Deciding what equipment to use for your new podcast can be daunting. The number of variables at play for your show’s sound quality are huge, and making a poor decision can lead to chronic recording problems down the road.
Fortunately, I’ve sifted through just about every article on the Internet for you and paired it with my personal experience as a podcast host.
The following equipment is what I would recommend to any new podcaster, regardless of budget. This combination of tools will create the firmest foundation for your new podcast to build upon, and save you a ton of heartache.
Microphone: Blue Yeti USB Condenser Microphone
When it comes to what products to use for your podcast, the microphone is the most important — and most widely argued — piece of equipment on the Internet. Here are three reasons why I think the Blue Yeti is the best podcasting microphone available, regardless of budget:
- Cardioid Mode: Most microphones are built with stereo-only capabilities, meaning sound is being collected from all around you during recording. The Blue Yeti gives you the ability to control your sound direction via a simple knob on the back of the microphone, which helps eliminate ambient noise and makes your audio mastering job much easier.
- USB connection: Leave the XLR cables (the standard cable type for microphones) at home. Blue Yeti’s USB capabilities are second-to-none, and having USB connectivity straight into your computer means you get to work without having to wrestle with a mixer. Just plug-and-play!
- Frequency Response: While it’s perhaps not the most sensitive microphone on the market, the Blue Yeti creates a very smooth, almost velvety recording. I’ve found that raw footage created by many of my other (much more expensive) microphones create a more “tinny” sound that requires a bit more hassle during my post-recording efforts.
The Blue Yeti retails for $129.99 on its website. Blue also offers a PRO version of the microphone for $199.99 but it’s not necessary for podcasting.
Editing Software: Adobe Audition
When it comes to audio editing software, Adobe Audition is in a class of its own. The product has been the leader in its class since it first launched back in 2003. Adobe Audition used to cost a fortune for sound enthusiasts to get their hands on, but the Adobe toolkit has become much more affordable since the launch of Adobe Creative Cloud in 2013.
Audition is usually pitted fiercely against its closest rival Audacity, which is a free alternative to Audition. I used to use Audacity on a daily basis, but made the switch to Audition several years ago. Here are three reasons I recommend paying for Audition (by way of Adobe Creative Cloud) instead of using Audacity:
- Multi-track editing: Audition gives its users powerful tools when it comes to multi-track recording. Multi-track recording in a podcast is when the host of the show records one (or both) speakers during the show, and also has the guest record their audio track (if you use a Mac, this is as easy as having your guest create a Quicktime Audio Recording before the interview begins). If you are serious about the production quality of your podcast, you can eventually implement more advanced techniques like these to eliminate instances where your interview calls experience network connection issues.
- Easier workflow: In Audacity, even something as simple as a crossfade is time-consuming. While it is absolutely possible to achieve identical results between Audacity and Audition, the latter allows you to get to create a finished product much more quickly, which is important when you are just starting out.
- Smaller project sizes: Creating a successful podcast means you create a ton of project files, and all of those files take up space on your hard drive or cloud storage. Audition creates what’s known as “non-destructive” enhancements to your audio files, meaning real changes to your projects don’t occur until you play or export the file. Since switching from Audacity to Audition, my project files are typically 1/2 the size of my old projects.
Audition is available via the Adobe Creative Cloud starting at $19.99 per month.
Skype Recording Software: Ecamm Call Recorder
With Skype as the default communication method for podcast interviews, I’m often asked what tools I use to record my conversations with my guests. Because I’m a Mac user, the answer is easy: Ecamm Call Recorder for Skype.
Ecamm is a deliciously simple tool that has saved me time and time again from every podcaster’s worst nightmare of forgetting to record your call with a guest (if you’ve never had this scare before, trust me: you will).
The software installs directly into Skype, and is accessible via the Preferences panel when you need to make tweaks. Out of the box, Ecamm is configured to automatically remember which microphone you use to record, and will automatically begin recording your calls as soon as a Skype connection is made. Calls lasting fewer than 5 seconds are automatically deleted from the “Saved Calls” folder that Ecamm creates for you.
Because I’m not a PC user, I can’t offer as much personal assistance on this topic as others might be able to. I took the liberty of asking 10 of my PC podcasting friends what software they use to record their calls, and 9/10 responded by saying they use Pamela for Skype.
Ecamm Call Recorder is available for download for $29.95. Pamela for Skype is available to my Windows friends starting at $20.
Guest Microphone: Logitech H390 USB Headset
Your guest’s microphone is a detail that often goes without mention elsewhere on the Internet, but is a critical component to the overall quality of your production. After all: your setup is only half of the equation!
I require all of my guests to have a production-quality microphone before they come on my show for an interview. And because I’m not the only podcaster that will ever interview them, this is a small investment that provides tremendous value.
Think about it: when was the last time you were excited to listen to someone speak on a podcast, only to realize their computer microphone made them sound tinny and difficult to understand? If you’re like me, you’ve experienced this more than a couple of times.
The Logitech H390 is an inexpensive noise-cancelling headset that will increase the production quality of your podcast by several orders of magnitude beyond that of a pair of Apple earbuds or a standard computer microphone. I suggest you make this a strict requirement for your podcast, too.
Podcast Hosting Service: Libsyn
When it comes to actually publishing your podcast, Libsyn is the clear leader. They are one of the longest running podcasting hosting services in existence (launched in 2004) and make it ridiculously simple to get your podcast live in iTunes and start building your listenership.
Libsyn is home to many of the world’s most popular podcasts and have amassed a podcast directory of over 30,000 shows!
Libsyn hosting plans start at $5/mo.
Finding Podcast Guests: PodcastGuests.com
It goes without saying that the first stop on your list to find podcast guests is your LinkedIn network. Qualified referrals via mutual connections will always be the easiest way to attract top talent for your show. But eventually you will run out of connections to tap, and that’s where PodcastGuests.com comes into play.
PodcastGuests.com was created by a husband and wife duo who both run podcasts and struggled with the problem of finding quality guests for their shows, and it’s now a service I use to expand my reach as both a podcaster and an expert. Sign up for a free account on the website, and you will get sent a weekly newsletter with featured guests you can reach out to and interview. If you are looking to be interviewed on a podcast as an expert in your field, this is a good place to look as well.
PodcastGuests.com is a free newsletter with paid opportunities for extra services.
How much would all of this cost?
If you take all of the recommendations from this guide, your initial setup fee will be $160 in one-time purchases, and monthly recurring costs of around $25.
An amazing podcast studio setup doesn’t have to break the bank!
I wanted to make a quick addition to this post to make sure it stays as current (and relevant) as possible. With that, I have one additional tool I want to make sure everyone is aware of.
That product is Zencastr (whose creator has been interviewed on Indie Hackers). I have just begun adding Zencastr to my workflow, and while I'm still more comfortable using my traditional Ecamm + Skype setup, I must say that Zencastr has definitely exceeded my expectations.
The best part of Zencastr is its built in "local" recording. One of the biggest drawbacks of using Skype as a podcaster is having to implement different recording solutions in case you experience a network slowdown during the interview (almost guaranteed...see Murphy's Law). The standard solution I've been using is having each of my guests create a Quicktime audio recording in the background and send it to me via Mixmax after the interview.
But this solution kinda sucks. Recordings can come in at a different quality than your baseline Skype call, which requires different mastering technique to get them sounding the same. Additionally: the process of locating the timestamp of your Ecamm call and finding that exact moment in an entirely DIFFERENT audio file is ridiculously brutal, especially when there are multiple instances that need splicing.
Zencastr truly shines in the above case. Not only do you get automated post-production out of the box (alright, alright: I still export everything to Adobe because I want to put my own flavor on my post-production efforts, but it's more than satisfactory for most users) but Zencastr automatically stores local versions of each speaker (by way of WebRTC and Local Storage) and uploads those files to Dropbox.
The only drawback of Zencastr that I can find (other than a slightly clunky onboarding experience) is the lack of video support. I use video for most of my calls with guests, as I really feel as though it helps build rapport between both parties and makes for a higher quality conversation. I'd love to see WebRTC video support added in the future when it's more appropriately supported by browsers.