Podcast Equipment: Choosing & Setup
Equipment doesn't make the podcast, but it's definitely fun to play with! We're gear geeks, just like you, and here you'll find all our reviews, roundups & setup guides. Looking for the best podcast equipment? This is the place!
Podcast Equipment: The Ultimate Guide to Podcasting Gear
Podcast equipment is one of the key elements to consider when planning a new show. How are you actually going to record the thing?
This term covers such a wide variety of gear, though. It's easy to imagine a pro-level radio studio filled with lots of intimidating (and very expensive) equipment. But for the vast majority of podcasters, that looks nothing like their own recording setup.
You can break podcast equipment down into categories, based on how you record and capture your voice, from mic to mixer to recorder to computer.
The recording process that can be made as simple or as complicated as you like. You can record right into your computer, ridding yourself of the need for a mixer or a recorder. Or you can go the full studio route, and use all four.
If you use very little kit, the process will be simple, but you'll also have less flexibility and control. This isn't an issue for most aspiring podcasters, though, as they've no intention of becoming an audio engineer – they just want to get their message out there.
If you fall into that bracket, then this podcast equipment guide is for you. Here, we'll take a look at what you might need, and why you might need it when you're planning to start your first podcast…
If you need to zoom out first, go here to see everything you need to record a podcast, from planning to software.
When you think about a microphone, you might imagine the typical musician's mic – and whilst you can absolutely use one of these to podcast, it's worth noting that mics come in many forms, shapes, and sizes.
The bottom line is that a microphone is simply the tech needed to “hear” your voice and send it onward to be recorded somewhere. This makes it the first part of our recording “chain.”
So what options are available to us when thinking about our microphone?
A common and simple piece of podcast equipment is the USB microphone, which plugs straight into your computer. USB mics are ideal for beginners, especially folks who do solo/monologue-style shows, and those running online interview podcasts. Check out our USB mics roundup to have a look through our favourite options on that front.
XLR mics need additional equipment to run them. They don't plug straight into your computer, but instead, go into a preamp, mixer, or digital recorder (more on these all later).
You can actually get preamps, mixers, and digital recorders in USB form though, so you can run an XLR mic into your computer, just not directly.
XLR mics are suited to folks who want premium sound quality, a lot more production flexibility, and those who don't want to be tied to a computer at all times. Check out the best podcasting mics roundup for our top picks there.
Recording Devices that Include Mics
You probably already carry a mic around with you in the form of your smartphone, and you can use that to podcast with too. The Rode SmartLav+ setup is ideal for on-the-go recording and location interviews.
There are a lot of high quality digital recorders on the market too. You can record directly into these, or plug additional mics into them. Again, these are a great option for someone who's looking for a flexible and portable setup.
And speaking of digital recorders, we now need a podcast equipment option for actually capturing and storing your audio. This could be anything from a phone, to a computer, to a dedicated digital recorder itself.
A dedicated digital recorder is a great option for someone who wants to podcast on the go but is looking for a level of sound quality above what you'll get with a smartphone.
On top of that, digital recorders offer a lot more settings and options for creating audio, because that's what they're literally built for. You don't even necessarily need an additional mic to record into one because they all come with built-in mics.
There's a plethora of options available to you when it comes to recording directly into a computer. You can use a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) like Audacity or Adobe Audition, for starters. Or, if you're looking to record online/Skype interviews, there are many call recording options on the market nowadays too. Check out our podcast software guide for more on this front.
There are a tonne of recording apps out there that'll enable you to record directly into your phone. This is the easiest podcast equipment question, because you probably have a default recording app on there already.
Recording into a phone can be really convenient, though it lacks the flexibility and options of a dedicated digital recorder. Nevertheless, it's often a great starting point for many, and you can always upgrade your equipment further down the line.
Preamps & Mixers
You don't actually need a preamp or mixer to podcast, but many podcasters do still utilise them. So why might you consider getting one?
- If you want to use an XLR mic.
- If you want to use multiple mics.
- If you want to record live, or “as live” – with all your music, SFX, etc. played in real time.
My favourite preamp is a little USB device called the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. There are a few different mixer options in our best podcast mixers roundup, and we also need to give a mention to the newly-released Rode Rodecaster Pro which is a mixer, recorder, a general podcast studio rolled into one.
Headphones are a vital part of the podcast equipment lineup.
You should always “monitor” your recordings, even when doing a solo show. This means using headphones whilst recording so you can hear exactly what's being captured. The benefit of doing this is that if there's issues, you can fix them right away.
You'll also need headphones to hear your guest if you run an online interview show. They come in handy for listening back to recordings, and for editing audio too. Check out our best podcast headphones roundup for a few great options there.
Production & Publishing
Once your podcast has been recorded, you have the option to edit it, but this isn't a necessity. See how much editing should I do in my podcast? for more on that.
When we get to this stage, the “podcast equipment” side of things is really just as simple as a computer. It's what software and tools you use on that computer that you need to give thought to.
If you're doing any sort of editing, you can choose one of the many software options out there. I've mentioned DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) like Audacity and Adobe Audition already, and these are both great post-production options.
If you want to do some editing, as well as add in an intro and outro track, but you don't want to learn how to use a DAW, then check out Alitu. Alitu is an app we've created that makes it easy to record, produce, and publish your podcast, even if you know nothing about audio. Again, you'll just need a computer to run it. There's a mobile app on its way too.
Finally, we get to the publishing stage. In order to upload your podcast for the world to hear, you need to sign up to a media host. This is basically where your podcast lives online, and the hub where places like iTunes and Spotify will look towards to pull all your content for.
You'll find our favourite media hosting options right here. Each one has its own unique features and there's something there to suit any podcaster, no matter their skill level, motivation, or budget.
Podcast Equipment Is a Means to an End
I mentioned already that most people don't get into podcasting to collect loads of fancy and expensive audio equipment. Some folks do end up doing that, of course, but you definitely don't need to.
It's better to start simple so you can focus on your actual content, rather than whether or not your long chain of gear is all working correctly. Over time, as you grow, you can tweak and upgrade things here and there.
Summary: Podcast Equipment
Let's sum things up by going full if…then. Here's how you can decide what gear you need:
1. If you're recording solo, or recording interviews online, then:
Get a Samson Q2U mic
2. If you're recording 2 people in-person, on a budget, then:
Get a Smartlav & SC6 setup
3. If you're recording 2 or more people in-person, and have the budget for top quality, then:
4. If you want to record people in the studio AND online, or you want to do live production (add music as you record), and you're not scared by a bunch of knobs and cables…. then:
Option 1 above is great, because the Samson Q2U works as both a USB and XLR mic, so it starts out as a great solo or online USB mic. But, when you decide to upgrade to a mixer or preamp further down the line (option 4), it works great with them too. It's also great value, and well within most people's budget.
Aside from that, it's hard to make any one-size-fits-all recommendations because there are so many variables. But remember, when it comes to editing and publishing then be sure to check out our podcast production app Alitu.
And, if you're looking for more help or guidance towards any aspect of podcasting equipment, or otherwise, then have a look at The Podcast Host Academy – that's where we run regular live Q&A sessions, a community forum, and have video courses on everything from presentation and editing skills, to audience growth and monetisation!
The Best Podcast Microphones on the Market
Entry Level High Quality Pro Level Dynamic Vs Condensor How to Choose
What's the best podcast microphone right now? It's always a hotly debated topic in our world. Every podcaster has their own personal favourite, and there’s a lot of debate of what level of quality you actually need to run a decent Podcast.
Lots of Podcasts record with people in different locations, using tools like Skype and Google Hangouts, so connection quality can be more important than your microphone. Others record in-person, so environment and mic technique play a part. However you record, there’s no denying, though, that a Podcast recorded on a decent quality microphone is massively more professional than someone blabbering away on a tinny headset mic.
If you’re looking to up the quality of your kit, we’ve compiled a list of the best Podcasting microphones on the market today. It includes three different levels, Entry Level, High Quality, and Pro. You’ll find all the detail on each level below. But let’s start with a quick overview – look beyond to find out why.
What's the Best Podcast Microphone on the Market?
For me, the best budget level mic is the Samson Q2U, and for higher quality, look to the Rode Procaster. Then, if you're going pro, we'd recommend the Shure SM7b.
- Entry Level: Samson Q2U
- High Level: Rode Procaster / Podcaster
- High Level: MXL990
- High Level: Shure SM58
- High Level: Blue Yeti
- PRO Level: Heil PR40
- PRO Level: Shure SM7b
- PRO Level: Rode NT1-A
Why is a Good Podcast Microphone Important?
It seems obvious, but it’s a good question – why bother investing in a good podcast microphone?
Well, it’s the mic that has the biggest effect on the quality of your recordings. It’s the mic that captures your voice and translates it from physical sound waves into digital bits and bytes. A good microphone can cost hundreds of pounds, but luckily there are a lot of much more affordable options.
Just to let you know, all of the product links in this article are affiliate links. That means we get a small commission if you buy anything, but it doesn’t cost you any extra. Don’t worry, we’re always honest, open, impartial with our reviews – we only recommend the good stuff – but this affiliate income helps us keep the site running.
Written by:December 6th 2019
Entry Level Microphones
Don’t let the term “Entry level” put you off – I only recommend good quality kit! These are relatively cheap, though, and very easy to set up, so they’re well suited for beginners. But, I know many a veteran podcaster that still uses this kit, even years down the road.
The microphone that I often recommend people start off with is the the Samson Q2U. This is a really versatile little beast, being both XLR and USB. It’s also a significant quality increase over a cheap headset mic or your internal microphone.
The dual output (XLR & USB) means that in the early days you can plug it directly into your computer via USB, recording to Garageband or Audacity. Or, use that USB mic to run a Skype call, or a Zoom chat.
Then later on in your journey, when you get yourself a mixer or a decent digital recorder, you can change to XLR, which is just the type of cables that pro audio equipment uses. The other benefit is that you can backup your recordings by sending to both. This means even if one device crashes/runs out of batteries, you’ve still got a copy of your session.
An alternative, and very similar mic, is the often mentioned ATR2100. There's not much to tell between the two, though, and the Samson is usually cheaper, so it's all down to cost on the day.
Another great thing about these microphones is that they're ideal for heading out and about, capturing live audio interviews. You can find a guide we've written on that subject, and how the ATR/Samson fit into the interview setup here: Face to Face Podcast Interviewing.
The Rode Smartlav+ is a lavalier or tie-clip mic, specifically built for smartphones, so it works like a dream on any modern phone with a 3.5mm input (or a 3.5mm > lightning adapter for new iPhones). I love this little for two main reasons:
- It's tiny! You can have it in your bag ALL the TIME, for just-in-case interviews.
- It still sounds good. For a miniscule little package, it sounds great.
Even better, the Rode Smartlav+ can be bundled with the SC6 adapter to plug two, yep a pair, of mics into one Smartphone. So, with a pair of Smartlavs and one SC6 adapter, suddenly you have an on-the-go in-person interview kit that's smaller than your wallet!
This is one of the best podcast microphones around, just because of that – it's versatility – and the fact that it means you're always ready to capture great content. Just bumped into Prince Harry in the street? Well, whip out your smartlavs and grab a great quality interview on exactly what it's like to be that famous for no particular reason.02.
High Quality Microphones
These microphones are as good as anyone would need for podcasting up to six or seven figure audiences. The microphones in this section are within the normal Podcaster’s budget, and provide great quality recordings to boot.
The next level up is professional equipment. That’s the microphones that could happily kit out a pro recording studio. But, at that level, be prepared for some serious cash outlay. Unless you’re making a living from your podcast (and even if you are…), the microphones in this section will do the job perfectly.
My pick of the podcast microphones at this level is the Rode Procaster, and a USB alternative in the form of the Rode Podcaster.
The Rode Procaster is an absolutely excellent dynamic podcast microphone. This is what we use in our podcasting studio right now.
The price is definitely creeping up a little when you include stands and a shockmount, but you’ll notice a significant difference if you compare it directly with either of the entry level microphones above.
The Procaster is an XLR microphone, like the MXL990 below, but, it’s a dynamic mic, while the XLR is a condensor. If you want to know the difference, look further down the article. But the upshot is that Dyamic mics are better if you’re not in a treated recording studio. They pick up less background noise, and are more forgiving in your average study or office, which is what most of us record in!
Dynamic mics also don’t need phantom power, and you can plug it into a 1/4″ jack just as easily as XLR. So you have a little more flexibility in how it can be used. Rode have even created an in-built pop filter so you have a little help with your plosives.
If you want this level of quality, but you know you’ll never use a mixer or a digital recorder, then the Rode Podcaster microphone might be the perfect choice. It’s very similar to the Procaster, but it’s a top-quality USB microphone instead. It’s a cut above the Blue Yeti below, for me, but of course a price to reflect that.
The Rode Podcaster is, again, a Dynamic mic, while the Yeti is a condensor. So, the Podcaster has an advantage in more noisy, or less proofed and treated rooms.
The next in this group is a USB condenser microphone that’s one of the most popular podcast microphones in the world. It is, of course, the Blue Yeti, and it comes in at around £100 / $100 (note: currently discounted to less last time I looked…).
The Blue Yeti offers great quality audio thanks to it’s condenser capsules and is amazingly easy to use with a plug and play USB connection.
One of the biggest advantages, though, is it’s range of recording patterns. It offers settings for solo recording, two-person face to face recording, and group recording. So, it’s flexible and can adapt to just about any situation. Bear in mind that to get the best quality, you need to be quite close to the mic, so prepare to get pretty cosy when you’re recording 2 people, or groups.
Lastly, the Blue Yeti comes with it’s own stand, so it’s a good first step if you want to jump in at the high-end and not have to worry about accessories like stands. I’ve written elsewhere about the Blue Yeti and it’s various accessories so feel free to check out that article for more information.
The Yeti might not quite match the MXL990 or the Rode mics for sheer quality, but the ease of use and the fact that it’s entirely standalone make it a really serious choice at this level.
If you want to look at another very similar option that we’ve been playing with lately, the Shure MV5 is definitely tickling our fancy. It’s a bit cheaper than the Yeti, and a lot more portable. By that, I mean it doesn’t feel like a brick in your bag, like the Yeti!
Talking of condenser microphones, at this level you can start to get some decent ones. The MXL990 was the first condensor mic that I owned, and I loved it. I used it for all of my recording, for about 2 years. It’s ridiculously good value at about £70 / $70 and it was worth every penny at the time. Even though it’s a condensor, it was decent in a normal office room, not picking up too much of the room noise. So this is a good choice if you have a reasonably quiet space, and you’re looking for a rich sound on a budget.
Bear in mind that this is an XLR microphone, like the Procaster above, so you need a mixer and/or a top-end digital recorder. As always, I’ve written up a guide to podcasting mixers if you’re looking to go that route. There are definite pros and cons, and they’re not for everyone, but it’s worth investigating.
I recently heard Rob from Podcast411 and Libsyn enthuse about the MXL990 so I’m glad I’m in good company in liking this podcasting microphone.
I have to mention the podcast microphone workhorse that is the Shure SM58, just incase you’re looking for a high quality mic that’s more mobile.
The SM58 is a handheld mic that’s more commonly spotted at music events, held in the hand of a screaming lead singer. They can be dropped, pounded, drowned and still survive, and they’re perfect for anyone that’s looking to do more out-and-about recording than in-studio.
We use the Shure SM58 along with a Zoom H5 or Zoom H6 recorder for all of our in-person interviews (find out more about the setup here). If you think you’d like to take your mic on the road, and can budget for a good digital recorder too, then this could be the choice for you. It’ll work just as well in the studio, mounted on a stand, for when that’s the better choice.
A new addition, just released in late 2019, is the AKG Lyra (link to come, it's not widely available yet!). This is a strong competitor to the Blue Yeti, in that it has very similar features, from polar patterns to an in-built stand.
The AKG, to Matthew's ear (read the AKG Review here for examples), sounds better than the Yeti, but it is a little more expensive, so you'd expect so. If you're willing to put up a little more cash than the Yeti, but not as much as the Podcaster, then the AKG might be a good choice.
Standing your Mic
On the subject of microphone stands, if you're looking to mount your Podcast microphone, I've written about microphone boom arms here.03.
Professional Level Podcast Microphones
At this level, we're starting to look at some serious cash. These are microphones that wouldn't look out of place in a pro recording studio after all. I would say, seriously, this is overkill for nearly anyone, even if you're broadcasting to millions. Take Tim Ferriss for example – millions of downloads per episode and still recording on an ATR2100 or an SM58 most of the time, last time I looked.
The first option is quite expensive for what you get, and the second needs a quiet environment and great mic technique. For both, it's actually very dependent on your voice how good a result you'll get. But hey, I know you folks love the gear just as much as me, so you're probably coveting them anyway. Sometimes you just want a treat! So, let's have a look.
The Heil PR40 is touted by many high level podcasters as the go-to mic for anyone who wants the best sound they can get. I wont deny it's a good microphone, but I will say it's a bit overhyped.
The sound quality is good, and, being a dynamic mic, it's a great fit for the non-professional environments most of us are recording in. But, it's very expensive for all that… I genuinely think the Procaster or the Podcaster by Rode gives similar or better results, depending on your voice, and they're way cheaper.
But, it's hugely popular, and for some people it does create a really excellent sound. So, if you can get your hands on one to test it out, either borrow, or on sale and return, then definitely give it a try.
The Shure SM7b is a legendary mic in the industry. This is one that discerning audiophiles hold in great esteem, one of the best of breed. And yes, it does indeed live up to the hype – it's an amazing microphone. Again, with the qualifier that, at this level, you should be shopping around and testing them with your own particular voice. Some people will find that even the most revered mic just doesn't work for them, and a lower cost alternative gives the best sound.
The problem with the SM7B is that it needs a really professional environment. It picks up a LOT of background noise, and it totally unforgiving with bad mic technique. This will pick up all of your lip smacks, breathing, pops and sibillants, and so you need to know how to deal with them all.
Presuming you can do that, though, and you can afford the cost, this is one hell of a microphone.
The Rode NT1-A popped up as a surprise entry in our gear stats survey last year, and turned out to be the most popular high-end podcast microphone amongst our respondents. It’s not surprising, really, when you hear the quality it offers, combined with a relatively low price for a mic at this level: £160 / $220.
The NT1-A is a super-low noise XLR microphone, with a really rich sound behind it. The pack comes with a shock mount and a pop filter, so all you need is a mic stand and the recording system (recorder or mixer) to get it up and running. If you really want to go pro, and you’ve got a mixer/interface to link it to, then this could be a great starting point!
The Electro-Voice R20
The Electro-Voice RE20 is a mic with a very loyal following… If you know an Electro-Voice fan, you know it!
But, it's with good reason. The EVs are certainly amongst the best microphones in podcasting, or the world of audio in general!
Those who love the EV speak fondly of the rich tones, the depth, the resonance. If it suits your voice, then there's a body to the recordings that's as memorable as it is undefinable.
You'll pay for it, of course. The EV microphones are NOT cheap. But they're world class equipment and justify the cost. If you'd like to read more about the mic, and hear some samples, then you can read our Electro-Voice RE20 review here.04.
Dynamic Microphones vs Condensor Mics for Podcasting
Ok, I've talked a lot about dynamic microphones and condenser microphones above – so what's the difference?
If you want that extra level of depth to your Podcast, it could be worth going for a condenser microphone, but with some caveats. Condenser microphones work in an entirely different, un-fathomable way, but suffice to say, they introduce a higher level of quality to your recordings. However, and this is key, that only applies in the right context.
The problem is, because of their sensitivity, condenser microphones tend to pick up a lot of background noise. This means you need a nice quiet recording environment to take advantage of the quality they offer. They also tend to be a lot more fragile, so they're no good for carrying around in your bag.
The other disadvantage is that condenser microphones need external power. This normally comes through a phantom power supply, provided by either a mixing desk, your digital recorder or a battery in the microphone. Digital recorders or mixing desk are good investments themselves as they provide a lot more flexibility, but that's an extra investment too. To be honest, for most Podcasting setups mixers tend to be overkill.
Essentially, if you want the best quality, but plan to only record from your desk, using a mic stand, in a very quiet environment, then a condenser microphone could be great for you. A good example of an entry level condenser microphone is the Samson C01u, and that's USB by default.
Of course, the alternative is a Dynamic Microphone. Dynamic mics are essentially the opposite of everything I've described above. They record a narrower range of frequencies, and so can sound a little less rich. They record less surrounding noise, so you have to be right up close to the mic. But, because of both of those features, they can be lovely and quiet, and forgive much worse recording environments.05.
How to Choose your Mic
The Short Answer
If you want:
- good quality, good value & flexible: Samson Q2U or ATR2100
- high quality, easy to use: Rode Podcaster or the Blue Yeti
- high quality & use with a mixer or audio interface: Rode Procaster or Rode NT1-A
The Long Answer
The two factors that determine what microphone you should go for are:
- Your recording environment
- Your Budget
Buy as expensive a podcasting microphone as you can afford. As with everything, the more you spend, the better the quality you'll get. But, this only goes up to a point. You will get perfectly good results with the Samson Q2U, so, if that's your budget, then start here and move on up.
Don't forget the Rode Smartlav+, too, if you do a lot of on-the-go recordings with people in real life. By that, I mean in-person, not the industry standard online call! The Smartlav+ is so portable and versatile that there's no excuse, any longer, to miss out on good content.
When upgrading, you can spend hundreds, but you need a lot of knowledge and more professional support equipment to take advantage of the quality offered by something like the Shure SM7B. Save that for a couple of years down the line when you've become an audio production guru, and stick with something like the Rode Podcaster USB microphone or the Blue Yeti microphone for now.
The question of dynamic vs condenser microphone comes down to where you normally record and how much kit you want to use.
If you have a nice, quiet regular recording room, then a condenser microphone could be worth buying. You wont be able to take it anywhere easily, and you will need that mixer or digital recorder to provide the power, unless you find a battery powered mic. But the depth of your recordings will be great, and you'll definitely stand out.
Whatever you choose, enjoy it, and remember that we have a full run-down on the wider podcast equipment you can buy if you start thinking about things like mixers, recorders or stands.
A Question For You on Podcast Microphones
What podcast microphones do you use and like? I'd love to hear your feedback – Tweet me and let me know what mic you use. Look forward to hearing from you!
The Best Digital Podcast Recorders on the Market
The most basic thing you need for any podcast is a recording device. Pretty simply, to create an audio file, you need to be able to record your voice!
Recording devices take many forms, from really basic dictaphones to full-quality professional audio recorders. Most simply, your computer can act as a recording device – it’s easily possible to record a regular podcast using no more than a laptop and its inbuilt microphone.
But, when you start becoming a bit more professional, looking to improve both your sound and your workflow, a good digital recorder is a vital podcasting tool. Here I'm going to take you through the digital recorder options, from entry level to pro kit. Whatever your Podcasting budget, I've got something for you.
Anyone that's into broadcasting will tell you it’s vital to have at least a simple mobile recording device in your arsenal. Without a recorder that you can carry around, you’ll be stuck at your computer desk for all your podcast creation and, especially with a group, that’s not ideal.
Thinking beyond planned recording sessions, many podcasters will always have a little dictaphone handy when they're out and about. This is just incase they come across a great guest unexpectedly; you never know when an ideal interview subject will fall into your lap.
I use a digital recorder for a whole load of different purposes, including directly in my studio recording. I record from a mixer right into my Zoom H4n as I find it's the most reliable method, by a long shot. My other favoured way of getting content, out and about, is through face to face interviews, and you can see in this article how to use a digital recorder to best effect in that context.
How to Choose the Best Podcasting Digital Recorder
It’s worth spending more than the minimum on a recording device – with this type of kit the quality is very dependent on price. Moving above the £50+ mark generally takes you into the range of good quality recorders, and you can spend infinitely more than that it you try.
Professional journalist level kit of this sort sells for £300 or £400 and comes with all sorts of features. I’ll mention one of this sort at the end of the section, but you shouldn’t feel any pressure to jump in at that level.
To get started, just buy what you can afford, or use the equipment you already have available. Better to get started with basic kit than not at all!
For my lower cost device, I use a Sony IC Recorder – shown here. I've gone through a few devices in this range, from the UX71 through to the Sony ICD-PX312 now.
This costs around £50 and gives a great quality sound for the price. It has a pretty decent speaker on the bottom so you can listen to your recordings without earphones or a computer. It also has an external microphone socket so you can plug a better quality mic in at a later date if you decide you need the sound quality improved.
There are a few other Sony devices in this range, rising up to around £100, but for another brand, check out the Zoom H1.
The Zoom device is a bit more pricey than the Sony, but has a great quality microphone built-in. No need to upgrade the mic in future with this one. As an added bonus, this one is great for recording music, so if you take the notion…
And similar to the Zoom H1 in price and quality is the Tascam DR-05. This recorder has equally excellent built-in mics and is designed so you can easily access all its controls with your thumb!
Heading up to the £100+ bracket takes you into a range of high quality podcast recorders. Here you get a lot more features in the recorder itself, from level control to on-board editing. And you also tend to get both far better internal microphones, allowing for high quality off-the-cuff recordings.
First in line at this quality level is the eternal Podcaster's friend – the Roland R-05.
The Roland is about three times the price of the Sony, but I find it a great little recorder. The sound quality, delivered by internal stereo mics, is significantly better than the Sony, and it just offers a far more options when you’re doing your recordings.
The Roland R-05 comes in around £160 on Amazon and would do perfectly for anyone, even approaching professional journalist level.
If you're looking for an alternative then the honourable mention goes, again, to Zoom. Their 2nd level recorder, the Zoom H2n, is a great little piece of kit, and, as a bonus, it looks helluva cool. The H2n is a little cheaper, normally, than the Roland, but it's a fair bit bigger in size, so is definitely less portable. It does have much more flexibility in recording style though, thanks to 5 microphone capsules inside. This means you can choose from a number of different recording patterns, so you can record anything from 1 solo speaker up to a group with the best quality possible.
Pro-Level Recording Kit
If money is no object, then you have access to a range of pro-level recorders – all of which offer absurdly good microphones and a big range of on-board editing and tinkering tools.
The best value-for-money option, in my opinion, is still the Zoom H4n digital recorder, shown here. It has an excellent quality set of internal mics, various options for external mics and tons of tools packed within the make your out-of-the-office recording much easier.
The H4n allows you to record using professional level microphones too, offering two XLR connections. You don’t need to worry too much about what that means right now (look here for my podcasting microphone guide), but suffice to say that if bought this recorder, you wont need to upgrade it once you move up to professional levels of recording and other equipment.
This is the journalist level device I mentioned earlier and could be used to prepare a feature for the BBC, if you ever get the chance!
Zoom have a newer yet similar model of recorder, the Zoom H5. This costs a fair bit more, but generally functions in exactly the same way. One main difference however is the recorder's modular mic system – this lets you remove and replace the built-in mics with various other Zoom capsules.
Tascam have their own pro-level model in the shape of the Tascam Dr-40. This recorder is very similar to the H4n in virtually every way. There's a noticeably higher noisefloor when working with external mics however, but on the plus side, the DR-40 is easier to use when running in additional equipment such as CD/DVD players and mixers.
We need to mention the Holy Grail of digital recorders too – the Zoom H6. If you have the budget and want to record a plethora of different voices/mics/tracks all at once then this is the best option around at the moment!
Need More Help?
I hope this guide has helped you out if you're in the market for a podcast recorder.
If you're wondering about the best external microphone options for plugging into your recorder, be sure to check out our best podcast microphones roundup too.
And if you're looking more help with choosing the right podcasting equipment, then we'd love to work with you.
Check out The Podcast Host Academy, where we hold regular live Q&A sessions, run a community forum, and offer access to every video course, checklist, and ebook we've ever made!
The Best Podcast Mixers: Pros, Cons & the Ones to Buy
Ok, I'll get the question out of the way right now:
Do you NEED a mixer for podcasting?
No, definitely not.
Do you WANT a Podcast mixer?
Yes, almost certainly.
Confused? Well, read on.
The Desire to Upgrade
It never takes long. It can be mere months into your broadcasting journey before ‘mixer dreams' (yep, that's a real thing…) start to creep into your mind.
You might not even have a reliable audience yet, but you're getting some great feedback, you're enjoying the recording, the equipment, the whole process. As so often happens, the fever takes hold and you want to get the best kit possible to really make your Podcast shine. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, and there are some really great reasons to get a mixer.
My only caveat to the whole thing is this, though: don't rush in.
Despite the advantages, mixers complicate the whole business. Wait until you've settled into a good mix of quality and reliability. Make sure you have people listening, and that they like your content. At that point, you know you're in it for long haul. It's worth the money to buy a mixer and the time to learn how to use it.
Remember, once you need to learn, we have coaching and courses in The Podcast Host Academy for a whole bunch of the more complicated setups.
Now that we've made sure you're in it for the long haul, we can think about a mixer.
I'll start by saying that yes, a mixer will improve your audio quality. The pre-amps will be nicer and will really help your microphone shine. But, if you have a decent microphone already, then it's not going to make as much of a difference. At that level, it's certainly not something that'll suddenly win you a load more listeners.
Audio Engineers buy mixers for the sheer audio quality, but Podcasters buy mixers for the options and the control that they offer, as well as the efficiency they can bring to our recording workflow. Let's have a look at the details – here are the reasons why a Podcaster might buy a mixer:
1. Using Other Pro Kit
If you want to use professional quality microphones that work with XLR or other pro type cabling, then to get the best out of them you're going to need a mixer.
It is possible to get XLR > USB converters, but they're not going to take as much advantage of the quality of your mic.
2. Multi-Channel Control
Having control over the individual channels of your audio is one of the simplest, but biggest enhancements that a mixer brings into your life. In your early days you'll be recording everyone on one channel. That means loud people are loud and quiet people are quiet. With a mixer you can actually turn up those quiet folks, and turn down the shouters. Plus you can record them on different channels and have much more power in post production. Excellent!
3. Inline Enhancements
Inline enhancements work hand-in-hand with the multi channel capability and are great for improving your sound. They can also save you a whole lot of time in post production. The ability to use a low-cut or high-cut filter, equalisation and gain on each channel individually is brilliant, plus some mixers have compression and limiters too.
4. Backup and reliability
Mixers don't crash, unlike computers, and I've never seen a digital recorder do so either. You can cut out the computer component altogether, reducing noise and flakiness, or you can record skype using software and with the mixer as a backup recording, sending a second output to the digital recorder.
So, that's 4 big advantages. To me, as good as they are, they're all nice to have, but they don't quite justify the cost for an average podcaster. What we need are a couple of game changing features. Luckily enough, here are two just such things.
5. Live Production
Live producing means that you're adding your music, your sound FX, phone calls, recorded messages, and anything else that goes into your show on the fly – it's all going in live. You're treating it like a radio show, so there's no post-production at all. You simply hit record, do the show, and then stop.
Afterwards, you might do some compression or EQ in Post, but all of the audio you need is in there already. Editing is cut down dramatically.
It's possible to do this through some types of podcast software. For example, the Spreaker app acts like a software-based mixer. But, software tends to be less tactile, less quick and more prone to errors. Instead, go the hardware route and plug a device into your mixer to play sound FX and recordings on their own channel.
I use an iPad with the Soundbyte app for this – it just gives you a rack of buttons with the sounds and music attached making it very easy to play anything off the cuff. If you don't have that, though, you can just use a laptop or a PC.
We have done this a fair bit in the past, and once you've got used to the kit, it makes Podcasting so much quicker.
And, not to forget, it's fun! It's great to hear your music playing at the start, get yourself hyped up, fade it down and enthuse your welcome into the mic. It's great to play bumpers and stings and to react to them. Or to play FX when your co-host does something – for him to hear it too, and react. It makes podcasting quicker and more enjoyable, which to me, is the biggest reason for getting a mixer. Plus, I like to avoid editing if I can, or keep editing it to a minimum – I'm too much of a perfectionist so I end up adjusting stuff endlessly, wasting time….
6. Mix Minus
Mix minus ties into the last thing I mentioned above: working with a co-host. Mix-minus is a technique which allows you to do live production with a co-host while that co-host is remote, such as using Skype, Hangouts or Appear.in.
If you connect your normal recording setup into Skype so that he can hear you and the FX, then he'll also hear his own voice back. It sets up a horrible echo. So, what you want to do is send him the full mix – your voice, music, etc – MINUS his own voice.
You can do this with any mixer than has an ‘Auxiliary Out' or an ‘FX send' on it, and a fader or a knob to control that output. In practice, you plug that Aux/FX into Skype, and then you turn down the Aux/FX knob on the Skype channel alone. That means he can't hear himself on that channel, but can hear everything else. Easy!
Mix minus is a slightly tricker thing to set up, but it's another thing we provide resources on within the Academy.
Now that you've made the decision to buy a mixer for podcasting, here comes the difficult part. The range of mixers on the market is bewildering, and the choice isn't made any easier by the ridiculous number of features and specs that are listed for each one.
The problem is that mixers are really designed for Audio Engineers, and those guys know a LOT about the technical details. Therefore, those that sell mixers plaster the tech specs all over the website.
As a podcaster, there are 3 things you need to worry about:
1. The number of channels
How many inputs will you use? My own setup uses 4 channels on a regular basis, but 5 or 6 on occasion.
This is made up of: 1. My own microphone, 2. a local co-hosts microphone, 3. Music and FX via iPad, 4. Skype input for interviews or other co-hosts. I'll sometimes have a mobile phone plugged into another channel, and another local co-host on occasion, so I need a minimum of 6 channels, and probably 3 XLR inputs to be safe.
Many cheaper mixers will only have 1 or 2 XLR inputs, which limits the number of decent quality microphones you can use locally, especially if they're condenser microphones that need phantom power (check out my microphone article for more details).
Buy something with enough channels to expand into.
2. Aux Out or FX Send
To achieve a mix-minus setup, you need that Aux Out or FX Send feature. Look for a stereo output socket labelled with either, and a volume control knob on each channel labelled the same.
3. Control Types – Faders or Knobs?
More often than not, cheaper mixers use knobs all over the board. Knobs are fine for those adjustments that don't tend to change during a recording, such as Pan, EQ or gain. But, for your main volume control faders can be an advantage. A fader is a slider rather than a knob – you can see faders on the bottom of the picture opposite and knobs at the top. Faders offer more fine control than a knob.
You can get your music levels right every time with a fader, and ensure your recordings sound great. But, in saying that, knobs can do the job just fine, and tend to allow you to save a bit of cost if required.
4. Advanced Inline Processing Features
If you want to have fine control over your sound, reducing post-production, then you may be looking for extra inline features. The minimum you would generally expect are Equalisation (or EQ), a gain control and possibly a lo-cut filter. Beyond that, some podcasting mixers may have compression or limiter options, but don't write it off it doesn't
The Nitty Gritty: a Range of Mixers for all Budgets
I'm going to offer a range of mixers at a budget level and a high quality level, but, I have to admit, I don't hugely recommend the low budget options. I include them because I'm asked about them all the time, and people argue that they'd like to try a mixer at a low cost. But, the quality increase isn't amazing, and it's not that much more to jump in with a really good mixer. That said, let's look at the budget level:
The Yamaha MG10 (£100/$150)
I used to talk about sub-£100 mixers from time to time. Sadly, over the years, I've learned that they're just not worth it… The budget Behringer range in particular are a troublesome bunch. They're budget in every sense of the word: hissy, loud noise floors and cheap components that break pretty quickly.
That's why, now, my budget recommendation is at the £100 level, and comes in the form of the Yamaha MG10.
The Yamaha has been a constant presence in our studio for a couple of years now. It's a brilliant little mixer with an amazingly quiet noise floor, especially at this price. It has features normally found only on expensive units, such as in-built compression, and it also has Aux Out so that you can run a mix-minus setup.
As a bonus it's a small and hardy little unit, so it can even be taken out and about without too much worry. We've used this to record a number of events with great results.
I've had such great results with this that, to be honest, unless you need the extra channels, I'd recommend this over the mid-level Behringer unit below.
For a runner-up in this category, try the Mackie 402.
This is a pro quality bit of kit. One of the smaller, portable Mackie units. It costs about the same as the Yamaha and has fewer features, but many audio pros would argue that it's better audio quality, simply due to the brand name.
To be honest, for all but professional recording environments, you wont notice much difference between the two. But you might want to spend the money for the Mackie name.
The Behringer Xenyx 1204
The Behringer Xenyx 1204 is a fully featured mixer that'll do the job for any podcaster out there that needs a lot more channels and the full set of mixer features.
You're not going to run out of channels on this any time soon, with 6 fader-controlled channels, plus extra if needed. 4 of those are phanton powered XLR channels so you can bring in a range of co-hosts on top quality microphones.
This comes in USB too so you can bring your audio straight into the computer for direct recording, or you can record out to a digital recorder if need be.
A good alternative that we've been recently playing with is the Samson MXP124FX, and you can take a look at that review for the details and some sound samples.
The Mackie ProFX8
The Mackie ProFX8 is a professional level piece of kit, and something you can aspire to if you really want the best quality out there, and the utmost reliability.
The Mackie is similar to the Behringer above, but actually has one less fully controlled channel, so 5 main inputs, but still 4 of which are XLR. It has all the same inline features, except for compression – something which can easily be added in post production in very little time anyway.
What the Mackie does have that the Behringer doesn't is better pre-amps, reportedly better reliability and a 7 band EQ to really refine your sound in live production.
If you have the budget for it, this is a pretty great bit of kit.
The final player in this category is the Rodecaster from…. well… Rode! This is a unique little beast, and the only one here built specifically for podcasters.
It's great quality, as you'd expect from the makers of the ever-popular Rode Procaster mic, which we use in the studio here. But it's real strength is it's slew of features, aimed right at the podcasting market.
For example, take the sound cart buttons, designed for you to play music and Sound FX into your show WITHOUT the need for an external device. Ditch that iPad and load them into the unit itself. Then, marvel over the smartphone bluetooth connection, so that you can record calls (or anything else really!) right into your show too, no cables required.
Finally, the Rodecaster even acts as a digital recorder, coming with memory card capture built right in. So, if you regularly get out, recording shows on the road, then that's one less piece of kit to take with you.
The Rodecaster is not cheap, is not for everyone, but it could be perfect for some.
Whether you're at the podcasting mixer stage or not, it's always fun to look. Don't jump in too early – there's nothing worse than complicating your recording process before you're ready – but once you are (we can help with that in the Podcast Host Academy!) a mixer can really help with your process, improving your sound and speeding up your workflow.
Here are the mixers I recommend for podcasters:
If you're already using a mixer, I'd love to hear what. Tell me in the comments below: What mixer are you using, and how do you find it? Look forward to hearing from you!
Here's a course that might help
Choosing & Using Podcast Gear
The Podcast Host Academy has a series of courses which take you through the full range of podcasting equipment, from simple to Pro, so you can get top quality audio, every time!Course Details