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The Best Podcast Equipment Guide for 2021

  • Andrew McGivern

     

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If you are just getting started as a podcaster you are probably confused about podcast equipment. What is the best podcast equipment for a new podcaster?

There are 100’s of products from dozens of manufacturers and getting your head wrapped around what recording equipment is best for podcasting is tough.

Podcasting can be complicated

Podcasting can be complicated. Some podcasters have complicated podcast equipment configurations and you may think that you need a fancy sound treated studio with thousands of dollars in gear to get started. This is not true.

You can start a podcast that sounds great with an inexpensive USB Microphone. Assuming you already have a computer, you won’t need anything else.

Keep this in mind as we look at all the equipment you can use to create podcasts. You don't need all this gear... podcasting doesn't have to be complicated.

Podcasting can be simple.

Most of the podcast equipment guides online focus on the best microphones for podcasting and other other podcast gear but do not take into account the most expensive item that you need to start a podcast.

The most expensive piece of equipment in your podcasting studio will probably be your computer.

The good news is most new podcasters already have a computer.

Why do you need a computer for podcasting?

You will need a computer (PC, MAC or Linux) in order to edit your podcast. It is possible to create podcast episodes without a computer but it is more challenging.

 

 

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Best Computers for Podcasting

Is my current computer good enough for podcasting?

If you don’t have a computer then you will need to invest in a decent laptop or desktop computer in order to run audio editing software and other programs.

You don’t need a supercomputer to run a podcast. Most new desktop or laptop computers will do the job. Just make sure you have a minimum 8GB of RAM (more is better) and a fast CPU (Intel i7 processor).

If you are going to be producing video then you will want an even more powerful system. A gaming PC will do the job with a good graphics card, fast CPU and lots of RAM.

If you already have a computer that doesn't meet these specs then try using your audio editing program of choice and see if it runs smoothly and renders audio without timing out or crashing.

Best Laptop for Podcasting?

If you prefer to use a laptop then there are a lot of options for podcasting. A MAC Book or Windows machine with minimum 8GB RAM and preferably an i7 processor.

Best Podcast Microphones

What is the best microphone for podcasting?

 

This is a well-debated topic.

Before we get into the actual microphones, we need to look at the different types of microphones.

There are many opinions on what podcast microphones are the best.

Choosing a podcast microphone is a very personal decision.

You will like the sound of your voice more on certain microphones and you won’t on others.

Condenser vs Dynamic Microphones

Condenser Microphones for podcasting

A condenser microphone is more sensitive and captures more of the ambient noise in the room. It is able to capture the full range of your voice and is the preferred type of microphone for voice-over work and professional audio recordings.

Condenser microphones need phantom power to be enabled on your audio interface/mixer.

You may need to treat your recording space with audio panels.

Popular Condenser Mics for Podcasting

Dynamic Microphones for podcasting

A dynamic microphone is less sensitive and generally picks up audio that is in close proximity to the microphone. The sound drops off significantly as you pull away from the microphone. It is more suitable for untreated audio recording environments.

Dynamic microphones are the most commonly recommended type of mic for podcasting. There are some dynamic microphones like the Heil PR40 that are wide diaphragm and are designed to sound like condenser microphones.

Popular Dynamic Mics for Podcasting

USB Microphones vs XLR Microphones for Podcasting

USB Microphones for podcasting

USB Microphones plug directly into a computer (or smartphone via an adapter). You can record your podcast into a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) or other podcast recording software like VoiceMeeter.

The benefit to USB Microphones are there is no need for an audio-interface or mixer.

The most basic podcast kit is a USB Microphone and a computer. That is it!

Popular USB Mics for Podcasting

XLR Microphones for podcasting

An XLR microphone is an analog microphone designed to plug into a mixer or audio interface.

In order to record your podcast directly into your computer, you will need additional equipment.

XLR Microphones are preferred by many advanced podcasters because you can use them with an audio-interface and a digital recorder to achieve an all hardware recording system. This reduces the risk of losing a recording due to software crashes.

Popular XLR Mics for Podcasting

Other types of podcast microphones

Ribbon Microphones

Ribbon microphones are not commonly used for podcasting.

You need to be careful with phantom power because you can damage your microphone if you have phantom power switched on while your ribbon mic is plugged in.

Dynamic microphones don’t require phantom power but will not be damaged by it.

Shotgun Microphones

Shotgun microphones are typically used in video recording but some podcasters use them in their podcast studios.

Shotgun mics are front-load microphones that only pick up audio directly in front of the microphone.

Lightning Microphones

If you want to record into your iPhone or iPad you can get a Lightning microphone. A Lightning Microphone is like a USB Mic but with a lightning adapter. They can come in either condenser or dynamic although most I have seen are condenser mics.

Or you can get an adapter like the iRig which connects to your smartphone allowing you to use a handheld microphone or a lavalier mic.

I have the iPhone camera kit and it works well for me and my ATR2100USB.

I plug in the camera kit to my iPhone and plugin the USB cable from the mic and record using Boss Jock Studio straight into the iPhone (or iPad).

Lavalier Microphones

If you are recording video and you don’t want a microphone in the frame then a Lavalier microphone is a good option. You can get lavalier mics that are condenser or dynamic and the quality varies.

Headset Microphones

Some people record their shows using a gaming style headset microphone. They aren’t the best quality audio but they are good enough.

I like headset microphones for inexperienced podcast guests who tend to move their mouth away from the microphone causing audio drop off. With a headset microphone you don't have to worry about this because as they turn their head the microphone remains the same distance from the mouth.

Some interview based podcasts send their guests a headset mic prior to the interview so they don't have to worry about poor audio quality.

Extensible Podcast Microphones

The Samson Q2U,the ATR2100USB and the Maono HD300 each have USB AND XLR connections.

What is so cool about that? You can start with just one of these mics (and your computer). The only expense you will have for podcast equipment will be an inexpensive microphone.

Later... when you expand your podcast studio you can buy an audio-interface or mixer and you will NOT have to replace your microphone because it also has an XLR connection.

Shway!

Podcast Microphone Accessories

There are a lot of accessories for your podcast microphones. Some are highly recommended and others may not be needed depending on your podcast studio setup.

Pop Filters help reduce the prevalence of popping P's. A windscreen does the same thing but a pop filter does a better job. It is a good idea to have a pop filter or windscreen on your microphone.

Mic Stands or boom arms help position the microphone in a comfortable place for recording. A good mic stand is adjustable so you can use it at different heights and angles.

A shock mount attaches to the microphone and suspends it so that vibrations and bumbs don't cause noise to get into your recording. Without a shock mount you will hear thuds and bumbs as people like to move around while recording.

Headphones for podcasting

In order to monitor your recording, you need to use a good set of headphones. You can use earbuds but you won’t get the same quality isolation of sound to monitor clearly.

Your podcasting headphones should be comfortable and should not irritate your ears.

Headphone Amplifier

If you have multiple co-hosts or in studio guests then you may want a headphone amp which will allow everyone to have headphones with individual volume control.

We used two ART HEADAMP4 headphone amplifiers for The Bunker Project podcast and they worked well to get all our guests their own headsets with personal control over volume. I still use one of them in my podcast studio today.

Inline Microphone Preamps

If you choose a Dynamic XLR Microphone as your podcast microphone you may notice that you need to turn the gain way up on your audio interface or mixer. This is because dynamic microphones don't use phantom power and require more of a signal then condenser microphones do.

Some audio interfaces have good built in preamps so you don't need an inline microphone preamp but some podcasters prefer to get an inline preamp so they don't need to crank the gain. This gives you a louder and quieter recording which is what we want for our podcasts.

The two most popular inline mic preamps for podcasting are the Cloudlifter and the Fethead.

 

Cloudlifter vs Fethead

What do inline microphone preamps do?

They take low output dyanmic or ribbon microphones and increase the gain so that you can have a louder, cleaner sound. You don't have to turn the gain up so high and have a lower noise floor in your recording.

How do inline microphone preamps work?

They utilize the phantom power provided by an audio interface or mixer to boost the signal but do NOT pass on the phantom power through to the microphone. This is especially important when using ribbon microphones because phantom power will damage them.

Cloud Microphones Cloud Lifter

The Cloudlifter is essentially a steal box with one (or more) inputs and outputs. You take an XLR cable from your audio interface and plug it into the the input on the cloud lifter and then a second XLR cable goes from the output of the Cloudlifter to the microphone input.

The Cloudlifter provides 25 db of gain allowing you to get the same volume level at a lower gain setting on your mixer or audio-interface.

Triton Digital's Fethead

The Fethead functions in much the same way as the Cloudlifter. It has an intput and output and uses the supplied phantom power to boost the gain by 27db without passing on the phantom power to the microphone.

The Fethead does not require an additional XLR cable as you plug one end of the Fethead directly into the XLR connection on your microphone. You attach your microphones XLR cable to the other end of the Fethead.

Which inline microphone preamp is better?

I've read multiple opinions on several forums and some people prefer the Fethead while others prefer the Cloudlifter. They both increase the gain by approximately the same amount. 25db for the Cloudlifter and 27db for the Fethead.

The Fethead doesn't require the extra XLR cable and takes up less desk space which is nice. I am all for anything that reduces the amount of space and tangle of wires which is whey I switched from a mixer to an audio-interface.

If you have multiple microphones to boost the Cloudlifter may be the more econonomical choice because you won't have to buy multiple devices.

So far, we have looked at your podcasting computer, podcast microphone (and accessories) and headphones.

If you are recording using a USB Microphone into your computer then this is all you need. You can handle everything else with software.

But if you are going to have multiple in studio co-hosts or guests and you want to bring in remote interviews then you will need additional equipment.

Do I need a digital recorder, audio-interface or mixer to start a podcast?

 

To get started podcasting you don’t need any of this equipment. You can start recording your show with an inexpensive USB microphone and some recording software.

Even if you have a more complex show with remote interviews you can do so with VoiceMeeter (Windows) or Audio Hijack Pro (MAC).

You don't have to buy additional equipment although it can make your podcast production easier. If you don't have the budget for podcast equipment don't let that stop you from getting started podcasting.

If you want to have a complete podcast studio or if you are going to buy XLR microphones you will need to look at audio-interfaces or mixers.

 

Digital Recorders for Podcasting

A Digital Recorder is a great addition to your podcasting setup because you can use it in a variety of ways.

You can use your digital recorder to record sound seeing tours as you are at events and out in the field. You can record interviews directly into the digital recorder using its built in microphone or plug your handheld microphone into it if it supports XLR inputs.

You can also use a digital recorder with your mixer to record your podcast through the line-in input and eliminate the risk of losing a recording due to software crashes.

Audio-Interfaces for Podcasting

An audio interface is a device that takes your analog microphones (XLR) and converts the signal to digital and brings the signal into your computer through a USB connection.

An audio interface is not as complex as a mixer but it takes up less space and works well for many podcasters.

If you need more control over your audio you can use a virtual mixer like VoiceMeeter but then you are relying on software which can be risky if the software or your computer crashes.

There are a variety of Audio-Interfaces to choose from. They range from simple, single input and output devices to more advanced multi-input and multi-output devices.

When choosing an audio interface you need to look at how many in-studio microphones you will need for your show. If you will have yourself and one co-host then an audio-interface with two XLR inputs will be fine. But what if you have an in-studio guest... then you will need an additional input. I usually recommend getting more inputs/outputs then you need to make room for exceptions and growth.

Mixers for Podcasting

A mixer gives you a lot of control over your audio and allows you to set up a mix-minus for bringing in remote guests via Skype or another service.

What is a mix-minus?

A mixer mix-minus allows you to bring in audio from in-studio or remote guests allowing them to hear the entire recording minus their own voice. If they can hear themselves they will hear their own voice echoing back at them which can be highy distracting and makes it difficult to speak.

It is possible to produce podcasts without a mixer. You can use a virtual mixer like VoiceMeeter to do everything a physical mixer can do (including a mix-minus) but you will still need an audio interface if using XLR Microphones.

It is possible to set up a mix-minus with an audio interface but it is much easier on a mixing board.

 

If your mixer supports USB you can record directly into your computer without an additional USB audio interface.

If you have an older mixer that doesn’t have USB you can use a simple audio interface to do the job.

Some mixers are multi-track which will let you record yourself and your guests in separate tracks for easier editing. VoiceMeeter is a virtual mixer that allows you to record in multi-track as well.

Audio Processing Hardware

If you have an audio interface that supports line inserts you can add audio processing equipment that will add compression, a hard limiter/gate, preamps and EQ.

DBX 286

The dbx286s Microphone Preamp and Channel Strip Processor is a popular device amoung podcasters because it has great preamps and an adjustable de-esser that reduces sibilance and distortion. The enhancer increases the detail and definition of the hish and low frequencies.

It can be expensive if you have multiple microphones because you need a separate dbx286 for each microphone.

MDX 4600

The Behringer MDX4600 MMULTICOM PRO-XL is a four channel compressor / limiter / gate.

You can use in line inserts to connect up to four microphones to this hardware processing device. You can add compression, expander / limiter and a gate to improve the sound of your show without using a digital audio workstation (DAW).

APHEX Aurel Exciter / Big Bottom

The Aural Exiciter is a rack mount audio processor that supports two microphones per unit. It brings out detail and clarity  that elevates your sound without adding level and enhances the quality of your recording better than using equalization.

The Optical Big Bottom adds a deep and powerful low frequency punch without the unwanted level boost you get from using an EQ.

It is a pricey add on to your studio but many people swear by the quality improvement they get from it.

 

 

Audio Cart Hardware

The Elgato Stream Deck

The Elgato Stream Deck is a cool piece of hardware that has 15 LCD Keys that are fully customizable. You can program them to take virtually any action you want. For live video applications you can have a key switch scenes, launch an application, play media and more. Actions can be nested in folders so you can have as many actions as you need.

For podcasting you can program this unit to have your intro music, sound effects, voicemail feedback, out takes, and outro music. You can run a live show easier with this cool equipment.

Of course, this can be accomplished using software like PlayIt Cartwell, but if you want an all hardware podcasting solution then this is a great addition to your podcast studio equipment setup.

All in One Podcast Audio Interface Recorders

The RODE Rodecaster Pro

The RodeCaster Pro is an all in one podcast recording device that is a multi-track podcast mixer, digital recorder and audio interface in one.

It has a built-in audio cart, audio processing equipment, and audio effects. It is more expensive than a simpler audio interface or mixer but considering everything you get it is a good value for the money.

Look back at all the podcast equipment we'eve covered so far. We looked at digital recorders, audio interfaces, mixers, preamps, and audio processing gear like the APHEX Aural Exciter. The RodeCaster Pro has all of these functions in one simple to use device with cool extras like the audio cart buttons and the digital touch screen display.

Read my full article on The Rodecaster Pro

 

Zoom also has a dedicated device that is designed just for podcasters. It is the Zoom Podtrak P4 and it is a portable podcast audio interface and digital recorder with built in mix minus.

Soundproofing for podcasters

If your podcast recording space (podcast studio) in your home or office is not conducive to good audio recording then you may need to look into treating the room with acoustic tiles or alternatives.

If your room contains a lot of flat walls, windows and hardwood floors then you will have reverb in your recordings. A dynamic microphone with a fethead or cloudlifter can help to reduce the room reverb but there are some other steps you can take to make your recordings sound better.

Carpet is better for podcast recording because it doesn't reflect the sound as much. If you have hardwood floors look at getting a nice thick rug to put on the floor.

Bookshelves are great at diffusing the sound that otherwise would just reverberate throughout the room. If you can add bookshelves and other pieces of furniture that will help.

And finally, you can purchase acoustic tiles and place them on the walls which will deflect and absorb sound waves making a much cleaner sounding recording studio.

If you don't have the budget for acoustic tiles you can use moving blankets (or equivalent) and hang them on the walls while recording.

We used moving blankets at when recording the Bunker Project podcast in the back room of a bar in downtown Vancouver. It helped quite a bit.

 

Podcast Equipment

Thank you for reading!

I hope you enjoyed reading this podcast equipment guide. I will keep it up to date as manufacturers bring out new podcast gear that should be included.

Check out our podcast equipment store. Most items are linked to Amazon which makes ordering easy and safe. And you will have your new podcasting gear today or tomorrow!