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Podcasts are portable by nature, but with your laptop, you're talking about packing up the studio and working on location. So, you want to have a podcast that has that studio quality sound, but you want more than one microphone and to have a bit of control over the levels. This is when you would want to invest in a preamplifier or a pre-amp. To understand what a preamp is, you should learn a few more technical matters around microphones.

podcasting with laptop © radioshoot / Shutterstock.com

Microphones, be they condenser or dynamic, record their signals at mic-level. This is the signal created from the internal diaphragm moving back and forth against a magnet in a wire coil, generating an electrical signal. It’s a clean signal, but very weak. The best audio is recorded not at mic-level, but at line-level. You get line-level signals coming out of electric guitars, keyboards, and other instruments. To get a weaker mic-level signal boosted to the line-level signal, you need to give it a swift kick-in-the-pants. The preamp, sometimes a separate unit or built into a mixer board or a USB microphone, provides that kick to bring the mic-level signal to line-level without adding any noise to the original signal.

Now that you know what a preamp is, how about a few options for you to consider?

Mackie Onyx Blackjack

The Mackie Onyx Blackjack offers you all the power and reliability of a mixer in a small, compact design. The best part of working with this preamp is it has zero latency when recording. This means there is no delay for when you speak and when you hear your voice while recording. You can adjust the Blackjack’s buffer settings to maximize your computer’s processing ability as well.

Mackie Onyx Blackjack The Mackie Onyx Blackjack provides a boost to your incoming mic-level signal in a compact design, making it extremely portable.

Blackjack also offers podcasters:

  • A prepamp bus-powered via USB
  • Two XLR connections delivering 48V phantom power
  • A 25-degree inclination by design, allowing for full view of all controls at all times
  • An all-metal chassis that gives the Blackjack “built-like-a-tank” durability
  • Onboard analog-to-digital conversion, granting your amplified signal with the lowest noise and distortion possible

Shure MVi

Shure Audio is no stranger to setting the bar for audio engineering and recording on looking at the prevalence and relevance of its audio gear. With the rise of podcasting, Shure set out to create gear that would capture quality sound, and the MVi is a compact, USB-powered preamp ready to power your microphone (or microphones, if you employ a splitter) accordingly.

The MVi offers a podcaster-on-the-go:

  • USB connectivity for easy plug-and-play, with optional iOS connectivity with iPhones and iPads
  • Touch-sensetive panel for control over five different DSP presets, headphone volume, and more
  • Built-in headphone jack for real-time monitoring
  • One XLR connection offering 48V phantom power option
Shure's MVi Shure’s MVi, part of the MOTIV series of audio gear, is a preamp designed with desktop computers and mobile devices in mind.

If you want to record on location, you could use studio condenser mics, which, because of their sensitivity, will pick up a lot of the background, setting a nice ambiance for your podcast. Depending on your environment, though, there might be too much ambiance for your interview. This is why, in most on-location settings, dynamic mics are preferred. You will still get some background noise, but not as pronounced when using studio condenser mics.

The Shure MVi can serve as a preamp for up to two microphones, powered by USB, similar to the Onyx Blackjack. With an even more compact design, the MVi makes your portable studio even more so.

About This Article

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About the book author:

Mark L. Chambers has been a technical author, computer consultant, BBS sysop, programmer, and hardware technician for more than 30 years. An unabashed Mac enthusiast, he has written more than 30 computer books, most about the Mac. They include MacBook All-in-One For Dummies, 2nd Edition, and Macs For Seniors For Dummies, 3rd Edition.

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