I have been podcasting on and off for over a decade and did my first live broadcast just over 8 years ago. Like Adam Curry, I’m an audio nut and have been collecting microphones and mixers since I was about 10 years old. I share Adam’s quest for the best possible audio quality and was very excited when he announced his new podcasting device, the Podcaster Pro.
The device, which is currently in the funding stage on Indiegogo, attempts to be a replacement for the multitude of gear that a lot of podcasters use today. Instead of going out and buying a separate mixer, compressor/noise gate, vocal processor and other gadgets to get professional sound you can pick up a Podcaster Pro instead. The question is, does the device provide what you need at a reasonable price-point? The “Early Bird Podcaster Pro” will run you $497 plus shipping if you’re one of the first 100 to order. As of right now, 32 have been sold. After that, you will pay $547 plus shipping for the base unit or you can choose from some specialty models, including 1 of 10 units handbuilt my Adam himself for $999 plus shipping.
If you’re new to podcasting, here is a rundown of the gear that this little box replaces.
The mixing board is what you connect your microphones and other audio providing gear to in order to put them all together. The photo above is the mixer that I use, an Allen and Heath ZED 14. It will run you about $400 and it is absolute overkill if you’re just doing podcasting.
Mixing boards start out at around the $50 price point and you can get some truly excellent mixers for podcasting in the $100 to $150 range.
This piece of gear does two things, it compresses the audio and adds a noise gate. By compressing the audio you even out the volume so that it is at a more consistent level. This means you can pretty much scream into the microphone and not overload your signal to where it would clip.
A noise gate is a pretty simple device. It measures the amount of noise coming through the signal and if it is below a certain point it mutes the signal. So if you are sitting there listening to your co-host speak, the signal from your microphone will be silent, not picking up your breathing or any other room noise.
I like the dbx devices but you can get various compressor gates suitable for podcasting from about $100 to $150.
I am pretty sure I bought an Aphex Aural Exciter with Big Bottom after hearing Adam Curry talking about them on one of his shows. It’s the device that gives a nice clean sound along with that strong, booming radio voice without overloading the signal. It is amazing the effect this device can have on your sound.
The Aphex version runs about $400 and there is a Behringer version that I have never tried that runs about $100.
Now that we know what the Podcaster Pro replaces, the question is does it warrant the $547 price tag? Without having a unit in-hand to test that is a hard question to answer. I could put together a rig consisting of a mixer, compressor/noise gate and vocal processor that would come in at $400 or so with the same overall feature set but it would not be portable and it may not sound anywhere as good.
Another thing to point out is that you still need to add microphones, headphones, a computer or tablet and perhaps even a recording device. I believe the microphone that Adam uses runs in the $400 range and a decent digital recording device will run you about $200. These devices also need to be added going the piece-by-piece route as well.
If the sound is as good as I believe it will be, I believe this turns out to be a pretty good value for the professional podcaster to be able to replace a lot of large gear with one small package.
This device is for the serious, professional podcaster that wants to be able to utilize one main device to produce quality shows. I really do not see many newcomers picking one of these up to start podcasting due to the price-point.
While this would make it easy for newbies to get up and running, the fact remains that you can produce your first show with your current laptop, desktop, tablet or phone with a headset or external microphone and open-source software for virtually free so the Podcaster Pro is a fairly large investment.
If you’re a professional podcaster or professional voice-over artist that needs to take the show on the road, then this device is definitely for you. I cannot even imaging trying to take my mixer, compressor/noise gate and vocal processor on the road with me. This one little box changes that.
There are a few things that limit this device that may or may not be a concern depending on the way that you produce your podcasts.
- There are only two XLR inputs on the device so if you have a show with more than two people in the room you will need another external mixer to feed everything beyond the main microphone to the device. I emailed Adam about this and he did mention that if this launch is a success that they would like to offer an expanded version that would allow for more hosts.
- There is only one USB input for your “soundboard” or device that you use to play clips or audio back during your show. I use an iPad with Bossjock software as my soundboard but there is no known way that I know of to route the audio out of the Lightning port to this device’s USB port. Perhaps some sort of external sound card or gadget could convert the 3.5mm analog out to USB but an optional 3.5″ input on the device would be appreciated.
- It doesn’t record your show. With a device like this that already has your perfect digital audio signal inside the box, I am disappointed that I cannot just slip an SD card into the device and record the show. I don’t mind using my Zoom recorder, but for me adding recording capabilities to this box would have added about $200 of value and also would have removed one more external device from the mix.
If you are a professional podcaster that produces shows on a regular bases, by all means, this should be a useful tool to have in your arsenal. For podcasters with spouses that don’t like that the dining room table is covered with a mixing board and a rack of gear this may save a marriage or two.
While I normally don’t recommend a product that I have not tested personally, I know enough about Adam Curry to know that the audio quality on this device will be stellar. I have to admit I always get a chuckle when a No Agenda Show, Adam’s podcast, is delayed as he tracks down the faint hum or buzz in the signal chain. It is exactly the same type of thing that would drive me nuts so I can guarantee you he would not put his name on a device if it did not feature top-notch quality sound.
The question is now whether there are enough podcasters out there for Adam to reach his $500,000 goal on Indiegogo. I am rooting for him!
Check out the Indiegogo campaign here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/podcaster-pro-by-adam-curry-podcast-audio#/