I heard about this inexpensive lavalier mic and decided to give it a try as I occasionally do on-location recordings and interviews for some of the podcasts on my network and I am always interested in ways to get good clean audio. The Purple Panda Lav Mic Kit looked like an affordable option for this purpose. It came to about $24 with shipping for the kit.

Here's how it was advertised:


The product arrived inside a simple bubblewrap lined manila envelope. I would have liked to see it in a box to protect it, but so far my unit seems to have survived the postal service without damage.


Here is what I received:

Contents: The velvet pouch, lav mic with a decent length of cord (didn't measure, but guessing at least 3 ft.), additional extension cable (about 10 ft.), TRS adapter for digital recorders, adapter for DSLR cameras, an extra mic clip, and a mini dead cat windscreen in addition to the foam one that comes installed on the mic, instructions for which cables to use for different devices.



I recorded a couple of quick tests with my smartphone and with my Roland R-05 digital audio recorder. The following are two tests recorded in a room in my house that is not sound treated and is quite reverberant and since this mic is a condenser it picks up lots of room tone. There is no processing on this audio at all.

Unprocessed Audio recorded with Smartphone - Large Room

Unprocessed Audio Recorded with Digital Recorder - Large Room

Then I went into a smaller room and recorded a test there; also unprocessed.

Next, I took the mic outside to record see how it handled recording my voice while there was outdoor ambiance in the background. This audio was recorded with my LG smartphone.

And finally, in case you wished to hear the first three tests after I did some noise reduction and ran some EQ and compression, here you go.

All things considered, I think this mic is a good value and it seems to be of solid build quality. The audio I got from it seemed very good considering the environments which I was recording in. It is definitely worth checking out.

Well, there you are. My first impressions and a couple quick audio tests of the Purple Panda Lav Mic Kit. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments.

You can grab this kit on Amazon through my affiliate link if you wish. If not, you can purchase directly from Purple Panda at this link.

Adios!




What I do at the beginning of the theme music process is really give a lot of thought to the feel of the podcast.

  • What style of music would be most appropriate for that specific topic?
  • What sort of music will help to set the stage for the content?
  • What style will be more appealing to my target audience?

If it's a show about knitting then I don't want a heavy metal intro tune.

Then I think about instruments.

  • Do I want it to be piano-driven or guitar-based?
  • Acoustic or electric?
  • Or am I looking for something more orchestral?

I also take into account the tone of the host's delivery or if there's a cohost then consider the conversation style of the hosts and how they interact. If a solo show, you don't want a crazy rockin' intro if the host is super laid back and chill in their presentation style. It's too jolting for the listener's ear to have such a contrast. If multiple hosts, the same thing goes; if they have great banter and there is a humorous side to their conversation then you probably don't want a slow, classical-sounding orchestral piece. The goal is to complement the host's presentation style with the music. Once you've answered these types of questions then it's just a matter of explaining your vision to the composer.


If you still have trouble describing to the composer exactly what you're looking for then I'd suggest finding an existing piece of music that is similar to what you want and ask the composer to use it as a reference point. A quick Google search for a couple stylistic keywords plus “instrumental” or “soundtrack” or similar terms should net the results you want. The internet is full of theme music from popular shows as well as film scores so that's an easy place to go for a reference piece. Also, the YouTube Audio Library has lots of pieces of music broken down by genre and mood that can be used to find a starting point. Other stock music sites can help too. You can find a list of these sites at www.jdsutter.me/podcastmusic

All of the composers I've worked with have been able to come up with a great tune that fit the needs of the show. Now it may not happen on the first try. I've had to ask for them to take another stab at it on occasion, but a good composer will give you a rough "draft" of the piece for approval before they fully flesh out the instrumentation. Also keep in mind that the composer knows music (if you're using a pro, of course) so be open to how they may interpret your commission. Even if on first listen it may not match with what you heard in your head. They may just have come up with something that you might not have ever thought of.

Where to Find Composers
So where can you find a good composer? Well first, I’d start with any personal connections or references you might have. Or find a composer on SoundCloud whose work you like and reach out to them. You can also try Fiverr or such places, but I don't really recommend those platforms for this type of gig. You just never know what you’re going to get that way.

Here are a few of the composers that I've either worked with personally or have clients or colleagues who've used them.

Solomon Kim - http://solomonkim.me/
Gabe Miller - http://gabemillermusic.com/
Conner Savoca - https://connersavocacomposer.com/
Garrett Vandenberg - https://www.garrettvandenberg.com/
Sam Avendano - contact me

Also, keep in mind that if you have a musician friend you could always just see if they would be up for putting something together for you. One podcaster I know had a friend who played guitar come over to his studio and he just recorded him doing little riffs and strumming around for a few minutes then he took those and cut them into an intro and segment stingers and it sounds great. Now that may not be the best solution for every show, but it's an option to consider.

Cost
Regarding the cost, there's quite a range. It can depend on the complexity of the composition, the length of it, etc. It is a bit of an investment, but one that I think is worth it to have your show stand out and have its own unique sound. I am not opposed to using stock themes or loops for a show, but most times I believe a custom theme is the better option.

Couple Final Notes
Now I realize that some of the above questions are difficult to answer if one has yet to record an episode of their show so I often recommend to clients to record a few test pieces of audio to get a feel for the show's dynamics before commissioning a theme. These recordings may or may not actually be used in a publically released episode, but it will give an idea of what the show could sound like. At the very least, record a few runs at delivering the show opening that will be used with the theme to see how they would sound when mixed together.

Hopefully this has been helpful. I’d be happy to answer any other questions you might have regarding this topic.

Send your feedback to show@jdsutter.me.


I decided to take advantage of some Prime Day discounts and pick up the 2017 edition of the Fire 7, Amazon's budget-friendly 7-inch tablet. This is the 8GB model with the Amazon "Special Offers" deals on the lock screen. This post is not a comprehensive review, but I wanted to share my first impressions with the device after putting it through a few paces over the past couple days.

Unboxing

Inside the package, you'll find the tablet, a/c charger, USB-3 charging cable, and documentation. No special accessories included, which you won't really expect for such a low price.

Click Photo to Enlarge

The tablet is quite chunky; certainly not a sleek, slim device like the Nexus 7 or similarly sized devices. It has both front- and rear-facing cameras, a speaker on the bottom left-hand corner of the rear side. There is a micro-SD card slot on the right-side and a volume rocker and power/screen-on button on the top. Also on top is the headphone jack and charging port.

The cable is about 3 feet long so you may need an extension cord if you wish to use the tablet while it's charging. It does fit into the port quite securely unlike some of the other cheap Android devices that I've checked out before.

The back is plain except for the camera lens in the top left corner, the Amazon logo in the middle top, and the speaker in the bottom left corner. I highly recommend a case as the back gets scratched quite easily. [Here is the one I chose.]

Click Photo to Enlarge


A Few Specifics

The tablet is running a customized version of Android, which Amazon calls Fire OS. It does not have access to the Google Play Store so you have to use apps that are available in the Amazon Appstore. This means that none of your typical Google apps, which are often pre-installed on most other Android tablets and phones, are even available for the Fire tablets.

The Fire has an internet browser called Silk which seemed adequate, but I missed having all of my Chrome bookmarks. The Kindle, Audible, Music and Amazon apps worked quite well as you might expect.

The speaker on the back has pretty decent volume though you may still want an external speaker or earbuds. I picked up an inexpensive set of AmazonBasics branded earbuds to use with the tablet and have been quite pleased with them.



(Update: It looks like this model is no longer available. Here is a similar product.)

As I mentioned above, I opted for the model which includes ads for specific products on the lock screen. The benefit of this is that the device has a significantly lower price tag than its counterpart without the "Special Offers". I didn't find them to be too bothersome. As soon as you swipe to unlock the screen they go away and you are able to use the device without any restrictions.

This 7th Generation edition of the tablet also comes with the Alexa Voice Services installed. I found this to be a nice feature, but one I didn't use all that much. I have both the original Echo and an Echo Dot in my home and I use them all the time. I just didn't find a need for Alexa on the tablet, but perhaps with more use of the device that will change.

Final Thoughts

My favorite use case for the Fire 7 was to read Kindle books. And I did download and try out a couple of free games from the Appstore that were quite enjoyable. This device is not a powerhouse, nor is it intended to be. If you're looking for a productivity tablet then you may want to pass on the Fire 7. But if you want a media consumption device or ebook reader which can also run a few apps and games and has web access, then I don't think you can go wrong for the price.

(I also grabbed a pack of screen-protectors to prevent scratches to the screen.)

You may also want to consider this Fire 7 bundle which includes the tablet, screen protector, and case for a $15 savings.





UPDATE: audioBoom no longer offers a free plan but the rest of the information shared in this episode is still valid.

Here is my workflow for using a mobile device to create a solo podcast. This is just to show how easy it can be to get a show going. I use audioBoom for this show.

1. Write episode outline in Google Keep using Nexus 7 tablet or Android phone.
Keep is my note-taking app of choice and I use it for show ideas for all of my podcasts.

2. Record the episode using the audioBoom app on my phone.
The app allows you to trim the audio at the beginning and end of the recording but doesn't allow for other edits. You can also record your audio in another app and just upload to your audioBoom account through the app if you wish.

3. Add episode title and description and artwork and upload the file via the audioBoom app.
My artwork is saved in Google Photos, but of course, you could also pull an image from your device memory.

That's all there is to it! These 3 steps you will go through for each episode.

After you have recorded your first episode you will then need to activate the podcasting settings in your audioBoom account if you want them to host your feed. You can then submit that to iTunes or run it through Feedburner first. This is what I'd recommend doing in case you decide to take the show in a different direction you can then move from the audioBoom platform without having to change your feed in iTunes.

It's also possible to simply use them as a media host and pull the URL of your mp3 file and use it in WordPress. However, since this was an experiment on creating a show completely on a mobile device I didn't go that route.

A few final thoughts:
AudioBoom has autoposting to WordPress and Tumblr capabilities so your posts will be syndicated over there automatically.

I'm not saying this is the best way to create a solo podcast. Simply that is one way. And if you're really not sure how long you want to commit to creating a show, then it's a great way to give it a try. Especially if you don't have the time or funds to invest in purchasing and setting up a bunch of gear.

Also, note that this workflow is very limiting. You don't have the flexibility of being able to edit your audio so you have to get it right in one take. And you also can't add intro or outro music, but again, this is just to show you that it can be done. And of course, you can always decide that you want to take the show up a notch and begin to record and edit in something like Audacity and then just upload the file to audioBoom. You can host files up to 10 minutes long for free.

A few other short-form, top of mind shows that are recorded on mobile devices are John Wilkerson's show "10 the Podcast", Albert Hathazi's "From The Hip" (Although Albert also does sketches and skits as well) and Paul Colligan's "Thinking Out Loud". I'm subscribed to each of these shows and recommend you check them out if you're interested in the short, solo podcast format.

Well, that's how it's done!

Send your feedback to show@jdsutter.me.

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This episode began as a blog post so instead of a transcript, here is a link to the post which contains all the applicable info and links. Send your feedback to show@jdsutter.me or post in the comments below.


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Have you ever wanted to visit Israel? How about a fully immersive audio tour of courtesy of podcast, The Rusty Humphries Rebellion? Rusty visited many sites throughout the Jerusalem and the surrounding areas in 2015 and captured his experiences in a mini series on his podcast. As he toured the country he recorded many of his stops in binaural audio (also known as 3D audio) which gives you an amazing audio experience when listened to with headphones.

Rusty Humphries
This series is downright stunning to listen to. And even if you're not into politics, I recommend checking out this series of episodes only for the sonic experience. I'm not sure if this type of recording is a first for the medium of podcasting, but it's the first time I've ever heard anything like it and I felt it was worth sharing.

I'd love to see more content of this kind in the podcasting space. Imagine a travel podcast that takes you on a tour through the various cities they visit. Or a local-focused podcast that records a visit to an event in their town. I could even see a use for this approach with a sports show. Pretty much any genre of podcast could use 3D audio recordings of industry events in their niche.

Check out the links to the series below. Be sure to listen with headphones.

Rusty Humphries Day One in Israel - The Knesset
Direct Download Link

Rusty Humphries Day 2 in Israel - The Old City Pt 1
Direct Download Link

Rusty In Israel with Aaron Klein and Col. Mike Bumgarner
Direct Download Link

Rusty Humphries in Israel - Rusty follows in Jesus' footsteps
Direct Download Link

Tour the historic City of David with Rusty
Direct Download Link

The Pope's Palestine Problem and a East Jerusalem Settler
Direct Download Link


If you are aware of other podcasts that have released binaural recordings please share them in the comments.

Amazon just unveiled two new devices today which use the Alexa Voice Services. They are the Echo Dot and the Echo Tap and are both smaller than the original Amazon Echo and seem to be intended to be complimentary to it; a less expensive way to add "Alexa" to multiple rooms of your home. The Dot is a small hockey puck sized device and the Tap is a cylinder about the size of a 16 oz. aluminum can.



The Dot is currently only available to Amazon Prime members and you must order by speaking to your Echo device. You must have enabled "Voice Purchasing" in the Alexa app and have set your 1-click payment options before you can place your order. (Click here for instructions on how to do that.)

I ordered the Echo Dot and recorded the exchange so you can see how simple and quick it is. In under a minute, the order was placed.



Still image from the Dot promo video

For more info see the links below. 

Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo Dot
Amazon Echo Tap
Amazon Prime


(This post contains affiliate links.)

Given the fact that Google is now taking an interest in podcasting by adding them to Google Play Music does that mean that they will begin supporting podcasters in other ways also? There are a couple of Google services which could help the community even more if Google would take a little time to tweak a few things here and there.

Feedburner

Google's RSS feed service, FeedBurner, has long been thought to be on it's way out by many leading voices in the podcast industry. It has been the cause of some compatibility issues over the last couple of years and has been largely untouched by Google for quite a while. But for podcast creators who are creating a show strictly as a hobby and have no desire to monetize their show and are not willing to pay recurring monthly fees for web and/or media hosting, FeedBurner is still one of the only options for creating an RSS feed which has the required elements for podcasting. My hope is that this news about Google Play Music means that Google will also begin to give FeedBurner some much-needed attention. (By the way, they did update the logo to match their new look so they haven't completely abandoned it.)

Blogger

Blogger has been a popular tool for many years for folks wanting to have a personal blog to share with family and friends. There has also been some use of the service for more professional blogs, but WordPress seems to be the platform of choice for those users. Although Blogger does have several features which are great for podcasting, (URL redirection for creating short slugs to redirect to posts, support for media enclosures in the post editor, etc.) there are more things that could be added to the tool to make it more accessible for podcasting.

Google Voice

I've been a user of Google Voice since it's original incarnation as Grand Central. My GV number has been my primary one for many years. But I have also been using a separate Voice number as a feedback hotline for my podcast network for several years as well. This has been a great option for us and it would be wonderful to see Google make this tool a bit more adaptable for this use case. In particular, I'd like to see the ability to customize the website call-in widgets and the ability to upload an mp3 file as my default voicemail greeting.

Without a doubt, the fact that Google has entered into the podcasting space is a good sign for podcasters. I'm hopeful that this move is the first in a series of moves that Google makes to show the podcasting community that they're interested in supporting them. There are many ways for them to improve their tools for podcasters and let's hope that the team working on this project is willing to engage with the community to see how we might work together.

What are your thoughts on these issues? Let me know in the comments below.

There has been an exciting development since my post from a couple months ago entitled, Hey Google! Where's The Love For Podcasting? Yesterday, October 27, 2015, Google announced via their Official Android blog that they’ve launched a Podcast Portal for show producers to submit their content for inclusion in the soon-to-be rolled out podcast directory in Google Play Music (GPM). This is very exciting news for podcast creators as this will open up this medium to a potentially massive audience. In my opinion, this is a long overdue move by Google, but I’m very glad to see that they’re making a move into the space and I’m very optimistic about the possibilities.



The submission process is very quick and easy. You simply navigate to the Podcast Portal, paste in your RSS feed URL. Google then looks at the email address in your feed and will send you an ownership verification code to that email address. Either paste that code into the filed in the Podcast Portal or click the link in the email. Next, the RSS feed info will populate into the system and you just click the button to submit your show. You’ll then receive an email letting you know that you’re show has been reviewed.

GPM approval email


Here’s a recap of the 3 step submission process:

  1. Provide your RSS feed
  2. Verify ownership
  3. Submit your show


All three of the shows I’ve submitted thus far have been reviewed and approved within just a few minutes. If your show is rejected for some reason I assume that you will receive notification of that as well. Just remember that the actual user interface has not yet launched. At this point, the Google Play Music team is just trying to build up the catalog of shows so the content is readily available at the time of public launch.

Screenshot of a show listing in the GPM Podcast Portal

For more information and details about this development I’d recommend listening to a special episode of Libsyn’s The Feed podcast in which Rob Walch interviews Googler, Elias Roman. The interview is contained in the first 15 minutes of the episode, but if you use Libsyn as your media host then it’s worth listening to the full episode to learn how Libsyn will be interfacing with GPM.

Again, I’m very excited about this move by Google. It seems that they are finally taking podcasting seriously. Now if they’d just get Feedburner up to date…

Links:

Google's Announcement
GPM Podcast Portal
The Feed Interview