Welcome to TechCrunch’s 2018 Holiday Gift Guide! Need more gift ideas? Check out our Gift Guide Hub.
“How do I start a podcast?”
As the producer of the TechCrunch podcast Equity, I get this question all the time. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to get your voice out there, even on a shoestring budget.
As interest sky rockets, the barrier to entry is getting lower, with more microphones, gadgets and services hitting the market all the time. But unless you have an audio engineering degree, it can all be a bit overwhelming.
I’ve spent a lot of time researching, testing and breaking podcasting gear so you don’t have to. We all have that friend who always talks about starting their very own podcast. Want to help them (or you) get the ball rolling this holiday season? Here’s where I’d start.
Never let the gear get in the way of getting your voice heard. First you’ll need a microphone. For better or worse, there are microphones in everything these days — and some of them are actually pretty decent. If all you have is your phone, your phone is all you need. Get that voice memo application out and hit record.
While the built-in microphone will do in a pinch, a few bucks can go a long way to improve the sound quality that you can capture with your phone. Pop on this Rode VideoMic Me ($50 on Amazon) and the audio captured by your phone will be greatly improved (pro tip: you’ll need a dongle if your phone, like many these days, doesn’t have a headphone jack.)
If you want those sexy ASMR sounds, though, you will have to invest in a bigger microphone.
In the mid-level range, the microphone I most often recommend is the Blue Yeti Pro ($250 on Amazon). It’s simple and sounds great, and is the closest thing to a plug-and-play solution that I have found. It supports both USB and XLR, which makes it way more flexible (and makes it play friendly with audio interfaces, which I’ll talk about next.) Blue Mics also sells a cheaper alternative with the non-pro Yeti ($130 on Amazon), the downside being that there’s no XLR support there.
If you are looking for something on the higher end, here at TC we run our podcasts off of four Neumann KMS 105 Handheld Condenser Microphones ($699 on Amazon). They sound amazing — but if you’re just getting started, it’s almost certainly not a big enough improvement from the Yeti to justify the price.
Macs are unable to run two of the same USB mics at the same time. When you need more than one mic at one time, you’ll need an interface that lets you funnel and control multiple mics into one computer. This is one of the places where that aforementioned XLR support on the Yeti Pro comes in handy.
We use the Tascam US-4×4 4-Channel USB Audio Interface ($200 on Amazon). It’s simple and does its job well, handling up to 4 four mics at once. Tascam also sells a 2-mic version ($150 on Amazon) if you don’t need as many mics simultaneously — but at only $50 cheaper, you might want to spend the cash now for the sake of future flexibility.
You can’t always be in the studio, but podcasting on-the-go can be a pain in the ass. Imagine having to lug around a bunch of mics and interfaces and tangled-up wires just to shoot an episode from the road.
One solution to this problem is to use a smaller recording device. Again, here, your phone works. But when I need higher fidelity when recording remotely, I tap one of the portable recorders put out by Zoom.
My go-to is the Zoom H4N ($220 on Amazon). This thing is an audio beast with the ability to capture stereo audio with the built-in microphones on the top in addition to being able to connect two external mics. I see a ton of reporters running around with this recorder.
Smaller and less robust than the H4N, but still able to capture that crisp juicy audio, is the Zoom H1N ($120 on Amazon). It doesn’t have the ability to connect external mics and can’t act as an audio interface like the more capable H4N — but for getting audio on the fly, this small package is what you are looking for.
Remote recording software
In addition to hardware, any fledgling podcaster will need some software to get the job done. A common situation that many podcasters come across is how to record an interview or conversation with multiple people when all of those people are in different locations.
Zencastr is essentially a conference call service that has a bunch of extra features specifically designed for podcasters. It records your audio and the audio of your guest locally. That greatly improves the audio quality of your guest, making sure their side of the conversation doesn’t sound like a Skype call. They have a free option (two guests, 8 hours of recording per month) to get you started, but $20 a month bumps you up to unlimited guests and unlimited recordings.
Another neat feature Zencastr offers is automatic post-production; just select the tracks from your recording session and in a few minutes Zencastr spits out a track that has perfectly leveled sound. Zencastr also allows you to input your intro music, sound effects or anything else you’ve got pre-recorded to cut down on the things you need to add in post-production. Zencastr is the only service out there that I have found that incorporates all these essentials — it’s not perfect, but it’s the best thing I’ve seen out there.
If you didn’t want to spend the money on a subscription service, you can always patchwork it together with Skype, the ECAMM recorder plug-in, Soundflower, and Linein. To explain how to rig all of these together would require a separate post that I hope to never write, but Googling those keywords should get you started.
Unless you’re a one take wonder, you’re going to need to get yourself some editing software. You might get away with posting raw audio at first, but eventually you’ll want to edit out those umms and uhhs and trim out any random background noise.
These editing programs can get complicated and expensive, and it’s easy to find yourself in the editing deep end. My suggestion? Start with the free stuff.
The first podcasts I ever edited were done on GarageBand. It was free and simple enough for me to learn quickly, with the catch that it’s Mac/iOS only. Another option for simple/free is Audacity. Unlike GarageBand, it’s available on Windows/Linux — and it does a lot more than you might expect from the price tag.
Once you reach the point where you find yourself needing to spend money, you have all sorts of options to pick from. Ask five editors what to use and each will give you a different answer. Most will just recommend the program that they learned on. The big three are Audition by Adobe, Pro Tools by Avid, and Logic Pro X by Apple. The first two have free trials, so start there and figure out what you like best.
Where is your podcast going to live?
Before it can make it onto iTunes, your podcast needs to be hosted somewhere. There are many ways to do this from building your pod a website on services like Squarespace or Wix. Another option is to use to use the music / audio sharing service Soundcloud.
My favorite option for hosting is a service called Simplecast. Simplecast makes uploading and distributing your podcast… well, simple. For about 10 bucks a month Simplecast will host as many episodes as you can make, provides you with an RSS feed to submit to iTunes, and provides you with nifty perks like embeddedable players for social media.
But by far one of the best features of Simplecast is their analytics. They provide you with how many downloads each episode gets, where those downloads are coming from, and what service your audience is listening on (whether it be Pocketcast, Apple’s podcasting app, or the embedded player you just tweeted out).
I hope that helps you on your podcasting journey. Now get out there and start making content!
Apple Unleashed: Everything we can expect
Slightly over a month after its September event, Apple is set for an “Unleashed” October event. This second product launch of the fall on October 18 is scheduled a day before Google’s much-anticipated Pixel event. Strategically timed or not, the Apple event is not going to have any competitive iPhones to show. The highlight of the “Unleashed” event will be the new MacBook Pros powered by an upgraded in-house processor.
Once again, it wouldn’t be an in-person event; it will be livestreamed from Apple’s Cupertino headquarters for the world to follow. It will kick off at 10am Pacific Time on Monday, which is unusual, since Apple products are generally released on Tuesdays. To an extent, this is cleverly timed to hog up Google’s limelight.
Apple as we know has already launched iPhone 13 lineup along with the Apple Watch Series 7 and new iPads, it is exciting to understand what is in store for the latest launch event. We are definitely going to see the upgraded ARM-based M1 chipset – likely called M1X – which will find its way into the revamped MacBook Pros, in the Mac Mini, and maybe a larger iMac.
Perhaps, there is no concrete information about the M1X Macs but a recent leak does confirm the possibility of long-rumored AirPods 3 to join the party. The new AirPods were earlier expected to release along with the new iPhones, that hasn’t happened, so we are hopeful the earbuds will make an appearance on Monday.
How to watch the event?
Before we delve deeper into the expected products, let’s run through how you can watch the event live. In case you miss the livestreaming, we will be covering the product launches as and when they happen here on Slashgear.
The “Unleashed” event will be streamed live on Apple’s website or on the Apple TV app. It will also be aired on the Apple channel on YouTube, so you can tune in to your preferred medium at 10am PT on October 18.
The revamped MacBook Pro
The next-generation Apple processor designed specifically for the Mac is expected to get more than just an incremental upgrade. The M1 chip launched last year has proven its worth with powerful features and incredible efficiency. The chipset revolutionized the MacBook Pro in 2020; in 2021, the processor with upgraded performance and efficiency will power the notably distinct MacBook Pro beyond ordinary expectations.
When Apple introduced the M1 chip, it informed that the transition from Intel to Apple’s own silicon will take about “two years” to complete. Into the second year now, we expect the journey is almost complete and the potent new chipset is ready. It can replace the Intel processing in the larger-screen MacBook Pro and take the performance of the smaller Pro to an exciting new high.
Actually, two MacBook Pro variants are launching this year. The 13.3-inch model from the previous year goes out and a resized 14-inch MacBook Pro will debut, which is likely to arrive alongside a 16-inch model. Since both the variants will run on the same graphics-enhancing M1X processor, Apple may deliver two separate options of its SoC for either MacBook. The difference may be in the GPU and storage variants.
Besides the incredible processing, the MacBook Pro is for the first time in five years allegedly receiving a redesign in line with the trusted form factor of the iPhone 13. The flat-edge design that launched with the iPhone 12, will add a nice appeal to the new MacBook Pro that will arrive without the Touch Bar but a 1080p webcam.
The laptop is also likely to arrive with mini-LED panel boasting 120Hz refresh rate. There is a chance it will feature a thinner bezel and include slots for SD card and HDMI. The MagSafe charging is allegedly making a comeback to the Apple MacBook Pro.
The probable launch of AirPods 3 is a rumor that doesn’t seem to settle. Whenever we discuss the pre-launch expectation of an Apple event the next-generation AirPods invariably pop up in discussion. The much-anticipated earbuds might launch this time after failing us in September when they should have logically arrived with the iPhones.
The redesigned, entry-level AirPods 3 are likely to launch with a shorter stem and a wireless charging case, similar to the AirPods Pro. There have been leaks suggesting them with silicone ear tips. Despite how close they get to the AirPods Pro, the third-gen AirPods will be an affordable alternative without ANC.
The final thoughts
In the lead-up to the second fall event, there have been half-baked stories about a few other probabilities. Notable Apple analyst Mark Gurman thinks a high-end Mac Mini powered by the improved in-house chip is on the cards. Announcement of a release date for the company’s macOS Monterey is also likely at the event. The desktop operating system was previewed at the WWDC 2021, albeit a small update, it will still be exciting to know a possible date for its release.
This is more or less what we can expect. Apple however has a knack for pulling out the unexpected, so we’ll only know what’s what on Monday when Apple goes Unleashed. There could be some surprises but 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pros powered by M1X SoC is going to be the biggest highlight.
Tinder’s latest feature helps users find dates for in-person weddings
If taking a total stranger as your plus one to a wedding doesn’t sound like a bad idea to you, Tinder is back with a new feature that’ll make the entire process easier. The company has announced a feature called Plus One that, as you’d expect, lets users alert others that they’re looking for a date to take to a wedding.
Tinder announced its new Plus One feature on Thursday, stating that it has teamed up with WeddingWire to help users find someone to take as a date to a wedding. The feature is available in the app’s Explore section, ensuring users are able to make their particular needs known to others who may want to tag along.
The team-up with WeddingWire, meanwhile, is to launch a ‘Wedding Guest Grant’ giveaway that’s now live. With this, the first 100 people to join the Plus One section in Explore will get $460 toward the cost of a wedding — the average amount WeddingWire says people spend to show up as guests.
Many in the industry are bracing for an anticipated onslaught in weddings later this year and through 2022. The reason is — you guessed it — because of the wedding postponements that occurred in 2020 and most of 2021 due to the pandemic.
The combination of readily available vaccines in many places, as well as cheap rapid COVID-19 tests and loosened travel restrictions, have made in-person weddings a safer option again. According to Tinder, it has seen the number of users adding “plus one” to their profiles increase 45-percent since the start of 2021.
Steam Blockchain games ban: Good news for NFT and crypto alike
An update to Valve’s rules for games on Steam effectively bans all Blockchain games that use cryptocurrencies or NFTs. This is GOOD news if you’re a cryptocurrency or NFT holder, at the moment, as it represents another public acknowledgement of the real-world value of cryptocurrencies and NFTs alike.
It’s not clear yet if this means that any sort of game using ANY sort of blockchain tech will be removed – but it DOES stop all blockchain-based digital tokens from playing a part in games on Steam. Information was shared by the folks behind the game Age of Rust, a game that’s built with blockchain tech that allows the exchange of NFT in accordance with puzzle solving gameplay.
SEE TOO: What is NFT? (for the crypto-newb)
If we’re looking at the situation from the perspective of the developers of a game like Age of Rust, this is certainly a setback. It might just be a temporary setback, but it IS a setback. These developers will need to find a new way to distribute their games – which might mean they need to work with less well-known game hosting platforms.
The developers of Age of Rust suggested that Valve told them that “Steam’s point of view is that items have value and they don’t allow items that can have real-world value on their platform.” So if you were wondering if a company as big as Valve considered those bits of code you were earning in your games to have any value outside of the games you’ve been playing… there’s your answer.
Now it’ll be interesting to see the point at which Valve must acknowledge the difference between in-game cryptocurrency and NFT exchange and in-game purchases, and whether there’ll be any further distinction between the two in future updates to Steam’s set of rules for hosted games. Given Steam’s use of tradeable achievement cards, tokens, and the like, it would not be shocking to find Valve incorporating non-fungible tokens (NFTs) into their platform at a higher level in the near future.
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