How to Produce a Live Audio Podcast


Picture of condenser podcasting microphone, Samson C01

Producing a live web-radio show in podcast form has never been more accessible.  It can still be daunting to figure out how to get up and running.  This guide will show you how to get up and running with your podcast using Windows.  No offense to Mac folks, but this is what I use for thEndUsr podcast and what I have experience with. I use a program called Virtual Audio Cables to route audio.  You can converse over Skype and live stream it to the world.  Easily said right?

Here is the software you will need to get.  Since everything except for Virtual Audio Cables is modular, you can swap out any of these programs with any counterpart that does the same thing.  However, I will provide screenshots for these programs:

Despite the setup being entirely virtual, you can think of this as a series of inputs and outputs that are connected via the virtual audio cables.  You will need to set up 3 virtual audio cables.  We will only use 2, but a 3rd may come in handy.  I will refer to these as VAC’s from now on.

Virtual Audio Cables Setup

First we need to set up the VAC’s.

  • Open the Start Menu and navigate to >All Programs>Virtual Audio Cable>Control Panel
  • Open up the VAC Control Panel as an Admin by right clicking on “Control Panel” and clicking “Run as Administrator”
  • In the Control Panel set “Cables” in the upper left to 3 and click “Set”

VAC Setup

  • Close the Control Panel by clicking “Exit”

You will now notice that there are new audio devices in the Recording and Playback tab of the sound panel (right click on the speaker icon in the tray to get the Recording devices and the Playback devices).

Sound Control Panel
Next you will have to set your audio cables to route the sound around for you.  To do so you open what VAC calls an “Audio Repeater.”  It is also found in the start menu.  Open the MME type, not the KS type.  As you can see below, you get an input and an output per Audio Repeater.  You can open as many of these as you like.
VAC Audio Repeater
Let’s take a break from VAC for a second and set up our Skype, Audacity and Ustream.

Skype Setup

Here I am using Skype 5.1.  It may look a little different with future updates.

  • Open the Skype options by clicking Tools>Options, then click “Audio Settings” on the left
  • Set the input Microphone as your microphone – in my case, it is my Mbox
  • Set the output or Speakers as your second VAC “Line 2”
  • Uncheck “Automatically adjust speaker settings”

Skype Options

  • Click “Save” and Skype is all set!

Audacity Setup

Here I am using Audacity 1.3 Beta.  It may look a little different with future updates.

  • Open the Audacity preferences by clicking Edit>Preferences
  • Under the “Devices” tab, set playback “Device” to your speakers or headphones
  • Under “recording,” set the Device to Line 1 and Channels to 1 (Mono)

Audacity Options

  • Click “Ok” to save and Audacity is set to record!

Putting it Together

We now have Skype set to hear the microphone and output to VAC “Line 2,” and Audacity to record on VAC “Line 1” and output to your speakers or headphones for editing later.  Here is where we use VAC to make them talk to each other.  Open 3 audio repeaters as mentioned earlier.

  • Set one VAC to route in mono from your mic to Line 1
  • Set one VAC to route in stereo from Line 2 to Line 1
  • Set one VAC to route in stereo from Line 2  to your speakers or headphones
  • Click “Start” on all of the repeaters
  • Feel free to minimize all of them

All 3 VACs side by side
The screenshot shows the settings for all of the repeaters.  This may seem like voodoo so let me explain.  Your mic (in my case it is an mbox) gets piped into Line 1.  Line 2 is the Skype in stereo which is also piped into Line 1.  This makes a mix of me and my co-hosts on Skype.  Line 2, which is Skype, gets piped into my speakers or headphones so I can hear my co-hosts.  This is the mix minus you have been looking for.  One last thing to note is that my mic is mono and Skype is stereo.  Be careful to make sure the VAC that Skype goes into is stereo.  All the audio routing is done here.

  • Place a Skype call
  • Hit record in Audacity when you want to start recording

Now we have your mic and Skype piped into Line 1.  Remember we set Audacity to record on Line 1, so effectively we are recording the conversation.  Here is a higher-level diagram of how the routing works.
Diagram of VAC flow
One more tip about the Audio Repeaters: they have a command line switch so it is easy to write a simple script to launch them all automatically. For my setup, the script looks like this:

start C:”Program Files””Virtual Audio Cable”audiorepeater.exe /ChanCfg:”mono” /Input:”Digidesign Mbox2 Analog 1/2 (3-” /Output:”Line 1 (Virtual Audio Cable)” /AutoStart

start C:”Program Files””Virtual Audio Cable”audiorepeater.exe /ChanCfg:”stereo” /Input:”Line 2 (Virtual Audio Cable)” /Output:”Line 1 (Virtual Audio Cable)” /AutoStart

start C:”Program Files””Virtual Audio Cable”audiorepeater.exe /ChanCfg:”stereo” /Input:”Line 2 (Virtual Audio Cable)” /Output:”Speakers (High Definition Audio” /AutoStart

Copy and paste that into notepad and replace the input and output for each cable. To get the exact name of the input and output, you will need to copy down exactly what it says in the “Wave in” and “Wave out” section from the audio repeater as seen above. For the first VAC in my example that was “Digidesign Mbox2 Analog 1/2(3-” which is my microphone as we discussed earlier, and as the diagram illustrates. Save that text file as a cmd file. Something like “podcast.cmd” would work good weight loss supplements. Taking the first command (of three), that starts a VAC in mono with the right input and output and autostarts it when you double-click on the script’s icon.  Cool, huh? Don’t worry, if the script is too complicated you can do it manually every time and it will still work. The script sure does save a lot of time, though.

Ustream Setup

We are almost there.  We can now start the live stream.  I will use Ustream as the example, but any live streaming service like Justin.tv, Mixlr or Livestream will work as long as you set the input to VAC 1.  After you have set up the Skype routing and everything is set you are ready for the live stream to begin.

UStream Control Panel

  • Set “Audio Source” to “Line 1” to broadcast both sides of the Skype conversation
  • Click “Start Broadcast” and “Start Record”
  • The final and hardest step is to actually podcast!  Have fun!

You can broadcast your local webcam video if you would like.  If do not want any video, untick the “Video Broadcast” box.  The “Start Record” button can act as a backup recording in case Audacity crashes.  If Audacity crashes you can download and convert an FLV file from Ustream and post it to your podcast feed as if nothing happened.  I will post an additional post on how to record a full video podcast using the same tools plus one extra tool.  I can only hope that this guide has helped someone unlock the technical side of podcasting to produce some great content.  Podcast away!  See you on the net-waves.


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23 Comments

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  1. Cal MacDonald August 21, 2013

    Just tried and the sound quality is horrible, badly distorted and garble through skype.


  2. This posting is a Godsend! Thanks! Just waiting for my friend to phone me on skype and test it out!

    Thanks!

    Phil


  3. @James I’ve never used it with a USB hub. That said I have used it with USB mics and it works in the same way. The routing would be a bit more complicated, but I see no reason it would not work as long as the computer is beefy enough. I’d get a hub and try it with one mic first and then see if you can scale up to 5 or 6. I use the Audio Technica ATR 2100 for my podcast (thEndUsr, google to hear the mic in action) and it sounds awesome and is USB or XLR in the same package! Hope that helps


  4. I record a podcast live at a local restaurant, and would love to use USB headsets but have (to this point) thought the only way to do multiple mics on-site is an XLR set up through a soundboard.

    It looks like using VAC, I could now pull that off. The only question I have is given my laptop only has three USB ports and we sometimes have 4, maybe even 5 guests, would using a USB hub still work? I read somewhere that each headset needs its own dedicated USB port but I wasn’t sure if that was the case or not.

    Have you tried using multiple headsets through a USB hub and had any success? Thanks in advance, and great work on the post.


  5. No probs I’ve sorted it now, once I saved it as a .cmd file everything worked fine (after a couple more tweaks)

    it was a syntax issue as mentioned above and quite simply using the same commands in a .bat file was causing the issue

    i just need to get a comprehensive list of commands that can be used in .cmd files for future projects

    Thanks for getting back to me so quickly though 🙂


  6. @Terry There are differences but they are pretty obscure and I doubt you’d be running into them. Don’t worry about it. What is the error? Maybe I’ve run into it.


  7. is there a difference in syntax between .cmd scripting and .bat?

    i use batch files and made what i thought were the necessary changes to wave in and wave out devices but am getting syntax errors on the /chancfg line


  8. Great to hear! The output vac for the mic is mono because it is a single mono microphone, so if you set it to stereo you will only hear out of one ear. Podcast on!


  9. Debbie June 26, 2012

    I read this, saved it, and finally implemented it. Outstanding! Thank you.

    Here’s my silly question: Why, exactly, in your example, is the output/vac of your mic in ‘mono’ and not ‘stereo’?


  10. Great post. Finally someone just explaining the routing in plain English. I am an IT person, so after using your info to get started with this, I have been able to tinker and get all kinds of set ups working. Thanks for helping me to get started!


  11. There is no real easy way to alternate because you would either have to mute the music and unmute the voice on the fly. Or of course just stop the right vac to effectively mute those. If you just wanted a layer of music like intro music you’d just set up one more VAC and set the output of winamp to that vac and the output of the vac to the ustream/audacity (Line 1 if you follow the above convention).


  12. Thanks a lot for this, it’s a really great tutorial. Just a quick question. I want to stream alternating between music and voice. How can I set up Winamp or iTunes to work with everything else?


  13. Make sure the “Listen to this device” is unchecked as described 3 comments up as well. If not that, then something else is going on. You should not be getting feedback like that. Although routing the Audacity output elsewhere also works


  14. Anonymous February 3, 2012

    Actually, the software playthrough was turned off in my case.


  15. I’m guessing you had “Software playthrough” turned on in the Audacity preferences. Either do exactly what you did and send the output elsewhere or turn off software playthrough.


  16. Anonymous January 31, 2012

    I was getting bad feedback, so my solution was to send the output on Audacity to VAC 5, and not use it for anything. No feedback. I just need to hear the Skype output,


  17. Don: Typically the whole point is to have a mix minus AKA everyone but yourself is in your headphones. That is how radio guys do it. There is always a little bit of latency but I bet a VAC wouldn’t help. Even without the VAC it would be slightly delayed. That said Right click on the speaker icon in the tray>Click Recording devices>right click on your mic and click properties> goto the listen tab> Check “Listen to this device” and click Apply. Be very careful about feedback here. If your heaphones are not plugged in and the sound comes out of your speakers you will get a nasty feedback loop since the mic is listening to the speakers which is playing the mic which is listening to the speakers…. It can get loud 🙂 Anyway try that and see if there is an acceptable latency.


  18. Hey Chris, I have this setup together and would like to figure out how to hear my own voice in my headphones as well. Thoughts? If I assign Line 1 to speakers I get my voice, but with notable latency. Any idea how to hear my voice in real time? Thx, DM


  19. Yeah the scripts took some tweaking to get the names right, but once I got it they worked great! Thanks again.


  20. Glad to hear it Rene. Did you end up making the script?


  21. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Thank you for posting this. I’m all setup and works great! Thanks again.


  22. Thanks! This is how I produce my podcast so I figured I would put it out there for the community. Spread the word. Barnesian does not get much traffic 🙂


  23. I’m surprised there aren’t any comments on this post. This is a great post and I have setup VAC successfully using it. Thanks so much for all the detailed info, it helped a bunch!