Not too many people think about it, but after a few years of podcasting, I understand the importance of keeping the gear cleaned up. Especially if you run a mixer with effects rack.
The realization of doing this post actually hit me two-fold. In the last couple weeks I noticed an issue in my gear where I would hear some static come through. I also talked with someone about the Behringer MDX compressor where people have noted problems while recording.
I look at my mixer and it does have a layer of dust on the surface. The plugs face up – which means dust can fall right in the holes. The dials have knob covers to them, but dust can push around and when you start turning those knobs, the connectors get dirty.
Plus the dials on my compressor-EQ rack are not face-up, so the dust and dirt get into the knobs easier. As a computer repair tech, I have opened many a case to know that some areas get more than just your standard dust bunnies inside a device.
Even if you use your phone to podcast – I used to have connection issues all the time with my iPhone. Pocket lint would always work its way into the headphone jack and connector plug. I would always be blowing into the headphone jack or picking out lint with a non-metallic tool.
I am not even adding pets into the mix. That is a major hairball waiting to happen…
Vacuuming a mixer board – USB Port
If you have one of those Computer Vacuums, that should help get the surface junk out of the way. It might also pull the bunnies out of the plugs and insert channels. Also remember to vacuum the backs of any case. I also have a Furman power conditioner which I will clean out the plug sockets. Make sure you power off and unplug all electronics first.
Even if you have a USB Mic, its good to wrangle the critters out of there. Of course you should Power off (and unplug) your computer or iPad before you clean out any port. Static electricity can cause catastropic incidents and we don’t want that to happen.
Knob Cleaner Spray
If an audio engineer doesn’t have this in their case, they are not worth a dime. Simple static issues can be resolved easily with contact spray and lubricant, like this Hosa Cable Deoxit Contact Cleaner Spray. Here is how you do it:
- Take off the knob cover (or slider cover)
- Spray directly at the base of the knob (or slider) while moving it around
- Depending on how dirty the device is, you may have to repeat the steps a few times.
- move the knob or slider around a little longer
- Buttons can be sprayed while depressing them (remember what position they were at first).
- TRS connectors:
- Use a flashlight to determine dust level
- A toothpick might be used to remove any major deposits. Vacuuming the port might also work
- spray the plug and insert-remove the cable a few times.
- Wipe off excess liquid with a lint-free towel
- Set to dry (depends on what you use, DeOxIt is at least 10 minutes)
- Plug back in your device and power it up
Clean USB Ports
There are a few USB port cleaners out there. Such as this Sanwa USB port cleaner. You basically clean it by plugging it in and out a few times.
Another way to do it is to get a lint free rag and rubbing alcohol. Remember – the PC needs to be powered off before you do it.
Cleaning the Microphone
If you get up on the grill of your mic – even if you have a wind foam on it – you might have to wash off the spit and food particles that could have collected over the years.
For some microphones all you have to do is unscrew the grill, remove all foam, clean it with a toothbrush and let dry, then put it all back together. If the grill is just nasty, you could simply Replace the microphone Grill. You could even get a gold grill to replace with!
Don’t forget to also take a spray to the XLR connector. Even if your microphone is plugged in all the time, the lubricant helps keep the contacts together. Just like if you replace the headlight in your car – you need to buy lubricant to keep arcs from happening.
Don’t forget the Video Gear Podcast Cleanup!
Just like with the audio, it helps if you give your video gear a good cleaning from time to time. When a video gremlin shows up, that can be more frustrating than an audio one.
Cover Items for Less Dirt
Preventative measures would be to cover all mixers and other gear, put mics into cases and watch the environment you podcast in. A good Air Purifier might also be something to look into. Set the purifier next to the gear and run when you are not recording.
In all, a clean podcast is a good podcast. I mean, um, clean gear makes for a better connection between your mic and your device. Get those dust bunnies out and you might just save yourself a few bucks instead of replacing items you think are broken.