Podcasting Equipment for various Budgets

As a sound engineer and after podcasting and live broadcasting experiences at Tech Talks Central in different situations, I’d like to share some equipment suggestions to a new podcaster. I made 3 basic podcasting equipment packages depending on your budget and your possible recording situations with links to each product only to show you their indicative prices, this way you’ll be able to find product reviews or similar products too. More equipment combinations and sound engineering tips for podcasting will follow, so stay tuned!

Low Budget Podcasting Equipment (70€+)

You can use either your smartphone & an external mic & your headphones, or use your laptop & a USB mic & -always- your headphones for your first recordings.

Use your smartphone!

External mic for your smartphone

Upgrade the internal mic of your device with an external mic like iRig Mic Cast that is multifunctional in Android and iOS, it will sound way better if you use it properly. There are different versions of iRig mics and plenty of external mics similar to iRig Mic Cast, prefer something portable with headphones output for monitoring your recording and just practice with your speaking distance.

Recording application

Download a free application like Voice Record Pro for iOS and Easy Voice Recorder for android. Of course you can get better apps if you pay 10 dollars for Bossjock Studio (iOS) for a complete editing.

…or use your laptop!

External mic for your laptop/desktop

Get a USB mic like Samson Q1U and connect it to your laptop instead of using the built-in laptop mic. Wear your headphones and record with Audacity software

Headphones

Plug in your headphones and record your first podcast! If you haven’t got any and you don’t want to invest in something professional yet, try the closed-back type Sennheiser HD201 headphones. Prefer closed-back type so that you can only hear what you are recording and always monitor what you record to avoid interferences or other problems.

Audio editing software

As above, Audacity is a free open source audio editing software that you can use to do pretty much everything you need to prepare and polish your recording. Remove noise, equalize, compress, mix, cut or add sound clips you want before you share it. You will find many tutorial videos online and a very helpfull website, theAudacityPodcast for everything you may need.

You can also use Auphonic service to edit your recording especially for normalizing and leveling issues in case the recording distances are not levelled properly. It’s free for up to 2 hours editing per month or you can pay for more hours.

Skype Recording

Record a distant interview through Skype with a recording application. You can choose a free application like Voipcallrecording for PC and Callnote for PC & Mac or free versions of Call Recorder for Skype for Mac or Pamela for PC. Always wear your headphones to avoid feedback noises, prefer a good-quality USB microphone and avoid empty echoing rooms. Edit your recording with Audacity.

Music & Sounds

Use Creative Commons royalty-free music to make a jingle and sounds to make your podcast sound warmer and more professional. Search and download music from Jamendo, Free Music Archive, CCMixter or sounds from FreeSound, Soungle & Soundbible or you can dig in CreativeCommons search engine.

Metadata

Edit your audio files metadata with mp3tag. Add titles, names, abstracts, photos etc. that will help your podcast files be more organized

Media Host

Choose a media host to begin your podcast. Soundcloud or Audioboom have a free version with limitations in uploads duration while Blubrry and Libsyn have more professional plans and prices. Of course every host gives you more advantages and services when you pay more. You can upload your podcast in Archive.org for free or directly to your website also.

Basic Podcasting Equipment with a portable recorder (300€+)

Portable Audio Recorder plus an external microphone

Prefer a good quality reliable recorder with XLR inputs like Zoom H4n or Tascam DR-40 so you can connect external dynamic microphones when you record in noisy enviroments. Zoom H4N can be used as an sound card for your laptop also. The built-in condenser mics are sensitive to disturbing atmosheres and noises you may have to deal with during recording, although their high quality in concerts or quiet room recordings. Dynamic microphones reject the surrounding noise as they record sound from closer distances. Watch a video and undrestand the difference using a Zoom H4n plus a dynamic mic.

Dynamic Microphone

Choose a dynamic microphone for speech like Shure SM 48 LC if you record interviews in crowded venues and don’t want to spend much or you can invest in a “reporter” dynamic mic like AKG D 230 so that you won’t have to keep strict distances between speakers. Also, I recommend the best value-for-money professional Rode Procaster for your home studio as it’s not so portable as other dynamic mics.

Microphone windscreen

Don’t forget to get a foam windscreen for your handheld microphone. This simple protection could save a damaged recording because of windy conditions or wrong placement near mouth. Voice creates “wind” that can be very disturbing for a listener.

Table stand

Get a cheap portable mic table stand like this tripod or buy Rode PSA1 arm stand for your desk.

Cables

You will need XLR cables to connect your mics with your recorder or your audio interface, buy short ones if you are recording outdoors with a recorder. USB mini cable to transfer files from your recorder to a laptop.

Headphones

Try the Sennheiser Hd 215. They are reliable and good quality closed-back headphones. Prefer closed-back type so that you can only hear what you are recording and always monitor what you record to avoid interferences or problems. I use them with a coiled cable when I am outdoors carring a recorder around to avoid long cables.

Audio editing software

Audacity is a free open source audio editing software that you can use to do pretty much everything you need to prepare and polish your recording. Remove noise, equalize, compress, mix, cut or add sound clips before you share it. You will find many tutorial videos online and a very helpfull website, theAudacityPodcast for everything you may need.You can also use Auphonic service to edit your recording especially for normalizing and leveling issues in case the recording distances are not leveled properly. It’s free for up to 2 hours editing per month or you can pay for more hours.

Skype Recording

Record a distant interview through Skype with a recording application. You can choose a free application like Voipcallrecording for PC and Callnote for PC & Mac or pay around 25€ for a better app like Call Recorder for Skype for Mac or Pamela for PC. Always wear your headphones to avoid feedback noises, prefer a good-quality USB microphone and avoid empty echoing rooms.

If you don’t trust your computer or connection for recording your skype call with an application, you can use your recorder (for 2 XLR inputs recorders like Zoom H4n) as follows. Set your recorder to stereo mode recording. Connect your external microphone to one XLR input. Connect your laptop output to the other XLR/Line-in input of the recorder with a Y mini stereo jack to 2 mono Jacks and using only the one mono Jack (let’s say black) for the recorder, leave the red one hanging. Plug your headphones in your recorder to monitor your voice and the other Skype call speaker’s voice. The other speaker will listen your voice through your laptop speaker, but you’ll record your voice through your external microphone and his voice through laptop output in your recorder. Edit your recording with Audacity.

Music & Sounds

As above, use Creative Commons royalty-free music to make a jingle or sounds to make your podcast sound more professional. Search and download music from Jamendo, Free Music Archive, CCMixter, AudioJungle or sounds from FreeSound, Soungle & Soundbible or you can dig in CreativeCommons search engine. But if you don’t want to search around in many sources and you can afford it, buy an annual plan for 99$ with unlimited downloads at AudioBlocks.

Media Host

Pay 90–100$ per year for unlimited uploads at Soundcloud or Audioboom to avoid free versions’ limitations. Choose a media host like Blubrry and Libsyn if you have a large audience and you want to monetize your podcasts, but think carefully if you can afford a professional plan.

Metadata

Edit your audio files metadata with mp3tag. Add titles, names, abstracts, photos etc. that will help your podcast files be more organized

Podcasting equipment for a podcasting/broadcasting studio (1500€+)

Portable Audio Recorder

Zoom H6 gives you up to 4 separate mic/line inputs plus 2 more with the right extension, all with high quality preamps. So you won’t need to carry a whole mixer every time you want to record up to 6 speakers simultaneously.

Use Zoom H6 instead of a mixer for more portability

Mixer

The 12 channel mixer (6 mics max) Yamaha MG12 will cover your needs for inputs and outputs for a podcast with many speakers and music sources or a live-streaming show.

Audio Interface

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a good quality soundcard to connect two microphones, a mixer or other audio devices with your PC. Choose a soundcard with more mic inputs if you don’t want to have a mixer.

Rode Procaster is a high-quality value for money microphone for podcasting

Microphone choices

Choose the value-for-money professional dynamic mic Rode Procaster and add a handy arm stand like Rode PSA1 and the set of shock-mount and a pop filter Rode SM6 for your podcasting studio. You can also get a AKG D 230 for reportage use with your portable recorder.

Cables

You will need XLR cables to connect your mics with your recorder or your mixer. USB mini cable to transfer files from your recorder to a laptop. 1/4 inch Jack to Jack for headphones amp. Y RCA to mini jack or Y Jack to mini jack for connecting your laptops with the mixer or the recorder.

Headphones pre-amp

Use Behringer HA8000 for up to 8 speakers monitoring or the cheap but very powerfull Behringer HA400 for 4 pairs of headphones max.

Headphones

Get yourself ATH-M50X and buy as many ATH-M20X as you need for your guests.

Audio editing software

Audacity will be the most handy again. It is a free open source audio editing software that you can use to do pretty much everything you need to prepare and polish your recording. Remove noise, equalize, compress, mix, cut or add sound clips before you share it. You will find many tutorial videos online and a very helpfull website, theAudacityPodcast for everything you may need. Adobe Audition is also a good choice if you pay 25€ per month for a friendlier enviroment.

You can also use Auphonic service to edit your recording especially for normalizing and leveling issues in case the recording distances are not levelled properly. It’s free for up to 2 hours editing per month or you can pay for more hours.

Skype Recording

As I suggested in the 300+ budget, record a distant interview through Skype with a recording application. Choose an app like Call Recorder for Skype for Mac or Pamela for PC for 25–40 euros. Always wear your headphones to avoid feedback noises, prefer a good-quality USB microphone and avoid empty echoing rooms.

Alternatively, you can use your recorder (for 2 XLR inputs recorders like Zoom H4n) and follow the same tip as I wrote above. Set your recorder to stereo mode recording. Connect your external microphone to one XLR input. Connect your laptop output to the other XLR/Line-in input of the recorder with a Y mini stereo jack to 2 mono Jacks and using only the one mono Jack (let’s say black) for the recorder, leave the red one hanging. Plug your headphones in your recorder to monitor your voice and the other Skype call speaker’s voice. The other speaker will listen your voice through your laptop speaker, but you’ll record your voice through your external microphone and his voice through laptop output in your recorder. Edit your recording with Audacity.

Music & Sounds

As I already suggested, use Creative Commons royalty-free music to make a jingle or sounds to make your podcast sound more professional. Search and download music from Jamendo, Free Music Archive, CCMixter, AudioJungle or sounds from FreeSound, Soungle & Soundbible or you can dig in CreativeCommons search engine. Again, if you don’t want to search around in many sources, buy an annual plan for 99$ with unlimited downloads at AudioBlocks.

Metadata

Don’t forget to edit your audio files metadata with mp3tag. Add titles, names, abstracts, photos etc. that will help your podcast files be more organized.

Media Host

Pay 90–100$ per year for unlimited uploads at Soundcloud or Audioboom. You can also contact Blubrry or Libsyn for a monetizing plan if you have a large audience.

Software for broadcasting and music mixing

You’ll need an audio mixing software like VirtualDJ $299 for mixing your podcast sounds & music and a broadcasting software like SAM $299. Of course you’ll need a tablet/laptop for Virtual DJ that you’ll mix with your microphones through your mixer and a laptop for SAM broadcaster that will broadcast your mixer output.

Some general tips:

- Practice with distances and levels whichever microphone you choose. If you record many speakers simultaneously, prefer similar microphones for each speaker.
- Always wear your headphones when you are recording.
- Soundcheck before recording, a cable could be unplugged or a microphone could be turned off.
- A cheap mic windscreen could save an interview of a non-experienced speaker. Don’t talk directly into your microphone to avoid mouth noises.
- Always have spare batteries for your recorder and change before it drains out because that could lead to a lost recording. Use power adaptor when you can.
- Especially during live streaming recordings you’ll have various electronic devices plugged in the same power line with your laptop, your mixer or your recorder. That may produce an AC Power hum noise in your recording. A hum destroyer will save you. Avoid cable loops for the same Ground Loop static noises.

So! Choose the right equipment for what you want to do depending on your budget and practice. Follow the above basic tips, relax and enjoy your podcasts!

Markos Voutsinos

Sound Engineer at Tech Talks Central, 2016


Originally published at medium.com on May 25, 2016.