We’ve never written about podcast gear before, and since many of our customers are just getting started, it’s time we made a guide to get you started. This article will break down what you need and will cover different budgets, from beginner to advanced. Some of you have questions about how to record multiple guests via Skype and how to do mix-minus setups, but that’s something we’ll leave for a separate article as it involves more complexity.
For the purpose of this guide, all equipment is carefully selected from our personal experience. We don’t recommend anything we haven’t tried ourselves, or trust. We don’t receive kickbacks for product recommendations. There are some items on this list that you’ll need for any of the recommended gear, such as headphones and cables, of which we itemize at the bottom of this article. Note that all prices quoted are recent as of the writing of this article and are in U.S. dollars.
Audio-Technica has a long history of making professional microphones for musicians. The ATR-2100 ($64) is a well built and incredibly inexpensive dynamic USB microphone. It’s unique in comparison to other USB microphones in the market as it also features an XLR connector, should you wish to connect it to a more professional audio interface. At less than $100, you can’t beat its value. A stand and all the cables you need to hook it up are included. Just plug it into your Mac or Windows-based computer and start recording.
When you first consider starting a podcast, you may not want to invest a lot of money on equipment. Thankfully, you can have a great sounding podcast without investing thousands of dollars.
Samson Q7 Dynamic Microphone ($79): This is a fantastic sounding microphone with good rear rejection, meaning it will better pickup your voice as you talk directly into it and not as much background noise. It’s ruggedly built, reliable, and affordable.
Mackie Onyx USB interface ($99): This audio interface allows you to connect either one microphone or line level device and is bus powered, meaning no clunky external power supply needed. Mackie includes a great sounding preamp that provides enough headroom for dynamic microphone. It’s quite, trouble-free, and affordable.
You’ll need to mount your microphone on something, and there’s no better choice in this price range than the Heil PL2T boom ($129). Once you use a boom you’ll never look back. You can clamp it to the side of your desk or permanently mount it using the supplied hardware kit. It allows you to easily swivel and move your microphone into a comfortable position, but it also mitigates the translation of low rumble into the microphone from your arms moving around on your desk. it also features built-in cable management so you can hide the cable from view.
Shure SM7B ($399) microphones are our universal application recommendation for professional sound. They’re incredibly rugged and ubiquitous and you’ll find them in radio stations, voice over studios, and other professional environments. They’ve been used for singers, podcasters, broadcasters, and even on some instruments. We’ve yet to find a voice that didn’t sound good on this microphone. The only caveat is that it is a very low output microphone, which means it requires a lot of gain from your preamp, so you’ll need a good one that isn’t noisy and can provide a minimum of 60dB of gain.
As the SM7B is a low output microphone, we strongly recommend getting Triton Audio’s Fethead ($89). It’s a small inline device that connects between your microphone and preamp and smartly converts 48v phantom power into 27dB of clean, noise-free gain. This means you won’t need to drive your preamp as hard, which is always a good thing since that lowers the noise floor.
Audio-Technica BP40 ($349): is a new challenger in the world of broadcasting and podcasting. It’s our new favourite dynamic mic. It has several benefits over the SM7B other than being a bit cheaper, such as it’s tighter hypercardioid pickup pattern that picks up more of your voice and less of the noise around you (or the other person across you). It requires considerably less gain in comparison to the SM7B, thanks to its neodymium magnets.
When you get to a point where you’re ready for broadcast quality sound, you’ll want a capable dynamics processor/channel strip like the dbx 286s ($199). The 286s is a single microphone preamp and dynamics processor, featuring compression, de-essing, low and high-frequency effect, and noise gating/expansion. This is what we use for our podcasting and it’s one of our favourite pieces of gear. Even though we’re recommending this as part of our advanced podcasting package, it’s not as expensive as you might think. There isn’t a better channel strip out there at this price and ad this level of quality.
For someone that’s been podcasting for a while and wants the ability to record multiple co-hosts and leave room for expansion, such as the ability to create a Skype/remote caller mix-minus, Allen & Heath’s ZEDi-10 ($199) mixer is a solid choice. It has four quiet, high-powered microphone preamps, multiple line level channels, and one auxiliary out so you can create a mix-minus setup for remote callers. It’s well built and has an excellent multi-channel audio interface, meaning you can record each input channel of the mixer discretely for separation and easier editing.
To connect your dbx 286s channel stripe to your Allen & Heath mixer, plug it into one of the mono line level inputs on the mixer via a 1/4″ TRS cable (from the output of the dbx)
Accessories: Cables And Headphones
Headphones are essential for monitoring your own voice during a performance as well as for mixing. We recommend the Sony MDR 7506 ($99) headphones for several reasons: they’re well made, sound great, and are comfortable to the point where you can wear them for hours without fatigue. These headphones are inexpensive and are ubiquitous in the broadcast industry. They’ve become a staple because of all the reasons we’ve enumerated.
To connect your microphone to your audio interface, you’ll need a female to male XLR cable. You can use any brand, however, we recommend Mogami cables ($20) because of their superior quality and shielding.
If you’re connecting your dbx 286s to a mixer, make sure you get a 1/4″ TRS to TRS cable, which connects the output of the dbx to the input of your mixer on a line level channel.
A headphone amp is a necessity if you have a co-host that records with you. The PreSonus HP4 ($129) is a well built and extremely high quality headphone distribution amp. It provides four independent headphone mixes so each guest can adjust their own volume. It sounds fantastic and can power the most demanding low impedance headphones.
At the top of the article, we talked about recording multiple remote guests via Skype. This requires further explanation and a completely separate article since it’s too involved in the scope of our podcast gear guide. Subscribe to our blog to make sure you don’t miss that.
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