Podcasts have become one of the most popular mediums of marketing and communication today. More and more listeners are subscribing to their favorite shows and want to follow in their favorite podcaster's footsteps. In doing so many are on the hunt for the latest and greatest podcasting equipment.
This buying guide is for podcast enthusiasts who are interested in upgrading their current equipment or who are getting into the podcast ecosphere. We'll cover budget-friendly options to the best-in-class.
Before we talk equipment let's answer some frequently asked questions:
Do I need to be an audio guru before starting my podcast?
Absolutely not. Technology has come such a long way that your smartphone has decent capabilities of being a great recording tool. Depending on your podcast, goals, and budget you can usually get by with minimal cost these days which is great for those new to podcasting.
Having a decent setup does increase your chances of higher listener engagement if that's important to you. Most of us probably don't want to listen to a 45-minute phone recording for example.
Do I need special software or services to get started?
Not necessarily. While post-production (what you have captured after you finish recording) tools are helpful, often they are only necessary if you need to edit out certain bits or add in additional content later.
On the opposite spectrum, some professional podcasters have a full audio chain that starts at the source (the microphone) and goes through audio processors and preamps to achieve studio-level quality and equalization while recording or after recording.
First things first, let's talk microphones. In podcasting, the mic isn't necessarily used to amplify the voice but rather capture it. The goal is to record it at a level that's balanced and free of any distortion.
There are a few types of microphones out there. The following three are the most popular.
Dynamic microphones (the most common) a more rugged and feature a moving coil. Wire on the coil moves in relation to a magnet. Voltage is generated on the wire as a result. These types of mics are more directional which means they reject sound from the sides and accept sound straight on.
Condenser microphones feature a large diaphragm that's capable of capturing sound from nearly any angle (Omni/bi-directional). These are less forgiving to noise and rumble but offer stellar audio quality. They are often used for vocals and room recording when capturing large ensembles.
Ribbon microphones are a variation of a dynamic microphone. These are found more in broadcasting but can be used for podcasting and general recording as well. These are very sensitive microphones but are capable of handling high sound pressure (really loud attacking sounds like drums).
Additionally, some new microphones today come with USB connectivity which means all you need to do is plug it in your computer and hit record.
So which mic is best for you? That answer depends but if you want a safe bet you can't go wrong with a dynamic mic. Here are some of our top picks for 2021.
A very versatile microphone that features both XLR and USB input and doesn't break the bank. Currently priced at USD 79.99 on Amazon.
Featuring both a USB-C and XLR output the Audio-Technical ATR2100x-USB is another extremely versatile mic. With a simple hand-held design, the microphone features a built-in headphone jack with headphone volume controls. Priced at USD 99.00 right now on Amazon.
With an uptick in demand for a cheaper but more user-friendly version of the infamous Shure SM7B microphone the team at Shure recently released the Shure MV7 USB Podcast microphone with podcasters in mind. This connects directly to your computer via USB or XLR, has an intuitive touch control panel for controlling things like gain, monitor volume, headphone mix, and muting.
This is a professional-grade microphone that is sure to please. The Sure MV7 USB is currently priced at USD 249.00 on Amazon.
The Shure SM7B is the king daddy of recording. It's XLR-only but features studio-quality sound and can be used to record almost anything with great results. To use this microphone you will need a way to run XLR directly into your computer. This is usually done using an audio interface. The SM7B is priced at $399.00 right now on Amazon.
The Shure MV5 is a retro-looking microphone that is simple and effective. Plug it in and hit record. A simple input and output scheme includes USB-C connectivity and a basic headphone jack. All this for a reasonably low price of $89.00 on Sweetwater.com. Choose from 3 different finishes to match your style.
A sister model to the AT2005USB though in condenser form. Priced at USD 149 this USB-only mic is great for content creators. A built-in level and headphone level control make tweaking your input signal a breeze.
If you're after great quality in a small package look no further than the new Rote NT-USB Mini. This small condenser microphone packs a big punch and is simple to use. Great for podcasting, gaming, musicians, streamers, and more. Priced at $99 USD right now on B&H Photo.
If your choice of microphone requires you to connect via XLR you are probably going to need an audio interface to connect to your computer. An audio interface's job is to translate passive audio signals into digital audio signals.
This is a big innovation that has only been around for a handful of years. Before these convenient little boxes, we were stuck recording directly to magnetic tape.
Here are our picks for 2021:
This entry-level audio interface packs a serious punch and gives you everything you need to hit the ground running. Two types of inputs, XLR and 1/4 inch jack, phantom power for condenser mics that might require it, and a headphone jack. All this with lots of gain and monitor controls. Priced at $119.99 right now on Sweetwater.com
I happen to use the Audient iDR myself on my new podcast called The Solo Startup. It's simple and easy and sounds great. The controls are spaced nicely and are easy to tweak and understand. Two types of inputs allow you to record virtually any type of instrument. A nice monitor mix allows you to control your levels to and from the unit. The iD4 of course comes with phantom power, a direct in, and two inputs for varied-sized headphone inputs. Priced at $199 right now on Sweetwater.com.
Software (editing, post-production)
After you finish recording there's a good chance you might want to add in an intro reel, make some quick edits, and adjust some equalization or levels. Doing this is very possible with today's software. There are numerous software packages out there to choose from but here are our picks ranging from free to the most time-saving.
Davinci Resolve (free)
While aimed more at video production and editing Davinci Resolve is a full-featured editor that can work just as well for audio. Most might not recommend this for audio editing but I would. It's a great all-around tool for all your video and audio needs and best of all it's free!
Descript describes its product as All-in-one audio & very true video editing. A new take on editing audio and video Descript automates a lot of the pains of editing and transcription for podcasts. Remove "us" and "uhs" with a single click. Trim audio by removing transcribed words rather than slicing and dicing waveforms. The approach Descript took is super unique and one many are starting to love as their main audio and video editor. Descript is free to try with limited features but starts at $12/mo.
Group recording tools
Sometimes you need to record several people at once. This can get tedious and hard to dial in depending on our setup. Luckily there are some tools you can leverage to ease this pain.
This slim recorder has four microphone inputs with switchable +48V phantom power. It has individual headphone outputs with independent volume controls so each podcast host can monitor in complete comfort. Four programmable sound pads are at your disposal to trigger your show's intro music and signature sounds. It's also equipped with onboard effects for basic signal processing.
A good set of headphones helps remove outside noise and lets you get down to business. Noise-canceling can help with deep work as well which means you could use headphones for work too. We recommend closed-back headphones for the best noise-canceling quality.
HD 280 Pro headphones give you the kind of accurate frequency response you need to climb into your mixes. Simple and effective. Priced at $99.95 USD right now on Sweetwater.com
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro headphones feature a comfortable fit with a 3-dimensional sound built for serious studio use. Priced at $159 right now on Sweetwater.com.
I hope this guide was useful! Podcasting can require almost no equipment to get started. The key is just getting started. Once you progress and show both yourself and your audience what you are capable of will it make sense to upgrade your gear to something more professional. Don't sweat it if you can't get the best of the best. The cheaper equipment still sounds pretty great.
Once your podcast audio is recorded with your awesome new equipment be sure to pair your latest podcast episodes with a great podcast host and community platform. Give PodMob a try to see what we are all about.