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Do Remotes or Podcasts over the web or ISDN on the Cheap

Posted: Sat Dec 05, 2015 11:34 am
by fmtalker
There are two great ways to put a compact and tangle-free podcast or radio remote kit. Actually, there are probably MORE than two ways, but these are two which I really like.

USB Method One

The Mackie PRO FX8 V2. This is a beautiful small mixer with four mic inputs, two stereo inputs (plus a 3rd doubling as Mic 4), FX and MON sends and returns. It also is USB connectable, but what makes this little beauty so appealing is that you can monitor return audio from your computer (Skype, the radio station, whatever) through your headphones while sending audio at the same time. No need to switch back and forth. And because you can route the return audio to headphones only, you get virtual mix-minus. Other than the USB cable to connect to the computer, and your mic cables, you are all set to go. No sending in/out, etc. You can add other devices like an MP3 player, etc., for additional audio ins if you need them, with no concern about mix-minus issues.

As a talk-show host, I do 3-hour radio remotes over Skype, or, where available ISDN. Making sure to choose the USB Codec in Skype and in your computer's sound settings will get you the correct routing of your audio. Easy way to test it is to call the Skype Call Testing service and leave a little message then listen to the playback.

The PRO FX 8 sells for about $230.

USB Method Two

This is really cool. For under $150 you are totally in business, or if you already have a small mixer with FX sends, about $30 does it.

You will need a mixer, like the Behringer XENIX 1002B ($99.99 on Amazon and if you have Amazon Prime, free shipping). This little baby is not only AC-powered, but can run on two 9-V batteries (3 if you need phantom power). It is not USB-capable, but I found a little trick. Pick up the Behringer U-Control UCA222, $30 everywhere. This is your USB interface. I used velcro to attach it to the back of the XENIX. Using two patch cables (in my case, 2 TRS 1/4-inch to dual RCAs) patch the out of the U0-Control into any input on the XENIX (I used 7/8). Make sure the FX SEND is off on this put (that's the orange knob). Now on your Mic channel(s), set the FX SEND at about 12:00. You can experiment to get the right levels. Plug the USB cable into your computer then set your computer's sound settings to use the USB codec as both in and out (on a PC, it's record and playback). In Skype, or whatever IP method you are using to send and receive audio), Make sure the USB Codec is also your chosen device. Test with either Skype Call Testing Service or if using another method, connect to the station or your remote computer to test.

ISDN on the Cheap

If you are using ISDN, the setup is equally easy but requires a couple of cables. I use the Comrex Nexus ISDN portable box, which you can find on EBay these days for about $200. It's an old technology, rapidly being replaced by such IP-based services as Source-Connect NOW, IPDTL, Q Go Live, Luci Live and others. But a lot of radio stations are still on the ISDN bandwagon, legacy though it may be. The next procedure is similar to the one in USB Method Two. First, set the FX sends on the mic(s) you plan to use to about Unity on the board. Make sure FX is turned down on all other sources. This is how you'll send your audio to the ISDN box. Connect a cable from the FX SEND jack to the MIC in on the ISDN box. This will require a TR or TRS 1/4 inch cable to XLR male. From either the headphone jack or the Audio Out XLR connector on the ISDN box, plug the other end (1/4-inch TR) into the left channel of slider 7/8. Make sure the FX pot is turned off on this channel or you'll be sending the station's return audio back to them and you'll get a nasty echo. Adjust your Local and Send levels on the ISDN box to your preferences. You can monitor the whole thing through the headphone jack on the board. If, like me, you need multiple headphone jacks, connect a portable headphone amp to the board's headphone jack and distribute that way. You can get these for about $20 each. That's it for ISDN on the cheap!

What’s nice is I can fit everything, including power cables, miss, etc., into a small rolling bag, which makes transporting easy.