What Kind of Equipment Do I Need to Podcast?

Blue Microphone's Snowball USB Microphone
Blue Microphone's Snowball USB Microphone. (Photo: PriceGrabber.com)

Question: What Kind of Equipment Do I Need to Podcast?

You want to make your own podcast but you're not sure what you need to do that. The good news is you may already have some of what you need but chances are you'll still have to buy or acquire some tools. Here's what you need and where to get it.

Answer: Assuming you plan to create a simple podcast in a fairly traditional way, you will require at minimum the following:

  • Microphone
  • Headphones
  • Computer
  • Recording and Mixing Software
  • Internet access

Microphones

In order to get your voice into your computer for recording, you will need a microphone. You don't have to spend a lot of money on a microphone if you aren't concerned with high quality but remember: the better the quality, the more professional your audio will sound. I've actually done amazing things (in an emergency) with a $5 dollar headset microphone using software tools to refine the audio, but I have years of experience in tweaking.

Therefore, as a general rule you will want to upgrade from that microphone/headset you've been using for Skype.

USB Microphones are designed to work easily with today's computers. They generally will "plug and play" for you. You can use older microphones with standard RCA jacks but will more than likely have to step down the plug to fit into the audio card of the computer and may very well want an old-school "mixer" to best control it.

If you own a microphone that old, you probably also know how to work with it. For folks newer to recording, my suggestion is to keep the learning curve low and invest in a USB microphone.

For specific price comparisons on various popular USB microphones, see: USB Microphone Suggestions for Podcasters

Headphones

Usually, when recording voice with a microphone, you will probably need a pair of headphones. Since speakers cannot be turned up too loudly when a microphone is nearby and in use to eliminate feedback into the mike, headphones solve the problem and allow you to monitor the sound being recorded.

I would recommend you stay away from soft shell headphones, those that only have foam on the outside. These will not suppress the sound and may still feedback if too loud. It is best to use a hard shell headphone, one with a sturdy plastic or rubber outside which traps the sound.

You don't have to spend a lot on headphones but really cheap headphones will give you really cheap sound. If you don't mind, that's fine. But, if you eventually get into multi-track audio mixing, you'll want a pair of headphones that are discriminate enough to allow you to tweak your audio properly.

Computer

The good news: any PC computer purchased in the last few years is probably fast enough to easily handle the kind of recording you'll want to do for a typical podcast. There is no reason to run out and buy anything right away. Work with the computer you have. If it works, great. After a while, if you feel it's not adequate for your needs then you can always purchase a new computer with more memory and a faster chip.

(Full disclosure: I have worked very little with Mac computers and although I realize that makes this information a little incomplete, I would rather be honest than pass along any misinformation about hardware.)

Recording and Mixing Software

A podcast can be just your voice. Many Podcasters default to a simple presentation either because they choose an easy method or know the information they are providing does not need enhancement. But, you may want to use a pre-recorded show intro, with various inserted pieces of audio, possibly commercials, etc.

There are various free software tools which make recording and editing fairly easy. Recording audio is one thing. Mixing audio is a bit more involved. You can choose to record all your audio and mix it statically or you can record and mix in real-time.

Mixing in real-time captures a certain spontaneity. Mixing your audio as a static project allows you more time to make your finished product polished and professional. For software suggestions for recording and digitally mixing, please see: Digitally Recording and Mixing Software for Creating Podcasts.

Internet Access

I know this seems like an obvious thing to mention but you will need some way of uploading your finished podcast once it ready for the world to hear. Bigger Podcasts will mean larger files and you should never underestimate a good broadband connection!