Help! Guiding remote podcast co-host in recording better audio

Clowney

New member
My girlfriend does a podcast with a cohost who lives in another state. I help with recording on her end, and give as much advice to him on the other end as I can, but he just does a terrible job, and I'd like to help him improve. There's one major stand-out problem as I see it: he can't hear himself.

So the setup is this:
They skype in order to talk, and they each record their own audio. She records both her audio and his (via the skype call as a backup to his recording). They sync it up later fairly easily.

On our end:
Zoom H6 recorder, with Shure SM58 (with foam cover) going to one channel, and the computer audio (skype, itunes, etc) going to another. Her headphones plug into the Zoom recorder, so she hears both her own voice and the skype audio coming through the headphones.

On his end:
He's got what looks like a Shure SM7B (though he says it has a USB interface and I know he's recording straight to a quicktime file on his computer, so I'm not 100% certain what mic it is).
He plugs in headphones to the laptop so he can hear the skype call, but he isn't hearing his own audio, so it really just comes out sounding terrible, with either tons of plosives or tons of reverb - or sometimes even both, depending on how he's positioned. Essentially, typical problems one gets when recording without listening.

I'm trying to come up with advice on how to change his setup so he can at the very least hear both the skype call AND his own audio. I figure if he can just hear himself, he'll be more likely to adjust his own behavior to minimize the plosives, etc.

But it seems surprisingly difficult to figure out how to route skype audio and external audio through a computer (mac) so they both come out the headphones while recording the external audio, either by itself or on separate channels alongside the skype audio, without incorporating an external recorder. I'm inclined to advise him to just get a Zoom recorder too, honestly, but if I'm not mistaken, the USB mic seems like a bit of a hurdle on that front too. Is this more of a software question than a hardware question, or do I need to address both hardware and software problems here?

Can anybody here advise..?

Thank you!

p.s. if you'd like to hear for yourself, go straight to the last episode, and skip to the 3 minute mark.
Monica! The Podcast by Daniel Rogge & Tracie Potochnik on Apple Podcasts
 

DM60

Well-known member
I think you have three things going against you. One, is the guys mic control. If he has a SM7B, that is a pretty good mic, but he is probably on top of it. Hence the plosives. Probably hear breathing as well. He probably needs to back off the mic and turn up his head set. Most people like the sound of close mic'ing voice. Gives it that deep Darth Vader sound. If he wants that, he will need to learn how to work the mic better.

Which comes to problem two, audio interface. I looked up the SM7B just to see if they made a USB version. It doesn't look like it. Not sure how much gain it needs, maybe some folks can help here. But if he has some cheap USB adapter, maybe he is cranking it too hard to hear himself or ??? I would think to help him out at the basic level, turn up the headphones, turn down the gain and move further back from the mic. That might cause another problem of introducing a bad room sound. But once you fix the the first two problems, that is an easy fix.

The third is to try and get some decent lossless file so you can mix it better and get it to sound like they are in the same room. Might not be that important, but if you are going through this trouble already, nice little "same" room sound would be a good touch. Have him give his audio file on a file sharing site and then you can easily pull it in and mix with more confidence and better audio source. I am not sure if hearing himself is that big of a deal as long he is not adjusting his voice level for compensation.

Those are just thoughts from my view, probably others would have better ideas on how to pull this off.
 

Clowney

New member
Thank you for your response, I agree with everything you said, and I think your notes are spot on.
My current goal, however, is to simply get his audio from the microphone back into his own ears while also allowing him to hear their skype call through the same headphones. I figure once he can actually hear himself *while recording*, then the tips and suggestions I have for him regarding mic position and room setup etc will actually mean something to him. You know?
I'm pretty sure if we get him a separate recorder, I'd know what to do from there. But first I thought I'd investigate possible options for him to keep using the hardware he's already got.

IS there a way to feed skype audio and USB-mic audio into the same headphones while recording without a separate recorder or other hardware to manage the channels (and while maintaining separate tracks, of course)?
 
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Clowney

New member
After a little bit of digging around, I've found this app called Loopback. Any thoughts on whether this will be a good solution to address my first/main problem of getting audio of both skype and the microphone back into the headphones of our podcast co-host who currently can't hear himself in his headphones?
Rogue Amoeba | Loopback: Cable-Free Audio Routing
 

DM60

Well-known member
I don't know much about that software. Skype tries to keep the input/output separate to avoid feedback. I have not done any experimenting with this type of focus.
Keep checking back, if I have some time I may try some different setups see what I come up with. Also, maybe others will see the post and already have the idea setup to help.
 

Four TV Sports

New member
Doesn't he listen back to his own recording? If so, you could just emphasize why those things he hears are happening.

Although maybe he realizes there's a problem and just doesn't know what the issues are. In which case you're back to square one on the monitoring.
 

Clowney

New member
Doesn't he listen back to his own recording? If so, you could just emphasize why those things he hears are happening.

Although maybe he realizes there's a problem and just doesn't know what the issues are. In which case you're back to square one on the monitoring.

Ugh, you would think that listening back to his own recording might make a difference, right? But it doesn't seem to. He edits the show himself - very well - but he thinks in terms of story and content, not in terms of technical stuff... like, ever.
So this is a case of trying to change his mind about what's important, and showing him both that what he's doing sounds terrible AND that it can be addressed with just a small amount of effort.

I feel pretty certain that if I can just get his sound coming back to his ears *while he's recording*, at least 75% of this problem will be addressed simply because he'll notice what's happening in real time (plosives, etc).
Then again, maybe he won't even notice or care under those conditions, and I'll just have to throw my hands in the air and let them just do their thing their way. :\
 
Hi,
I can help you with mac routing if you need it, but I'd advise against letting anyone hear themselves live in the headphones because it can be really off-putting.
If it's essential I'd do it via hardware monitoring, which may not be an option at present...That depends on the equipment.

Can you find out for certain what microphone and chain this guy has?
It sounds like a cheap low quality skype call to me but you say that each party is recording their own voice down so...that would mean his mike just sucks?
We'd really need to know for sure before making recommendations.

As with any studio/people issue...Have you communicated any of this to him?
Simply mentioning it might go a long way.

Actually, further to that, if mentioning it doesn't go a long way, making him hear himself is likely to make much difference either!
 

Clowney

New member
Hi,
... I'd advise against letting anyone hear themselves live in the headphones because it can be really off-putting.
If it's essential I'd do it via hardware monitoring, which may not be an option at present...That depends on the equipment.

Can you find out for certain what microphone and chain this guy has?
It sounds like a cheap low quality skype call to me but you say that each party is recording their own voice down so...that would mean his mike just sucks?
We'd really need to know for sure before making recommendations.

As with any studio/people issue...Have you communicated any of this to him?
Simply mentioning it might go a long way.

Actually, further to that, if mentioning it doesn't go a long way, making him hear himself is likely to make much difference either!



I'm pretty sure the mic doesn't suck. (I'll get the specifics - I've sent him an email asking for the model number etc.)
His setup sucks, for sure.

I'm confused by your recommendation against letting him hear his own voice while recording. As I understand it, hearing your own voice during recording is like rule #1 in recording 101. Or am I misunderstanding what you're saying here?

And yes, I've spoken with him endlessly about this. It's been a ton of back and forth, trying to advise remotely, and the success has been a total hit-or-miss situation with each recording session, totally at the mercy of whether he happened to place the mic at a decent spot on a given week. He doesn't care as much as I do, and I'm out of energy for trying to guide him through it without being able to offer specific guidance for him on how he can get his vocal into his own ears during recording.

You're probably correct that after mentioning the problems to him, making him hear himself probably won't help much either - oy - but I do think that's the most important thing to at least TRY, before I give up on attempting to help.

Thanks for your response!
 
I'm pretty sure the mic doesn't suck. (I'll get the specifics - I've sent him an email asking for the model number etc.)
His setup sucks, for sure.

I'm confused by your recommendation against letting him hear his own voice while recording. As I understand it, hearing your own voice during recording is like rule #1 in recording 101. Or am I misunderstanding what you're saying here?

I suppose everybody is different..I hate hearing my voice when I'm singing. For speech, I'd definitely hate that.
As I say, though, maybe I'm the odd one out?

And yes, I've spoken with him endlessly about this. It's been a ton of back and forth, trying to advise remotely, and the success has been a total hit-or-miss situation with each recording session, totally at the mercy of whether he happened to place the mic at a decent spot on a given week. He doesn't care as much as I do, and I'm out of energy for trying to guide him through it without being able to offer specific guidance for him on how he can get his vocal into his own ears during recording.

That may be the end of the journey right there, although I admire your drive to get it fixed.

Thanks for your response!

No worries. I think specifics on his gear and environment are going to be very important.
Ambience wise, he didn't sound particularly close to the mic to me but, as you say, there are blasts and plosives.
If that really is a 7b, I applaud him! ;)
 

Four TV Sports

New member
Well, I listened to it and it sounds like there's a host of things to consider here. Given the dynamic range of his natural speaking voice, monitoring might make the problem worse unless you can feed him enough volume to hear himself well. If he doesn't get enough volume out of his headphones, then he'll try to compensate with his voice. He may also not be used to his voice and think it sounds weird, but the monitoring thing definitely makes it easier for him to hear how loud he is.

Regarding his sound quality, the plosives issue may be less related to monitoring and more related to the lack of a pop filter. He needs a good pop screen or, if he doesn't care for the round filter, a foam mic tip.

From there I'd gate and then compress. His "reverb" sound is prob just typical open-space room noise from being in an apartment. I record our podcast right near our AC unit, but with the gate on and being right up on the pop-filter and the mic, we hardly get any background noise. Which surprises me frankly.

If they're serious about the podcast thing and willing to sink a little bit of money into it, then I'd do three things.
1. Get that guy the aforementioned pop filter.
2. Show him (or send him) an interface. Just get a used M Box or, better yet, a Scarlett Solo.
3. Consider having them use one of those phone-in website services that people use for radio shows or podcasts. They should have better signal quality the Skype, but maybe not. I haven't used Skype much, so I can't say what their skills are.

On the plus side, they have good personality together so they're very listenable. Better than me and my co-host so far. We're brand new and still developing our "mic personalities". Good luck man.
 
He plugs in headphones to the laptop so he can hear the skype call, but he isn't hearing his own audio, so it really just comes out sounding terrible, with either tons of plosives or tons of reverb - or sometimes even both, depending on how he's positioned. Essentially, typical problems one gets when recording without listening. I'm trying to come up with advice on how to change his setup so he can at the very least hear both the skype call AND his own audio. I figure if he can just hear himself, he'll be more likely to adjust his own behavior to minimize the plosives, etc.

I don't use headphone to hear myself, as mentioned before, I hate the sound of my own voice. If he does have the 7b mic, it takes at least 60 dbs of clean gain. You nailed it on getting his own recorder. If he is going from mic to mac without using the ASIO file, if he has a cheap sound card, it will effect his file.

Tell him to turn his mic at a 20 or 30 degree angle from his mouth and stay about 2 to 3 inches from it when he speaks. This will cut about 90% of the plosives out and give great mic presents. This will also make the room he is recording in sound better. Also have him stack pillows on both sides as well as the rear of his mic to keep out the reverb. You would be amazed how effective this is.


Is this more of a software question than a hardware question, or do I need to address both hardware and software problems here?

Honestly, it is Murphy's 32 law of audio. "The pool stick don't make the player". You can have the best gear as well as software and if you break the laws of audio, you will get sub par audio recordings. Your friend needs to learn proper mic technique as well as do a little sound treatment in his recording area. Most mics have a 1 to 2 inch sweet spot and when you get out of that range, your voice quality goes out the window.

Can anybody here advise..?

Thank you!

p.s. if you'd like to hear for yourself, go straight to the last episode, and skip to the 3 minute mark.
Monica! The Podcast by Daniel Rogge & Tracie Potochnik on Apple Podcasts

I did download your audio. He sounds very thin. I think he would sound much better moving closer to the mic. I also played around with 4 or 5 min between the host and co host. Try cutting his side around the 200 freq range around -8dbs. This will sometimes help get the "I am recording in a unfinished basement with no carpet" effect out. He also has a very wide freq range. Most people don't make it into the higher end spectrum. He is hitting the 20k range.

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