We all have our own reasons for getting into podcasting, but the most common theme among aspiring podcasters seems to be either
‘I have a message I want to get out.’
‘I have a story I want to tell.’
The two aren’t mutually exclusive and, regardless of your reasons for wanting to podcast, you will need some equipment to actually go ahead and produce one.
One of the most common questions we get asked here at The Podcast Host is ‘How much will I need to spend?’.
As everyone’s needs and requirements are different, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this. However, the good news is that you can start up and run a podcast without spending very much at all.
What Will I Need?
The type of show you want to run will determine the equipment you need. Here we’ll look at the different pieces of kit required to record the most common types of podcast.
We’ll work on the basis that you’ve already got a PC/laptop/Mac, and that you’ve installed the audio-editing software Audacity, which is free.
A USB Microphone
You’ll need a USB microphone if you are doing:
a solo/monologue show
- an online co-host or Skype interview show.
Most podcasters will get by with a single USB microphone. Ideally you should have some additional equipment too – a pair of headphones, a mic stand, and a pop filter.
The good news is that you can get almost all of this in one very low-cost box along with our much-recommended favourite USB mic, the Samson Q2U.
At the time of writing, the cost of this kit (the Samson Q2U Recording Pak) is £60 on Amazon UK, and $60 on Amazon.com.
Along with the microphone – which has a really good level of sound quality – you get a pair of headphones, a mic table stand, and a USB connection cable.
Another big plus with this microphone is that it also has an XLR connection (an XLR cable is included in the box, too) so you can also use the Q2U with a mixer, preamp, or digital recorder.
The only additional purchase you might want to add to this setup is a foam pop filter, which will usually set you back less than the cost of a cup of coffee.
For the vast majority of people, this is all you need to make a podcast. You can be up and running with an excellent kit for less than $65.
However, if you’re looking for more than a simple solo USB setup, read on.
You might need one if you are:
- doing ‘on-location’ interviews
- recording with a co-host in various locations.
If you don’t want to be tied to your computer or laptop and want to introduce a co-host or interviewee to your recording, then a digital recorder might be the best option for you.
There’s a huge range of choices available here, with widely varying setups and costs. I’ve narrowed it down to two options that we commonly use when recording our own shows.
A Zoom H1 recorder can be used on its own with its built-in microphones. It comes with a small stand that you can set up on the desk in front of you to record two or more participants gathered around it. At the time of writing, the Zoom H1 costs around £80 on Amazon UK and $100 on Amazon.com.
If you want to make sure each participant is ‘on mic’ at a much more consistent level, then you can connect additional mics by using a Belkin Five Way Splitter (£10/$13) and ATR3350 lavalier microphones (£25/$29).
This setup doesn’t record participants onto their own separate audio track, however, so you won’t have too much flexibility in the editing phase.
With the Zoom H5 there’s a big jump in the quality of the built-in microphones. However, there’s also a corresponding big jump in price, and this piece of kit currently sits at around £230 on Amazon.co.uk and $320 on Amazon.com.
With this setup the recorder has two XLR inputs, which increases your additional microphone options. You can run a couple of Samson Q2Us ($60/$60) into your H5, or you may prefer the lavalier mics mentioned in the low-cost setup.
Two ATR3350s (£25/$29) can be connected to your H5 via a pair of mono 3.5mm to 1/4″ adapters. Again, these generally cost less than a cup of coffee.
This setup allows you to record two participants on independent tracks, giving you much more flexibility in the editing process.
Mixers & Preamps
You might need these if you are recording:
- with multiple microphones
- a mix-minus
- a show ‘as live’, with real-time effects and transitions.
Adding a mixer or preamp into your setup can give you more options in the recording process.
Do you need a mixer or preamp to podcast? Absolutely not. In fact, we cover this question in detail in an episode of Podcraft: Do I Need a Mixer for Podcasting?.
We also have a roundup post, The Best Podcast Mixers, which takes an in-depth look at what mixer might be ideal for you if you’re recording in these situations.
The mixer in our own studio is one we commonly recommend. It’s the Yamaha MG10 and is currently available on Amazon UK for around £110 and Amazon.com for around $150.
If you’re only interested in adding multiple microphones to your setup and aren’t bothered about the other features offered by a mixer, then a USB preamp might be a better option.
What About XLR Mics?
What if you’re looking for an XLR microphone or two to plug into your digital recorder, mixer, or preamp?
Well, our Best Podcasting Microphones roundup should give you more than a few ideas, if you want to take a deeper look.
If you’re just looking for a suggestion, though, then we’ve already mentioned the Samson Q2U (£60/$60) which functions as an XLR mic as well as a USB mic.
A higher end, but still extremely affordable option is the MXL 990. This vocal condenser mic is available on Amazon UK for around £80, and on Amazon.com for around $78.
The vast majority of podcasters only need a single USB microphone, and for that it’s hard to see past the Samson Q2U Recording Pak. This sets you up with headphones, a mic stand, and the necessary cables for only $60.
With the digital recorder setups here you could spend anywhere between $100 and $380, depending on how you plan to record.
And if you’re going down the mixer/preamp route with two microphones, then you are looking at spending somewhere between $220 and $306.
Remember that your actual content is much more important than your equipment. Buy only what you need, and concentrate on getting your episodes recorded and out there.
If you want to upgrade further down the line, set yourself reward-based targets, such as treating yourself to a new piece of kit on your 50th or 100th episode. That way you’re always doing what matters most in podcasting – actually making podcasts.
To see every equipment review we’ve done so far (as well as a list of prices) check out our Podcast Equipment Directory.
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