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Letting People Know You're On The Air - On A Budget

August 18, 2020

By Joel Guilbert, Dale Pro Audio
In the unusual work environments we find ourselves in these days, we don’t always have the luxury of an isolated, segregated studio or office area. Our workstations and microphones end up in the same space as others and other activities. Having an indication for others that you have a “hot” microphone (an active mic in use) is a great way to help reduce interruptions and background noise.

A bit of background - usually these on-air lights are triggered from a specialized broadcast console that offers a series of electrical voltages or commands that can be triggered by specified actions - the light can be told to turn on when the microphone fader is raised, or the channel is unmuted. These are known as GPIO, or General Purpose In/Out.

What happens when you don’t have one of these very purpose built (and commensurate cost wise) pieces of equipment, and you want to use a visual indicator? Common computer-based streaming systems such as the TC Helicon GoXLR, or compact standalone models like the RODEcaster Pro tend to forego GPIO as part of their feature sets to keep costs down.

So, what's the answer? We recently devised a great solution that we can offer.

We recently had a customer who really liked (for good reason) Yellowtec's great boom system, the m!ka, with it’s integrated on-air light. However, they wanted to integrate this with their more podcast oriented equipment, which lacked GPIO and voltage. The solution was to integrate a couple of pieces to come up with a tailored solution.

There are a variety of third party devices to help with the m!ka on-air lights - since they have been so widely adopted in the pod/broadcast world. You can see a couple of these - items like the Henry Engineering Mike Alert or the Angry Audio Mic Tally.

To present the most standalone solution, we went with the robust Henry Engineering Mike Alert box. The m!ka system comes with bare wires, so we wired a 5 pin XLR male on the end that plugs into the Mic Alert, and a 3 pin male on the end for the microphone. To turn the on air light red, we used a standard on/off footswitch. You can activate the light easily without moving from your sweet spot. It could either live on the floor and be foot activated, or sit on the desk.

Joel Guilbert is Dale Pro Audio's Technology Development Manager, and assists on technical support inquiries, system design and integration, and much more for our company. He can be reached at

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