In high school, Josh, Fodrea, and I spent a lot of time in my parent’s basement, and though we didn’t intend to live out the stereotype, we found that basements make for the perfect tabletop gaming environment. Every Friday night, we’d pull up chairs around the ping pong table in my parent’s basement and scatter our Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition manuals across its surface initiate the seven-hour session of make-believe that would culminate in a sleepy stagger up the stairs in the wake of a miasma that only high school boys can produce.
The Basement Cast is more than just an homage to those days. It reminds us that some of the best parts of life stay with you if you let them. We record shows for The Basement Cast in the basement of my house, on the ping pong table I received as a wedding gift. Creatures of habit, indeed.
No sooner than not-John climbed back into his truck, I had unboxed the Yeti on the ping pong table, plugged it in, and started recording myself.
The initial setup was simple. We would get a single Yeti for a solo recording of the narrator. The voiceover had to be sharp and crisp, so we left the heavy hardware for that purpose. A pair of blue snowballs would suit the rest of the cast, omni- or bi-directional modes engaged (those who are currently cringing or grinding your teeth, just wait. There’s more).
Later that day, I drove to Best Buy and purchased a pair of Blue Snowballs. Fodrea came with, and together we hooked up all three microphones via a USB hub into my computer, pulled up Garageband, and started recording the two of us.
For those of you unfamiliar with multi-mic recording with USB microphones, let me explain something important you should know. It is possible. But so is riding a bike without handlebars. Even if something is possible, that doesn’t mean it is the best or even a good way to do it.
Still, despite a few bad crashes, we managed to get the bike going and as we picked up speed, we basked in the giddy anticipation of preparing for something new.
We noticed something, though. Though both microphones were billed as being exceptional quality for the price, the extra $50 of the Yeti bought you a lot in terms of sound. The difference between the two was stark, and as we ascended the basement stairs, I began to think and rethink.
Was one Yeti really enough?
Fodrea bought the next two Yetis. They arrived in two days, delivered to his department by a man who may have been John. The plans had changed, and now we envisioned a more individualistic setup. Each person gets their own mic. The more powerful Yetis would support softer voices (like my own), while Josh’s boisterous rumble might be contained by the less impressive Snowball. Each voice would get its own track in Garageband, making it easy to remove cross talk and the occasional bodily chorus.
To anyone who has been down this path before, let me say this. We were foolhardy, led by the nose down a path of flimsy promises by the simple expectation that what you could do with two Snowballs and a Yeti you could do with two Snowballs and three Yetis.
To everyone else, buckle up and let me tell you a little something about serial numbers.
In order to use multiple USB microphones on an Apple computer, you have to create what is called an aggregate device, which is essentially a combination of inputs that the computer understands as one device. Garageband will accept this one device and, with enough positive thinking, will allow you to put each channel onto a different track. After a lot of tinkering, we made this work initially with the two Snowballs and the Yeti. The device recognized all three as unique devices, and we were able to assign each to a separate track. This is because each device had its own serial number and, therefore, its own identifier.
When we plugged in all five devices, we immediately noticed an issue. The aggregate device did not seem to change despite the two new microphones now plugged in. The computer only recognized two Snowballs and a Yeti. Certainly there was some sort of issue.
I unplugged the hub and plugged it back in. Three devices.
I restarted Garageband. Three devices
I restarted the computer and installed updates.
During my cycle of thinking and rethinking, it would have been great had I thought to check that multiple Blue Yetis were a workable option. Even if I had accidentally typed multiple Yetis in Google, I would have found a popular post decrying the fact that Blue Yetis all possess the same serial number and therefore will only ever be recognized as a single device despite the number being used. Had I read farther down the page, I would have run into a solution to the issue, which involved contacting Blue, packaging and shipping the microphones back to their California HQ, and waiting for up to 2 weeks for them to reassign serial numbers to the microphones before sending them back in usable condition.
But I didn’t. Instead, I thought about what song we would use for our intro.
We were at an impasse. Five working microphones sat on the table before us, more or less unusable in their current condition. We could send back two Yetis and replace them with two Snowballs, sure. That way everyone would have their own microphone and we could move ahead with the podcast. By this point, we had Coyote’s Ballad mapped out with voices assigned. All we needed were microphones.
But we weren’t settled on the quality of the Snowballs. More Yetis would yield a better sound, and we wanted a polished product out of the gate. We discussed the matter at length and finally decided to send back two of the Yetis to have their serial numbers changed.
So there we were, a few budding podcasters with parts assigned, stories highlighted and ready for production, and two Blue Snowballs. To say this was a far throw from what I’d imagined is an understatement, but we didn’t really have much of a deadline. Nothing had been promised to anyone at that time, so we settled in an prepared for two and a half weeks of patient waiting.
At least, that was the idea.
To be continued…