I have recently taken over as the Technical Manager for my local Talking Newspaper (local news recorded for visually impaired listeners) - my technical background is more in IT/Web Development than in Audio, so I am trying to work out our set-up and see if it can be improved upon. At the moment, our weekly recording is output in three formats - C90 cassette, USB (MP3) memory stick and MP3 upload to our website. The biggest bug-bear in this is having to create audio for our cassette duplicators! Our set-up is five microphones, 1 CD deck, 1 Minidisc deck, 4 cassette decks and a PC. The mic's, CD, minidisc and one cassette are connected to separate channels on a Soundtracs Topaz 14:4 mixing desk. (CD and Minidisc are connected to the two stereo channels, rest are mono). The master out feeds into a compressor, which in turn feeds into a distribution amp. The outputs of the amp go to the four cassette decks and the PC. Our cassette recording is actually digitally mastered (we use Telex EDAT for creating the cassette copies), but we still run a set of analogue masters "just in case". That said, we have so few cassette copies being produced each week that the analogue masters are really of no benefit. Our PC based audio recording software is Adobe Audition 2 (I know it's out of date, but it does the job), and our recordings are 99% spoken word. The microphones we have have an ATT (I assume) switch on them, marked as 0dB, -7dB, -20dB. All the mics are set to -7dB. The mixing desk has a phantom power switch, but there is no noticeable difference when it is switched on or off (I assume this means our mics don't require power).
So, the background now set, my questions: 1) The compressor is currently between the mixer out and the distribution amp. I have mostly seen it suggested that the compressor is put as an insert on the mixers master channel. What difference would this make?
2) if using the compressor as an insert, should I group the mic/non-mic inputs to the mixer and just run the compressor on the mic inputs? Best I can work out, the desk supports two groups so I think this could be done.
3) one of the requirements of the cassette duplication is a signal that peaks about -3dB, and pretty much hits -3dB most of the time - we seem to get poor reproduction otherwise. We currently use the compressor to amplify the signal so we hit -3 and pull back if we go over, but I wonder if we would be better using less amplification and setting the mics to 0dB rather than -7? I'm really not sure how this setting on the mics effects the system, but feel we would get a less boxy sound if we did this.
4) We seem to get a lot of hiss when no-one is speaking, we also pick up the beer pump for the cellars of our neighbouring pub (our recording studio is in a basement). Is the EQ on our mixing desk sufficient to cut this out, or would a better EQ on an insert be sensible? If an external EQ, as it would be for all mic channels would it be placed before or after the compressor if the compressor should be run as insert rather than between output and amp?
I know this is rather a broad, and probably basic, question of setup, but any help would really be appreciated! At the moment I feel that the tech we have is hindering rather than helping as no-one really understands what it does.