You want to talk with your super-interesting interviewee using two mics on one laptop. Is it doable? Absolutely! Here’s how:
- Plug USB mics directly into two USB ports (the less good option).
- Plug 2 XLR mics into a USB audio interface (the better option) or audio mixer (the future-proof option).
- Install Audacity as your DAW (plus VoiceMeeter for option 1).
That’s it. Call in your interviewee!
And while they’re clearing their throat, we’ll deal with those acronyms: USB, XLR and DAW.
This guide covers local recording, if you are looking for a guide on how to record online checkout our resource: How to Record A Podcast from Multiple Locations.
What’s All This About XLR? My Mics Are USB!
A USB mic is an excellent investment if you’re doing your podcast by yourself or recording one person at a time. As we mentioned in a previous post, it’s far better than your laptop microphone!
However, plugging two USB mics into your laptop can give you problems. The biggest will be that you and your interviewee will possibly be picked up on both mics, causing interference (but see VoiceMeeter below).
The fact is that not all mics are created equal. Your USB mic can’t connect to a mixer or interface to produce two distinct tracks for editing separately. And an XLR mic can’t connect directly to your computer. Not least because the cable connector is round with three prongs!
So if you want to record your podcast with two voices – and be able to adjust them independently in a mixer or interface – you need to invest in two XLR mics.
To offset the cost, however, you get distinct advantages from an interface or mixer plus XLR mics:
- excellent audio quality from both mics,
- far less interference from external noise or the mics themselves,
- the ability to adjust mic settings to suit both users, and
- a range of XLR options to suit your intended podcasting use.
Audio Mixer Or Audio Interface: Are They the Same?
Not exactly – although you can record your podcast using either (with those 2 XLR mics plugged in!). Both will serve you well, but let’s look at the differences.
An audio interface maintains the quality of your voice inputs right through to the actual recording. You’ll sound professional. And an interface with just two inputs is fine unless you’re intending to do group interviews at some point.
An audio mixer, however, offers lots of choices in advance about how the sound reaches your computer’s software. In other words, exactly how your voice and your interviewee’s voice get (you’ve guessed it!) mixed. If you’re going to move into group inputs, live music, and other extras, this is your future-proofed option.
Of course, having a trial run to adjust things first will save you time when post processing. But remember: we’ve all ogled at mixer setups with zillions of sliders and dials and digital readouts. It’s like a siren call promising to make us feel even more professional! You don’t necessarily need it.
With quality XLR mics, your home system will be fine with a simple audio interface and post-editing.
That editing happens in the software. So let’s consider the final acronym: DAW.
What’s a DAW and Why Do I Need it?
The digital audio workstation (DAW) is where you do software-based editing for your two-mic podcast.
There are many free or paid DAWs to choose from including:
- Adobe Audition,
- Garageband (Mac only),
- Audacity (cross-platform),
- Cakewalk (Windows)
- iMovie (Mac only).
They key thing about recording from two XLR mics via an audio interface is that the DAW will give you two recorded tracks. Perfect. You can now make adjustments to both tracks separately. Maybe you accidentally spoke over your interviewee? Or they refused to stop talking? Your DAW saves the day! Here’s how to do it in Audacity or iMovie.
So what about that “less good” option: two USB mics plugged into one laptop?
We’re assuming you particularly need to use some USB microphones you already have. In this case, we suggest you install a second app called VoiceMeeter in addition to Audacity.
VoiceMeeter is a Windows-only virtual mixer that will let you assign your USB mics to two different channels. This does help avoid the problem of possible interference. But both recordings will still end up on the same track in your DAW – and that makes post-production editing harder.
It’s simply “less good” because it steals your flexibility. So it’s your call, according to your budget.
What Else Should I Consider When Recording With Two Mics?
Something we haven’t considered yet is how are you going to plug in two headphones so both speakers can listen to the recording as they go along.
To do this, simply get a headphone splitter and connect it to your mixer or computer. This will allow both speakers to be able to hear themselves and the other host as they will be on the final version.
That’s it For Recording a Podcast With Two Mics!
Go ahead and ask your interviewee the first question, because you’re now up to speed. You know that:
- Two USB mics are not the best choice.
- It’s better to use XLR mics plus audio mixers or interfaces.
- Post-processing in a DAW is super easy with two separate tracks.
How can you not succeed?