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NAMM Ushers in New Podcasting Gear

The presence of podcasting at NAMM was felt with a rush of podcasting-oriented recording gear, much of it affordably priced for those entering the field.

By now, you have likely seen some of the impressive revenue and audience figures associated with podcasting, a segment of the entertainment business that has truly exploded over the past couple of years. The pro audio industry has taken notice, to the point that the presence of podcasting at NAMM was undeniable, with manufacturers introducing a slew of new products and services or remarketing existing offerings to address the voracious appetite of content creators eager to get in on the action.

Podcasters building high-end facilities—such as Gimlet (now part of Spotify) and Stitcher, whose facilities were both designed by Walters-Storyk Design Group—typically choose to integrate the kind of gear that is commonly found in broadcast or production facilities. Smaller enterprises or individuals just getting into podcasting will appreciate the availability of tailored, affordably-priced podcasting solutions.

SOME PODCAST OFFERINGS AT NAMM

Of course, many microphones, preamps, mixers, interfaces and monitoring solutions are appropriate for podcasting even if they’re not specifically marketed as such. Since it’s not possible to cover every product here, let’s focus principally on the product introductions at the 2020 NAMM Show, where a handful of manufacturers were even streaming directly from their booths.

Apogee was one of the first manufacturers to offer microphones and interfaces suitable for podcasting. The company’s USB HypeMiC features built-in analog compression with three settings and comes with a separate pop filter. For those wishing to add their own compression, there’s HypeMiC+. Apogee also offers several audio interfaces, ranging from the 2×2 One and 2×4 Duet to the 10×14 Symphony Desktop, which incorporates vintage mic pre emulation.

Celebrating 15 years in business, British manufacturer Sontronics launched Podcast Pro, an end-address dynamic mic designed for spoken-word applications, with a supercardioid pickup pattern for side rejection of fellow contributors. Available in red or black, it incorporates internal protection against distortion and sibilants and, according to the company, requires no EQ.

Seen on the Scene: NAMM 2020 Media Day

Seen on the Scene: NAMM Show 2020, Day One

Seen on the Scene: NAMM Show 2020, Day Two

Seen on the Scene: NAMM Show 2020, Day Three

A number of manufacturers are making things easier for podcasters by offering equipment bundles. AKG’s Podcaster Essentials bundle, for example, includes the AKG Lyra USB microphone, AKG K371 headphones, Ableton Live 10 Lite recording software, a four-part Berklee Online recording class and a full set of audio cables, including a headphone splitter. Lyra’s Adaptive Capsule Array uses four capture modes and offers 24-bit/192 kHz audio performance and plug-and-play operation.

Meanwhile, Mackie’s Creator Bundle combines its EM-USB mic with Avid Pro Tools First and Waveform OEM software. Part of Mackie’s EleMent mic series, the EM-USB offers a built-in headphone output with independent volume control, plus main input gain and mute controls, and ships with a mic clip, tripod mount and USB-C cable.

MXL Microphones’ Overstream bundle includes either a 990 Blaze (internally illuminated with red LEDs) or 990 Blizzard (blue) condenser mic; a desk-mounted, hinged-arm mic stand; and an integrated pop filter and shockmount. The Overstream Pro bundle adds MXL’s Mic Mate Pro XLR-to-USB inline audio interface.

Audio-Technica has tweaked the messaging on its 20 Series to attract podcasters. Four bundles variously offer AT2005USB cardioid dynamic and AT2020USB+ cardioid condenser USB microphones, and AT2020 and AT2035 cardioid condenser microphones, packaged with ATH-M20x headphones and a custom boom arm with integrated cabling.

There are several options for those who prefer the features of an audio interface over a USB direct connection. UK-based Audient’s minimalist, USB-powered EVO offers a novel feature: SmartGain, a big green button that allows the gain to be set with a tap. The four-channel EVO 4 will be available in Q1 2020; EVO 8 (eight channels) is scheduled for Q2.

German manufacturer RME’s Babyface Pro is a two-mic, 24-channel interface offering control of mixing, routing and remote contribution mix-minus management via proprietary TotalMix software, eliminating the need for an external mixer.

PreSonus has essentially turned its FaderPort into an audio interface with the ioStation 24c. The device combines the recording capabilities of the company’s Studio Series USB-C 24/96 audio interfaces with the functionality of the FaderPort USB production controller and comes bundled with PreSonus software.

PreSonus also has you covered if you do need a mixer. The StudioLive ARc series combines a 24/96 multichannel USB 2.0 audio interface with an analog mixer front end; it records to an internal SD card. A Super Channel handles four stereo analog and digital sources at once, including a stereo Bluetooth 5.0 input. StudioLive ARc ships with PreSonus recording and production software.

Those aren’t the only new mixers with podcasting in mind. Mackie’s six-channel ProFX6v3 mixer, with a feature set ideal for podcasting, is one of six updated models in a line supporting up to 30 inputs. The entire line now features the company’s Onyx mic preamps, GigFX effects engine, 2×4 24/96 USB recording and Avid software.

Rode’s RØDECaster Pro was the first integrated podcast solution, combining everything a content creator might need for what one NAMM exhibitor called “broadcasting without a license” into a compact hardware package supporting four presenters and phone, USB and Bluetooth source connections. Now it has competition, from Zoom’s six-input, 10-fader LiveTrak L-8, which offers podcaster-friendly features including pads for triggering bumpers, ads and sound effects, four headphone outputs, and support for remote contributions with automatic mix-minus. It can record to a computer and SD card simultaneously, and will run on AA batteries or USB.

If you already own a RØDECaster Pro, Gator Cases offers a Titan hard-shell case that accommodates the unit and two microphones. The company was one of several podcasting from the show floor.

Whatever gear you have, don’t overlook the effect that your room—whether it’s a permanent or temporary location—has on the sound quality of your podcast. Auralex, also podcasting from its booth, offers a variety of solutions for fixed or mobile podcasters, as do other manufacturers.

Auralex’s DeskMAX is a portable and lightweight nearfield solution comprising two panels and two stands that can be used anywhere that boundary-mounted acoustical treatments aren’t feasible or desired. The next step up is Auralex’s D36-DST Roominator Kit of 18 DST-112 and 18 DST-114 panels, designed to temper the acoustical problems of a room up to roughly 6 x 8 x 8 feet. For larger rooms (up to 100 square feet), the Project 2 Roominator Kit adds LENRD bass traps to a kit of 24 2-inch thick, 2-square-foot Studiofoam Wedges.

With so many pro audio manufacturers now creating equipment for the podcasting market, expectations for the audio quality of even amateur productions should rise in tandem, making for better listener experiences.

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