The vast majority of podcasters record with a USB mic because it makes things so simple. USB mics work especially well if you’re recording solo episodes or online (remote) interviews. But this setup doesn’t suit everyone, especially if you want to record two or more people in the same room.
In this article, we’ll look at some options where you can record multiple people locally, whilst still enjoying all the benefits of Alitu’s simplicity. So let’s dive in and get started...
The good news is that there’s no shortage of ways to record multiple mics in the same room. The downside is that you’ll need to invest in some additional equipment to optimize it. But don’t worry, you won’t need to break the bank to afford the ideal kit here.
If I’m ever asked about local multi-mic setups the chances are I’ll recommend getting a USB audio interface. You simply plug your XLR mics into one of these handy little devices, then it connects to your computer via USB - essentially making multiple “analog” mics as simple to use as one USB mic.
A key point here is that we’re using XLR mics, not USB. You can’t plug multiple USB mics into an audio interface (or anything else, other than a computer). If you’d still like to have access to all the simplicity benefits of a USB mic, though, then you can find mics that work as both - for example, the Samson Q2U or AudioTechnica ATR2100.
As for which USB audio interface I recommend, it’s hard to see past the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 in terms of its quality-to-affordability ratio. The 2i2 will let you plug in two mics, but if you’re looking for more then fear not - I’ll offer some additional options below.
Mixers, in my opinion, are yesterday’s man in the world of podcasting. They’re a hangover from an era where all audio gear was built for musicians. These days, there’s a lot of equipment designed specifically for voice recording, so I’d only recommend using a mixer if you already own one and can’t afford to buy anything else.
My beef with mixers isn’t in their ability to do a job. It’s more about their unnecessary complexity. All those dials, buttons, and faders make perfect sense to the experienced audio pro, but most podcasters are completely new to this stuff. A mixer can end up being an intimidating barrier that you don’t need in your way to getting your show recorded, published, and launched.
USB audio interfaces are so much cleaner and simpler than mixers. They’re not the only option that trumps the mixer, though. The digital recorder is another solid choice in the podcaster’s toolbox.
If you’re looking to add three or more mics to your setup then the best option could be a digital recorder. There’s increased flexibility here, and two main ways you might go about recording your podcast.
Option 1 - Record Into the Recorder
Recorders do what they say on the tin. Or, the box, as it were. You don’t need a computer or the internet, or even a power source (aside from a couple of batteries) to plug in a handful of mics and record high-quality episodes.
Recorders typically record each person on separate audio channels After recording, you’d just transfer the audio onto your computer via SD card or USB, load it into Alitu, and begin work editing and polishing it up. If the recorder did record everyone on individual channels (multi-track) then Alitu can sync them all together for you no problem.
Option 2 - Use a Digital Recorders as a USB Audio Interface
Recorders are flexible things, and you can connect them to your computer via USB and run them in the same way you would a USB interface or USB mic.
This means you can record multiple mics directly into Alitu, simply by setting your recorder as your audio input, prior to recording. The useful thing here is that you can still hit record on the recorder too, which will create a handy backup recording on your SD card.
Zoom’s H5 and H6 are traditionally seen as the best voice recorders on the market. For podcasters though, I tend to recommend the Zoom PodTrak P4. This piece of kit was designed specifically for podcasters, and it has a lot of features and flexibility. It’s cheaper than the H5 and H6, too.
You can plug up to four mics into the PodTrak P4. You can bring in remote guests online or over the phone and have them talk to all of your local participants with ease. You can even play clips, music, and effects during your recordings.
Now, with those options explored, we need to touch on some of the “what not to do” stuff. Don’t worry, we’ll come to the “how-to” shortly.
Okay, “bad” is a strong word, but connecting two USB mics into one computer is rarely ever the answer. They’re simply not designed to be used this way. USB mics are like prima donnas, who’re offended by the presence of another one. They don’t get on well with one another, if at all. There’s also only one place you can plug in a USB mic, and that’s your computer. They don’t run into audio interfaces, mixers, digital recorders, or anything else like that.
It’s not impossible to record with two USB mics into one computer, but it’s often difficult and clunky. At the moment, Alitu does not support recording multiple USB mics, so if you really wanted to go down this route you’d need to use another recording method (find some options here) and switch back to Alitu for the editing, production, and publishing.
I’d strongly recommend choosing one of the options above as opposed to trying to record with multiple USB mics. If you can afford it, get yourself an interface like the Scarlett 2i2 or a recorder like the PodTrak P4 and save yourself a lot of time, stress, and hassle!
Alright, let’s get to the meat of it. For this, you simply treat the device you’ve plugged all your mics into (your Interface or Recorder) like a single USB mic running into Alitu.
In this example, two mics are plugged into my Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB audio interface, but I only need to select that one device as my “microphone”, rather than trying to find and select the two mics.
In the Solo Recording option, select the device from the dropdown menu. Run a quick test recording to check everything is working properly, then you’re ready to roll.
Remember that you’ll need to set the appropriate volume recording levels for each participant on the Interface or Recorder itself. Each mic will have a “Gain” (input volume level) dial next to it, and you’ll want to toggle these until each person is being recorded at a consistent level. Alitu will work hard to level out your volume levels, but you should always strive to record the best possible source material to make your content sound great.
You should plug your headphones into your Interface or Recorder while recording, too. This is known as “monitoring” and enables you to pick up on any audio issues as they happen.
“Hey, Bob, can you please back off that mic a bit as you’re popping worse than a kid with some bubble wrap.”
Once your recording is finished though, be sure to switch your headphones over to the computer in order to polish up and build your episode inside Alitu.
Hopefully, that’s helped give you some clarity and options when it comes to recording multiple mics into Alitu. In the words of Hercule Poirot to his assistant Dr Watson though, “just one more thing…”
I’ve been asked about podcasting setups that involve six or seven people before. In my opinion, the question should be more focused on why you feel you need six people on your podcast at any one time as opposed to how you mic them up.
That’s not to say there could never be a valid reason for it, but it’s going to take a lot of skill, experience, and talent from all involved to create an engaging and coherent conversation. The danger is that new listeners quickly lose track of who is who, before getting confused and losing interest.
My advice would be to never have more than four people on at one time. You want to give your show the best chance to grow, after all, and that means listeners following along, understanding it all, and buying into your discussions.
So think carefully about your content at the planning stage. Hone in on how you’ll best serve the listener. Remember that every participant added, along with every piece of gear added, is another link in the chain, and another potential point of failure. People need to be organized and scheduled, and equipment needs to be set up, monitored, and maintained. Make sure your podcast is sustainable, because if each recording session becomes a saga, you’re not going to stick at it for the long haul. And nobody starts a podcast because they want to quit!