The Absolute Beginners Guide to Podcasting: Equipment


Welcome to the 2nd part of our series on podcasting for beginners. Here are all 5 parts of the series:

Buying equipment for podcasting is an area that can be incredibly frustrating. Many podcasters suggest poor equipment, software, and set-ups.

What equipment you decide to purchase will depend on your technological comfort level and your budget. However, it’s important to understand all your options before deciding.

Your 2 Recording Options

There are 2 primary ways you can record. Either straight to your computer or by using external devices like a digital recorder and a mixer. How you record will also determine your pre-production (what you do before recording) and post-production (what you do after the recording) workload. I recommend recording into an external device like a digital recorder and NOT into your computer.

Digital recorders are dependable. They record via a microphone input directly onto an SD card. Computers are much more likely to have corrupt files, errors, or other technical issues. The following suggestions are based on using an external recording device like a digital recorder and are all pieces you’ll want to consider before starting your podcast.

Choosing a Microphone

Shure- SM58One aspect you should know is the difference between dynamic and condenser mics. Dynamic mics are more affordable, rugged, and direct. Condenser mics are typically more expensive, fragile and sensitive. Many people suggest condenser mics over dynamic mics, but I disagree with this for a few reasons. The main reason being that condenser mics pick up EVERYTHING. Unless your recording area is a professional sound booth, a condenser mic will pick up all of your room noise- creaky chairs, computer fan hum, cars driving by outside- you name it.

Dynamic mics on the other hand are perfect for recording in a small room or basement setting. They offer quality sound with a higher degree of control over room noise.

These are the lower-end and higher-end mics I would consider purchasing:

Don’t forget to pick up some mic filters or popscreens to help give you a clean sound. The inexpensive Nady pop filters should work just fine.

Choosing a Mixer

Mackie 1202 mixerThis decision will depend on a few of the points addressed earlier- chosen podcast format, comfort with technology, and amount of post production work you want to do. Regardless of the answers, there is only one brand you’ll want to pay attention to: Mackie. Mackie mixers are hands down the best. Save yourself the time and stress and go with one of the following Mackie mixers:

Again, if you plan on recording straight into a digital recorder, the features of a mixer like the Mackie PROFX12 12-Channel Compact Effects Mixer with USB are pointless. USB is unnecessary because you won’t be recording into the computer and the effects aren’t helpful because it’s unlikely you’d ever use the effects while podcasting. It’s something that gets tweaked in post-production.

Besides the quality and dependability, these all have at least one AUX channel. Why is having an AUX channel important. It allows you to run a Mix/Minus setup for Skype calls/ or Google Hangout interviews. Basically, Mix/Minus is a way for you to send the guest you’re interviewing the audio from all of the mixer channels you’re using except his or her own, thus eliminating any feedback looping. Personally, I would go with the Mackie 1202VLZ4, 12-channel mixer because having extra channels to record into always comes in handy. Here's how to create a Mix/Minus setup:

Choosing a Digital Recorder

Roland R05 recorderFortunately, many excellent and comparable recorders exist. When purchasing a recorder, you’ll want to consider things like how will you be using it (in the field, in the studio, or both) and what kind of features are "must-haves." The best thing to do is ask others who have experience with specific models, but the following two devices is a good place to begin.

  • Roland R-05 Studio WAVE/MP3 Recorder. Roland makes excellent products and the R-05 is one of them. My two favorite features of this recorder are its size (slightly larger than a pack of cigarettes) and the record/pause feature (allows you to pause a recording instead of completely stopping and starting a new one). The downside is it doesn’t have an XLR mic input.
  • TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder .This model is used by Alex Blumberg in recording his podcast ‘StartUp’. The Tascam offers a durable construction, 2 XLR inputs, and two sets of microphones for cardioid or omni-directional pickup.

Choosing Cables

This choice will be dependent on your mixer and set up. Overall, there are no "bad" choices in cable but some are clearly superior to the rest. If you have the money to spend, Mogami Gold Studio cables are one of the best. Monster cables are another great choice because they have a lifetime warranty. You will likely need a combination of cables similar to this:

  • ⅛" to ¼" audio cable
  • RCA to 3.5mm audio cable
  • XLR mic cables
  • ¼" speaker cable
  • ¼" Y cable

Choosing Other Equipment

The following equipment are suggestions based on your setup and needs.

Choosing Headphones

You should always wear headphones when recording and editing your podcast. The kind you typically find at the department store probably aren’t good enough. Try to find a pair of headphones that are used for monitoring like the Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphone.

Other equipment like equalizers and preamps exist but their use in your professional podcast set-up is dependent on many of the factors we've already discussed.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of our podcasting series next week.

About the author

Jeff runs a full-service creative company called Come Alive Creative. Jeff is also a co-owner of a board game publishing company that features a podcast with over 36,000 listeners worldwide.