Podcast Equipment is easily the ‘most visited' category here on thePodcastHost.com. It seems that podcasters, at least a particularly geeky group of us, are suckers for a piece of shiny gear. And yes, we all know that a $500 microphone doesn't mean better content, but damn, it doesn't half look good on our desks, right?!
So, with that in mind, I wanted to find out, what shiny gear are podcasters using in 2018? Not only that, but what tools, what software, what gadgets? And that's what led to the Grand Podcast Equipment Stats Survey of 2018!
Or rather, the Grand Gear Survey of right-at-the-end-of-2017-but-published-in-2018.
So, it took me a while to process the data, OK? On the positive side, that's because we got tonnes of it! Nearly 200 podcasters responded, letting us know what they're using right now. So, this is the most extensive report, that I know of, on the gear and tool habits of podcasters worldwide.
Do you want to know what the most popular microphone is? Do you want to know what package podcasters are using to edit? What about mixers? Headphones? Yep, we've got all of that, and more.
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Get ready for a huge slice of shiny equipment, smothered in a juicy layer of stats. I knew that PhD research skills module would come in handy one day…. 3 years well spent, huh? Anyway, on with the show!
This always the hottest topic – what microphone should I use? So much so that my Best Podcast Microphones article continues to be one of the most popular here on the site.
So, what are people using in real life? Let's take a look.
What Make of Mic do you Use?
First of all, what make of microphone are people opting for these days? This shows the brands that are winning out with podcasters.
Blue is still winning out in the podcast community, selling a legion of Blue Yetis and Snowballs to a willing podcast public. Rode follow up with around the half of Blue's share, tailed closely by Audio Technica and Samson. Nothing terribly unexpected in that top 4.
But one thing to note appears at #5, with the appearance of Zoom. That's surprising considering they're not primarily a microphone company. It turns out that a significant number of people are using Zoom recorders as their primary mic, whether plugging into their laptop as a USB mic, or using them mobile, on the road.
We did have a big range of ‘other' mics which go, from Heil to Electrovoice
What Model of Mic Do You Use?
But what about the specifics? Here's the exact models that podcasters are going with in 2018.
The ‘magpie award' goes to one respondent who current uses the following:
“Samson Q2U, Rode Lav, Blue Yeti, Blue Snowball, Rode Podcaster”
Well done that guy/girl for buying ALL the options! For everyone else, one microphone was usually enough and, again, Blue shows strongly here with the ever-popular Blue Yeti topping the chart. You can see our thoughts on the Yeti over at our Best mics article, but yes, it's not perfect in a lot of way, and podcasters still love it. What can you say, Blue have nailed the branding and the sales channels.
Showing well too, though, is the Shure SM58, which is a great mic when paired with a decent quality recorder or mixer. We use ours with the Zoom H6 with great results. Down the list, the ATR 2100 and the Q2U are doing well – both great mic choices, and good value.
Dynamic vs Condenser Microphone
Here's a common question we get, should I use a Dynamic or a Condenser microphone? Our most common answer is, “Dynamic, unless you've got a well treated recording space.” Well, what do the stats tell us that people went with?
So, it turns out that either half of our audience are running pro studios, or they don't listen to anything we say! Or…. they know that the Blue Yeti is a condenser mic, but don't give a damn…
Yep, that's one of the downsides of the Yeti – it's a Condenser, and can be over-sensitive as a result. That's why we tend to recommend that Samson Q2U as a first choice for USB or the Shure SM58 for an XLR setup.
What Kind of Mic Stand do you Use?
I was interested to know how people are mounting their mics, if at all. Here are the results.
Boom arms win out, but only just. I'd expect that since they're such a good option for the spoken word, or sitting at a desk, and you can see the types we recommend here: Boom arms for podcasting.
The ‘built-in' frequency is, again, no doubt thanks to the Yeti and the Snowball for the most part. Another reason why those mics are so popular, despite the fact that the stands themselves can lead to a pretty low and uncomfortable mic position. The Rode PSA1 and a Samson Q2U or a SM58 is our weapon combo of choice.
Pop Filters and Windscreens
Next, did our respondents use a pop filter or a windscreen to protect their mic?
The vast majority use a pop filter, which is good to hear for the sake of the world's audio quality!
Headphones for Recording
This is one we threw in, almost as a throwaway, but it showed up a slightly surprising result: over a quarter of podcasters (28%) aren't wearing headphones when they're recording!
In nearly any case, this is essential. On the starter end, if you're recording a Skype call, make sure you're using headphones to avoid any feedback. And on the advanced end, you should be monitoring your recording (listening to your own voice) at all times, to make sure you're on mic, avoiding background noise and sounding good.
So, those folks who are monitoring, what are they using?
Most of the expected brands are in there, with Sennheiser and Sony offering great options for decent value audio monitor headphones.
Not unexpected, too, is a pretty high prevalence of “generic earbuds,” or “the ones that came with my phone.” They're common-place in the world of Skype interviews, but a bit of a risky option considering the variance in quality, from the ultra-cheap up to the not-too-bad Apple or Samsung headsets. The best option is to split it out, using a separate microphone and set of headphones, but if you're looking for a proper headset to record with, check out a few USB headset options here.
Mixers and Audio Interfaces
Now we're getting fancy. I wanted to find out how many podcasters are using advanced setups, that include a mixer or an audio interface.
To be honest, I was a little surprised at this. Over a third of podcasters (37%) profess to use an audio interface of some sort, which I'd call an advanced setup. So, what are they using?
Not so surprising on the brands, however! Behringer have always been the Podcaster's favourite, thanks to their big range, wide reach and low prices. To me, the quality suffers quite a lot on the low-end models, though, and the Yamaha MG10 wins out as the best low-cost mixer, by far.
The Focusrite range (eg. the brilliant wee Scarlett 2i2) appeared in these responses, too, as an excellent quality and much simpler option; nothing more than an audio interface to connect pro mics to your computer.
It's worth noting that the ‘other' category was extensive, sporting one or two mentions at a time for a weird and wonderful range of devices. There's certainly no shortage of choices out here in this category, but if you want some starting pointers, you can find some of the Best Mixers for Podcasters here.
Next, we moved on to our audience's method for ‘capturing tape'. I was interested to see how many are using hardware, and how many use software.
Software is the clear winner, which tallies with the feeling we get from the ‘podcaster at large.' A good proportion of people record their podcast via Skype, whether it's an interview show, or co-hosted, and the easiest method to capture that is still a Skype recording app. Right behind that are the small, but growing, set of apps that record double-enders for you, such as Ringr and Zencastr. And lastly, we also have a big portion of the portion of the podcasting community recording directly into an audio editor, like Audacity or Audition.
So, even though I've written about the advantages of digital recorder vs software, I can't see these stats changing any time soon.
Audio Editing Software
Once the recording is done, it's time to edit. What are podcasters using to produce their show?
And the winner? The FREE one! Yes, Audacity, the world's best free anything leads the pack by a fair margin.
But, Audition, isn't so very far behind, considering how much it costs. That's down to the big time savings you win through it's better workflow, and the fact that's it's simply so much nicer and easier to use. But, Audacity is good, and serves it's purpose well. If you're pondering, you can read the Audacity vs Audition comparison here.
Just to be clear, I know equipment and tools are secondary to the content. It's the content, the presenter, the engagement that matters. But I'm sorry, I'm a geek, and I love to talk about equipment! That's why I find it fascinating to see how people are recording their shows around the world.
I plan to continue this next year, and start to track the trends, so keep your eyes peeled for a future edition. I also learned a lot on how to improve this next time around, and what else we might be asking about.
For example, I received a lot of answers for digital recording tools like Ringr or Talkhelper in the ‘recording' section, so I want to ask more about the online tools, and other related gadgets that people are using to plan, record, edit and organise their shows.
There's such a range of new tools out there now, all designed to help us improve our podcasts, or make things easier. For example, Alitu: the Podcast Maker app, which aims to help you automate the production, the editing and the publishing of your show.
I hope you got as much from this as I did, and please do share it around your equally geeky friends. I'd love to raise awareness and manage to get even more podcasters involved next year. Until then, enjoy the gear!