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Everything you need to get started in podcasting

It’s no surprise these days — podcasts are everywhere, and gaining new listeners by the second. Especially among millennials and members of Gen-X, new podcasts of all varieties are sprouting up and replacing radio as a primary form of audio entertainment. If you’re a person with a lot to say about any particular subject, it’s now easier than ever to have your voice heard by kickstarting your very own podcast show at a very low cost.

Whether you’re on the fence about starting your podcast and want to learn more, ready to take the leap but don’t know where to start, or already have your podcast going but want to tighten up your quality, this page is for you. Here is all the basic equipment you need to start a podcast that is up to standard with today’s audio quality expectations.

1. A Condenser Microphone

The first (and arguably most important) thing on your list of necessities for starting your very own podcast is going to be a quality low-noise microphone. In terms of achieving a high level of audio quality on your podcast, this is going to be the heart and soul of what sets your show apart from ones that are at an audibly lower quality. However, when shopping around online, you may feel overwhelmed with the different shapes, names, and types of microphones and run into a difficulty determining which one is right for you.

Microphones as a whole break down into three distinct categories of microphone types: dynamic, ribbon, and condenser. Dynamic microphones are most often found in the hands of your favorite singer during live performances. They typically have a long handle, with a ball-shaped diaphragm at the top which people sing into — although they will usually have too much audible noise, known as a “noise floor,” present — likely more than what you will want in your podcast.

Ribbon microphones are the most classic type, but are probably a little too delicate and typically expensive for most beginner podcasters.¬†Condenser microphones are the type traditionally used by most podcasters, and are known for emphasizing a very high-quality audio output, while maintaining a very low noise floor. Keep in mind though, that condenser microphones need an extra source of power to be picked up properly, which is typically provided by either a mixer or audio interface in the form of what is known as “phantom power.” On either of these, it is usually found as a push-able button that says either “Phantom” or “48v.” Condenser microphones can be found in a “small-diaphragm,” with a straight or pencil-looking design, or “large-diaphragm,” which looks like a larger tube. For the purposes of your podcast, you will likely be better off with a large-diaphragm setup.

Regardless of the type of microphone you decide to buy, to plug it into the next source you will need to buy an XLR cable, which can be found by simply searching “XLR cable” on your online store — any one will do the trick. In general, any condenser microphone will deliver a high-quality output signal, but the more expensive microphone you buy will give you a boost in sound quality over the others. When it comes to options, we recommend microphones from companies like Audio Technica, Blue, and a few others. Below are a series of recommendations we have at a variety of price points.

Audio Technica AT2020 ($99) | AKG Vocal Condenser Microphone ($147.99) | Blue Bluebird ($300)

2. An Audio Interface

PreSonus Studio 2|4
PreSonus Studio 2|4

Next in your line of signal flow, you’re going to want to be equipped with a basic audio interface. This captures the audio from your microphone, and converts it from an analog signal to a digital signal — something that your computer can understand and record as a digital file. Think of it as a translator between your microphone and your computer.

While there are a wide range of sizes and prices among audio interfaces on the market today, the right one for you is likely going to be on the smaller end. This mostly depends on how many microphones and people you will be recording at a time on your show. If your podcast calls for only 2 microphones, (i.e. 1 host and 1 guest, or 2 hosts), your ideal audio interface will definitely be on the low end of the spectrum. But the more guests or hosts you have, the larger interface you’re going to want to buy. You’ll also want to think about how an interface connects to your computer. Typically, smaller interfaces connect through USB, and some have started adopting the newer USB-C connector. A range of recommended interfaces that fit the needs of most basic podcasters is listed below so you can get right to your purchase.

When it comes to interfaces, we recommend interfaces from Focusrite, PreSonus, and other similar brands. a few great selections can be found below.

PreSonus Studio 24c ($169.95) | Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 ($239.99)

3. A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

Various Digital Audio Workstations
Various Digital Audio Workstations

The third, and final piece of gear on the list of necessities for your start-up podcast is going to be a digital audio workstation, commonly referred to as a “DAW.” When you connect your audio interface to your computer, the DAW is going to be the piece of software that actually lets you see the audio coming in, and eventually record it and edit it into an episode. There are a lot of DAWs that are out there, and each can be used in a lot of different capacities. However, before you go out and shell out the big bucks on a DAW with a bunch of bells and whistles, do a quick check on your computer, as a lot of computers nowadays have a DAW that comes pre-installed, which will definitely meet all of your basic needs. Most computers made by Apple contain a basic DAW called “Garageband,” and many PCs come with programs such as “Audacity.” Both of these will work great for a basic level of audio recording and editing, however for some more features you may want to consider laying down some money for a more intuitive layout. Below are some of our favorites available on the market today, not including Logic Pro X which is available for purchase in the Mac App Store.

Avid Pro Tools | PreSonus Studio One

4. Optional Accessories

Now that you have the essentials out of the way, you might want to consider investing in more optional accessories which will aid you in both the recording and editing of your podcast. The first optional accessory we would recommend would be a pair of quality studio headphones to hear yourself while you are still in the middle of recording, which could also be used for editing your podcast episode together to hear the full range of frequencies that your microphone is picking up very well. There are plenty of great models to choose from, but if you want a tried and tru classic, try the Sony MDR7506 headphones.

The other optional accessory you may want to pick up is a pop filter to place in front of your microphone. This is set up to prevent “plosives,” which are strong pops that can get picked up by the microphone when the person is too close and uses strong consonants such as “P” or “T.” With a pop filter in place, the microphone is a lot less likely to accentuate plosives as strongly, which will make your podcast sound even better. Head here to pick up a decent pop filter that should do the trick perfectly well.

Jimmy Byrne

Jimmy Byrne is a music producer, audio engineer, and musician living in Chicago, IL. Under his own company ByrneOut Productions, he has worked with a variety of artists & bands from throughout the US on the overall production and studio recording of their music as well as other audio-related projects. Looking ahead, Jimmy hopes to continue growing his career and company, build professional relationships with musicians and other industry professionals, and somehow leave his mark in this ever-changing industry.

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