Break the Loop!
Christmas just ended and folks might have some cash they want to spend. If getting a decent affordable recording setup is in your plans, this might help you decide. I’ll go through what I use along with what you can do to break the Yeti loop everyone gets stuck in. This is a blog post I’ve been meaning to write for a while now. I recently received an email asking me what I use for recording my audio guides, so I decided to go ahead and finally get this published.
My basic setup
I know a lot of people are using a USB Blue Yeti. If you are thinking of going down this road…please do everyone a favor and don’t. The Yeti is a decent mic, but if you have $100 to spend, you can get a much better setup that will give you a studio sound with more recording options.
There are 3 things you need, with some optional items to help with noise reflections and dampening.
- a mixer
- an XLR microphone
- A good mic stand, tripod floor is best.
- An XLR cord, go for 15-20 ft
- Some random cords for the mixer (optional)
- Some ceiling hooks (optional)
- Some blankets (optional)
What I’m using specifically
- Blue ENCORE 200 active dynamic microphone, $79.99
- This is the microphone I’m using in all core-exiles, bk3, and new STW recordings
- This is a dynamic microphone, but one which requires 48v of phantom power.
- Behringer Xenyx Q802USB Mixer, $69.99-$89.99
- This is what I use, but there are cheaper options from Behringer available.
- This works perfect for me, even dumped an entire cup of coffee directly into the mixer, still works like a charm.
- It is USB, but also allows for analog out.
- On-Stage MS7701B Tripod Microphone Boom Stand, $24.99
- Boom stand, allows me to set up the mic in front of me and adjust the boom to point where I need it to.
- I don’t sit at a desk, but in a normal recliner style chair, this works like a charm.
- This stand can tip over, but you can use anything as a counterweight to prevent this.
- LyxPro Quad Series XLR 4-Conductor Star Quad Balanced Microphone Cable, $10-$20 depending on length
- You can also just get an amazon basics for $8. I had radio interference so I had to get a better quality cord.
- Random cables, call it $20 over time.
- You’ll want stuff like 1/8 to 1/4 adapters, dual stereo 1/4 to stereo 1/8 adaptors, and a couple 1/8 cords, just standard 3mm cords or whatever they are.
- Some ceiling hooks, they are everywhere, $3 for like 12 or so.
- I use these in my ceiling to hang a blanket up around me when recording.
- This cuts down on room noise and sound echoing. It allows for less noise reduction in post.
- This is the fastest and cheapest way to make some very simple noise dampening.
More detail on what I use and why I use it
People shit on Behringer as a mixer company. I’ve never had any problems with my mixer however. It has handled everything I throw at it with very little issues. The q802 has two xlr inputs which can have 48v of phantom power pushed to them. It also has two stereo inputs for patching in something like a phone or a PC for 0 latency recording. This works perfect for when I do live streams. I can put my PC audio into my mixer, mix it with my microphone, then do an analog out back to my PC which is streamed out to everyone. I can then listen to my monitor through my headset so I hear everything the stream hears. It is a bit more complicated than this with reaper and live monitor effects, but that is the basics of it. I went into this knowing 0 and figured it out pretty quick.
The Blue Encore200
I am completely comfortable saying you cannot get a better microphone under $100. I’ve listened to audio demos of dozens and dozens, and nothing sounds as good to me. The Sure SM58 is close, but it has a darker sound which I don’t like. The Blue Encore works perfect for me since I naturally have a deeper voice. It has a nice warm sound which I really like for all the voice recordings I record for BSG. Since it is an active dynamic microphone it doesn’t need much gain either. There is a ENCORE100 which is just a normal dynamic without phantom. I own this microphone as well, but it requires a lot more gain. Because of this it makes more line noise when you boost the gain. My PC is not good for recording, and I needed something that had a high output volume without boosting it on my PC or in the mixer too much. All my recordings are recorded at 4% PC volume, 80% gain, 50% pre amp, and about 25% main mix volume. If I use the ENCORE100 my main mix would have to go up to 50% and the pre amp would have to be boosted between 10% and 25% more. The ENCORE 200 allows for lower levels so any line noise isn’t as noticeable. Also the 200 only cost $80 and the 100 is only $60. You simply can’t beat those prices for the quality of the microphone.
The Microphone Stand
This is way more important than most people think. Nothing is worse than someone buying a mic stand for their desk that picks up every key press and tap. I don’t use a desk, but even if I did I would never buy one. For 25 dollars you can get a floor tripod which will not pick up any thumping or anything. Nearly all of them can tip over, but just use anything at all to counter balance it and you are all set. I don’t even use a counterweight myself, I just make sure the boom is lined up with 1 of the 3 tripod legs and it never tips over.
Summary of the required stuff
So the above stuff plus a XLR cable is all you actually need to record some voice work, or even some game play. I’ll go over how to record stuff and get it to sound better at the end of this blog post.
On the high end you can get a mixer and a mic for 160, then toss in a stand for 25 and a XLR cable and you are just under $200. This is assuming you pay max for all of these items. I got my q802 for 60 and my mic for 80. That’s only $140 which is pretty much the cost of a shitty Blue Yeti. You can spend a couple dollars more and get a real mic with a mixer. For the whole set up you will spend around 200 at max prices. That might sound like a lot, but if you grab everything in bits and pieces it isn’t much at all.
Stuff you don’t need but stuff that helps
Random patch cords are always useful. You will probably want some Y splitters AKA 1/4″ to 1/8 break out cables. These just take a left and right 1/4 jack and convert it into a male/female 1/8 line. This would allow you to do something like send your phone or PC into your mixer. The same would apply for sending the mix out to your PC.
You can also get some auxiliary to 1/8 adaptors, I don’t use these but lots of people do. I’d also grab some random 1/8″ patch cords, these are everywhere, they are just the standard headphone cord extenders. You can get male to male, male to female, or female to female. Each one has different uses depending on what you do. You can pick these up for cheap on Amazon.
The last thing I do is the whole noise dampening thing. Just screw some hooks into your ceiling, then hang a blanket from those hooks. This is an extra step I go for my recordings just to cut down on the room noises and to ensure I get a cleaner audio that will need less post editing. Not everyone will care about this, but I do so I go through it for recording.
This blog post is both a PSA and me answering questions I’ve gotten asking about what I use for recording. Don’t buy a Yeti, put a little bit more into it and get something that sounds good. Even if you don’t go with what I’m using you can get a setup for the same price of the yeti that is better than the Yeti. It might seem like more work because you can’t just plug and play via USB, but it really isn’t much more work. My mixer is always plugged in, and I just plug my microphone in, unfold my mic stand and I can record. The whole process takes 5 minutes to go from nothing to recording. There is no reason not to get a mixer and real microphone. If you were willing to spend the money on a Yeti, you can spend the money on something better that is in the same price range. Shop around, get something that fits your budget, but most importantly don’t get a Yeti.
How I Record
I’m only tagging this on to the end because I know people are going to ask me about it if I don’t. The software I use to record is both wave pad and virtual recorder. I record my mixer which is only my microphone with wave pad. I record my PC sounds with virtual recorder. This gives me 2 audio files per recording. This means I can edit each one independently allowing for the best final product being uploaded to BSG. If I need to cut out some sounds on the voice recording without effecting the game audio I can do it this way. It also allows me to balance the audio better so nothing is too loud or too quiet.
The key to recording this way is to put a sync point at the beginning of each audio. My way is to just hit record on both, then go to my desktop hold my keyboard up to the mic and hit home end two times each. Then I trim the voice to the first home button press and the PC recording to the first time my screen reader reads recycle bin. Then I mix the PC audio with the voice after doing the editing on each one and there’s a single recording. I can do the rest of the editing on the mixed files together and that’s all. I do all my editing in wave pad. After that’s done I save it as a .wav. I use audacity to do a amplification because I have my presets saved there. Then I load the .wav file into Itunes and encode it into mp3. This is because Itunes has a much better mp3 encoder than anything using lame.
It is a long process, but it is the best way I’ve found to get the highest quality audio uploaded to BSG. Not everyone will go through all this for a recording, but if you want something that sounds good this is the quickest and simplest way.
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