Equipment for Recording a Podcast

In this blog post, we talk about the equipment you need to record and edit your podcast.
Recording a podcast and sharing it with your audience

This is part of Libsyn’s blog post series, “How To Start a Podcast — Step By Step for Every Kind of Podcast.” Check out the introduction to the series, including levels of podcasts, and the previous post about setting up your podcast studio.


Here we are! One of the favorite topics of all podcasters: The gear!!!!

The basic equipment you’ll need to record and edit a podcast includes

  • Something to record with and into (hardware plus software)
  • Microphone
  • Headphones
  • Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

Level 1 Podcast Equipment

If you’re looking to start your Level 1 Podcast (here’s what we mean by Level 1) and want the very lowest cost options, look no further than the smartphone in your pocket. 

Most of the latest smartphones have high quality microphones built in, including apps for audio recording.

On an Apple device, you can use the built-in Voice Memo app for basic recording. 

On Android, download Auphonic from the app store — it’s free.

You could record your show and publish it using a smartphone only.

Basic recording apps allow you to do rudimentary editing, and most podcast hosting companies allow for publishing via mobile devices.

using a smart phone to record a podcast

Another easy choice to start is using your computer’s built in microphone into a built in digital recording app (Garageband for Mac OS) or a free one (Audacity, which is cross-platform).

There are no laws in podcasting that require you to get more stuff.

If you are strapped for funds or are looking to start testing the waters with podcasting, start with what you have.

Learn to use your existing tools. 

Get familiar with the basics of recording and rudimentary editing. This is a great way to not only learn how to podcast, but also find out what you might like to invest in to level-up your production.

Refer back to blog post #3 in this series all about setting up your podcast studio. You might be surprised by the quality of your recording if you consider your surroundings and do some test recording to make sure you get the optimal sound given your circumstances.

PODCASTING WISDOM

There is no one piece of equipment that will magically make your show sound amazing.

There is almost no correlation between how much money you spend on equipment and how professional you sound.

Here are 3 principles to creating a good sounding podcast:

1. Get to know your tools.

Tools = editing software, computer settings/specs, microphones, digital recorders … essentially anything that you will be using to record, edit, and process. 

Why? 

It doesn’t matter how high end your microphone is if you don’t know how to use that specific microphone

It doesn’t matter how amazing your digital recording software is if you don’t know how to use it to make your audio sound good – a lot of digital audio workstations have the same vocabulary but also have their own quirks.

You get to know your tools by engaging with them and testing them out. This means that you need to invest time tinkering with them and/or searching for videos and tutorials for general understanding, as well as solving problems that arise as you podcast.

Which leads to the second principle.

2. Be open to learning.

Once you start creating your episodes, you will find that there is a lot that you don’t know. You will also bump into issues that are very unique to you, your life and your set-up.

Be willing to do the research to find solutions, as well as to realize when others’ solutions don’t apply to you.

Sometimes the solution does not involve having to buy another thing. Sometimes it does, but not always. You’d be surprised how many times a small tweak in how you use a microphone, change a location, or modify a software setting can be everything that you need.

There is no better skill set than troubleshooting.

Lastly:

3. Get the best quality raw audio.

Raw audio = the initial audio recorded before anything is done to it.

Your voice to the device that captures your voice to the recording.

If you have the highest quality recording initially, you will be able to offer the highest quality final product.

One of the most painful mistakes that newish podcasters make is thinking that any issues in a recording can be fixed in post production, with editing and repair. 

Recording a podcast and sharing it with your audience

Some problems cannot be solved in post production, and you will need to choose between releasing the audio as is or starting again.

Before you record, you must test to make sure everything is optimized for recording so that you can get the best initial quality from that raw audio.

  • Are all proper microphones picked in the software?
  • Are all cords and connectors properly inserted?
  • Are all cords and connectors in good health? As in not broken or tweaked?
  • Have you checked your levels so that they are somewhere between -6 and -12 db?
  • ARE YOU WEARING HEADPHONES SO THAT YOU CAN HEAR ALL THE THINGS?

The best way to avoid future editing issues is to monitor yourself in the process. 99.9% of the time what you hear in your ears is what’s going to go on the recording.

Avoid the pain of dealing with things in post by taking the time to address it up front.

Level 1 Level-up Podcast Equipment

To level up recording on a smartphone, you can add an external microphone.

There are some that are built in specifically for smartphones, depending on what kind of phone you have. They can connect via Lighting port or headphone jack. 

Here is an example of an external microphone that can be plugged into a headphone jack: https://www.amazon.com/Rode-smartLav-Lavalier-Microphone-Smartphones/dp/B00EO4A7L0

Or you can easily use any USB microphone with your smartphone.

 My favorite option today is the Samson Q2U. 

Do remember that when using a USB microphone with your smartphone, you need to get a dongle to connect with your device. It can be USB-C to USB, USB OTG cable or Lightning to USB, depending on what kind of phone or tablet you have.

You can use the Samson Q2U USB microphone to uplevel the quality of recording into your computer as well.

Regardless of how you choose to record you should always use headphones. 

Always.

Yep, we just mentioned this in the prior section. And we are mentioning it again, it’s that important.

You need to monitor not only the audio that you’re recording but also yourself. 

AGAIN: What you hear in your ears you will hear in the recording, and you’re better off dealing with it in the moment rather than later on when you’re editing.

If you hear lots of popping “p” or mouth noises coming from you, you can adjust appropriately.

This is when you can adjust how to move close and away from the microphone, so that if you happen to have to take a big deep breath you don’t sound like Darth Vader 😅.

Over-ear headphones to wear when recording a podcast

If you hear a lot of hissing, interference, or weird clicking sounds as you’re recording, you can take the time to make sure that all of your hardware and software is connected properly, and that you’ve moved any other cellular devices away from your gear.

For headphones, basic earbuds work surprisingly well. You can level up by upgrading to higher quality headphones when you’re ready.

Most people prefer over-ear headphones while they monitor and edit, to better block external noises.

To edit the recording, you can do fundamental editing on your phone. Most of the free audio mobile editing software is very basic. If you want any kind of advanced features you will have to invest in more powerful apps. Some apps allow for in-app purchases that open up more advanced functionality

A great one for iOS is Ferrite. One that folks love for Android is Voice Pro

Or you can transfer the audio file to a computer and use Garageband (Mac – and you can use it with your iPhone or iPad) or Audacity (Mac or PC), both of which are also free and widely used. 

Power Tip

YouTube is a wealth of information when it comes to figuring out how to use hardware or software. 

If you get stuck on anything, head over there and search for the device and/or the software. Your investment is your time and your brain 😬.

Podcasting gear to record more than one person in the same place, Level 1

This is where you need to get scrappy.

For the sake of doing things on the cheap, here is what you need to record more than one person in the same place

  • recording device
  • software
  • microphone
  • headphones
  • possibly an external microphone and microphone stand

You will either have to place whatever you’re recording into in between you and whoever you’re recording with, or invest in a USB microphone. You will have to either hold it and aim it at everyone’s mouth or set it on a microphone stand in the middle of the room.

You will then pray that the recording isn’t too horrible, and you will bust your bum to learn how to make magic with Audacity or Garageband as you edit and process your audio.

This is where podcasting location can really make or break your sound quality.

If you can find the optimal location for recording, and you all are committed to the best recording techniques (coming up in a later post), you will get a not-so-crappy recording. In fact, it might be surprisingly ok.

In this set-up, you will learn by doing and failing. Every time you get a sub-par recording, you will make sure you don’t do it again.

When you do not have the funds to invest in gear, you must invest in the practice of podcasting, through time, education and most importantly doing, failing fast and doing it again.

Podcast Equipment, Level 2 

A good basic podcasting setup can be quite affordable while still being of professional quality. Recommendations are:

  • Either a Mac or PC computer (desktop or laptop is fine), or an external digital recorder such as any of the Zoom recorders (H1, H2N, H4, H6)
  • Microphone: Samson Q2U or Shure SM58
  • Foam mic cover (to reduce wind and breath noise)
  • Microphone stand or boom arm (to keep your mic steady and near your mouth while you’re recording) — Which to choose depends on your set-up. If you’re going to be changing locations a lot, this style is great. If you’re going to be staying in a permanent location this one is a great choice
  • Earbuds or headphones — Whatever you currently have would be a fine option, though some people prefer over-ear headphones for better isolation. If you want to invest in some we suggest the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x.
Illustration of a simple podcasting setup
  • Editing software such as Audacity (Mac or PC) or Garageband (Mac) — If you’re looking for something more from a DAW (digital audio workstation, as this type of software is called), consider learning to use Hindenburg, Reaper or Adobe Audition. All of those DAWs are cross-platform and have an abundance of educational material and communities supporting them online.
  • Cords — You will need to connect one thing to another. We advise you to make a basic investment in USB to mini USB and XLR cables, although some of those basic cables generally come with the initial purchase of the hardware.
  • SD card — These come with the purchase of a digital recorder, but most of the time they have very little storage. You can never go wrong investing in a high quality SD card.
  • MOBILE EDITING APP: This is of course only for those that want to do editing on a mobile device. We suggest Ferrite for iOS.

BASIC SOLO SET-UP WITH DIGITAL RECORDER

  • Zoom H4N digital recorder- around $219
  • Samson Q2U microphone – around $59 (this comes with a little tripod and windscreen) Or Shure SM58 $99
  • 128 GB SD card – around $20
  • Boom Arm – $99
  • Foam ball or pop filter – range $10 – $30
  • Audacity/Garageband – free

SOLO SET-UP WITHOUT DIGITAL RECORDER
Using a computer you already own

  • Samson Q2U microphone – around $59
  • Boom Arm – $99
  • Foam ball or pop filter – range $10 – $30
  • Audacity/Garageband

SOLO SET-UP WITHOUT DIGITAL RECORDER
Using a smartphone you already own

  • Samson Q2U microphone – around $59
  • Appropriate cables – anywhere from $5 – $19 depending on your device
  • Appropriate USB adapter for iOS – around $19
  • Audio editing software – Ferrite for iOS ($29.99) and Voice Pro for Android ($13)

What is suggested above is the very minimal set-up you need to uplevel your audio and start to move into or invest in Level 2.

There are other tools that can prove to be insanely helpful in creating a fantastic sounding podcast that won’t totally break the bank, and can prepare you to scale your show. Below is what we suggest you start off with if it’s in your budget. 

  • Samson Q2U – around $59 or Shure SM58 $99
  • Boom Arm – $99
  • Foam ball or pop filter – range $10 – $30
  • 256 MicroSDXC card $34.99
  • Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Headphones – $49
  • RODEcaster Pro – $599

The total investment is around $1000, give or take depending on which microphone you choose and whether you find different prices for the accessories.

Can you get a different microphone than the ones we suggest? (Or other gear for that matter?)

Yup. 

The ones mentioned here are tried and true. It’s hard to go wrong with them. They can work in most environments and take a bit of a beating, which is great if you have a buoyant family, happen to do a lot of traveling, or need to change where you record often.

Smart podcasting microphone choices

  • Buy from a place that accepts returns easily.
  • Buy your microphone based on your lifestyle.
  • Test, test, test in the circumstances and locations that you’ll be recording .
  • If the mic doesn’t work or you don’t like it, exchange it for something else.

The internet is full of articles on the best podcasting microphones. 

The internet is also full of very passionate podcasters that loooooove their gear and have very definitive opinions about what you should get (aka highly opinionated 😋).

Bottom line: The best podcasting microphone is the one that works for your lifestyle and your goal.

Microphone options for recording a podcast

You can make a lower-end microphone sound like gold, and you can make a very high-end microphone sound like poop.

It’s not about the microphone.

Podcasting gear to record more than one person in the same place, level 2

To get the best possible recorded audio, so that you can then edit and create magic with the end product, record on separate tracks with separate microphones.

Here are two types of set-ups that will give most people the best results in real life recording situations:

With these suggestions you would need to multiply the microphones and accessories based on up to 4 participants.

More mobile set-up

For you

  • Zoom H6
  • Samson Q2U – around $59 
  • 5-Way Multi Headphone Audio Splitter Connector $9.49
  • Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Headphones – $49
  • 128 GB SDXC card $28.99

For EACH of your guests 

  • Samson Q2U – around $59
  • Over the ear headphones – Suggested Tascam TH-02 Closed Back Studio Headphones – $16.63

More stationary set-up

For you

  • RODEcaster Pro – $599 
  • Samson Q2U – around $59 or Shure SM58 $99
  • Boom Arm – $99
  • Foam ball or pop filter – range $10 – $30
  • Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Headphones – $49
  • 256 MicroSDXC card $34.99

For EACH of your guests

  • Samson Q2U – around $59 or Shure SM58 $99
  • Boom Arm – $99
  • Foam ball or pop filter – range $10 – $30
  • Over the ear headphones with a ⅛ inch adapter (the RODEcaster Pro only takes ⅛ inputs) – Suggested Tascam TH-02 Closed Back Studio Headphones – $16.63
multiple mics to record a podcast with multiple people

Podcast Equipment Level 3 

Oh! High end podcasting!!!

As we mentioned in our last post, in many cities podcasting studios have been popping up. Wherever you are in the world, take a moment to do some research. A lot of them also offer post-production of your show.

Co-working spaces have also seen the popularity of podcast production grow and have started to add recording studios to their co-working spaces.

Depending on what you need, you can either rent the space just for yourself, as you would your own office, or you can rent by the day or hour.

In this case, in addition to deciding on your recording space, you also need to seek out audio professionals to do the post-production for you. 

There are many podcast production companies that offer concierge type services, ranging from the editing of your show to a full suite of services: audio production, publishing, transcription, and shownotes!

One last option is to research for local independent audio production pros. These individuals will develop just-for-you proposals and work hand in hand with you in developing your show. 

Many have started to offer mobile services, where they will come to you with their gear, set-up the whole thing, record it for you, and do the post-production. 

That’s a fantastic service if you ask me!!

But what about the gear???

At this level, chances are you are not the one buying the gear, unless you come from a strong audio engineering background. So rather than listing out what your studio or editor is most likely using, I want to suggest some good questions to ask the person who is in charge of the equipment. 

  1. How do you charge for your editing services? By the episode or hour? 
  2. Can I bring my own headphones to the studio? (Especially for the germ conscious)
  3. What brand of mic do you use, and why?
  4. If we’re recording an interview, what special instructions or guidance do I need to know?
  5. Am I able to record a remote guest? What do I need for that? What instruction will the guest need?
  6. What can I bring to the recording? Water, snack, friends?
Sound board for editing professional podcasts

Next Up: Get Ready to Record Your First Podcast

In the next post in this series, we’ll discuss writing your first podcast script, preparing your recording space, setting up intros and outros, and other nitty gritty details. Sign up to get an email when the next post is published

Have feedback on our recommendations? Connect with us online — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn — and use the hashtag #AskLibsyn so we can respond to you in a future post!

You can also email elsie@libsyn.com with the subject line #AskLibsyn 😊. 

While you’re at it, check out our free podcasting quick-start webinars, The Feed: The Official Libsyn Podcast, our award-nominated podcast about podcasting, and our amazing podcasting knowledge base designed specially for people like you.

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