How I created a Phone Patch using my AT2020 USB+ Microphone.

Recently on Google+ I saw a link to a YouTube Video by John Wolfsberger, called Creating a Voiceover Phone Patch Using Skype, which showed how to turn your XLR microphone into a phone patch using a mixer, an inexpensive cable, Skype, and a pair of headphones. (I’ve provided the links to John’s video and a helpful video about phone patches by George Whittam in the technical notes at the end of this article.)

John’s video got me wondering whether my USB mic (the Audio-Technica 2020 USB+) could act as a phone patch as well, using just Skype, Audacity, my PC, and a pair of headphones.  In just a few quick steps, the answer was a very clear: YES!

Thanks to John’s video, Jason Culver for posting it on Google +, and my AT2020 USB+ mic, I have a phone patch and can now be voice-directed remotely with no costly equipment.

Suggested Steps[1]

1) Plug your AT2020 USB+ microphone into your PC and your headphones into the microphone (the AT2020 USB+ offers zero-latency monitoring through a headphone jack on the mic – a nice feature, and crucial, I think, to making this work so well).

2) Open Audacity

3) Check the audio settings in your computer and in Audacity respectively to ensure that the microphone and headphones are recognised as the recording and audio source in both.                                                                            

4) Open Skype and make sure it recognises the AT2020 USB+ as the microphone and headphone source.

To do this, go into tools/options/audio settings/speakers and change the setting from speakers to headphones.

5) Go into your PC’s volume mixer and close any extraneous microphones. (You may find, as I did, that there were two open/active Skype mics. I closed one, which eliminated an audio bleed of the Skype test call instructions into my audio file.)

6) Hit record in Audacity, minimise the Audacity window, and start a Skype test call.

7) Turn the mixer dial on your mic towards Comm enough so that you can hear the Skype test call instructions in your headphones. You should be able to hear the Skype test call message through your headphones and be able to leave a recorded message via your microphone.

8) Stop the recording in Audacity.

9) Normalise the audio (I did it to -3dB), and play it back to ensure the Skype test call instructions and Skype automated voice haven’t bled into your audio file. (If it has, re-check your volume mixer for any extraneous mics and determine whether your headphones were properly positioned.)

Success: You should hear a clear recording of your voice from the Skype test call with no bleed through of the Skype testing service instructions into your audio file.

Technical notes:

1) Links to John’s video and also to a “Whittam’s World” episode about phone patches can be found here:

Link to John’s video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqFve9z1pR0

Link to George’s video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqjVIqvZ5sY

2) You need to use headphones (closed-back or ear-buds) rather than speakers so the incoming audio doesn’t bleed into your microphone and into your audio file.  I would think most studio-grade headphones for voice-over will do the job. My Editors Keys Studio Series ANX-10 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones worked fine.

3) Skype automatically adjusted the gain settings higher in Skype than the gain settings I had set in my computer.  I tried unticking the automatic volume settings in Skype to lower the gain, but the volume was then too low. The higher gain settings in Skype seem necessary to get adequate gain for both Audacity and Skype.

4) I am unsure whether this will work with other USB microphones (the capability of zero latency monitoring is critical), but I found it very easy to do with my AT2020 USB+ and Audacity.  George Whittam’s video provides a broader overview of phone patches and creating a phone patch via Skype.  Both John and George’s videos are worth a watch.


[1] This article is a summation of the way I set up the phone patch and is meant to be helpful. It caused no harm to me, my computer, microphone, or software.  That said, anyone undertaking this approach is proceeding at their own risk.

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