SoundTech, a division of U. S. Music Corp, has bundled a combination of its LightSnake XLR-to-USB adapter cord, a folding mic stand, a performance microphone and some of Sony's free ACID XMC software to make an all-in-one box podcasting solution called the SoundTech Podcasting Kit.
The backbone of the kit is the XLR-to-USB cable. Plug it into a USB port and the computer automatically will recognize the LightSnake as a USB audio card. Plug in a microphone and both ends of the cable will glow green, indicating an active connection. When transferring audio, the cable ends will blink. Depending on the audio editing program, the LightSnake automatically will connect at a 44.1 or 48 kHz sampling rate. Published specs indicate an input impedance of 1 Mohm, and a frequency response (at 48 kHz) of 20 Hz–19.2 kHz, with a signal boost range of 20 dB.
The signal input range for the LightSnake is 0–2.88V. The user will likely need to use the onboard sound card as the playback device (which is selected in the sound settings usually found in the Windows Control Panel or preferences in the audio editing program); audio level setting is done on the mixer input in the computer's basic audio control section.
The cable measures 10 feet, a bit too long for my usual news kit; three feet would be an ideal length, but that's a personal preference. The LightSnake worked with my Dell Latitude D600 and Audio-Technica AT897 microphone with no problems in the field to cut perfectly acceptable voice tracks for my "Race-Talk" program.
The kit comes with Sony's ACID XMC audio editing program and a one year subscription for AcidPlanet's ProZone for hosting podcasts. As it ships, the MSRP is $149.95; the price may be lower at certain retailers. I have audio editing and podcast generating programs (Audacity and Podifier) already installed so I didn't need to install those programs from the enclosed CD.
As it's configured, the kit is a good introduction to the podcasting process.
The included cardioid microphone has 600 ohm impedance and a frequency response of 100 Hz–14 kHz with an on-off switch. Users can substitute any dynamic microphone; the unit does not supply phantom power for condenser microphones. The folding mic stand tripod is made to fit tapered body microphones; the mic stand adapter unscrews and adapters for other microphones can be installed.
One could easily use the kit in and around a broadcast facility. For example, if a voice booth was needed (say at a transmitter site, or during a reconstruction or in an ad hoc emergency situation), an engineer could build out a small soundproof closet or less noisy alcove with a keyboard, monitor and mouse, a dynamic announce mic connected to the LightSnake — all of which could be connected to a desktop computer running ACID XMC (or Audition/Cool Edit, Audacity, Sound Forge) to record and process the voice work. The computer does not have to be in the room or alcove, and that makes it even more quiet, thanks to the 10 foot length of the LightSnake cord. Connect headphones to the computer and the equivalent of a studio has been built for a lot less money. The connections I described could be made by an operator or even an intern, thus freeing engineering talent for maintenance and creative problem-solving.
The SoundTech Podcasting kit has enough versatility to solve problems around any radio station and do so for not a lot of money. Info: SoundTech at (800) 877-6863 or www.soundtech.com
Paul Kaminski is the news director for the Motor Sports Radio Network and a contributor for CBS News, Radio. He writes the "Radio Road Warrior" column for Radio World. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.