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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Recording a podcast locally on iOS without a Mac

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

One of my recent tech quests has been to find a way to record and edit podcasts when traveling with an iOS device and no Mac. The best approach I’ve found so far—and I’ve used it a few times—is to talk on Skype on an iPhone with a pair of earbuds while simultaneously recording myself on a good microphone on an iPad.

Look, I didn’t say it was a good approach. Just that it was the best one I’d found so far. Though I never travel without my iPhone and iPad, the two-device approach to recording is inelegant to say the least. In addition, the person I’m talking to on Skype hears me through a lousy microphone, and I can’t hear my own voice being returned to my ears. (That’s important, because if you can hear your own voice you can tell when you’re not talking into the microphone, and it makes your own impression of your voice sound less like you’re talking with your ears full of water.)

In testing the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB for my story about the sub-$100 podcast studio, I realized that I had a better option for iOS-only recording. It’s still clunky, but the person on the other end of the Skype call can hear me clearly, and I can hear my own voice in my ears.

Here’s the trick: The ATR2100-USB is a rarity, a microphone that offers both a USB port, for direct connection to a digital device, and an XLR port, for an analog connection to a mixing board or other audio interface. And you can use both connections simultaneously.

So I attach the ATR2100-USB to my iPad or iPhone with Apple’s Lighting-USB Adapter — the old model will work, my iPhone 7 was able to power the microphone itself, though it’s possible that some models might require a power assist from the newer Lightning-USB Camera Adapter. Once the microphone is attached to the iOS device, it becomes the audio input and output for all apps, including Skype.

I plug my headphones into the headphone jack on the microphone, so I’m getting zero-latency feedback from my own voice as well as hearing the audio from Skype, channeled back from my iOS device.

Then I attach an XLR cable to the microphone and to a portable audio recorder. I use the Zoom H6, but you might have the Tascam DR-40 or the Zoom H4N.

Once that’s hooked up, all I need to do is record my microphone audio on the recorder while conducting my podcast via Skype. In the end, I’ve had a clear conversation and been able to hear my own voice, and my recorder has a pristine copy of my microphone audio.

There’s one final step—transferring the audio file from my recorder back to the iOS device—which requires more hardware. And this setup still doesn’t let me walk away with a recording of the other side of the Skype conversation, which is useful as an insurance policy in case someone else’s recording fails.

If you don’t already have an ATR2100-USB and a portable recorder with XLR plugs, I don’t think I can recommend that you spend money on this option. But if you happen to have the component parts, like I do, you have a single-iOS-device podcast studio ready to go.

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