage services such as Dropbox
  • Using your wifi network to transfer the file to a computer on the same network.
  • Email
  • MMS

Recording online VOIP Conferences

Talking VTE Episode #3
image by sridgway

One great way to record podcasts is to set up an online conference using a VOIP platform (voice over internet protocol) such as Skype, gtalk, MSN, Yahoo messenger, Adobe Connect or even Second Life. You may have a combination of f2f participants and online attendees discussing a pre scheduled topic which is recorded and podcast. The TalkingVTE and TWiT podcasts utilise this technique using Skype.

Recording both both sides of the conversations (f2f + online) is harder than it might first appear. Below are a number of methods.

Using a dedicated recording application

There are a range of third party applications which are dedicated to recording both sides of a VOIP conversation. They typically record to a wav or mp3 file which can be edited and podcast.


G-Recorder - Saves audio calls (mp3) and chat history to your computer and allows them to beto your email box

Pamela for Skype

PrettyMay Call Recorder for Skype

Hot Recorder - Works with Skype 3.0™, Google Talk™, AIM ™, Net2Phone™, Yahoo! Messenger ™, FireFly™ and many other VoIP applications.

Using a mixer to record voip conversations

If you are recording the f2f component of the conversation with a multi-channel mixer this hardware solution can be effective.

For each of the f2f microphone channels on the mixer set the channel PAN control knob to hard left so all the signal is set to the left channel of the stereo mix.

Feed the computer audio output into a separate mixer channel and set the the channel PAN control knob to hard right so all the signal is set to the right channel of the stereo mix.

Feed just the left channel of the main mixer output into the line-in of the computer so the voip application ie. skype is fed the mix of the f2f participants.

Feed the output of the mixer (main mix L+R) into a mp3 recorder, the f2f participants appear on the left channel and the online participants on the right hand channel. This can be converted to mono later using software or simply set the harware recorder to record using mono to mix on the fly.

Here you will get a high quality recording of both sides of the conversation.

Using a M-Audio USB mixer

M-Audio MobilePre USB mixer and mics
see flickr image with notes

The M-Audio MobilePre USB powered Preamp and Audio mixer is a versatile recording device for podcasters to record quality audio directly into either a audio application such as Adobe Audition or Audacity or onto a dedicated audio recorder such as the Blelkin/Nano combination.


When plugged into the notebook the MolbilePre USB becomes an alternate sound card for digitising audio input and output. Windows will typically make it the active sound device when connected. To listen to audio you will need to plug analogue headphones or speakers into the headphones jack on the front panel.
It can accept audio from 2 separate sources, either XLR phantom powered condenser microphones or line in sources such as from mixers, audio players or even guitars.
The great thing about the MolbilePre USB apart from it's versatility is that the unbalanced outputs at the rear can be connected to an external audio recorder such as a Blelkin & Nano to record a mixed down version of the online participants and the inputs from the mics used by the f2f participants.

Recording from mixing decks

The podcasting setup
image by sridgway
see flickr notes

At conferences or events where room microphones are patched into professional mixing decks and PA systems the best way to record the sessions is to simply tap into a line out from the main mixing deck. Typically you will need a lead with 2 x RCA jacks or 2 x 6.5 mono plugs at end feeding into a 3.5 mm stereo plug which is plugged into a portable audio recorder. It's a good idea to do a test recording as often the levels are too low or not being routed correctly.


The Adobe Connect Setup
image by sridgway

A webinar comprises a combination f2f and online audience, typically utilising a web conferencing platform such as Adobe Connect Pro or Elluminate, however it may use something like sype or MSN. In this situation you need to be able to feed audio from multiple audio sources such as radio mics into the computer running the session so the online audience can hear the f2f participants while simultaneously providing audio from the online audience audible in speakers for the f2f audience.

For more info on conducting a webinar see
Conducting an Adobe Connect Webinar