six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

This week's sponsor

Sanebox - Take back your email sanity and organize your inbox. Get a free 14-day trial and $25 off.

By Jason Snell

Stream your podcast audio live from your iOS device

[This is probably the first in a series of posts about nerdy podcast things. Apologies to everyone who’s not a podcaster. Are there people left who aren’t yet hosting their own podcasts? Your time will come…]

Accidental Tech Podcast
The ATP hosts and, on the table, their live-streaming setup. The iPad at the end of the table is streaming the show live.

At WWDC this year, I hosted a bunch of podcasters in IDG’s podcast studio. (You can drive up to Mill Valley and use my garage next year, folks.) During the recording of Accidental Tech Podcast, I noticed something interesting: Marco Arment was streaming his show live from his iPad.

As someone who streams his own podcasts live, I was intrigued by Marco’s setup. And while Marco uses this particular setup when he’s on the road (he has a mixing board when he’s at home), for the past few months I’ve been using the same setup to stream The Incomparable. From an iPad mini. (I usually use Nicecast from Rogue Amoeba, but various aspects of my Mac’s audio system began behaving strangely when I started using the Yosemite betas.)

In fact, one of the great advantages to this approach is that you don’t have to deal with the Mac’s finicky sound system, which should be much better than it is. (I’d like to be able to, for example, route a couple of USB microphones and the audio from a couple of Mac apps into a virtual input that gets sent out over Skype. There was some great software that used to do this, but most of it died when Lion was released, believe it or not.) Some new software is slowly starting to appear that fills in the gaps, but the beauty of using an iOS device to stream audio is that your Mac doesn’t have to worry about any of that—all it has to do is play sound, which it’s doing already.

The centerpiece of what I’ve taken to calling the Marco Method is the Behringer UCA202, a $30 USB audio interface. Combine that with Apple’s Lightning to USB Camera Adapter, plug into your iOS device, and you’ve got the start of something. (Yes, iOS devices supply enough power to the UCA202 to keep it running, which is not the case with many USB-based audio interfaces.)

Next up is an RCA-to-minijack cable. The RCA inputs plug into the UCA202, and the minjack goes where I would normally plug my headphones—when I’m podcasting, that’s my Blue Yeti USB microphone. The UCA202 has its own headphone jack and volume plug, so I plug my headphones in there and can ride the volume wheel to get the right volume for my ears, separate from the right volume for the live stream.

iCast Pro
Streaming live on an iPad via iCast Pro.

That’s the hardware side. On the software side, Marco discovered a $5 app by Anthony Myatt called iCast Pro. It’s not much to look at, and it’s an iPhone app so it runs in blown-up mode on an iPad, but it connects directly to an Icecast server, which is what both of us use to stream live. The Icecast server then relays the audio stream to anyone who wants to tune in.

This approach doesn’t provide any way to charge the battery of the iOS device you’re using to stream, but my fully charged iPad mini could probably stream for five hours before running out of juice. I haven’t yet had the chance to test out this setup in the field, but it really allows you to stream live from just about anywhere. Thanks for the tip, Marco.

[If you appreciate articles like this one, help us continue doing Six Colors (and get some fun benefits) by becoming a Six Colors subscriber.]

[Don't miss all our podcasting articles.]