With more than 525,000 active shows and 18.5 million episodes of podcasts on the internet, it’s encouraging to start your own podcast and cultivate a weekly audience of listeners interested in your content. The hardest part about starting a podcast isn’t sitting down to record on a consistent schedule, but rather figuring out all the podcasting recording equipment that you’ll need to get going.
I was in the same boat and spent hours researching and gathering recording equipment piece by piece, so this blog post will walk you through everything you’ll need and highlight everything that I use to record my weekly podcast episodes!
When looking into podcasting equipment on a budget, it’s daunting to decide on which microphone is the right one to purchase given how many options are out there. While you might think that you need to buy a professional microphone that costs several hundreds of dollars to get the best audio quality, you can use a $60 microphone to achieve the same effect as professional streamers and podcasters getting tens of thousands of views per episode.
The biggest difference in microphones lies in their audio capture capabilities. There are two kinds of mics that you’ll need to take into consideration: a dynamic or a condenser mic.
As a quick reference, dynamic microphones are the ones that singers use to perform music. These kinds of mics are great at capturing audio up close while minimizing background noise. The audio quality is excellent, but because of their ability to minimize background noise you need to be extremely close for your voice to be picked up in the mic. It’s somewhat cumbersome and it takes some getting used to, but dynamic mics are great for podcasters riding solo or having two people in the same room using two different mics (so you aren’t capturing the other person’s audio as background noise). Here a few budget-friendly options that output excellent audio:
The Audio-Technica brand is well known in the audiophile world for their quality products and this is the mic that I first decided on using in my podcasts. It comes with both a USB and XLR option, allowing you to either plug and play or hook it up to a mixer. For the price I would highly recommend starting with this mic, although you’ll have to adjust the gain in post-edit to get your audio to an optimal level so it isn’t too quiet.
When recording I recline back in my chair about six inches away from the mic and found that it picks my voice up clearly. In my room I have filters running in my aquarium tanks which would be an issue with a condenser mic, but that noise isn’t picked up in the ATR 2100.
This is another great choice that’s a little pricier than the ATR 2100, but is highly regarded for its excellent audio quality and is used by a lot of vocalists. It’s a robust and durable microphone that sounds a touch better than the ATR 2100, but the only problem is the Shure SM58S is an XLR-only microphone, requiring the use of a mixer to capture the audio or an XLR-USB adapter cable. While it’s a great mic, if you aren’t familiar with using mixers or just want a plug-and-play microphone I would recommend the ATR 2100 as the more versatile option.
The Rode Procaster dynamic microphone is an entry-level professional mic used by many podcasters. It has a built-in pop filter to reduce noise and produces excellent audio quality right out of the gate, but for some users it might be a little too “bassy” and requires a clean boost in gain through post-editing, similar to the ATR 2100.
Like the Shure SM58S, the Rode Procaster is an XLR-only mic, although there is a USB option in the form of the Rode Podcaster mic. There is a bit of a quality difference between the two mics, as the Rode Podcaster isn’t as high of quality as the Rode Procaster.
Whereas with dynamic mics you have to “eat the mic” to get your voice to pick up clearly, condenser mics can be set several feet away from you and still pick your voice up as clear as day. The only downside to using condenser mics is their ability to pick up any background noise, ranging from people walking around your house to even causing an echo effect from your voice rebounding off the walls and hardwood floor. The quality of condenser mics is still great, but a dynamic mic is a better option if you live in a noisy environment or your work space isn’t optimized for sound reduction. Here are a few great choices if you don’t want to be “eating the mic” when recording:
The price point is significantly higher than the ATR 2100, but the quality is in the same range for the Blue Yeti and is a popular choice for many Twitch streamers. It’s easy to plug and play as a USB microphone and it has a built-in gain option that will allow you to adjust your audio levels without stepping foot into editing software. The Blue Yeti also offers a headphone-jack plug in with little to no latency if you want to listen to how you sound through headphones. It was a tough choice between the ATR 2100 and the Blue Yeti, but I would highly recommend this mic for anyone entering the world of podcasting for the first time. One word of caution is the Blue Yeti’s abnormal size, requiring the purchase of a specific shock mount for the mic if you plan on using one.
When I was doing my research I was baffled at the difference between the Blue Snowball and its cousin the Blue Yeti. Although it has less noise cancellation and isn’t as robust, this mic is more budget friendly and offers a good level of quality in a plug and play device, so it’s worth looking at if you’re on a tighter budget.
Compared to the Blue Snowball, this mic is regarded as a competitor to the Blue Yeti with a bolder tone at half the price. There are a few design issues in the form of the mic placement and difficulty adjusting the gain based on the knob resistance, but if you’re looking at the Blue Yeti I would also recommend checking out this mic as well.
As the companion to the ATR 2100, the AudioTechnica AT2020 is another great condenser mic option that is on a comparable playing field to the popular Blue Yeti. The mic is a little sensitive, necessitating the use of a shock mount and mount arm for maximum quality. There’s a lot of back and forth as to whether this mic outperforms the Blue Yeti, but the biggest difference from a design standpoint is its ability to fit a variety of shock mounts compared to that of the Blue Yeti.
There isn’t a significant difference between the AT2035 and the AT2020 other than the AT2035 needing a mixer and outputting with an XLR cable, but this bundle also includes the Scarlett Solo Audio mixer so it’s a great deal if you’re looking at mixers alongside your microphone.
Now that you’ve decided on which microphone that you want, it’s time to get a few accessories to really optimize your vocal quality. You will need to purchase the following:
Pop filters are little foam pieces that over the exposed head of the microphone and does what its name suggests: reducing sharp notes and tones from natural speaking patterns like hisses and whistles made from “ch” and “sss” consonants. They aren’t required, but it really helps with the sound quality at a minimal price point.
Wind screens act in a similar fashion as pop filters in a “second line of defense.” It also helps to minimize directional background noise depending on how it’s mounted to your microphone.
Shock mounts can act as physical protection for your mic, but the main purpose is to reduce mechanical noise in the form of floor or desk vibrations. They aren’t necessary, but if you’re going to be moving around a lot in your seat or typing on a keyboard they really help with the noise produced from those actions. A word of caution is to ensure that your shock mount is compatible with your mic. I made the mistake of buying a shock mount that was sized for a Blue Yeti; it was much too large for my ATR 2100 and I had to buy a new one that fit my mic.
These aren’t as important for those of you who are going to set up your condenser mic directly on a table but are a necessity for dynamic mic users to get the mic in the right position to speak into. I have a Neewer scissor mount that works just fine for my needs, but swivel mounts offer a bit more versatility at a higher price point based on how you have it clamped to your table. Again, make sure that the mount is compatible for your mic and the shock mount attached to it, or that it can support the weight of a bulkier mic such as the Blue Yeti or AT2020.
I personally hate using headphones when I record as hearing my own voice is somewhat distracting, but getting a good pair of headphones is helpful in listening back to audio or making sure that you’re coming in crystal clear. I personally use the Sennheiser HD 598 open-back headphones (they’re a must for audiophiles), but snagging a good pair of noise-cancellation headphones from Bose or AudioTechnica is a good option if you prefer hearing how you sound when recording.
This is a question I grappled with when deciding on podcasting equipment. In a nutshell a mixer will allow you to directly control your audio outputs through an interface instead of relying on post-editing or recording software. Mixers are a requirement for any XLR mics unless you purchase a XLR to USB converter cable, but they’re great when hosting multiple mics for several speakers. Mixers let you adjust the volume live, so if people are talking too loud you can turn down the gain, or if people are too quiet you can turn up their gain.
If you’re adding sound effects or intro music mixers are great to do so without going into post-editing with faders to fade in or out music. They’re useful as backups in case your digital recording fails by sending the audio file to an audio recorder. For podcasters recording remotely via Skype, you can also completely remove the audio of the other speaker when sending them your audio copy when combining audio files for the podcast.
Having said that, they aren’t necessary, but will make your life so much easier if there are multiple hosts on your podcast. A couple of things to look out for are the number of channels on the mixer, how many XLR inputs it has for multiple mics, if it has faders or knobs and other advanced inline processing features.
Here are a few recommendations that won’t break the bank:
The Yamaha MG10 mixer is durable, doesn’t break easily compared to cheaper mixers and offers built-in compression and an Aux Out to run a mix-minus setup for when you need to remove a host’s audio when combining audio files.
This mixer is another great option that can host up to six different mic inputs with sliders and faders for any sound effects or music adjustments you’re adding live.
The 4-channel Mackie 402 is similar to the Yamaha MG10, but some would argue that the audio quality and performance is better than the Yamaha. It doesn’t offer sliders and faders in favor of knobs, but it’s a hefty piece of equipment that’s portable and easy to use.
Once you have your equipment set up and ready to go, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to record your audio. This is the easiest part of the process if you purchased a plug and play microphone. There are a few different options here, but a few programs I would suggest using:
In a blog post I reviewed DaVinci Resolve 15 and think it’s an amazing podcast editing software for the price point (free!). If you’re starting out, I would try out this program to record your audio and perform any post-production edits.
This is the program that I use to record my podcasts. You have to pay to use it as part of the various Adobe Creative Suite plans, but it’s simple to set up and the editing process is easy once you get over the initial learning curve.
Audacity is another free option that often comes preloaded on many computers. I prefer Da Vinci Resolve 15 as a more comprehensive option that doesn’t cost you anything, but Audacity isn’t a bad choice.
If you’re hosting remotely, using Skype or Google Hangouts are two choices to record the audio of multiple users digitally. I recommend Google Hangouts as a more secure option, but it’s another personal preference.
Hopefully this guide was helpful for getting you started in the world of podcasting! If you need help on setting up your podcast recording equipment, the recording process and performing post-edits of your photos, be sure to check out my step-by-step guide on producing your first podcast. Podcasts are a lot of fun and make for great passion projects to make you stand out as a knowledge expert in your industry.
What podcast studio equipment did you end up purchasing to start your first podcast episode? What kind of podcast are you producing or plan on producing? I would love to hear your comments below!
If this guide was helpful, be sure to share it on social media and with anyone you think would benefit from the info!
Note: you might be wondering what's up with all the display banners and amazon links on this piece. I finally got accepted into the Amazon affiliates program and am using this as a way to earn a bit of extra income outside of my job at General Motors! Having said that, my recommendations for these products are unbiased and based on my experience/knowledge of their qualities to enhance your podcasting efforts. I wouldn't make a recommendation for products that I wouldn't personally use in my own content curation.
Here's the microphone, shock mount, mic stand and accessories that I use to record my podcasts every week:
Audio-Technica ATR 2100 Dynamic Mic: https://amzn.to/2GwPLwy
Mic Arm and Wind Screen: https://amzn.to/2Ld9LYF
Pop Filter: https://amzn.to/2Lda0Tz
Sennheiser HD 598 SR Openback Headphones: https://amzn.to/2IzdaPu