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After 500 Episodes, ‘Grumpy Old Geeks’ Has a Slick Audio Workflow

As its gear and best practices have evolved, the long-running 'Grumpy Old Geeks' podcast has gotten production down to a science.

grumpy old geeksNew York, NY (March 4, 2021)—The first big lesson Jason DeFillippo learned about podcasting was a crucial one. When he and Brian Schulmeister started Grumpy Old Geeks tech podcast eight years ago, they were running two USB microphones on a glass desktop, in a hardwood-floored room, underneath an airport runway. It’s difficult to imagine a more unforgiving audio environment.

“If you go back and listen to the first episodes, it was right on the flight path to Santa Monica airport in Venice [Calif.],” laughs co-host and producer DeFillippo. “[In] the first 20 episodes or so, there’s a plane every five minutes.”

Jason DeFillippo, co-host and producer of Grumpy Old Geeks.

DeFillippo’s perfectionism and growing experience as a producer of professional podcasts like The Art of Charm, Foodist and The Jordan Harbinger Show helped accelerate his hobby podcast’s production values. These days, after nearly 500 episodes and millions of downloads, Grumpy Old Geeks has evolved into a force all its own.

“All of this stuff that I’m doing also translated to Grumpy Old Geeks,” he says. “Actually, a lot of times, I would experiment on Grumpy Old Geeks because nobody was listening to that show. We could get away with doing crazy experiments to see if they worked before we took them over to a show that anybody was actually listening to.”

His quest to make the podcast sound as smooth as radio coincided with the decision to begin recording remotely. After upgrading to a Universal Audio Apollo Twin interface, Electro-Voice RE27N/D broadcasting mic and Rode PSA-1 boom, now he carries a pack with him all over the U.S. and maintains consistent audio quality with an Electro-Voice RE20 dynamic microphone, Sound Devices MixPre-6 preamp audio recorder and his secret weapon: a PreSonus Studio 192 interface.

“You can do all sorts of crazy cable routing with it, and I still use it to this day,” he says. “It’s sitting on my desk in a [double rack unit] with a Furman power conditioner so I can pick it up and take it anywhere in the world, like a little briefcase. I’ve actually got two of them because if one ever broke, I’d be out of business.”

While DeFillippo previously used Skype to connect with Schulmeister and guests—through a three-computer setup of one iMac and two Mac Minis, one for each Skype feed—he switched to the Zencastr platform. “Once Zencastr came out and it got somewhat decent, we switched over to that full-time and got rid of Skype altogether,” he says. “I haven’t used Skype for a podcast in years at this point.”

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In their latest pivot, Grumpy Old Geeks has begun using Squadcast as well as Riverside to record audio for the podcast. The latter platform also records 4k video, which DeFillippo’s other podcast clients use to publish content to YouTube. “Riverside and Squadcast are so great because everybody’s got a browser, everybody’s got a laptop nowadays,” he says. “If you have headphones and a MacBook Pro, I can make that sound like you’re in a studio.”

There is another key benefit, particularly for DeFillippo’s outside clients: Riverside has a Co-Producer mode that allows him to set up clients and then login as a non-participating attendee. He can be “in the room” and communicate with the host and guests, but not be seen or recorded.

Still, one area remains off-limits in DeFillippo’s dedication to high-quality production values: Phone audio is not allowed.

“We’ll just reschedule the show if we have to go to a phone,” he says. “It’s just one of the conditions of any of the shows I work on: We don’t use phones. We want everything to sound like it’s in a studio. If we have to send you a mic, we’ll send you a mic and headphones. The people I usually work with, they want the best quality that you can get.”

Grumpy Old Geeks