Your primary focus as a budding or experienced podcaster is delivering quality content. Investing in lots of fanciful pieces of expensive audio equipment is secondary.
But no one will hear your message if your audio quality is poor. You need good-quality podcast tools if you want your message to be heard.
If you’re new to podcasting, here are the essentials to include in your podcast starter kit, whether you plan to focus on solo episodes or host guests on live sessions.
If there is one piece of equipment a podcaster shouldn’t pinch pennies on, it is the microphone. No matter how helpful your message is, no one will benefit from it if they can’t hear it clearly.
Capturing good sound quality isn’t only about giving your listeners a good listening experience; it also saves you plenty of post-production time.
Fortunately, you don’t have to break the bank just to get a reliable microphone.
The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a microphone is finding one that fits your recording environment, whether that’s a standard recording studio or a DIY studio.
You will want to go with condenser mics if you work primarily in a standard recording studio. These types of microphones are more sensitive to noise and are great at picking up nuanced vocals and even the slightest sounds.
Since a standard recording studio will also have improved acoustic treatments like padded walls with acoustic foams, a condenser mic is an excellent choice for that setting.
On the flip side, podcasting mics designed to reject or cancel out ambient noise coming from the environment are your best bet if you work in a DIY studio – perhaps, your bedroom, closet, or even inside your car!
These microphones are called dynamic mics, and while they won’t produce very crisp sounds like their condenser counterparts, they are great for recording in locations with fewer acoustic treatments.
Both the condenser and dynamic mic types come in two broad categories, namely:
- USB Microphones: These mics connect directly to the computer or laptop. They are easy to set up and use, making them an ideal choice for beginners. Also, USB mics generally don’t require additional pieces of equipment to work. That means they are great for podcasters on a tight budget.If you go with a USB mic, make sure to pick an option that has a zero-latency headphone output, gain control, and mute button among other features.
- XLR microphones: XLR mics plug into a digital recorder, mixer, or audio interface instead of directly to a laptop or computer. These mics are a solid choice for professional setups, especially if you usually have multiple guests on your podcasts. The audio interface offers the flexibility of controlling audio levels for each guest. Keep in mind that this option will cost you more since you will have to buy a good-quality audio interface to plug in the XLR microphone. This option might not be suitable if you are just getting into podcasting or if you are on a shoestring budget.
No podcast starter kit is complete without headphones, regardless of how tight your budget is and even if you are a total beginner to the game.
Headphones allow you to monitor the entire recording in real-time, whether you are mainly running a solo show or interviewing guests.
This piece of equipment also helps you improve your mic techniques as well as boost your audio editing skills.
Although headphones are crucial to your podcast, there is no need to split hairs on choosing one.
And certainly, there is no reason to splurge on a headset, especially if you are just starting with podcasting.
Here are your options when it comes to the different headphone configurations:
- Closed-back headphones: By design, these headphone types greatly minimize ambient sound and prevent sound leakages, making them the preferred option for podcasting.
- Open-back headphones: These allow more air and ambient sound into the ear cups. This can cause sound leakage or bleed.
Headphones can also come in over-ear, in-ear, and on-ear configurations, with most podcasting opting for the over-ear option.
Another thing to consider is whether to choose wired or wireless headphones. One is not better than the other. It all comes down to your setup and what’s more suitable for your style of recording.
A wired headphone will work great if you tend to stick to one position during your shows.
On the flip side, go with a wireless option if you move around a lot during recording or you simply don’t want to be tied down by cables.
Regardless of the model you choose, make sure to pick a set that’s very comfortable for you because you’ll spend a large chunk of your recording time wearing them.
Also, don’t lose sight of the most important thing when choosing a set of headphones: the ability to hear exactly what’s being captured. This comes first before any other fancy features.
A podcast starter kit without a digital audio workspace (DAW) is like recording your sessions on a cassette – you can’t edit your shows.
A DAW is a software program that records audio and lets you do edit and produce the audio professionally.
As you may have already guessed, there are many of these programs available, which can be a bit tricky to pick one.
Think about your experience level and your computer’s operating system before choosing a digital audio workspace.
If you are an experienced podcaster, you may want to go for more advanced and professional-grade DAW like Adobe Audition.
This software allows you to create, edit and mix sounds at studio-level capacity being one of the industry-leading DAWs.
But keep in mind that pro-level DAW programs are more expensive and may not be suitable for podcasters on a tight budget.
Also, professional-level programs may not be a good fit if you’re looking for something easy to use right out of the box. There is usually a steep learning curve with these sophisticated DAWs.
But they are a great investment if you plan to invest in your podcast for the long term.
If you want something more affordable and easy to use, consider beginner-friendly DAWs, such as Audacity, Reaper, GarageBand, and SquadCast.
By the way, you may end up with a couple of DAWs, especially if one inexpensive program doesn’t have all the features and functionalities you want.
A laptop or computer will allow you to use your editing software or DAW to record, edit, produce, and upload your podcast sessions.
It doesn’t matter whether you use a PC or Mac; all that comes down to personal preference.
The important thing is to use a laptop or computer with ample storage capacity (SSD storage), a triple-core processor, and 8GB of RAM at the very minimum.
There is no need to invest in an entirely new computer or laptop if you are on a budget. Just use what you already have.
If you must spend money on your current computer, simply upgrade the storage capacity to store large audio files.
Also, consider upgrading your computer’s operating system to smoothly run your recording and editing program.
An audio interface converts audio from analog signals received from a microphone to digital signals and sends them into a computer.
This piece of equipment is a must-have if you want to record live episodes with XLR mics. It can make all the difference between a pro-level live show and one that’s, well, just so-so.
The audio interface allows you to add background music and sound effects on the go.
But that’s not all; a digital recorder, mixer, or audio interface significantly improves your sound quality.
This means you’ll be able to drastically reduce the time required for post-production of the final cut because
Here’s the thing, though; you don’t need an audio interface if you stick with a USB mic. But you need one if you use an XLR mic or multiple microphones for guests and co-hosts.
While your mic may have the ability to cancel noise, it can still pick up vibrations and shocks from noise interference that can ruin your recordings.
You may not need to spend extra money buying a shock mount if your mic already has one. But in many cases, mics don’t come with shock mounts.
Consider buying a dedicated shock mount from the manufacturer of your mic if possible. This way, you are certain that both pieces of recording equipment will fit nicely.
But don’t sweat it if you can’t find a shock mount from your mic’s brand. Simply buy any other option that fits your mic’s diameter.
That means knowing your mic’s measurement before shopping for a shock mount.
A sound windscreen is perhaps the most inexpensive item you’ll have in your podcast starter kit. But don’t overlook it just because it is cheap.
This can save you lots of post-production work, especially if you record in a less-than-ideal studio.
Sound windscreens are made from a foam material and designed to fit over your mic like a glove of some sort.
They reduce excessive pressure on your microphone’s element that may come in the form of breath blast, a sudden gush of wind current, and vocal plosives.
While some microphones come with internal sound windscreens, it doesn’t hurt to provide an additional layer of pressure protection to further improve the quality of your recording.
Other important pieces of equipment to include your podcast start kit include:
One of the biggest mistakes you will make as a beginner podcaster is holding your mic in your hand while hosting your sessions. This is wrong on so many levels.
First, you will be forced to concentrate on the mic, making sure not to cause disturbances, vibrations, and noises. That will effectively take your attention off your topic.
Secondly, it is tiring to hold your microphone in your hands during your shows. Eventually, you will add distracting noises to your recording and end up with poor audio quality.
Even if you opt to place the mic on your desk, you may accidentally knock it down during live sessions or rub against it.
You can sidestep all of these disturbances by investing in a microphone stand. Luckily, you can find good-quality options at very affordable price points.
This is another piece of small equipment that can give your sessions a professional touch.
A boom arm typically attaches to the microphone stand and allows you to suspend your mic from the most suitable position where your voice will sound its best.
With this tool, you will greatly minimize your chances of knocking into your mic as well as eliminate handling noises.
Similar to a sound windscreen, a pop filter is an important addition to your podcast starter kit because it reduces plosive speech sounds like t, k, p, b, g, and d.
But instead of fitting snuggly over your mic casing, a pop filter is typically made from acoustically transparent mesh or foam and is placed in front of your mic.
Also, a pop filter serves another very useful function. It prevents spit from your mouth or guests’ mouths from reaching your microphone.
You can significantly reduce the hassles of post-production with acoustic treatment. Usually, this comes in form of padded walls and forms.
Of course, you don’t have to invest in high-end acoustic treatment, especially if you are just getting started.
A few objects around your home can work wonders if you know what to look for.
Bookcases packed with books, your closet filled with clothes, heavy and thick blankets, rugs, and more can all serve as acoustic treatment to dampen echo.
Gather these items into your closet or a quiet room where you plan to do your show, set up your recording equipment, and you’ll be amazed at the result.
However, nothing beats a professional-grade acoustic panel if you really want to produce pro-level episodes. Luckily, you can find affordable options on the market.
Venturing into podcasting can be exciting, yet daunting for many people. Hopefully, you can now approach the subject more confidently after going through this article.
While you don’t have to start big, you can always upgrade your tools as you grow in leaps and bound with your podcasting.