By: Jake Martin
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of Podcasts and know that they’re taking over the world. Shows like Serial and This American Life have shown that proper storytelling can bring any medium to life. Being able to choose what content we consume is one of the biggest components of modern culture, but what happens when you’re a passionate individual that wants to create the content instead of consume it?
There are a ton of great resources available to figure out how to start your own podcast, and I encourage you to read around, but if you’re a newcomer to podcasting and want to know how to get started, then look no further!
Below you’ll find a compiled list of the equipment I use for BitCast and descriptions of what each item does for you. This is by no means the ONLY setup, but if you want to create a high quality podcast without breaking the bank, I personally think the following options are the best way to get started.
Get a Computer
It doesn’t really matter what kind of computer you have, this is the most important aspect of your podcast. You can almost entirely record your new podcast on a laptop with the built in microphone, however, it will almost certainly sound terrible, and that’s not what we’re going for here. Let’s keep reading on.
When we first recorded BitCast, I recorded on my late 2012 Macbook Air. Since that time, we’ve incorporated video into our podcast, and to be able to record video and audio at the same time, I needed something a little bit beefier. Being partial to Apple, I decided to upgrade to a 2017 iMac with a few extra add-ons. Starting out, if you’re just looking at audio, any kind of computer will work. The upside of having a laptop is that you’re able to record on the go. Just make sure you have a larger hard drive (500 Gigabytes or more) to store all of your audio files on!
Get a Digital audio workstation
A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), is the program that you will use to actually record, and later edit, audio on your computer.
I only have two suggestions in this category because I only really have experience with one, but I do enough reading on the side to know what other people suggest starting out. If you are a Windows user then look no further than the easy-to-use Audacity. It’s free, and super simple to use. All you gotta do is download the program here, plug in your mic, hit record and boom, you’re already on your way.
Like I mentioned above, I record on a Mac, and one benefit of using an Apple computer is that you receive the base version of GarageBand with it. GarageBand is a wonderfully simple tool that is just as easy to use as audacity, and it looks better to boot. If you want to take your available control a bit further, then Logic Pro is a perfect step in the right direction. It’s a $200 one-time purchase, but I find the added features worth the price.
Get a Decent Microphone
This is the third most important step in the podcasting process. Sure, you could start podcasting with just the two items listed above, but what really makes a huge difference in your podcast, is what kind of microphone you’re using. I would suggest starting cheap to see how you actually fare with creating your own podcast, and based on a ton of searching, it seems that the most affordable and quality microphone is the ATR-2100. The beauty of the ATR-2100 is that it’s both a USB and XLR compatible microphone, so you can just plug it directly into your computer, or if you’re wanting a bit better of a signal, and multiple hosts, you can use the XLR plugin. (Read on to find out what XLR is)
We initially recorded our podcast with a Blue Snowball microphone which is a solid microphone under $50, but if you’re looking for a step up in the sound department and you know you’ll have multiple guests on your show, I recommend the ATR 2100.
Get an Audio Interface
An audio interface is a device that allows you to plug in a microphone through an XLR cable, which nets you a more quality audio signal, as well as the ability to record multiple microphones at the same time.
Once again, if you already know it’s going to be a one-man podcast, I would go the USB route. However, if you know you’re going to have multiple guests on your podcasts, then you will have to invest in an Audio Interface
Do note that this is also where a larger money investment is going to come into play. Lucky for you, I have a few suggestions: a quality starting option for a one microphone setup, a more cost friendly option for a multiple microphone setup, and long-term option for a multiple microphone setup.
Quality Starting Option For a One or Two Microphone Setup - Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
Focusrite is a well-known brand in the audio production industry for good reason. They’re specifically known for their first-party pre-amps (a device that strengthens an otherwise weak audio signal, so it’s audible and able to be processed later). The 2i2 comes with two XLR inputs, hence it’s name and it’s a great option for getting started.
Cost Friendly Audio Interface for Multiple Microphones and Live Streaming - Behringer Xenyx 1204 USB
I actually bought this interface way late in the podcasting game, but it was for the sole purpose of being able to record multiple mics in a live setting for our Facebook Live Podcast recordings. Every live streaming application (youtube, facebook, twitch, mixer, etc.) all restrict live recordings to a stereo signal, so you’re forced to get creative with having multiple guests on a live video.
The behringer also has built-in individual channel settings, so you’re able to adjust volume, gain, or any other aspect of a singular sound source on the fly. Once again, super helpful in a live setting.
Long-term Option For Multiple Microphones - Focusrite Scarlett 18i8
Everything that was stated about the 2i2 previously applies here, except you have the increased amount of inputs and ouputs. Truthfully, I still only use the XLR inputs and the USB out, but if you are looking to have more than two guests on your podcast, or know that you’ll grow into that setup eventually, the Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 is the Audio Interface for you. Do keep in mind that the Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 isn’t friendly with most live streaming applications.
Non - Essential Podcast Gear
Get a proper Mic Stand
A surefire way to sound terrible on your podcast is being too far away from your microphone. Sometimes a microphone will come with what they call a “microphone stand” but it’s usually too short to get close enough to the sound source (your mouth). Proper podcasting etiquette has a person speaking directly into a microphone about six inches from the microphone. Not only will this make your podcast sound better, but it will also save you loads of time editing your podcast in post, if you and your hosts are properly mic'd up.
So, the first podcast stand I will recommend is the On Stage Adjustable Desk Microphone Stand.
This mic stand is perfect for dropping onto your table and going. They’re surprisingly well-built considering the price, and they’re adjustable, so if you have a guest who also happens to be a giant, chances are this mic stand can accommodate them.
Next, if you are wanting to relax a bit more and perhaps record sitting on your couch, then I would suggest going with a Floor Microphone Stand. These are the same stands you see in any concert setting, that are able to adjust for a fully standing individual, or in this case a sitting individual.
The benefit of a floor mic stand is that you’ll eliminate some of the fidgeting and tapping noises you might get from recording on your desk. I ended up buying the Samson MK-10 Microphone Boom Stand because there was a deal on it, but it looks like the AmazonBasics Tripod Boom Microphone Stand is practically the same, both in cost and functionality. Both have great reviews, so you can’t go wrong either way.
Lastly, if you’re wanting to look a bit more fancy or you’re speaking in front of your computer and need to access your keyboard, I would recommend getting a Scissor Arm Stand. Specifically, I went with the NEEWER Adjustable Microphone Suspension Boom Scissor Arm Stand.
You’ve likely seen these stands in radio stations and other professional podcasting studios. The benefit of a Scissor Arm Stand is that it allows you to adjust your microphone willy-nilly to whatever setting best suits you and your guests. They are great at eliminating table noise, freeing up table space, and did I mention, they look legit?
You can spend a whole bunch of money of a nicer brand of Scissor Arm Stand, but the only added benefit you’re getting is a less noisy arm. (The springs on the NEEWER can be noisy if they’re hit on accident).
Get a Windscreen or Pop Filter
Like I mentioned above, the secret to good audio is making sure that your sound source is within a short distance of the microphone. Sometimes, people take this literally and end up making out with your beautiful new microphone. Protect your microphone from these people with a windscreen or pop filter.
Not only do these little devices keep your microphones germ-free, they also help eliminate ‘plosives’. A plosive is the sudden release of air you might hear when you pronounce a word with a harsh consonant, like ‘power’ or even, ‘podcast.’
A pop-filter ensures that any air released from a plosive will not reach the microphone, but obscures the speakers face. So if you’re recording video, oftentimes you don’t want to cover up your face, or your guests’ faces, that’s when a windscreen would come into play.
Windscreens are the small pieces of foam that go around the microphone’s diaphragm, and are not quite as effective as pop filters. However, they still limit the amount of air that will be picked up by a plosive, and won’t obscure the speakers face as much.
Both of these items are super cheap and can be bought on amazon in a multitude of different colors, and styles.
Get Some Studio Headphones
It’s always smart to have at least one person monitoring your audio at all times. Sometimes a guest will shift in their seat, increasing their distance from the microphone, which causes their audio signal to weaken and sound quieter. If you have your headphones on during the recording, you’ll be able to notice this, and quickly adjust, saving you time in post-processing.
Wearing headphones also helps you pick up subtle noises that you might not hear otherwise. Air conditioning, computer fans, tapping on a desk, and even someone breathing heavily out of their nose, can all be heard through your headphones. It’s not always possible to eliminate every sound, but it does allow you to make small adjustments for a better recording environment in the future.
You can monitor audio with any pair of headphones, but I would recommend spending just a little bit more money on a quality pair of studio headphones. Studio headphones have a balanced EQ, specialized for delivering the most accurate depiction of sound for any environment. Other headphones like Beats or Bose, might be more tuned for music, thus resulting in a lower, bass-heavy sound.
Two headphones you could take a look at would be the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Studio Headphones and the Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphones. Both are close in price, with the Sony Headphones priced at $30 more than the Audio-Technica Headphones. BitCast currently uses the ATH-M20x headphones and I think they’re a great deal for the sound they produce. If you want a slight increase in quality and sound, then I would seriously consider Sony.
So there ya have it. Pretty much all of the equipment you’ll need to get your podcast up and running and sounding good.
This blog only covers the equipment needed for podcasting because I’m currently working on a separate blog that shows how to upload your podcast for the world to listen to. You’d be surprised at how confusing the world of RSS feeds can become if you’re just learning all of this for the first time.
If this all sounds like too much money or too much work, then you might be interested in partnering with a local studio to see if you have what it really takes to podcast and build a passionate audience of listeners. Luckily for you, I have a good friend that has his own studio space and rents it out specifically for podcasters that are looking to get started, but may not want to own all of this equipment.
If you have another topic that you would like me to cover regarding podcasting, please let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to make it happen!