Pandemic podcasting: social, and now mainstream, media have been buzzing with podcast talk over the last two years. True crime, lifestyle, specialty, AT Iso Booth — you name it, there’s a podcast for it. There are now vast networks pumping out the biggest podcasts, with Spotify’s coffers behind Gimlet and decades of radio behind NPR.
Despite this, every man and (sometimes literally) his dog seems to have a podcast, and furthermore, anyone thinks they could start one. The monologuing of two mates is often met with a sarcastic “Oi, you two should start a podcast.” And alas, often they do. Somehow, audio is dismissed as something anyone can do. People wouldn’t dare shoot a proper video without gear. But making a ‘proper’ podcast? Easy. Wrong.
It is not that easy. Podcasts have to be easy on the ear to maintain people’s attention. A layman is less likely to say “Gosh, the noise floor on the guest mic is 2dB too high for me!” and more “Yeh Nah, probably won’t listen to that again,” at least in part because the sonics were intrusive on their listening experience. Like an effective FOH engineer, the audio is doing its job if people don’t notice it’s there.
The Tascam Mixcast 4 sets out to fill this brief. Joining a wide range of specialty podcasting products on the audio market, the Mixcast is laser-focused on delivering crisp dialogue and effective live production of podcasts and live streams.
CAST THE FIRST STONE
The Mixcast 4 instantly feels ‘pro’ straight out of the box. Its all-steel construction has a reassuring weight to it. All the buttons take some effort to press, so you won’t hit the fart sound effect by accident. (Was that you, Bryan?) Faders have little play and provide a pleasing level of resistance. The corresponding mic inputs and headphone outputs are labeled with matching LEDs, while the touchscreen is bright, punchy, and responsive. Every function is clear at a glance. Touches such as a threaded power connector, covered SD card slot and combo jacks for mics and line sources, show that considerable thought has gone into making this product dependable, tough and versatile.
My initial reaction when delving into functions on the Mixcast 4 was “It just works!”. I thought I was clever testing it with a handheld Shure PG58, but the box didn’t bat an eye. I was asked if I needed phantom power upon connection, and the mic instantly sounded great. When setting up microphone channels, there was a selection of preset and custom options for voice. The Tone (EQ) settings consist of Deep, Mid, and Bright, which, upon my listening, will compensate for the quirks of most microphones. ‘Deep’ was a bit much for me, and ‘Mid’ offered the clarity I was looking for. The lack of corresponding graphics left me a bit confused in the manual EQ, but suffice to say, a high and low shelf is probably enough for most applications, with 12dB of boost and cut. In comparison, the manual compression controls are more comprehensive. Those less adventurous will stick to the ‘Soft’ and ‘Hard’ compression presets, the former being subtle and dealing mostly with peaks.
The De-Esser and Noise Suppressor are on by default and do a solid job of cutting sibilance, sub-bass knocks handling noise and background noise. One channel can also be chosen to have effects applied, either reverb or a voice changer, good for comedy or more serious occasions like true crime. These are also accessible upon pressing a designated pad.
HOST WITH THE MOST