Ready to Start a Podcast? Need Some Podcasting Gear?
Dave Jackson, Podcast Hall of Famer and Libsyn’s Head of Podcaster Education, has put together this overview of podcast equipment that should get you up and running fast — for very little money.
Says Dave, “I get asked this all of the time: ‘What gear do I need to get started?’ And after 20+ years podcasting, I think I have some answers!”
(Note that if you are more a watcher than a reader, this YouTube playlist covers many of the same Libsyn podcast equipment recommendations — all for less than $100.)
Start by Answering a Few Questions
When it comes to getting the best podcast equipment, there is no “one size fits all.” However, thinking of your podcast setup and how to create the best podcast is a good place to be.
Are you going solo or will there be other people on the show?
And, if there are other people, will they be in the same room with you — how many?
Will you be recording video podcasts?
Answering these questions will help you land on a podcast starter kit of sorts — the right podcasting equipment for a professional-sounding, quality audio podcast from day one.
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1. Your Podcast Studio Space
Another factor to consider when choosing podcast equipment is the space that you have to work in — whether or not you have a dedicated studio for podcast recording or whether you will be creating your own podcast studio with only what you have.
Dealing with the latter? Not to worry.
For many purposes, almost any quiet space can become a home recording studio. But there’s quiet, and there’s quiet. Check to see if the space you have in mind is free from ambient noise: the hum of a refrigerator, the noises from a child’s video game, rumbling traffic outside — any background noise can interfere with audio quality and affects your podcast equipment choices.
A room without windows, like a walk-in closet or other interior space, with lots of natural, sound-absorbing furniture, carpets, and low ceilings is golden.
You’d be surprised how many home recording studios start in a closet! Why? With the right podcast equipment, even these spaces can produce professional-sounding podcasts without unwanted background noise.
One of the best ways to test the audio quality of your proposed space is to record 1 or 2 minutes — just the room sound. You’ll be surprised by how much information you’ll gather just setting up your podcast equipment and doing that. You’ll hear ALL the background noise.
Once you know where you’ll be recording, you can then find the right podcast equipment for your workflow.
In this video, the Libsyn team shares their home recording studios so you can see just how different podcast setups can be.
2. It’s More than the Podcast Equipment
Nuno Bettincourt is a famous guitar player for the band Extreme. For most of his life, he tried to make his guitar sound like Eddie Van Halen’s.
One day, Nuno was in the recording studio with Eddie, and the unthinkable happened. Eddie asked if Nuno would like to play his guitar through the setup. “Finally,” Nuno thought, “I’m going to sound exactly like Eddie because I’m using the exact same gear.”
Nuno was deeply disappointed when he sounded like, well … Nuno.
With this in mind, don’t buy podcasting gear to try and sound or be like someone else. If your audience isn’t mentioning that your audio needs help, then your podcast equipment and recording process is more than likely fine.
The Right Tool For the Job
Just because you can paint with peanut butter, doesn’t mean you should. With this in mind, while it is possible to record your podcast on your phone or on a tablet, the vast majority of people use a computer … and for good reason.
A phone or tablet might have the advantage of being more hands-on and aid in a portable setup, but the screen is so small! Plus, it is a headache to connect equipment to a tablet to record.
A desktop — especially if you have a monitor — gives you a bigger workspace to keep your eye on almost every element while you are editing audio. In addition, your computer can handle larger editing programs and larger files much easier!
Dave’s Faves: I use both a Mac and a PC (both with monitors) in my podcast setup
3. Podcast Microphones
Yes, you could use your smartphone mic or computer mic to record, but WHY? A USB mic and USB cable could make all the difference! For me, a guest who shows up wanting to use the built-in microphone won’t be a guest on my show.
When it comes to podcasting, a USB mic that plugs INTO your computer or audio interface via a USB port is your best friend, especially if you want the best podcast sound quality. While you don’t need to spend $400 on one, spending more than $20 is recommended.
And for sure, do not buy a condenser microphone. Condenser microphones pick up EVERYTHING — ambient noise, the cat nextdoor — EVERYTHING, and are much harder to work with for a podcast. You definitely want a dynamic microphone to absorb sound.
Some of the most popular “under $100” dynamic microphones are the Samson Q2U and the Audio Technica ATR2100. Both of these work via USB and XLR (XLR microphones enable you to grow into an audio mixer and recorder — a great future-thinking purchase).
Remember, XLR mics are a little more advanced than USB, as they can plug into interfaces as your podcast starts to grow and you upgrade equipment. But, a USB microphone is a good place to start.
Want more options? Don’t forget the Podcast Equipment playlist above, which includes good mics under $100.
Daves Faves: My personal podcast microphone recommendations always start with the Samson Q2U — a go-to USB mic for $50.
4. Microphone Stands
Some microphones (XLR mics and USB mics) come with a small, plastic mic stand that is typically horrible and completely unusable — absolutely no shock mount.
If you need something portable, you can purchase a mic stand originally designed for a bass drum (On-Stage MS7920B), but that works great as a temporary stand for podcasters (microphones can be heavy, and this mic stand can handle them).
If you’re podcasting from the dining room and need a temporary mic stand, the On-Stage MS7920B stand will keep the microphone close to your mouth without having to break your back leaning over or worrying about a shock mount.
Clip-on boom arms are mic stands that attach to your desk. These make it easy because you can swing the microphone near when it’s time to record and then swing it out of the way when you are done. The perfect shock mount.
Dave’s Faves: I recommend The Rode PSA1+ , a solid, sturdy boom arm that clips to your desk.
Everybody Gets a Microphone
I think we’ve all seen the clip of Oprah giving away cars, “You get a car, YOU get a car!” and it should be that way with microphones. There are USB microphones — some even come with a built-in pop filter — that advertise they can pick up sound from every direction.
It’s logical to think you could share one with a friend to save money. While it WILL pick up both of you, you will also be missing crisp sound, and gaining lots of noise.
That said, if you have a co-host or guests, you will need multiple microphones installed with a shock mount.
5. Podcast Setup — It Depends …
From this point forward, a lot of answers begin with “It depends.” In the podcasting world, podcasts are all a little different with different locations, recording styles, formats, and more. So let’s look at some common scenarios.
Recording A Solo Podcast
Dave’s Faves: Again, I feel good recommending the very reasonably priced Samson Q2U.
Recording More than One Person in the Same Room
Now you have two or more people in the same room, so to start recording, you need an audio interface, like the Zoom Podtrak P4 or the Rodecaster Duo with at least two mic inputs (they usually have four or more). Why? Because plugging two USB mics into your computer usually results in a volume-adjusting mess.
This way, you can record via USB microphone without a computer and later transfer the recording to your desktop for final editing.
The Focusrite Vocaster is not a recorder, but an audio interface that allows you to plug equipment into your computer via USB C. This can be helpful when you lave lots to plug in but are using your computer to record.
Dave’s Faves: The device I recommend the most is the Zoom Podtrak P4 — the Swiss army knife of podcasting. You can record up to four people in the same room with you, online, or even over a phone.
I Want To Record without Wires
Dave’s Faves: If you want to record without wires, Rode is the best podcast equipment setup.
If your co-host(s) or guest(s) are located in different parts of the world you can try out recording sessions remotely with any number of tools designed to make this easy.
If you choose Libsyn as your podcast hosting platform and are on a $20 plan or higher, you have Libsyn Connect for recording remotely.
Libsyn Connect is an easy way to record high-quality audio with crisp sound for multiple people in different places. Each person is recorded on a separate track and a combined track is also provided. It focuses on superior remote audio recording for the best podcast sound.
Be sure to have mics, headphones, and a good internet connection for all remote guests.
Dave’s Faves: Of course, here I recommend Libyn Connect, available with all Libsyn Plans $20/month and up.
My Team is in the Same Room and We Record Remote Guests
For this podcast setup, you can plug your microphones into these audio interfaces as well as your guest via Zoom, Squadcast, Libsyn Connect, etc.
Dave’s Faves: Again, my favorite here is the Zoom Podtrak P4.
If you want to live stream to Facebook, YouTube, or Linkedin and you have a Mac, you should check out Ecamm Live. This is a great video about how easy it is to get started video podcasting and live streaming with Ecamm.
6. Windscreens and Pop Filters
You could spend hundreds on a USB mic, but wind up sounding horrible by not using a windscreen or a pop filter. A pop filter is a round screen you put between your mouth and the microphone. This should be part of most podcast setups.
Put your hand up in front of your mouth and say the phrase, “Please bring pizza pronto” and you will feel all the air that comes out of your mouth in bursts (especially with P’s, B’s, and H’s). When that wind hits the microphone it makes what are called “plosives” and it sounds bad because you get a quick spike of bass. Pop filters cost anywhere from $15 to $99
A windscreen is sometimes jokingly called a “clown nose.” It looks like a round sponge with a hole in it. You put the microphone into the hole and wrap the sponge around the microphone. These work with microphones with a round end like the Samson Q2U, and the ATR-2100. They are priced somewhere between $5-$10 USD.
You need one or the other as well as good microphone technique. Instead of talking directly into the microphone, point the microphone at the corner of your mouth at a 45 degree angle 3-4 inches away from the mic. This will also help eliminate plosives.
Also, note that some more expensive mics come with a built-in pop filter, but 90% of these often need a little help to get the quality audio you are after.
Dave’s Faves: Go to any music/audio gear site (I like Sweetwarer.com) and search for a windscreen or pop filter. Then purchase the one in your price range.
The best headphones are over-the-ear headphones — especially for beginner podcasters. Over-the-ear headphones keep a lot of external noise out so you can hear exactly how you sound when you record audio. Also, choose wired over wireless headphones. No sense introducing the fickleness of the internet into the equation …
Here are my go-to headphone recs:
- Audio-Technica ATH-M30x Pro Studio Monitor Headphones — under $100 ($70) with replaceable sound pads and great sound.
- Road NTH-100 at $149 — built for comfort, and offer an optional $60 microphone to complete the headset.
- The Sony MDR-7506 — the model everyone throws out as “THE” heaphones; seems everyone is using them! ($95)
8. Digital Audio Workstations
Think of a digital audio workstation (DAW) as a category for editing software or podcast mixers that is designed to record/edit/and process digital audio. It’s a holdover term from back in the day when any audio recording or audio editing was done on an actual analog workstation.
That said, when something is recorded with proper recording levels in a quiet environment, it doesn’t require as much audio editing. You don’t need to be an audio engineer, but you will need to know how to:
The best digital audio workstation for the digital format is usually the one you use. While some have tools to achieve better sound quality as they record, if you recorded properly you shouldn’t need that much “post-production.”
Regardless, with any of these tools, you do not need to be an audio engineer to produce high-quality audio.
Digital Audio Workstations I Like
Audacity is a free software that many podcasters use as part of their podcast equipment. It is a stable platform and since the software is free, there are MANY tutorials on YouTube that can walk you through getting the most out of it. There are some tools in the software for musicians that you need to step over on occasion to get the settings you need. But once you learn any quirky settings you need, you are good to go.
While Audacity can be used for podcasting, music, etc., Hindenburg is focused on storytelling. It is podcast recording software meant to showcase the voice. It has less of a learning curve than Audacity, it’s very intuitive, and the company has many tutorials on its website. The price is $12-$30 a month. If you don’t want a monthly fee, you can buy the software.
Hindenburg does have the ability to transcribe your audio files and then when you edit the transcript, it removes those words from the audio.
Descript was the first software to introduce the ability to transcribe your episode, and then when you edit the transcript, it edits the audio. While all of these titles can import video and export audio, Descript can export video. There is a limited free version with monthly pricing starting at $12/month.
Davinci Resolve (Free Video Editing Software)
Davinci Resolve is a free video editing software for those looking to add video to the mix. The good news about Davinci Resolve is it has many of the same powerful features you pay for in other software.
The “bad” news is with all those features, there is a bit of a learning curve. But, not to worry. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube, and Black Magic (the company behind the software) also has plenty.
Dave’s Faves: For me, Hiddenburg is the right tool for the job. It’s powerful and still easy to use. I recommend it.
9. Three Tips for Producing a High-Quality Podcast
1. Get to know your podcast recording and editing tools.
These tools include all of the podcast equipment we’ve talked about here — editing software, computer settings/specs, microphones, digital recorders — essentially any piece of podcast equipment that you will use to record, edit, and process in your individual podcast equipment setup.
Why the dating stage?
It doesn’t matter how high-end your XLR mic is if you don’t know how to use that specific XLR mic.
It doesn’t matter how amazing your DAW is if you don’t know how to use it to make your audio sound good — a lot of digital audio workstations have the same vocabulary but also have their own quirks.
Get to know your podcast podcast gear by engaging with it and testing it out.
This means you’ll need to invest time tinkering with the tools, and watching general podcasting videos and specific audio gear tutorials, which leads us to our second tip …
2. Be open to learning.
Once you start recording podcasts, you will find that there is a lot that you don’t know. You will also bump into issues that are unique to you, your life, and your podcast equipment setup.
Be willing to do the research to find solutions, as well as to realize when others’ solutions don’t apply to you.
Sometimes the solution does not involve having to more audio gear. You’d be surprised how many times a small tweak in how you use a microphone, a change in your podcast equipment setup or recording environment, or modifying a software setting can be everything that you need.
There is no better skill set than podcast troubleshooting.
3. Get the best quality raw audio.
Raw audio equals the initial audio recorded before anything is done to it — your voice to the device that captures your voice to the recording.
If you have the highest quality recording initially, you will be able to offer the highest quality final product.
One of the most painful podcast mistakes that newish podcasters make is thinking that any recording issues can be fixed in post-production, with editing and repair.
Recording Tip: Before you record, test to make sure everything is optimized for recording so that you get the best initial quality from that raw audio.
The best way to avoid future editing issues is to monitor yourself in the process. 99.9% of the time what you hear in your ears is what’s going to go on the recording.
Avoid the pain of dealing with things in post by taking the time to address it up front.
10. Your Fellow Podcasters are a Great Resource
Now that you’ve learned a little bit about basic podcasting equipment, it’s up to you to find the best podcast equipment for your own podcasting kit and workflow.
Feel free to start small — inexpensive is good, especially if it allows for you to upgrade when you are ready (remember how getting a mic that is both a USB mic and an XLR mic prepares you for the future)?
Then, trust your peers to share their insights.
Talk to your podcasting community!
When you start a podcast, one of the best things is the podcasting community you join. You will find that podcasters are overall super helpful and excited to share the things that have worked for them — from podcast equipment to monetization strategies to the value of mic preamps, they are there to help you make an informed decision.
In fact, the Libsyn community is a thriving hub of passionate podcasters at every level in their podcasting ventures. You can find them on all of the popular social media channels.
Simply follow Libsyn on Instagram @libsyn, Twitter @libsyn, YouTube, Crowdcast, Facebook, and LinkedIn to connect to communities that offer a constant source of learning material, interaction, and definitely podcast gear recommendations.
My recommendation? You can always refer to our comprehensive 10-Step-How-to-Start-a-Podcast Guide for any questions along the way, or hit me up for a free 30-minute podcast coaching session. I’d be happy to help!