How to Ensure Quality of Your Show Even When Podcast Recording on the Road

People in business are understandable busy with left and right events, seminars, speaking engagements, and workshops which require a significant amount of traveling. In this episode, Tom Hazzard talks about the best practices for people who have regular podcasts to still record episodes while on the road. He shares the essential equipment for recording on the go and some tips from his own experience. Even on the road, one must ensure the consistent quality of the podcast you record. As Tom shares his insights on how to do that easily, he also goes into recording with your smartphone and introduces a new microphone specifically designed to help produce top-quality content even while out travelling.

It’s our tech day to talk about anything new and interesting regarding tech. We’ve had a lot of clients who want to be able to record more practically and more easily while on the road, while they’re traveling. A lot of us in business are traveling, going to different events, either speaking at events or just attending different kinds of seminars, workshops and programs. If you are producing a regular podcast, that travel schedule can get in the way of your recording schedule. Certainly, I always try to batch my recordings on one or two days a month, but that’s not always achievable for a number of reasons. I’m sure it’s the same way for most of you. I take some equipment with me and go on the road and I’ll record wherever I am. I wanted to share with you some practical tips and best practices for recording on the road.

Plan Ahead And Schedule Your Time Right

Just about everybody these days has a computer laptop they take with them on the road, even on business but depending on what type of event you’re attending, what type of episode you’d like to record, it’s not always practical to use your laptop. To connect your microphone to it and have a quiet place to record. If you’re planning ahead and schedule your time right, you could use your hotel room and hotel room is not a bad environment to record in as long as you turn off the air conditioning or the heating systems so that it doesn’t rattle and have any loud noise. You can pull the curtain across the window and it’s got wall to wall carpeting and bedding in the room. The audio quality is usually not that bad. I usually like to not be speaking directly into the wall. I’ll turn my body to the side and sit at an angle. Anyway, you can record in a fairly normal way if you use your laptop and something like Zoom to record your episodes. You can do that.

What about if you want to interview somebody and you’re down on a trade show floor? Even though there’s background noise, there’s something really cool about interviewing somebody out in the world in a live situation or even at an event where there is quiet space. It’s a little awkward if you want to interview somebody, to invite them to your hotel room to record. You can do that, but a lot of times you can find a sofa and a quiet place, even within a hotel or an event space to record. You don’t want to be dragging around your laptop, opening it up, connecting your microphone to it. That gets to be a lot to handle and balance as you’re doing it.

There's something really cool about interviewing somebody out in the world in a live situation. Share on X

Use Your Smart Phone

We have been testing and we’ve had a few customers who had a need. They either wanted to record from their smartphone or their iPad or other tablet. We’ve been working with those kinds of solutions. I have to admit, even though I’ve been podcasting for many years and recorded over a thousand episodes at this point, I had never recorded an episode on my phone or on an iPad. Mostly because I wanted to use a good quality microphone. I have been testing that and have some practical solutions. You can actually use your smartphone if you’ve got a good modern smartphone with a good quality microphone. This is the microphone we give to all of our clients. It’s the commercial version. It’s an Audio Technica AT2005. It has not only a USB but XLR connection, depending on how you want to connect it. USB is your friend with this type of microphone.

When you plug it into your laptop, it’s really plug and play. It knows it’s there and the system will use it as the primary audio input device and the output device. When you’re on the road just bringing a pair of earbuds with you, whether they have a microphone in them or not, it doesn’t matter. This good microphone has a headphone jack in the bottom of it where you can plug in that headset. When you connect this to your smartphone via USB, if you have an iPhone as I do, you’re going to need this special little adapter that they make from Apple, which has this lightning connector to go into the bottom of your phone. It’s a normal USB. When I do that and connect my microphone to this, plug it into my phone, the IOS operating system recognizes the microphone and it will use it as the audio input and output. You need to be using those earbuds connected to it if you’re doing a Zoom call on your phone. You want to be able to hear your guest.

Anybody who has an iPhone knows you have one connector on the bottom. On that phone, you can’t hook up the microphone to here and then also hook up a headphone somewhere else because there’s no other port. The microphone gives you both the USB and the headphone port. You’ll hear your guests through those earbuds that are hooked up to the microphone. I’ve simplified my recording equipment and made it so that I just have my cell phone hooked into this and I’ve got my microphone and I can talk into it. I can pass it to the guest when they want to speak. In that situation, you’d have to share a microphone because you can’t hook more than one up to your cell phone or your iPad. That would also be true if you’re hooking it up to an Android phone. You can get a different but similar adapter that would instead of plugging into the lightning port of your phone, would plug into the headphone port. Most of those Android phones have a normal standard headphone jack that is a microphone. It’s like if you plug in any normal earbud to it, you’ll see it’s broken into four pieces but you have the very tip and then a black ring separating and another metal contact and another black ring and another metal contact. What that does, one of those is used for the microphone going into your smartphone. The other two are right and left an audio channel for stereo audio.

PDZ 31 | Recording On The Road

Recording On The Road: Your phone is very smart and capable of handling both being the audio input and the output device.

 

Test Before You Record

You have your adaptor that hooks up like that, it would also have those three black separators in it to get you all those contacts. Your phone is very smart and capable of handling both being the audio input and output device for your smartphone. That’s pretty simple, recording in your phone. You can use Zoom and I’ve tested this. I’ve done it myself. That’s why I wanted to talk about this. As long as your phone recognizes the operating system, your phone recognizes your USB microphone and it powers it. This microphone has no other power. It draws all its power right from the USB port of the device it’s plugged into. As soon as I plug it into my phone, the LED light on the microphone turns on. It’s getting power. The phone has enough power to power this. Also, Tracy’s got a new Samsung phone and the same thing happens there. This is something you should test before you go recording because if you have an older phone or an older operating system on your phone, you want to make sure that it doesn’t need to be updated or that your older phone or older operating system has the same capability. I can’t vouch for all of them out there. There are just too many phones and too many operating system versions.

Use An External Microphone

With the new Android OS and new IOS for iPhones, you definitely can do this. There’s a Zoom app on your phone, just like you would use Zoom. You could be live at an event and streaming something live. I’ve done this at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas where there are an event floor and a lot going on. I go live from my phone to Facebook. You can also use that for a podcast and interview people there. Whatever you want. You can turn that broadcast into an episode if you want, especially if you’re holding the phone with a selfie stick or you’re holding it away from you with your hand. The audio in those environments is horrible and it’s hard to hear. If you have this microphone attached to your phone and you’re talking into it, it makes a big difference. I would highly recommend using an external microphone.

The USB cord’s plenty long enough. You can hold the phone at arm’s length or show people whatever you want to show if you’re using the backside camera instead of the screen facing camera and still be talking and narrating. That’s something that I’ve seen a lot of people do when they record from the road, especially if they’re live streaming on Facebook and they don’t use an actual USB mic connected to their phone. A lot of times they’ll change it to the back-facing camera. They’re looking at the screen and showing people around, “Here’s what I see at the show,” and they’re not showing themselves on the camera. They’re showing all this other stuff. A lot of times they are holding that phone so far away from themselves or in an orientation that I’ve actually seen when they switch cameras like that, the audio quality gets so faint you can’t hear anything. Another reason why quality-wise you may want to use the USB mic and connect it to your phone to do that same thing. It could be done with an iPad.

You need your recording quality to be consistent whatever that is. Share on X

We have a client who travels mostly with their iPad and wants to use their iPad if they can. That’s where we did a lot of this research and tried it out. I’ve never used an iPad to record anything. If you connect it to Zoom and you go live at Zoom, you’ll see in the upper left corner of the Zoom screen, there’s an icon that changes when you have a USB microphone plugged into at least on my iPhone. You’ll see that it shows a tiny little symbol that looks like a handheld microphone and it indicates that it’s using it for the input and the output of the Zoom call so you can go live on Facebook and do the whole thing. You’ll see and you should test this at home before you expect to be able to do this out on the road. I highly recommend you do that. Using Zoom or if you prefer to record using GoToMeeting or Skype or any of those things, you can use that from your phone as long as your phone recognizes your microphone. That’s the tip there.

The Voice Memos App

If you’re on the road and you want to record yourself, you don’t need to use a program as complicated as Zoom. At least on the iPhone, there’s this Voice Memos app and this is the latest OS. It’s pretty updated. That’s the symbol for the voice memo app. I have recorded a lot of things. All I’ve got to do is I’ll plug my microphone in and start recording. I would do a test with this as well in a predictable condition when you’re not in a rush and you’re not desperately needing it to work properly. Test it out. Use the Voice Memos app. I’m going to demonstrate something that I want you to do when you do this. The app doesn’t always tell you that a voice memo app like this or some other recording program when you connect your microphone to it. The software doesn’t always say, “We’re connected to your microphone,” or it’s now using that microphone as the input device. It’s a good idea to do a test recording. When you do it, I recommend you don’t just have the phone right in front of you and then speaking into the mic and staying very still. Because you record it, play it back, listen to it and you might say, “That sounds good. It must be using the microphone.” Do a test.

When you are speaking and recording, have your mouth at a certain normal distance from the microphone and speak. I want you to listen to what happens because then I want you to continue speaking and turn your head or move your mouth farther away from the microphone and then back into it. Do that a couple of times because if it’s using your microphone the way you want it to, you will hear that volume level change when you move your mouth. You can even get back further away from your microphone if you want. Even turning your head, you will hear a significant change in the level. That will tell you that you’re using the right microphone. In fact, it’s attached by a cord, so you could take your phone and you can move it farther away so you are sure that you’re not accidentally using the built-in microphone on the phone. The built-in microphone on all of our smartphones, regardless of what smartphone it is, are really fine for having a phone call, but the audio quality is not that great. Even if you just want to sit and record some solocasts, you use your phone, I would always use a good quality microphone.

PDZ 31 | Recording On The Road

Recording On The Road: The built-in microphones on all smart phones, regardless of what kind it is, are fine for having a phone call but the audio quality is not that great.

 

Having one of these, it’s not very big. You can fit it in your laptop bag, you can fit it in your luggage if you’re traveling. For those of you that are on iPhone and might want to do this, that adapter is considered a USB camera adapter according to Apple. They’re a $29 at your Apple store. You can order it online from Apple. If you’re using an iPhone, I highly recommend getting the Apple version. There are third-party accessories available out there that aren’t even as long as this one. They don’t have a cord. They’re even just solid plastic and has this lightning piece coming out of the plastic and then the USB. I’ve bought some of them and I’ve tried them and they don’t work. They’re not an Apple manufactured product and there’s something Apple does with the electronics with the chips inside of it so that it knows it’s an Apple-approved device. When you have any old manufacturer make them out there, you might find other adapters on amazon. What I’ve found is when I plugged it in and tested it, this was like a $6 version of this device that I bought, so considerably less expensive. It’s five times less the cost than buying the apple one but the problem is the connection to the microphone would go in and out. It was intermittent. Zoom would use it a little bit and then it would drop out. I’ve even done a testing recording with one of our customers who is actually local here to where we are in Southern California.

There’s Dr. Elizabeth Hoefer who has a podcast called Get Your Head On Straight. Her podcast, we were doing some testing because she also had a need. She wanted to record from her smartphone. I gave her that aftermarket third-party device. It was $6 and we tested it. We’ll do some testing between the two of us and it would work a little bit and drop out and work a little bit and drop out. That’s not practical. You certainly need your recording quality to be completely consistent, whatever it is. She’s not the client that wanted to use the iPad. She wanted to use her iPhone.

You need the Apple device because like it or not, Apple makes sure all of their accessories work. If you’re not an approved Apple vendor or third-party vendor, then there’s something that your device won’t have to work consistently. If you have a phone that has a normal headphone jack, that’s pretty universal. That doesn’t even require unique software or unique chips. It’s like using your normal earbuds and plugging it into your phone and there is a USB to headphone jack adapter you can get out there that is not from any specific manufacturer. That thing will work for your Android phone. Recording on the road, these are some really good options. The reality of our smartphones now is that they are very powerful computers.

If you’re interviewing somebody out there in a live situation, it’s best to simplify your recording equipment. Share on X

Record In The Cloud

I think my new iPhone, because I’m using a MacBook Air laptop in general that’s a few years old. My cell phone actually has just as much hard disk space and as much RAM as my laptop. There are some differences in the operating system, but in terms of computing power in your pocket and plenty of storage to record yourself on solocast or even Zoom calls, you’ve got plenty of power in your smartphone. Another tip regarding using Zoom. I do recommend, when you’re using your smartphone or your iPad to record and using a tool like Zoom. Zoom has an option that you can configure. You might need to do it on there. You have to log into their website and into your account to do this, but they have the option for you to record in the cloud and you want to make sure all those settings are right before you go doing this.

I would recommend recording in the cloud because then you don’t have any local issues with your phone. As long as you have an internet connection, a data connection on your phone, then that’ll work just great. Alternatively you can set to record locally, but I think when you are using the phone, it generally works better to record in the cloud for an internet call. If you’re recording yourself, the voice memo app is going to record to your local phone and those files are really pretty small. If you’re recording audio only if you’re using another program, recording video, that might get a little bigger, but consider that as well.

Our Own Microphone

I think I see a lot more people doing little event series of episodes and we’ve been doing them ourselves being out at events. Tracy did the set of blockchain conference and I’ll give you all just a little tease and heads up about something. We’ve been developing our own microphone. You actually are going to be able to put in a reservation order. There’s a micro SD card right in the microphone. This is battery-operated. There are no cords or whatsoever. You can still use USB to connect it to your computer and use it that way, but it will record right to the SD card. The great thing about that is it’s even simpler to use than hooking up to your phone. It is a lot more practical and the audio quality, because you don’t have any signal loss going through a cord and a USB port, which USB port has certain technical limitations. Here, there’s no signal loss. It’s going from recording in the microphone to the SD card on the device. If you’re recording yourself only, highest quality recording. Even if you’re going to a guest handing it back and forth or you can have two of these and each recording separately. It’s a pretty cool stuff.

PDZ 31 | Recording On The Road

Recording On The Road: When you’re using your phone, it generally works better to record in the cloud for an internet call because then you don’t have any local issues with your phone.

 

We’ve incorporated our mic flag into this so you can customize your own logo. It’s not available now. I didn’t want to make it all about a new product that’s not here, but I want to let you know new things are coming. We developed it because Tracy was very frustrated out at an event recording Steve Wozniak and Molly Bloom and Gary Vee and Common. She got to interview a whole bunch of people at an event backstage and was using another piece of equipment. Many of you may be familiar with the Zoom H6 digital audio recorder. It is very large. Do you know the old Motorola flip phones from the ‘90s? It’s the size of that. That Zoom H6 audio device is like the size of those old Motorola flip phones from the ‘90s. You can plug multiple microphones into it, but that’s the big XLR cable, really long, thick cables. That’s all she had at the time to be able to record and give one microphone to her guest and have one separate for her and not pass it back and forth.

To make a long story short, she had to rush because when it was time Gary Vee was available, she had to go interview him. She got about five or six minutes with him, but it was an amazing interview. She had put the Zoom H6 device on the floor because she didn’t want to hold it during the interview. She was also being videoed from a distance, but the audio was being recorded locally. She had this great interview and after it was done, she looked at the device and the batteries had run out on the device and she lost that interview with Gary Vee. She felt terrible. He was really nice about it. He agreed to do another longer interview after the show but wasn’t going to do another one right there, right then. That was one of the things we built into our microphone, that blue LED light. When you’re running out of power, it is going to flash in a different way and let you know before it runs out of power that the batteries are running low. They’re disposable batteries, not rechargeable, so you can just change it quickly and get back to recording.

The same thing with the SD card. If the SD card space is running out, the red record light is going to flash on and let you know so you don’t run out of disk space to record. You can have one for your guests and one for you if you don’t want to pass the microphone back and forth. Anyway, that was the necessity that was the mother of that invention and why we’re bringing that out. We also have built-in great features so you can use it with your computer and record both sides of the conversation, even separate audio tracks when you want to use it in a controlled environment like in the office. That one’s coming. For now, our cell phones and a good USB mic are a great way to go.

Those are some tech tips for recording on the road. That’s what I wanted to share with you. I’d be interested to know if any of you do record on the road, if you’ve ever considered using your smartphone, your iPad or maybe Kindle tablet or anything. Kindle might be a little more difficult because I don’t know all the apps they have in there for recording. You probably could. I don’t know if even Zoom has a Kindle app, but certainly iPads do. I hope you’ve gotten some value out of this. If you have any questions about this, just reach out to us. All of you should have our contact information and be able to reach out to us a number of different ways. We’ll be happy to address any issues you may have and even help you set yourself up and do some test recording and make sure it’s working before you go out on the road. Thanks, everybody. I’ll talk to you next time.

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