So you really want to start a podcast. You’ve got something of value to say, and you can think of countless topics in your niche that you’d like to cover.
There are just two problems – you have little or no knowledge about audio equipment, and little or no budget.
So does this mean that your podcast is dead in the water before it has began? Absolutely not.
It’s easy to be intimidated by pictures of recording studios, mixing desks, and cables running everywhere, but you don’t need any of that to start or run a podcast.
In this article we’re going to go over some of the most simple and low cost options available to podcasters today. If you’ve felt stuck in a rut with this for a while now I’m hopeful we can find a way for you to kick on and launch your own show. So let’s start with perhaps the easiest setup.
Using Your Smartphone
Your phone is probably one of the most expensive bits of kit you own, and it can double up as your podcast microphone too. Sure, it might not sound as good as a studio condenser mic, but most phones have pretty decent mics built into them nowadays.
To record a podcast with your phone, it’s simply a case of finding your ‘voice memo’ or ‘voice recorder’ app and you’re ready to start your first episode. Once you’ve recorded, you can email yourself the audio file, or transfer it to your computer via a USB cable.
Once on your computer, you’ll want to run the audio file through some editing software like Audacity, before uploading your finished episode to a media host. We’ll talk more about these two things later on in the article.
Accessorising Your Smartphone
If you’re looking to stick with your phone, but you want a better sound quality and a bit more recording flexibility, then there’s a few options out there.
iRig Mic Cast
The iRig Mic Cast is compatible with most Android devices, as well as iPhones and iPads. At £25/$25 it’ll add an extra quality to your recording without breaking the bank. It simply plugs in to your phone’s headphone port and off you go.
iRig Mic Handheld
If you like the idea of the iRig Mic Cast, but you’d rather have a more traditional looking mic that you can use in a stand with a pop shield, then take a look at the iRig Mic Handheld. At £35/$40 it’s slightly more expensive than the Mic Cast, but also a fair bit more flexible. Just like the Mic Cast though, you simply plug it in to your phone’s headphone port and you’re ready to record.
Rode SmartLav +
The Rode SmartLav + will plug in to virtually any mobile device. At £42/$70 it’s a little more expensive than the iRig Mic Cast, but you might find a lav mic more comfortable to record with. Lav mics (also known as collar or lapel mics) pin to your shirt, and are commonly seen on TV. They can help you feel more comfortable and natural if you’re someone who struggles to talk whilst staring into a microphone.
Microphone veterans Shure recently entered the “plug & play” mic arena with their MOTIV range. The one that really caught my eye (and ear) here was the MV5 (£100/$100). This mic works as a USB, iPad, or mobile (iPhone) mic, and it has a really good level of sound quality too.
The Zoom iQ5 (£50/$70) is similar to the iRig Mic Cast, but with many more recording options, though it only works on iOS devices. It plugs in via the lightning connector and gives you the additional option of using Zoom’s free Handy Recorder app to record your podcast episodes.
Using an iPad?
You can use the iRig Mic Cast or the Zoom iQ5 with your iPad. The Rode SmartLav + is only designed for smartphones however. If you like the sound of using a lav mic though, the ATR3350 will plug into your iPad, and it’s even cheaper than the Rode SmartLav +.
We’re going to talk about USB mics next, and you can plug a USB mic into your iPad via a ‘Lightning to USB’ adapter if you’re looking for something a little bigger than the devices we’ve covered already.
The beauty of USB mics is that they are virtually ‘plug in and play’ (or plug in and record, as our case might be) if you’re using a computer, laptop, or Mac.
Connecting a USB mic is no harder than connecting a pen or flash drive. Let’s have a look at the best entry level USB mics out there right now.
The Samson Q2U is my personal favourite ‘starter’ mic. It’s very affordable at the price of £44/$42, and that includes some extra accessories such as a table stand and set of headphones. It also has an XLR connection, so if you ever wanted to upgrade to using a mixer in the future you wouldn’t need to buy a new mic. Depending on what region you’re in, you might need to look at the Q2U’s “twin”, the ATR2100.
The Blue Snowball comes in two forms. The regular model, the the downsized iCE model. The iCE is marketed by Blue as being designed for “basic recording and Skype calls” whilst the regular model is for “studio quality vocals and podcasts”. At time of writing, prices are around £65/$70 (regular) and £43/$49 (iCE).
The Snowball is a nice looking microphone with a good screw-in stand. I’m not keen on the fact that it doesn’t have a headphone port though, so you can’t hear yourself as you record. I also don’t think it sounds as good as either the Q2U or the Yeti.
The Blue Yeti is the big brother of the Snowball. At £100/$125 it’s more expensive, but it also has a few more options and a noticeable jump in audio quality. Like all Blue mics it’s a nicely designed piece of equipment, and comes on a great desk stand (which you can remove if you want to attach it to something else in the future). The Blue Yeti is one of the most popular podcasting mics in the world, and with good reason.
We’ve covered a few different options for how you can go about recording your show, but there’s just a couple of other things we’ll need to run a podcast.
- Audio software. Firstly, the good news is that Audacity is completely free, and will allow you to both record and edit your audio. You need audio software if you want to make any edits to your recording, or if you want to add in intro or outro music. Learning to use Audacity can take a bit of time and patience, but it’s not hard once you grasp the basics. If you’re looking for a shortcut to mastering Audacity, we have a course inside our Academy that’ll help you do just that.
- Thanks to our new “podcast maker” tool Alitu, you don’t even need audio software like Audacity anymore though. Alitu is really simple to use, and will take care of the processing, editing, and publishing of your podcast for you. It’s ideal for complete beginners who don’t want to learn how to edit, or experienced podcasters who don’t have time to edit!
- Call recording software, IF you’re doing an interview show with remote guests. If that’s your aim, check out our roundup of the best tools for recording a podcast online.
- Media hosting. A media host is a website you sign up to and start uploading your episodes. Once you’ve created your show on a media host, people can subscribe to it and start downloading your content. For more on media hosting check out Where do Podcasts live?
Media Hosting Options & Prices
So if you’re asking “which media host should I choose, and how much will it cost?” then this section is for you
These services both cost a monthly fee, but in my opinion they are absolutely worth it. I’ve done a thorough comparison in the article linked above, so I’ll just say here that Libsyn are slightly cheaper at the very lowest level.
For $5 a month you’ll get 50MB of storage. That means you can put out a podcast every week if it is around 20mins in length with a bitrate of 64kbps. A bitrate is an audio quality setting you’ll choose for your episode after editing it in Audacity. For more on bitrates, check out this article.
Starting Your Podcast
Hopefully you’ve now got a better idea of the options that are available to you. It doesn’t need to be expensive, and it doesn’t need to be complicated.
If you’re still looking for some in-depth info on the other aspects of planning and launching a show (content, episode formats, finding music, cover art, etc) then I’d suggest checking out our guide on How to Start a Podcast.
And if you’ve any further questions, comments, or suggestions on anything discussed here, we’d love to hear from you. Just leave a comment in the comments section below.