If you’re wondering what’s needed to start a podcast, one of the biggest misconceptions of making a podcast is that you need to have a lot of fancy equipment or a recording studio to record high quality audio. You don’t. Whether you plan on recording at home, in the office, or on-the-go, the perfect podcast recording equipment choice is more affordable than you think.
But before we get into the gear itself, it’s important to understand how the recording process works from a technical standpoint. Each piece of equipment serves it’s purpose and the overall sound quality is only as strong as it’s weakest link. So let’s dive in and learn about podcast recording.
Scroll to the bottom to see our recommendation for a $250 podcasting set-up that will have you recording in no time!
The signal chain is the term used to describe the path the audio flows through. For example, a typical signal chain would look something like this:
The speaker records their voice into the microphone.
The microphone captures the speakers voice as an analog audio signal.
The XLR cable transports the analog signal.
The audio interface converts analog signal to digital.
The USB cable transports the digital signal.
The computer receives the digital signal.
Microphones come in all shapes, sizes, directions, and picking an important microphone is crucial! But even more important than the microphone itself, is knowings how a microphone works. Without going into too much detail on the technical side of things, we’ll put things into simple terms to keep you on track.
Dynamic or Condenser
There are two main types of microphones; dynamic and condenser. There’s also a third type called ‘ribbon microphones, but ribbon microphones are typically fragile, expensive, and generally impractical for podcast recording purposes.
The differences between a dynamic and condenser microphone are technical and involve the way the sound waves are captured. Instead of focusing on the technical details, we’ll look at their common uses instead.
Dynamic microphones are often used in live settings or non-studio recording environments to minimize outside noise.
Condenser microphones are often used in studio environments to capture high quality sound where the outside noise is controlled and/or eliminated entirely.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are excellent microphones of each type and terrible microphones of each type. Condenser does not inherently mean a ‘better’ microphone.
The Electro-Voice RE20 is a broadcasting standard across the world. Photo by Dan LeFebvre on Unsplash
Cardioid, Figure-Eight, Omni-Directional, and More
Different microphones can capture sound from different directions. The most common directions for microphones are cardioid, figure-eight, and omni-directional. Some microphones such as the Audio Technica AT4050 can change directions via a switch on the base of the microphone.
Make sure you pay attention to the microphone placement instructions from the manufacturer. Depending on the type of microphone, you’ll need to position it correctly to ensure it is capturing audio from the right direction and not recording an empty corner, the ceiling, or the floor.
Shure SM58, SM57, or SM7B
Unless you have a USB Microphone (which we tend not to recommend) you’ll need an audio interface to connect your microphone with your computer. The audio interface is what converts the analog signal recorded from the microphone into a digital signal that the computer can capture to the recording and editing software of your choice.
The Scarlett Series by Focusrite is a great choice. Plus, they’re all very red. Photo by Sven Brandsma on Unsplash
Multitrack or Solo
You’ll want to consider how many people you’ll need to be recording at the same time to calculate how many microphone inputs you’ll need from your audio interface. Keep in mind, the more microphone inputs you need the more expensive your audio interface will be. Try and be realistic about how many you’ll need. If it’s just you and a co-host or the occasional guest, you’ll probably only need two inputs. Remember, this is only for simultaneous recording.
The Focusrite Scarlett Series
Universal Audio Apollo Twin
While that takes us through the more impressive-looking podcast recording equipment, it’s important we talk about the less glamorous accessories you’ll need as well. Below are just a few of the items you want to consider purchasing to ensure you have a successful recording experience.
Make sure to place your pop filter in between you and the microphone! Photo by revac film’s&photography from Pexels
Pop Filters and Wind Screens
A pop filter is the little screen you see in front of microphones in recording studios in the movies. Their purpose is to prevent the plosive ‘P’ (and other) sounds particularly present in performers pronouncing with punch. Those plosives will cause audio distortion and lower the overall audio quality of your podcast.
A windscreen is another solution to preventing plosives from disrupting your podcast. Windscreens are foam used to enclose the microphone to prevent wind sounds and plosives. As opposed to pop filters, these are commonly used in situations such as field recording outside of a studio where a pop filter would be inappropriate or logistically impossible.
You’ll need somewhere to put your microphone because holding it in your hand just won’t cut it. Microphone stands come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, but a standard microphone stand, either boom or straight, should be able to cover any podcasting need. Alternatively, if you’d prefer to record while sitting down, there are a variety of different desktop microphone stands as well.
The most common microphone cable is called an XLR and can be identified by three pins. They are should be available in different lengths at your favorite music store or online.
Planning on recording in different places? Bring a field recorder. Photo by Oscar Ivan Esquivel Arteaga on Unsplash
Mobile Recording Equipment
If you plan on recording on-the-go, there are a couple different ways to approach your podcast recording equipment. You can either use a field recorder such as the Tascam DR-40 or use your phone with a mobile device microphone such as the Shure MV88 Rode VideoMic Me.
The $250 Rig
If you’re looking for podcast recording equipment and you’re on a budget, check out our recommendation for a $250 set-up. The Shure SM58 will set you back $99. A Focusrite Scarlett Solo will be another $109. Next, you’ll need just a single XLR cable and a microphone stand. You can often find these items bundled with both the SM58 and the Scarlett Solo so keep an eye out for a bundle that fits your needs. Otherwise, a desktop microphone stand costs about $15 and an XLR cable for $10. Use a free DAW like Audacity or Garage Band, and you’re ready to record for a total of $233! Happy podcasting!
Our $250 Podcast Recording Equipment Shopping List
$99 – Shure SM58;
$109 – Focusrite Scarlett Solo;
$15 – Desktop Microphone Stand;
$10 – XLR Cable;
Total Cost: $233