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How to DIY a Home Recording Studio

How to DIY a Home Recording Studio

Illustration for article titled How to DIY a Home Recording Studio

Photo: Sata Production (Shutterstock)

If you are a podcaster, musician, or actor working during the pandemic, having an in-home recording studio of some kind could be essential to your business. This year, the majority of recording work has moved into our homes, but often still demands professional-grade sound. Unfortunately, creating a home studio is not the most intuitive DIY project. In fact, you may feel completely lost without a professional to guide you. But with a little investment and ingenuity, you can produce studio-quality sound from your home. Here are some steps to follow to get the best sound quality from your makeshift space.

Soundproof a small space

Soundproofing is essential when it comes to producing clean, clear audio. Bigger spaces have larger surface areas for sound to travel, and rooms with bare walls or high ceilings will create an echo that will be picked up by any microphone. Angela Sarakan, Senior Audio Producer at Dipsea, advises, “Capturing quality sound requires more than just a mic—you need to try to absorb as much sound as you can from your surroundings.” Sarakan notes the easiest and cheapest way to do this is to sit under thick blankets with your microphone while you record, or, barring that, in a closet full of clothes that will buffer the sound. From experience, I can say the former method works as a one-off, but it can get hot and sweaty under those covers. For consistent recording sessions, a semi-permanent setup will be much more comfortable.

I spoke with sound engineer Daryl Bolicek of Wild Horse Recording, LLC, who advised me on the best at-home soundproofing solutions. Bolicek notes a closet is, in fact, perfect for outfitting with soundproofing materials—the small space will naturally limit echoing and it will be easier to soundproof. If you don’t have a closet big enough, you can use any regular size room, as long as you can outfit it with the proper sound absorption materials.

Use sound absorption foam

If you have a budget to work with, the quickest way to set up your home studio is with sound absorption foam. The material resembles egg crate foam, is thick, and comes in a limited range of colors like black, red, or blue (if you want to incorporate a color scheme.) It is fairly cheap—anywhere from $30 – $48 for a pack of 12’x12′ panels, enough to cover as much as 48 square feet of space. The good news is you don’t need to coat your walls from top to bottom in foam. “You don’t need to do the whole room. You really want to nail the front back and [walls] that align with the microphone,” Bolicek says. The best way to make sure you are covering your bases is to draw an X on the wall across from the microphone, both in front of and behind you. The Xs mark areas where the sound will hit the wall and bounce directly back into the microphone, so that’s where you most need to install your foam.

A great soundproofing hack when you are short on big closets or spare bedrooms is to use a small storage box. Make sure the box is big enough to fit your microphone first, then line it with sound absorption foam and place the mic inside. This setup works for voiceover gigs, poetry recordings, or emceeing—any recording in which one person is speaking directly into the microphone. I have gone even further to attach the foam to a tri-fold presentation board that covers a larger space, allowing me to record while standing. (A trifold board also allows space for two people to record at once.)

As with any equipment purchase, you get what you pay for. “Unfortunately, the more expensive, the better the foam,” Bolicek says. So if you are investing in your business, getting the better foam will offer better results. Cheaper foams will work, but more expensive ones—when paired with other quality equipment upgrades—can make a noticeable difference. Personally, when listening to podcasts, I’ve noticed tit’s harder to enjoy the subject matter when it is difficult to hear or there is a lot of interference in the audio mix. The better sound quality, the more engaged your listeners will be (especially since there is nothing for them to engage with visually). Higher-quality materials are more important for pro musicians and voiceover actors, as your career will hinge on your ability to produce high quality recordings.

Invest in the right microphone

As with the soundproofing materials, the more money you spend on your recording equipment, the better your end product will be—and you’ll want to start by getting a microphone. You don’t need to break the bank; just make sure you are getting the right microphone for your space, needs, and budget. I use AKG XLR Condenser microphones to record my voiceover gigs and an entertainment podcast. Condenser mics are easy to find, relatively cheap (as microphones go—$99), and provide great quality sound for the price.

However, condenser mics are very sensitive and require a well-soundproofed room to avoid capturing unwanted noises. For this reason, Bolicek suggests investing in a dynamic microphone. Dynamic microphones are not as sensitive and will not pick up as much background sound as a condenser microphone. If you want an excellent dynamic mic, it will cost you significantly more (anywhere from $400 to $500). You can find some for as little as $99, but you’ll want to do your research beforehand to ensure the quality is up to par.

Use an external audio recorder

After you have outfitted the space and selected your microphone, you’ll need the proper equipment to capture clean sound. Depending on the microphone you choose, you may be able to connect it directly to your computer with a USB cord, but these cords are less than durable and won’t always offer the best sound quality. Instead, use an audio recorder to capture sound from an external microphone and save it to your computer or an SD card. Programs that turn your cellphone or tablet into a microphone with recording software are not reliable. Sarakan notes going with an external mic and audio recorder is preferable to using your computer’s speakers or a phone app, as it allows you greater control over the fidelity of the sound (which minimizes risks of sound distortions).

I use a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 with my condenser microphone for voiceover work. The Scarlett connects seamlessly with Garageband on my computer, and will run you about $159 for a model with two microphone ports. When recording our bi-weekly podcast, my co-hosts and I use an H6 Zoom recorder (not to be confused with the video call service—I’m talking about a piece of hardware). The Zoom recorder works better for multiple users, with ports for up to six microphones. (This was more relevant in pre-pandemic times). It’s a bit pricier—about $329—but older versions (H5 or H4) can be a cheaper option between $229 to $279, and are of comparable quality. Either recorder works very well, but I find the Scarlett to be easier to use when it’s just me and my computer.

Creating a home studio is an investment, so take the time to plan and save up. Recording better sound can provide a great return on your investment.

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Admit When Youre Not Self-Made

Admit When Youre Not Self-Made

Illustration for article titled Admit When You're Not Self-Made

Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Amazon (Getty Images)

A whole industry of books, TV shows and media outlets continues to reinforce reverence for entrepreneurs and rockstar CEOs, creating the myth of the self-made American success. But these hero’s journey stories often elide the fact that many of these corporate leaders didn’t get to where they are without help.

A select few CEOs are honest about the slim chances of actualizing big plans to make it in business. For the most part, however, a culture of veneration remains lionizing the achievements of these titans of industry—and it pollutes society’s broader perception of success solely as a choice one makes, rather than at least partially the lucky outcome of a game of chance.

In reality, some of the most celebrated names in business wouldn’t have reached nearly the same heights without help from their parents, or if they hadn’t caught the capricious eyes of doting investors willing to take a gamble on their wild ambitions. In turn, these myths have inspired many successful people who aren’t household names to craft their own selective histories—but it’s time we start admitting that it’s OK to acknowledge when we received help before striking the goldmine. It paints a more accurate picture of what it means to find success, and it makes successful people seem a whole lot more honest.

Normalize the idea of failure

Nobody strives to fail. But at least on some level, failure is unavoidable. This is especially true in business: Despite rapturous praise for unicorn startups and their leaders, between 70 and 90 percent of startups go belly up. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s a natural byproduct of venturing into the unknown, charting your own course shaped by your ambition.

But the idea of personal triumph tends to whitewash the reality of the multiple setbacks that mark any journey. Look no further than newly-crowned world’s richest man Elon Musk to see how closely failure stalks even the most exalted leaders.

Think of it this way: If you had a rough go starting your business until a wealthy relative cut you a check to bolster it, why wouldn’t you be forthcoming about that? If you are honest about how you get your start, it can help others shed the idea that they too must go it alone.

It will help others set more realistic expectations

Since most of our perceptions of entrepreneurs are shaped by mass media, the self-made narrative means we often don’t get a sense of the circuitous paths people take to get where they want to be. Being honest about help you’ve received can do a great service to those following behind you. People are generally too impatient when it comes to their careers, putting quick ladder-climbing ahead of savoring the true value of a job (if it’s a good job, that is).

Taking a more grounded approach can make your work more fulfilling. A recent Gallup survey found that college graduates who weren’t told to expect to set the world on fire upon entering the job market were able to find work that was more fulfilling.

Of more than 2,000 college graduates, those who received realistic expectations about their employment prospects were much more likely to achieve purposeful work — work that allows people to apply their strengths, is deeply interesting to them and contributes to their life’s meaning.

In a corporate environment in which platitudes about changing the world and affecting meaningful social change are commonplace, it’s understandable that regular worker-bees would set lofty expectations for themselves. But if the immensely successful were more forthcoming about the help they’ve received, younger generations would understand that they, too, are likely to face setbacks.

Honesty is endearing

Amazon founder and Executive Chairman Jeff Bezos launched his empire on the heels of a $250,000 investment from his parents. The fact that this investment has never really been part of Amazon’s origin story doesn’t really endear Bezos to anyone who knows about it. Being honest about the help you receive allows people to see that even the most successful among us can be gracious and vulnerable. Glorifying your own success, while simultaneously ignoring the immense assistance you received from a friend or family member, will only harm your reputation down the line.

Another key distinction: “Help”–broadly defined—can mean a number of different things. Do you have a spouse who supported your efforts by keeping the household running while you worked late? That’s as important as a monetary investment. Help doesn’t need to flow from the bank account of a venture capital firm to be qualified as such.

When we exalt business gurus and corporate leaders, we often fail to recognize the support system that helped lift them to those lofty heights. It’s time we acknowledge that the admission of receiving help isn’t a hindrance, it’s an asset.

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Beware of These Creative Online Dating Scams

Beware of These Creative Online Dating Scams

Illustration for article titled Beware of These Creative Online Dating Scams

Photo: Jakub Krechowicz (Shutterstock)

Both the Better Business Bureau and the FBI are warning people about romance scams, which are expected to remain an elevated threat leading up to Valentine’s Day. This type of scam has been made worse during the pandemic, as cases have spiked by 18% in the last year, according to the FBI. Here’s what you need to know.

What are romance scams?

Romance scams occur when a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust. The scammer then exploits the relationship to manipulate or steal from the victim. The BBB has recent alerts about these two specific romance scams:

  • The cryptocurrency scam: After building trust on an online dating platform, a scammer will quickly try to move the conversation to a texting app, such as WhatsApp or WeChat. That’s when they bring up “a family member who is a successful cryptocurrency investor” and present an “exclusive” opportunity. They then persuade the victim to deposit the money in a cryptocurrency trading platform, which of course is never seen again.
  • The money mule scam: In this grift, a scammer from another country will, again, build trust and take the conversation to a texting app. Then they’ll make an unusual request in which they’ll send you money and then ask you to wire it back to them overseas. This is often accompanied by a hard luck story about their own bank accounts being “frozen.” According to the BBB, however, the funds are likely to be stolen COVID relief check money, and they are laundering the funds to make it untraceable.

Whatever the type of romance scam, if you’re uncomfortable about something, ask questions. If the other person refuses to give you direct answers, or their tone becomes more accusatory and aggressive, that’s a pretty good sign it’s a scam. A good standing rule is to never send money to someone you’ve haven’t met.

The BBB has these additional tips to help you avoid romance scams when using dating sites:

  • Communicate on the dating app. If a love interest appears to be in a hurry to get off the dating app to an unsecure chat app, that’s a red flag.
  • Ask specific questions about details given in a profile. A scammer may stumble over remembering details or making a story fit.
  • Research the dating profile. Many scammers steal photos from the web to use in their profiles. Conduct a reverse image lookup using a website like or to see if the photos on a profile are stolen from somewhere else. Search online for a profile name, email, or phone number to see what adds up and what doesn’t. If it seems like a fake profile, report what you find to the dating app.
  • Be careful about what you post and make public online. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
  • Go slowly and ask lots of questions.
  • Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
  • Beware if the individual is never able to meet in person, or always has an excuse why they can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, you have good reason to be suspicious.

If you’ve been the victim of scam, report it on the

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Use Admin Roles to Share Access to LinkedIn Pages

Use Admin Roles to Share Access to LinkedIn Pages

Managing your business’ presence on LinkedIn takes teamwork, but unless you really know and trust your colleagues, you probably aren’t comfortable sharing the company LinkedIn page’s password with another employee just so they can post updates.

Thankfully, LinkedIn now lets you add other users as admins for any page you own. With these new admin tools, you can give someone else the ability to post updates and manage new job listings for your company from their personal account. They never have to sign into the page.

There are obvious privacy benefits to using LinkedIn’s new admin roles, but they can also help you organize your business by assigning admin privileges based on a person’s role in the company.

There are two types of admins you can create for a LinkedIn page: Page Admins, who maintain the page’s content and communication, and Paid Media Admins who can create and manage ads and sponsored content for a page. Each type has a hierarchy of roles that grant the admin different features and privileges. Here’s a quick explanation of each:

Page Admins:

  • Super Admin: Has full access to all admin tools, and is the only role that can edit a page’s information, deactivate a page, or add (and remove) other page admins.
  • Content Admin: Can create, post, and manage page-related updates, Events, Stories, and job listings.
  • Analyst: Can access a page’s analytics tab on LinkedIn and access the page in third-party analytics tools.

Paid Media Admins:

  • Sponsored Content Poster: Can post sponsored content and ads on behalf of a company through their personal LinkedIn profile.
  • Lead Gen Forms Manager: Can download marketing lead data from page-associated ad campaigns.
  • Pipeline Builder: Can create and edit Pipeline Builder landing pages for other Media Admins and manage leads through LinkedIn Recruiter.

LinkedIn says the new admin tools are rolling out to all users, but it may take some time before they’re universally available. However, once they are, you can start assigning admin roles to any employee, advertiser, or member associate with your page.

How to become an admin on LinkedIn

Users can request admin privileges for any page they work for or are otherwise associated with. The process is identical on desktop and mobile:

  1. Add current position with the organization on your LinkedIn profile. As LinkedIn’s support page notes, this is a required step to ensure you’re qualified to be an admin.
  2. Open the LinkedIn page you’re requesting admin privileges for.
  3. Click/tap the three dot “More” icon.
  4. Select “Request Admin.”
  5. Confirm that you’re authorized to become an Admin, then click/tap “Request access.”
  6. You’ll receive a notification once your request is approved.

(Note that requesting access grants that page’s Super Admins access to your profile’s public info.)

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Should You Let Your Kids Do Extreme Sports?

Should You Let Your Kids Do Extreme Sports?

Illustration for article titled Should You Let Your Kids Do Extreme Sports?

Photo: yanik88 (Shutterstock)

When your child is born, you imagine all the possibilities that await them over what you hope will be a long, healthy future. You might mentally fast-forward past their childhood from time to time, daydreaming that they’ll grow up to be a doctor, an engineer, a business owner, an accomplished chef. They might write moving words or build important structures or create beautiful art. Most of us, though, don’t imagine our child’s passion will turn out to be, say, ski jumping.

But that is the situation writer and editor Bari Nan Rothchild found herself in when her son turned eight years old, completed his first official jump, and declared: “I don’t care if I am good at it or bad at it, I just want to keep doing it.” Now, she writes for the New York Times, he is 13 years old and is flinging himself from the side of a mountain at ever greater heights:

His coach flags him, and in a nanosecond, he is crouched and gliding down the run—on porcelain tracks, in the off-season. Whooooosh!—that’s the sound I am waiting for, like a jet taking off, only it’s my son who is in flight, his ankles cocked, skis forming a V-shape, his arms behind him, and then, in less time than it has taken me to write these words, his skis make a satisfying “clap” against the plastic-covered landing hill, one ski slightly behind the other in “telemark” position as he glides along the grassy outrun, crouching and hugging his knees to slow his momentum, a human brake. He is grinning, braces gleaming in the sunlight.

You may not be wild about the idea of your child partaking in any activity in which the purpose is to move quickly up or down the side of a mountain or take flight into the air. But before you say no, here are a few steps to take.

First, get curious

Some kids are born reserved and cautious, happy to keep their feet firmly planted on the Earth. And others are climbing up and flinging themselves off of furniture before they’re even walking. As they grow older, the more daring kids are likely to want to seek greater thrills from their physical activity. Ask them what draws them to their new sport of interest. Do they know someone who does it? Did they watch videos of others doing it on YouTube?

Kids need to feel heard. So even if you’re ultimately going to decide they’re not yet old enough to try whatever extreme sport or activity they’re interested in, it’s important for them to know that you are trying to understand why it is piquing their interest. And if you understand what they want to get out of it—whether it’s time with friends or a new physical challenge—you may be able to compromise on less risky alternatives or find other ways to ease into a new sport that you’re more comfortable with and is satisfying for them.

Then, do your own research

Before you refuse to let your child try out snowboarding, mountain biking, BMX racing, rock climbing, or skateboarding, research their specific sport of interest. Particularly if you are a risk-averse person yourself, a sport may seem more dangerous because 1) It’s not something you’d ever attempt and 2) You don’t have enough information. So it’s time to set out on a fact-finding mission.

We know football is among the most dangerous sports for kids to play because of its concussion risk. But other favorites we tend to encourage (including basketball, soccer, and baseball) regularly end up at the top of the list, too, for causing hundreds of thousands of injuries each year in kids—from strains and sprains, fractures, and torn ligaments, to knee injuries and concussions.

Of course, that’s at least partially because of the sheer number of kids playing those sports, as Family Education reports:

Until there’s more research, it’s hard to say whether the most injury-prone [team] sports for kids … are really more dangerous than alternative sports. Team sports may cause more injuries—not because of the nature of these sports but because greater numbers of kids participate in them. More kids play a popular sport like basketball, for example than skateboarding.

But no sport is free from risk, and many injuries can be prevented or the risk of severity reduced by taking proper precautions. The STOP Sports Injuries program, which was started by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, offers tip sheets for a variety of sports, including inline skating, rugby, snowboarding, and surfing.

Finally, talk to a professional in the field

To really understand the appeal of certain sports, as well as the risks and precautions necessary, you’re best off going to someone who has spent their life doing it. Find athletes, coaches, or trainers in the field who can help you understand the sport from their perspective. They can talk about how they got started in the sport and their experiences in it as they grew older. They may have valuable advice or insight into how you might proceed with allowing your child to begin.

If they’re in your area, they may also be able to point you toward some beginner’s lessons or trainings they can do nearby to learn the proper techniques to lower the risk of injuries.

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How to Find and Support Local Black-Owned Businesses

How to Find and Support Local Black-Owned Businesses

Illustration for article titled How to Find and Support Local Black-Owned Businesses

Photo: Flamingo Images (Shutterstock)

Supporting Black businesses can be difficult if you don’t know where to look. Thankfully, several apps have set out to correct that, making it easier to find both common and unique items you need—all provided by Black business owners.

Official Black Wall Street

The Official Black Wall Street app pays tribute to the all-Black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which was burned down in the 1920s by white supremacists. The app carries on the legacy of Black commerce by compiling a directory of Black businesses from around the country, using location technology to locate businesses near you.

We Buy Black

We Buy Black calls itself “the Black Amazon,” providing the user with everyday products—from laundry detergent and toothpaste to books and footwear—made by Black companies. The site’s simple layout and clear categories make for such convenient shopping, you’ll wonder if you even need Amazon at all.

Chez nous

While the other apps feature businesses across the United States, Chez nous offers a global listing of BIPOC-, women-, LGBTQIA-owned businesses to choose from. The app updates with new listings every week crowdsourced by consumers and other business owners. The site is beautiful, featuring vibrant imagery and proudly displaying its vision of inclusivity in entrepreneurial success. You can search categories such as music and culture, “ally-approved,” health and wellness, and even job opportunities—and if you feel like browsing, their recommendations section is a useful tool.

Originally posted in 2017, and updated on February 04, 2021 with new recommendations.

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