You’ll be pleased to know that creating your own podcast is amazingly easy, and requires very little equipment. Even better, the podcast equipment you do require is often already available to you.
In this post I’ll go through the types of podcasting equipment you might need and when you’ll want to use each one. You wont need to get everything at once, so think about building your podcast equipment pool over time, as you improve your skills.
I wont cover particular kit recommendations here, but will link to my guides on each type of equipment. If you want to know exactly what mic to buy, or which mixer to get, I’ve written detailed guides elsewhere on The Podcast Host, and you’ll find the links below. But first it’s worth giving a general overview of the equipment you should be looking at.
Digital Recording Devices for Podcasting
Recording devices take all sorts of forms, from basic little Dictaphones to full-quality professional audio recorders.
Plus, your PC or your Mac can act as your recording device – it’s more than feasible to record a regular podcast using only a laptop and its inbuilt microphone.
For good results, it’s normally desirable to have at least a simple mobile recording device. Without a recorder that you can carry around, you’ll be stuck to your computer desk for all your podcast creation and, especially with a group, that’s often not ideal.
Also, the biggest problem any podcast host comes across is the infamous software glitch. Imagine spending 2 hours producing the best podcast of your life, only for the computer to crash just before you hit save. That’s 2 hours of audio gone forever, and shows why it’s best to record straight into an external digital recorder instead.
It’s worth budgeting more than the minimum on a recording device as the quality is very dependent on price, as is true with most podcast equipment. Moving above the £50+ mark generally takes you into the range of good quality recorders, and you can spend infinitely more than that if 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!
I go into a lot of detail on the particular recording devices to look for in my Digital Recorders article, but I’ll give you a quick summary here, and it all depends on both budget and quality level:
- Low Budget – Average Quality: Sony ICD-PX312
- Medium Budget – Good Quality: Roland R-05
- High Budget – Professional Quality: Zoom H4n
Really, for most people, the Sony PX312 will be more than enough, but if you can stretch to it, the Zoom H4n is an absolutely amazing piece of kit. Because has been succeeded by the Zoom H5 and Zoom H6 now, the H4n has really come down in price too.
Mobile Phone Podcast Recording
If, however, you don’t fancy spending any money on podcast equipment, you could look at the kit you already have. Mobile phones are great recording devices. It makes sense considering they’re built purely for recording and transmitting your voice.
Pretty much any smart phone will have a voice recording capability, and devices like the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy have great recording and editing facilities.
They also let you email the file to yourself straight away so you always have a backup in case you lose the device.
Even if you don’t have a smart phone, many older phones can still act as a Dictaphone. Have a browse through your phone menu and you might find an audio recording or Dictaphone function that you never knew you had.
What Type of Microphone?
One great addition to your podcast equipment list, if you have the money, is an external microphone. Even a low-cost microphone can hugely increase the ease and quality of your recordings.
All of the recorders above can work with an external mic, and will benefit from using one. Saying that, bear in mind that you would need a very good quality mic to improve upon the H4n’s internal offering.
For full details, have a look at my podcasting microphones article which is a podcast equipment guide listing the range of mics that I recommend. But, for those starting out, let’s outline the starter’s guide here.
For computer recording, you have a huge range of options. A standard headset microphone – the type you would use with Skype – will do the job pretty well. Canyon headsets, available for around £15 on Amazon, create a decent quality recording.
Some headset mics can be very tinny, though, so it’s worth sticking with the Canyon, or finding yourself a Microsoft Livechat mic. The Livechat is another good quality headset mic for only £20 to £30.
The downside of the Livechat is that it’s USB only. If you’re only planning to record via the computer, that’s fine – it does make it very easy to set up and doesn’t rely on your audio settings.
But, if you’re out and about and want to plug in an external microphone to your recorder, you’ll need the Canyon’s standard headphone jack.
Have a look at our Podcast Headset Microphone Shoot-Out for an in-depth look at this kind of mic.
If you’re looking at external mic options for recording into your smartphone, then the Rode Smartlav Plus is an excellent option.
If it’s an iPhone you use, then the Shure MV5 works as both an iPhone and USB mic, which makes it great value for money.
A favourite of ours here at The Podcast Host is the Samson Q2U, which comes with a bunch of podcasting equipment in its box too, from a desk stand, to a quality pair of headphones.
For more on USB mics, check out our USB Microphone Roundup.
Remember, if you are interested in upgrading and want to get yourself a really professional quality mic, you can spend just about as much as you’d like. You wouldn’t believe the increase in both cost and quality when going up to pro quality dynamic and condenser mics. But, to make it worth it, you have to know how to use them well, as is the case with most podcast equipment. Again, if you want to find out more, have a look at my podcasting microphones article.
In ideal circumstances, you can actually create a podcast without any software at all. You could make a recording and upload it to your podcast hosting space straight away, with no editing. This depends on you being pretty accurate with your recording of course, and making no slips or mistakes!
In reality, people make mistakes and you often need to make edits to an audio file before you publish it. You may also want to add music or sound effects to a podcast, or to stitch two separate audio files together, such as your introduction and an interview you did at another time.
In this case, you need to add audio editing software to your podcast equipment tick list. The good thing is, it’s an easy choice.
If you don’t already have an audio editing package, then Audacity is the package for you. It’s powerful, it does everything you need, and, best of all, it’s free!
You can download a copy of audacity at: http://www.audacityteam.org/
Audacity works on both Mac and PC, so you don’t need to worry about the platform. It’s open, it’s flexible and it’s available to anyone, which counts for a lot.
If you’re on a Mac, however, Garageband is a very popular alternative. It’s a really easy to use, powerful bit of software, and best of all, it’s free!
On the PC, the next up on the list from Audacity, for me, would be Reaper. Reaper has a one-off price of $60, but is a really intuative digital audio workstation and even more flexible than the others I’ve mentioned already.
The Anchor of Podcast Equipment: The Mixer
The last thing you might want to think about in terms of podcast equipment is a mixer. This is the last because it’s also the one you can most do without. But, saying that, it’s also the one that will make the biggest change to your podcasting workflow, both in terms of quality and in editing time and flexibility.
A mixer is a device which brings together a number of different sources of audio, ‘mixes’ them all together, allows you to control volume amongst many other things, and then outputs that audio through stereo channels into your recorder.
An example of these inputs might be as follows:
- Host 1 on a pro quality condenser mic
- Host 2 on a good quality secondary dynamic mic
- iPad playing intro music and sound effects
- Guest, speaking to the hosts through Skype
So, all four of these inputs go into the mixer, and then they can be ‘mixed’ together, all at different volumes in order to balance them out.
On top of this, the iPad can be controlled individually so that you can play intro music, then gradually reduce its volume using the mixer, so that you can speak over the top of it. Then you can play background music and sound FX throughout the show, through the iPad, setting it at the perfect volume, live, in-show, using the mixer.
As you can imagine, once you get good at this you don’t need to worry much about post-editing. You can produce the whole show on the fly, ready to broadcast.
The final step here is that the mixer can output to a number of channels:
- to PC, to play back to the guest
- to digital recorder to record as the final episode copy
- to co-host headphones, so that they can check it they ‘clipping’ or ‘off mic’
The mixer allows much, much more control over your recordings, letting you get the right levels straight away, monitor your podcast quality as you’re recording it, and making your workflow so much more robust in general.
Check out our roundup on Podcast Mixers: Pros, Cons, & the Ones to Buy for an in-depth look at the different models of mixer on the market.
A Final Word on Podcasting Equipment
This article was designed to give you a tour through the world of podcast equipment, and offer a bit of guidance on what you might want to use in future.
It’s very normal for a podcaster to start out with nothing more than a headset mic and a laptop, and then move on up through the various stages of equipment.
Buy what you can, when you can, and don’t worry too much about the equipment level you’re at. The most important thing is that you release good content, and then quality and professionalism will come. Good content can make up for bad equipment, but bad podcasting equipment can never make up for terrible content!
For video tutorials and live Q&As on how to set up your equipment, record and edit your audio, and much more, join us in The Podcast Host Academy