Since purchasing my first Chromebook a few years ago, the entry level Acer C720, I have enjoyed its simplicity versus previous Windows laptops I have owned. For more professional use cases, I upgraded to the touchscreen Acer R13. It doubles as a tablet and has become more powerful of a work tool for me with the availability of Android apps working smoothly on Chromebooks.
I can list a bunch of reasons why I prefer my Chromebook versus other laptops, especially when travelling or meeting with clients at their offices. But, every now and then, there are times I wish I was running Windows or Mac. One of those times is producing my podcast.
Podcast basics - recording and editing
Podcasting is easy, you simply plug in a mic, download a recording app and edit using an audio tool like Audacity or Garageband. Simple with Windows or Mac, but an adventure with a Chromebook.
Connecting a Mic - no USB drivers
Using a Chromebook, the first thing you need to figure out is what mic to use. Many popular mics used by podcasters recording on their laptops are USB based. Upon plugging them in, drivers are automatically downloaded and you are good to go. However, these drivers don’t work on a Chromebook and you are stuck with the input not working.
So you have two options; finding a plug and play mic that is compatible to a Chromebook, or using the headphone jack. Either works, but the setup limits your mic options, and quality of choices.
In terms of the using USB mics, there aren’t many that advertise as being compatible with Chromebooks. But, you can still search for those that don’t require driver installs, as they should connect to a Chromebook. An example is the Blue Snowball which is popular among many beginner podcasters.
Using the headphone jack opens up a lot of products. However, sound quality becomes a concern. Any set of headphones with a mic can be used to record with, but those mics are typically geared toward making calls and not for producing podcasts.
A solution to the audio quality problem is forcing on gaming headsets that have audiojack compatibility. As they have Twitch recordings in mind, audio quality of gaming headsets tends to be much better than standard earphones calls and listening to music.
Personally, I use the SteelSeries Arctis 3 for recording podcasts on my Chromebook. It has a noise cancelling mic that limits background noise when recording as well as retaining voice volume pretty well.
Recording and Editing
Once you decide what mic you are using, the next step is picking what software to record with. Luckily, this is an area where having Android apps is an advantage. There are no shortage of voice recording apps that can be downloaded. Spreaker Studio and Anchor both offer Android apps specifically for podcasts. While I haven’t tried out Spreaker, I did have some issues with Anchor stopping and erasing current recording when I minimized the app window. Overall, there are plenty of app choices when it comes to voice recorders.
If you are recording interviews, there are a variety of ‘Skype’ like communication products that record audio. Examples are Zoom, Zencastr and Cleanfeed. Each will create a cloud recording of both sides of the call of which the audio can be downloaded.
After recording, editing is the next step. Here is an area that Chromebook users suffer, especially in the beginning. A quick search will find that most podcast editing tutorials are based on using Audacity or Mac equivalents.
For Chromebook users, there are plenty of editing tools available using Android. But, the online help for tricks and how tos will be limited. So keep that in mind that you can expect to go through some trial and error when first getting things going.
Also, any of the Android apps are configured for phones. Therefore, screen format will may be a bit weird to work with. For example, the aforementioned Anchor app has great tools for adding background music and creating intros and endings. But, windows sizes aren’t so natural for a larger laptop screen.
There is also some kinks that Google still has to iron out with running Android on Chromebook’s Chrome OS. Every now and then an app will shut down when you open up a browser or another app. Also, random things don’t work of stop working. For example, using both Skype and GotoMeeting I have had automatic updates that caused the app to continually crash or render the mic or screensharing feature useless.
The bottom line is if you are relying on producing podcasts with a Chromebook, be ready for some compromises and trouble-shooting. There is no arguing about the benefits of a Chromebook. However, when it comes to creating, producing and editing content (not just podcasts), Windows, Mac OS and even iOS are still way ahead of the Android/Chrome OS game.