Here’s everything you need to start your podcast — from hosting to microphones to mixers to audio editing software (plus a few extra tips).
Ready to start your own podcast? Well, using your phone simply won’t cut it, so you’ll need to invest in some gear. In this article, we’ll point you in the right direction for everything you’ll need to get your fresh podcast online.
Whenever it comes to essential podcasting tools, your first thought isn’t usually about where to host it. Which is why I’ve placed it first on this list. This is absolutely one of the most important aspects of creating a podcast and reaching an audience. Here are a couple of options to consider.
Best All Around Recommendation: Buzzsprout
Buzzsprout is an incredible resource that will get your podcast streaming on all of the major outlets. It has a user-friendly interface that you can try out for free. (They allow you to upload two hours of content per month for 90 days at no charge.) More importantly, Buzzsprout gives you a treasure trove of information on how your users are interacting with your show. It includes everything from regional audiences to number of downloads to which service is getting you the most plays. It will even tell you which devices your users are using.
Buzzsprout can also optimize the audio and handle the metadata. Basically, you just give them the audio file and then they take care of everything. Buzzsprout also offers the ability to add chapters to your podcast to make the episodes easier to navigate, so if you decide to break your podcast into different segments (highly recommended) such as news, guest interviews, reviews, and tutorials, your users can skip directly to the chapter they want. If you decide to sign up after 90 days, you’re looking at costs of $12-$24 per month.
Pro Choice: Transistor
Transistor is a high-quality company that already publishes some very successful podcasts. The prices are set to scale with you; as your podcast grows in popularity and in crew size, you can upgrade to more expensive packages.
So you can open up your podcast to additional users with Transistor and even create multiple podcasts if you have more than one idea, but honestly one of the most enticing aspects of this service is that they offer a built-in podcast website for your show, complete with a dedicated URL.
I recommend checking out both of these companies’ free trials to determine which one works best for you.
There are plenty of audio editing software options out there, and each caters to different skill levels and intended uses. Here are a few recommendations for editing a professional-quality podcast.
Best for Beginners: GarageBand
If you have a MAC OS, you can get GarageBand for free. In fact, there’s a good chance it’s already installed on your machine. This software is going to be the most user friendly and intuitive for beginners, affording you all the essential tools to handle intros, outros, music, ads, EQ, multiple audio tracks, importing, and exporting.
Logic Pro X
A step up from GarageBand (also for Mac), Logic Pro X actually uses the same interface, but it offers more advanced tools. In fact, you can import your timelines from GarageBand into Logic Pro and continue working on them. So think of this as a 2.0 version for GarageBand, and be sure to check out the Logic app, which also offers some pretty cool features. You can get Logic Pro for a one-time fee of $199.99.
Free Professional Choice: Audacity
Audacity can seem difficult at first, but as you start to learn your way around it, you’ll find a professional, powerful, and free audio editing tool that can handle all of your podcast-editing needs.
Audacity is a mainstay in the podcast market because it can handle anything at no cost. If you need a little help with the learning curve, check out this article.
Paid Professional Option: Hindenburg Journalist
Our friends over at PremiumBeat have already covered why Hindenburg is the program to use, but in short, it offers a free trial, the full version is only $95, and its creators designed it specifically for spoken audio (not multitrack layering.) The interface is extremely intuitive, so it’s perfect for beginners.
You should definitely check out this trial first before looking at the other DAWs (digital audio workstations) mentioned here. If you don’t think it’s worth the cash, shift on over to another option.
The first two considerations when searching for the microphone that suits your podcast and budget are dynamic vs. condenser and XLR vs. USB. Let me break these things down briefly. (If this is nothing new for you, feel free to scroll ahead to my microphone recommendations below.)
Dynamic microphones are what you would most commonly find at your local music venue. They’re great for rock shows since they’re durable, moisture resistant, extremely resilient mics that record loud sounds very well. They do not require any external power to operate, so once you have one plugged in, it should be ready to go.
I wouldn’t recommend using a dynamic microphone for your home studio, but I would definitely suggest one if you have a traveling podcast on the road or need a microphone to capture loud live events.
A condenser microphone is for controlled environments, making it perfect for podcasts. These are much more sensitive than dynamic mics, and they generally have a much louder output. You will need power to amplify your condenser mics, so this is something to consider. Look at systems with phantom power options (the ability to send electricity through the line to an external source like your microphone). These mics do tend to be on the pricier side, but they are well worth it. Just be sure to take good care of them since they are much more fragile than dynamic mics.
Lavalier microphones, or lavs, are wonderful for video. They can capture some great audio while being barely visible on camera. But when you don’t have to worry about video, you can find microphones that are much better suited to creating a podcast. Even if you’re filming yourself recording your podcast, use some microphones created for the studio and leave the lapel mics for your next video shoot.
The three-pin XLR is the most common and essential cable in the audio world. You’ll find these with all of your high-end microphones, which means that you won’t be able to plug straight into a computer with a microphone that uses these cables. For the highest-quality podcast with multiple guests, running XLR microphones into a mixer is by far the best option for quality. If you do purchase XLR microphones, you’ll either need to purchase an audio interface or a mixer that you will then run out to your computer — which I will cover later on in this article.
If you’re on the move and want to keep your footprint small, you can run up to four XLR microphones into a portable Zoom H6 recorder that has live mixing options. Then you can later dump the recordings straight to your computer to edit and master.
These are becoming more and more popular because they are user friendly, and you can plug them straight into a computer. Some people turn their noses up at USB microphones, but in my experience, you can still get a good-sounding product at an affordable price without needing to know too much about audio.
Beginner Mic for a Budget: AmazonBasics Desktop Mini Microphone Gen2
A condenser microphone that can get you decent sound for around $50? Sounds too good to be true, and for some audiophiles, it is, but for the bargain it’s a great place to start.
This is the successor to the highly successful and popular first generation of this mic, which has almost five stars online and glowing reviews. The first gen’s only feature was a mute button (which is highly useful for shows that feature multiple guests) but the second generation includes a built-in zero latency headphone amplifier (so you can immediately hear what the mic sounds like as you use it), a more durable design, a gain knob to control volume, two cardiod capsules (so you can record whats just in front of the mic) or the option to use an omnidirectional funtion to record the entire room, and it still comes with its handy metal stand to sit on a desk. It’s USB-based, so there’s no need for an interface or mixer; you can adjust levels on your computer’s editing software.
The Semi-Pro: Blue Yeti USB Microphone
This microphone has quickly become the prosumer podcast standard. It’s the most common microphone for non-professional podcasts. It features a USB out and a XLR to give you options. It also includes a nice tabletop stand, gain control, mute button, and zero latency output, and it consists of a tri-capsule array of three condensers to offer four different pickup patterns.
While it wouldn’t be the best scenario, you could even have two people record on this microphone if you absolutely had to, as it can record in both directions.
If you wanted to eliminate any unwanted sounds caused by vibrations you could take this microphone to the next level by removing the tabletop stand and attaching it to a Blue Radius III shock mount and connecting that to a Heil PL2T boom stand so that the microphone is shock resistant and can swivel directly toward you. I own one, it’s one of the mics we have in our studio, and I even bought a pair for my parents’ podcast. This microphone is a great choice for the price.
Pro Level Mic: Shure SM7B
If you’re watching a video of a professional podcast recording, most likely, this is the microphone you’ll see. It has incredible range, and it will give you top-notch quality. This microphone is best suited for quiet spaces or an actual studio, as it will pick up so much of what’s going on in the room. I highly recommend using the A7WS windscreen that ships with the mic to help cut back on any plosives or popping sounds you might make.
This mic is sturdy, it’s built like a tank, and it has an incredible frequency response of 50 to 20,000 HZ. Note, however, that there is no shock mount for this microphone. Invest in a pole arm if this is the microphone you land on.
Affordable Quality: Audio Technica ATH-M20x
Coming in at just under $50 with almost the same frequency range as the Sony headphones (below) with 15 HZ to 20k HZ, these will go completely over the ear and will offer a nice, clear, flat sound (no boosted bass), so you have the perfect idea of how you actually sound. This is a great choice for your podcast, and it’s cheap enough to pick up some pairs for your guests.
Pro Level: Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphones
These closed-back headphones have become synonymous with quality. Many professionals use them, and you can find them right now for under $100. This is my go-to pair of headphones for editing audio and for listening to music — I absolutely love them. Sometimes, after long periods of time (multiple hours straight), they can become uncomfortable, but I can’t ever see myself not having a pair of these headphones. They have a frequency response of 10 HZ all the way to 20k HZ, they have a cable that’s longer than you should ever need, and they will provide you with some of the best sound quality on the market.
Mixers and Audio Interfaces
These tools bridge the gap between your microphones and your computer. They allow you to live-mix your levels, take in multiple XLR inputs (and sometimes USB — though not recommended), and then output each channel to your computer. Some things to look for: headset volume adjustments to control levels for yourself and your guests and if they do indeed run off of phantom power, will you need an external power source for your microphones. (Please note that if your microphones don’t need phantom power to make sure that switch is left off.
The RØDECaster Pro
This podcast production studio comes complete with four headphone inputs that have customizable volume knobs for each host and four XLR inputs with phantom power. It also houses eight soundpads to program custom sounds, a microSD card slot, and a touchscreen — and it’s Bluetooth compatible. It even double-checks with you when the power button is hit to make sure you actually want to turn off the mixer, to prevent you from losing any valuable recordings. This machine is incredibly impressive and will take your podcast to the next level.
Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface
Take your XLR microphones, run them to this box, run a single USB to your computer, and then use the digital mixer on your DAW to control levels for your podcast. This thing is compact, and it has four mic inputs, two instrument inputs, and dual headphone buses all built into a sleek compact design. This model is made for a larger podcast group, but Focusrite offers smaller (and cheaper) models if you only need two — or even just a single microphone input. I’ve used these in the past for recording and streaming audio, and I am definitely a fan — I especially like how easy they are to transport. Make a travel pack out of one of these, a couple mics, and a laptop with a DAW, and boom — you can record a podcast anywhere that accommodates a carry-on.
Pro-Choice: Yamaha MG10XU USB Mixing Desk
With more of a traditional mixer setup, this Yamaha has 10 inputs with phantom power, and it has USB connectivity to run straight into your audio editing software. It has some great quality preamps to give you the sound you hear on professional podcasts. One of the best things about this mixer is that it has the SPX FX, which allows you to add reverb, distortion, and modulation, which will allow for more creative freedom to explore different sounds for your show.
Computers and Studio
Mac vs. PC won’t make much of a difference, unless you plan on using Garageband or Logic Pro for editing (because those programs are made specifically for Mac). If your Mac laptop, like mine (*shakes fist at sky), only has USB C inputs, you might need (depending on the type of USB cable) a powered USB hub to either run your USB microphone directly to the computer or to run the mixer USB out to your computer. Make your setup compatible for travel with a laptop or set up a sweet home studio with a stationary desktop — whatever fits your style best.
If you do create a home studio, be sure to check any air vents, machine sounds, or extraneous noises that might bleed through from another room by sitting quietly in whatever room you’ve chosen as a studio. Smaller, carpeted rooms will of course be better than large open rooms with hard-surface floors.
Cover image via blackzheep.
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