Basic Equipment for Starting a Podcast

Recording Studio
Recording Studio.

There are so many reasons to start a podcast. Podcasting is a medium that allows you to connect with your audience using your real voice. It’s a convenient medium that goes where your listeners go while they are going about their daily tasks.

It’s also easy to get started. Once you have a message, all you really need is free recording software like Audacity and a USB headset to record your voice into your computer.

If you would like a more professional sounding podcast or plan on conducting interviews or having a co-host it gets a little more complicated.

This article will cover the basic setup for different scenarios and pros and cons of the different equipment options. The basic things that you will need, apart from a computer, is a microphone, headphones and recording software.

Microphones

A lot of podcasters use the Rode Podcaster USB Broadcast Microphone, the Blue Yeti Pro, or the affordable Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR. These can all be great choices, but once you start comparing microphone features the lines can get blurry. Here is a brief rundown of microphone features and the pros and cons of each.

The first practical consideration is how you are going to hook your microphone into your computer. A USB microphone will plug directly into your computer. This is the simplest and least expensive option and a viable option for a one person show or monologue.

The second option is a microphone with an XLR hookup. This microphone will require an audio interface or a mixer to plug the microphone into and then an additional USB cord to run from the mixer or interface to your computer.

The XLR hookup is ideal if you want to use a mixer or an audio interface. This can give you more control, enable you to mix sounds, allow you to connect professional audio gear, and have multiple channels and mic inputs for multiple hosts.

If you are just starting out and don’t know which option you need, there are multiple affordable microphone options that have both USB and XLR connections. You can start podcasting now, and add the mixer or audio interface at a later date. USB and XLR microphones are sometimes referred to as digital and analog microphones.

The next microphone consideration is whether you want a dynamic or a condenser microphone. Some brief differences between the two are that condenser microphones are more expensive, more sensitive, have a higher dynamic range, and have a diaphragm mounted close to a conductive plate. The condenser microphone may also need a +48V phantom power supply which comes with most mixers.

The dynamic microphone is more robust and resistant to feedback, less expensive, has a poorer dynamic range, and doesn’t require an external power supply. Before you say that microphone sounds terrible, there are advantages to a dynamic microphone. If you don’t have a quiet sound proof studio, more resistance to feedback is a good thing. You also won’t have to hassle with mixers and external power supplies, unless you want to. The dynamic microphones are also referred to as moving coil microphones because they are composed of a diaphragm attached to a thin coil of wire.

One other microphone thing to consider is pickup patterns. There are 3 main variations omnidirectional, bidirectional and cardioid. These represent the area of the microphone that picks up the sound. If you are not in a soundproof studio and are doing a monologue, the cardioid is a good option because the mic picks up the sound directly in front of it. Bidirectional is a good option for sharing a mic during interviews. If you want to know more about pickup patterns here is an article by E-Home Recording Studio.

The good news is that even though the different types of microphones sound complicated, many have both a USB and XLR plugin, and you can get either plugin with a Dynamic or Condenser mic. The same goes for choices of pickup patterns.

Mixers and Audio Interfaces

If you do choose an XLR microphone then you get to choose a mixer or audio interface to go with it.

Popular choices for these include the high-quality Mackie Mixers, you can find these in an assortment of channel numbers and price ranges. You will need a channel for each microphone plugged into the mixer. Behringer also makes affordable mixers that come highly rated. Another popular audio interface is the Focusrite Scarlett series. These also have a range of prices and features.

Headphones

When podcasting, being able to hear your own voice and how you sound is important. Many people are actually surprised when they find out what their own voices actually sound like. Having a comfortable pair of headphones that you can plug into your microphone or your mixer depending on your setup makes monitoring your sound quality possible. If you have multiple hosts or guest in the same room, you will also need a mixer and a headphone amp.

Other Hardware Podcasting Accessories

An inexpensive pop-filter can make even a cheap microphone record better than an expensive microphone that has pops and hisses. Some microphones are hand held and some come with a table stand. If you are serious about podcasting, getting a boom and shock filter for your microphone will make it more comfortable and avoid recording vibrations and sounds from your desk or computer.

A lot of podcasters like having a portable recorder. These are small, relatively inexpensive hand-held units that you can use to record when you are on the go. Some podcasters use them for all of their shows to avoid losing recordings when their computers fail while using USB microphones.

Audio Software

Once you have all of your hardware and recording equipment set up, you will need to use audio software for recording and editing your show. There are many options, but the main ones used are GarageBand for Mac users, Audacity which is free, and professional quality Adobe Audition. You can also use Skype for interviews and record using Ecamm Call Recorder or Pamela for Skype. You can read more about our top software picks for podcasting here.

Your podcast setup can be as simple or complex as you would like. There are tons of recording and recording upgrade options. The best way to learn what the best setup for your show will be is to jump in and start doing it. You can always upgrade down the line.