No Format’s Podcast Rig

First let me tell you how I used to record No Format Podcast and why I sought a better solution:

When Jason and I first started recording I used Ambrosia’s WireTap Studio to capture two channels of audio. With WireTap you are able to set two sources which I would set to Duet (my audio interface) and Skype. Annoyingly, if I wanted to bring the audio into Logic or Garageband on separate tracks, I’d have to export the recording twice from WireTap, once with my audio turned all the way down and once with his audio turned all the way down. This worked fine for a good 30 episodes or so but eventually as I upgraded my Mac’s OS things started to break (something about monitoring my own audio and the ability to capture “all Mac audio” just stopped working). Things may be different now, but at that point I decided to try out a rival recording software Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack Pro. It’s half the price and looked to be a good contender. Again, another 30 episodes went by without much complaint save a few. Similarly to WireTap, when the recording is finished you don’t end up with two files. Instead, Audio Hijack records the first of the audio sources onto one channel of a stereo track and the second onto the other channel. If I didn’t do any post-processing I’d be left with all of my audio coming out of the left speaker and all of Jason’s audio coming out of the right speaker. That’s an awful effect which meant after each episode I would have to import the track into a Logic project, fade the track all the way to the right so I could only hear Jason, bounce as a mono AIFF, then reimport the file to a second track and repeat the process for my audio. Both of these recording solutions required a lot of exporting and moving back and forth between different applications. All I really wanted to do was record the audio directly into Logic on two separate tracks. My interface has two inputs, why shouldn’t I be able to do it?

After some experimentation, I finally figured it out. I achieved this with my fairly expensive Apogee Duet (FireWire) and Apple’s DAW Logic, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t work with a more affordable audio interface like for example the Presonus AudioBox USB and Garageband which comes with every new Mac. The key is, it must have at least two inputs and two outputs. So here’s how it works:

You create a Logic project with two audio tracks. In Logic’s Preferences under Audio ensure that the Duet is chosen as the input and output and that “Software Monitoring” is checked. Set one of the tracks to Input 1 and the other to Input 2 in their corresponding channel strips and lower the fader to -∞ dB in the output channel strip. Record Enable both tracks so that when you press record, they both make magic. Now onto the interface. Plug your mic into input 1 and tell the Duet what it is by choosing XLR Mic and turning on phantom power in Apogee’s Maestro software (most other interfaces just have a hardware button called 48V). Now here is the novel idea: set input 2 as an “instrument” in Maestro, get a standard TRS cable (the one you use to plug your guitar into the amp) and plug one end into one of the outputs (left or right, doesn’t matter) and the other end into input 2. Finally, plug a set of headphones into the other output and you are done.

Now let me describe what is happening so that if you’re not using the same equipment I’m using, you can troubleshoot it. Basically my voice will be brought in through my mic, travel through input 1 on my interface, exit through the data cable (in my case FireWire) and recorded onto track 1 in my DAW (Logic). That one is easy. My cohost’s audio is coming to me through FaceTime (or Skype, we’ve done both) on my computer and travels through the data cable to the interface. At this point it gets split; one path takes the audio to the output that my headphones are connected to so I can hear him, the other path leaves the interface through the other output but then gets fed right back into the interface through input 2. Then it travels the opposite direction through the data cable and gets recorded onto track 2 in my DAW.

This allows me to record everything right in Logic and not have to mess with other apps. Both recordings are mono which is how I want them and I have control over the input volume of both of them. I haven’t figured out how to monitor my own audio yet and the audio I currently hear of my cohost only comes out of one channel (I actually prefer covering only one ear with my headphones, I get distracted hearing my voice through speakers). Also, one thing we’d love to be able to do is play a song in iTunes and have us both hear it. But I’m very satisfied with what we’ve got going so far.

If you have a suggestion or have figured out a better way of doing things, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

No Format's Podcasting Rig

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