Son of Frankenskype – Return of the All iOS VoIP Podcast Rig

blog, Gear, How To's.

It’s Baaaaaack.

…And Badder Than Ever!

We present Son of Frankenskype:

Many bossjock users are looking to find ways to incorporate remote guests into their mobile recordings. We covered one possible solution before in our original FrankenSkype article based around the iRig MIX.

Thanks to the $79 ART Dual Pre, a 9-volt powered iOS compatible audio interface we have a new generation of mobile production possibilities. This is a killer solution for those people looking to incorporate Skype, FaceTime, Hangouts, or any other VoIP App available as an iOS App.

This setup still requires having two iOS devices, but thanks to the diminutive size of the Dual Pre things and it’s ability to mix two signals and connect to the Apple USB Camera Adapter over USB this really works as a slick remote rig. You just want to find a nice table to set everything on.

Here’s the recipe:

1 iPad
1 iPhone
1 ART USB Dual Pre
1 Dynamic Microphone like the Podcaster’s favorite ATR2100
1 USB Cable (Comes With ART USB Dual Pre)
1 XLR Cable (comes with ATR2100)
1 1/8 Inch Stereo Mini to RCA Y-cable
1 Mono RCA To Mono 1/4 Inch TS Adaptor
1 Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter (or 30-pin Camera Connector Kit for older devices)
1 Pair of Nice Cans (over the ear headphones with no built in microphone)

First things first, a warning. The ART USB Dual Pre has an extremely tight space for the 9-volt battery. We believe it is necessary to tape a string or wire around the butt of the 9 volt so that you can remove the 9 volt at a later date. Packaging tape works well just make sure you have a strong enough piece of string, wire or ribbon to act as a handle.

IMG_6497

Start by plugging your ATR2100 or other dynamic microphone into the first channel of the USB Dual Pre with an XLR cable. You are likely going to want to set your gain knob near the top between 40 and the full 48 decibels gain. The full 48 decibel setting makes things nice and loud but causes some increase in preamp noise. If you set it near 40 you probably will need to boost the mic audio in bossjock studio. I opted for this latter setting.

Next plug the the 1/8 side of the 1/8 Inch Stereo Mini to RCA Y-cable into the iPhone running FaceTime, Skype or other VoIP App. Now take the left RCA cable and connect it to the RCA To Mono 1/4 Inch TS Adaptor. This converts the RCA plug to a 1/4 inch plug that is compatible with the input on the ART Dual Pre. Connect the 1/4 plug into the center of the ART’s second channel on the right front of the device. I initially set the gain to it’s lowest 0 decibel setting.

IMG_4843

Note: The 1/8 cable is a Tip Ring Sleeve cable, so it doesn’t override the internal microphone of the iPhone. Your guest actually here’s you through the iPhone’s mic so no Mix Minus setup is needed.

IMG_6494

The ART USB Dual Pre needs to be connected to the iPad which will act as the master recording device. We use bossjock studio, but any app that records audio should work. Use the USB cable that came with the ART to connect to the Apple USB Camera Adapter connected to the iPad.
Note: If you are confused about which adapter to get for your iPad there is more info in last year’s iOS Mic Roundup.

We’re close to being in business here. There are a couple things that you need to do to be successful.

Turn on the 9-volt power to the USB Dual Pre by engaging the “Power” button on the rear of the device. You should not engage the “Phantom” button. Next you want to set the iPhone’s volume settings to about 50-60% using the rocker switch on the side of the device. You may want to do this first by starting a test FaceTime call to get the settings in the right neighborhood.

Notice we haven’t connected any headphones yet. The headphone output on the ART Dual Pre is very weak. For this reason we will actually want to monitor the recording through the built-in jack of the iPad. First fire up bossjock studio or whatever recording program you are using. Now plug your headphones into the headphone jack of the iPad. This will set the audio monitoring to the iPad’s headphone output but the audio input will still be coming from the ART USB Dual Pre.

Now assuming that the switch on the microphone (if it has one) is turned on, you should be good to go. Lock on the mic trigger of bossjock studio to make sure that audio from your setup is registering on your VU meters and the monitor signal is coming through your headphones. If your FaceTime or Skype Partner is not yet available you can play some phone Voicemails or Music to make sure audio is coming through into your mix. Hopefully the iPhone audio is lower than the volume of your voice, you can now use the gain knob controlling iPhone audio on the right front of the ART to try to match these volumes.

But wait a minute… The audio is split in your headphones. Your voice is in your left ear, and the iPhone audio is in your right ear. One last trick to do. Head to the settings tab in bossjock studio on the iPad. You should now see a button that reads “Stereo” that wasn’t there before. This is a toggle button that changes how stereo input sources are handled. You want to tap the button once so it says “Dual Mono”. This means it will mix both audio sources straight up the middle in your headphones.

Now you’re partying with the Son of Frankenskype… It’s a scary good time.

If you are interested in purchasing gear to build your own Son of Frankenskype please consider going through our affiliate program by clicking on the links below:

The very popular Audio-Technica ATR2100 has two brothers; the Audio-Technica AT2005USB and the Samson Q2U which all sound pretty much the same. You can choose whichever mic is the least expensive when purchasing. These prices seem to change all the time.

12 Responses to “Son of Frankenskype – Return of the All iOS VoIP Podcast Rig”

  1. Ray Ortega

    Awesome stuff Dave, thanks for sharing. A couple thoughts.

    First off let me say this rocks just the way it is. No complaints, just some things that would make it even better which you’ve probably already thought about and or addressed and I missed it.

    The audio on the ART USB Dual Pre sounds really clean and I know the ATR takes a decent amount of gain to get good levels. That’s great news. I do hear a little whine that is typical of iPhone interference. You may want to try moving the phone to different positions away from the ART and cables to see if the whine/buzz goes away.

    If audio is coming in natively to your headphones, one on the left and one right, is Bossjock getting the same separation in the recording? This option would be awesome for post processing since we could effectively have two channels of audio.

    As you eluded to in the demo it would be great to be able to send a mix-minus back to the caller but of course not required.

    Any idea how much life you’re getting from the 9 volt? Awesome that you can do a setup like this completely on battery assuming life is good.

    Thanks again Dave, this is a great little, mobile setup.

    Reply
    • admin

      Thanks Ray Ortega I hoped you’d like that.

      The ART does seem to have some mild noise issues especially above 40db. There’s a place at the end of the dial where the noise seems to jump, and it sounds more like digital artifacts rather than a hissy noise floor. And generally the output to USB audio seems lower than what the you would get with plugging the ATR’s USB directly into your iOS device.

      So I opted to keep the gain a little lower and use bossjock to boost the signal to acceptable levels.

      I did mess around a little with the placement of the phone but opted for the most photogenic position. It definitely could be better positioned, and I admittedly didn’t take too much time with it. The other thing to take into account is that Ed on the other end isn’t wearing headphones resulting in an occasional echo. Also, he could theoretically use a better mic on his end too. That said, I think users should expect things to be a bit more noisy with this device overall.

      But wow for $79 it’s a great swiss army knife to have. Use it to capture Skype, use it for a two mic rig, or as an interface to capture other audio.

      Haven’t done the 9 volt stress test yet. I know the 9 volt powered iRig PRE claims 30 hours for non phantom powered mics. That’s for one preamp and no A/D.

      It’s interesting because the PreAmp is powered by the 9 but supposedly the A/D is still being powered by the USB connection. It also can run without the 9 volt using just USB bus juice. It’s an enigma whats going on with this thing :)

      With regards to the two channels, in bossjock the user has the ability to use it in dual mono like we did here, or they can opt for the stereo mix which does in fact have the two sources panned hard and separated into the left and right channels. In that circumstance they can’t play any carts as that would spoil the isolation.

      Trying to think about how to create a true mix minus in this circumstance. That would probably require more hardware. But I think the important part is supported here, that the person on the other line can here the user well via the built in phone mic. Although this would be less effective in a noisy environment like a conference or coffee shop.

      I think you need to get your hands on one of these puppies soon ;)

      Reply
  2. Guy

    This is pretty much what I did at Macworld a few weeks ago. I had a sponsor this year and they were supposed to be at the show but bailed at the last minute. Since I’ve been iOS only on the road, I had to come up with a way to record a Skype call for the interviews I was doing with them. I already had the ART PRE since I was going to use 2 ATR2100′s for podcasting with others, so rigged up like you show here. Didn’t use BossJock (mostly because of our podcast wrapped around interviews and couldn’t make others wait while I dropped them in. I do have BossJock and think it rocks). I used Auria LE which is a 24-track DAW. Kinda pricey, but if you want to record to multiple tracks for post editing, it’s one of the best solutions.

    Reply
    • admin

      Great. How is the ART holding up for you on the road? Also what are you finding with battery life?

      I love Auria too and use it for mixing and mastering. Athough I also use and love the Multitrack DAW program which is rock solid fast and more intuitive. They work well in tandem, Multitrack to track and edit, Auria to mix and master.

      Reply
      • Guy

        I’ve got the Multitrack DAW app as well, but ended up using Auria more often because (at the time) Multitrack’s DropBox integration was somewhat lacking. With multiple people at the Expo doing interviews, I needed an easy way that everyone already had to get their interviews back to me and DropBox wane that fit the bill. One cool thing that Auria does is that it has the ability to drop audio from DB directly on the track and time stamp that you choose.

        The one thing both Multitrack and Auria lack though is the live capability that BossJock does. Having the ability to drop bumpers, ads, and open/close music (with predetermined fades) is awesome.

        Is there any way to do streaming with BossJock to do a true live show on the road or would that require another device like doing Skype?

        Reply
  3. Guy

    OH! Almost forgot. If you have a source of power, Radio Shack sells a plug-in power supply with multiple heads for various electronics. 120Vac in, 12Vdc out at 1.5 amps. It’s called the enercel

    Reply
  4. Guy

    I swear one more comment and then I’ll “probably” shut up. If you want to get an ART Dual Pre, you should probably get one sooner than later since it’s been discontinued by the manufacturer

    Reply
  5. John

    Great proof of concept. Don’t forget that people with an Android or Windows phone could do this too as long as they have Bossjock and 1 iOS device. Keep the great ideas flowing!

    Reply
  6. Matt

    Is this solution workable with a caller using Skype/Facetime via a laptop, instead of a phone? Could I have a caller call in on FaceTime on my Macbook instead?

    Reply

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