If you want to start a podcast but you have no idea where to find the best podcasting tools, you’ve come to the right place! Here are my recommendations for podcast recording equipment. (This is an extract from my free book on how to plan, launch, and grow a successful podcast. Download the full copy for more details!)
Prices vary wildly depending on your budget but it’s important to remember two things. First, it’s not a good idea to record using the internal microphone on your laptop or smartphone. The quality will be too low. Second, it’s best not to get too fussy about the specific equipment itself or use it as an excuse to procrastinate. Remember that you can always start with a simple or affordable set-up and upgrade later.
Start with a basic USB microphone that you can plug directly into your computer and a comfortable pair of headphones that you can use to monitor the sound levels while you record. (Make sure these are studio headphones or recording headphones so that they don’t allow sound to ‘leak’ back into the microphone and will also emphasise the vocal frequencies that standard headphones for listening to music don’t get right.) This should be enough for a solo podcast. Another option is to go for a comfortable pair of headset microphones, although the sound quality won’t be as great.
If you’re doing a show with other hosts or regular guests, you might want to invest in XLR microphones that will be plugged into a mixer (which would then be plugged into your computer) so that each person has their own microphone and is recorded on a separate track. (If you’re interviewing people remotely and they don’t have a great microphone, they can use a pair of earbuds with an in-built mic.) Also, if you’re recording away from a fixed studio, you might also need an external digital recorder, which is also great as a back-up in-house recording in case your computer crashes.
If you’re a video podcaster, you’ll need some combination of a DSLR camera with lens and sturdy tripod for the highest output; an external webcam as a step up from the poor quality of most laptop cameras; or just a basic tripod with a phone mount if you’re using your smartphone. You’ll also need a shotgun microphone or discreet lavalier microphone that isn’t distracting as well as good lighting to improve your visibility on screen.
When using a microphone, try to get as close as you can, positioning the microphone at a 45-degree angle from your face so that you avoid the plosives (bursts of air from consonants like p and b) and other noises that happen when you’re too close. (Purchasing a good pop filter or windscreen can help too.)
Keep your head position fixed so that your mouth is always the same distance from the microphone (which should be at ‘mouth level’ so that you don’t crane your neck up or down). Also, don’t touch or adjust the microphone when recording as this can create noise that’s hard to remove. Having a microphone stand or boom arm that you can adjust, plus a shock mount to absorb the vibrations from any accidental knocks of your table or desk, is ideal.
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