You’ve probably figured out that podcasting is like a business where you are responsible for everything. If you’re going it alone, you need to plan the content, record it, edit it and do all the marketing, and even then it’s hard to become a popular podcast and monetize. Don’t forget about finding your podcast hosting platform, a process similar to the most overwhelming B2B nightmares.
It’s likely you’ve felt discouraged at some point along the way. However, if you’re ever thinking of giving up on your dream, just remember this: ask any successful entrepreneur if it was easy to get to their level, and they will almost surely tell you “hell, no!”
Just because something isn’t easy doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. And as someone who has done it, I can tell you that running a business is one of the most rewarding experiences known to man, especially once you reach a point where you are seeing all your hard work pay off.
That being said, you need to work super hard to get there. However, if you’re reading this blog, I can assume you are a hard-worker with the tools and drive needed to succeed.
While we’re on the topic of podcasting and business, there is one more similarity: podcasting requires a substantial capital investment.
Don’t know what I’m talking about? Think about everything you need to succeed in podcasting. I’m not just talking about abstract things like motivation and passion. I’m talking about objects like a computer, a microphone or even a quiet home.
If you have a mac and a phone, you can technically record a podcast and put it out into the world, but there is very little chance it will be able to compete with the professional tier of podcasts. You know…podcasts that actually sound good.
Long story short, you need to spend money to get money. And while it’s wise to minimize costs along the way, any corners you cut in terms of investments might come back to haunt you in the long-run.
If you’re serious about podcasting and you plan on doing it for a long time, here is a list of all the equipment and resources you need for a sustainable podcasting set-up. After all, being a podcaster is a lot of work, and there’s plenty of tools you need to succeed.
While not everything mentioned here is absolutely necessary, look to this as a broad list of podcasting equipment that you might want to consider buying if you plan on taking your podcast to the next level.
My Favorite Podcast Microphones
This is where it all starts.
Think about recording a podcast. Now, think about trying to record a podcast without a microphone.
Yep, sounds pretty hard.
Now, you probably have access to the microphone on your smartphone or your computer or your headphones. If you plan on taking podcasting seriously, that won’t be sufficient. Sorry!
If you want an exhaustive take on what your options are, I wrote a whole article about the best podcast microphones. However, there are a few general things you need to keep in mind when buying the most important piece of equipment you need.
First, podcast microphones can be separated into two categories: USB microphones and XLR microphones.
USB microphones plug straight into your computer. If you’re doing a solo show and you’re just starting out, this type of microphone will be ideal as it gets rid of the need to buy an audio interface or a mixer that plugs into your computer. All you need is a recording software, like Audacity and Garageband, and a computer.
XLR microphones call for an additional purchase in order to work with your computer, but sometimes the price is worth paying. These types of mics usually have much better sound quality, and the fact that you can adjust sound levels on the mixers you use to plug them into your computer means you are able to customize how your podcast recording sounds. Another benefit of XLR microphones is that they allow you to record without a computer.
Obviously, different budgets call for different options. Make sure you know how much you want to spend on all the equipment, remembering that higher budgets translate into better sounding audio.
A Few Smart Microphone Accessories
Unfortunately, microphones on their own pose many problems that can be solved if you…(surprise, surprise)…spend more money!
For example, you might notice some microphones with pick up harsh sounds from your mouth when you say words with “p” or “t” sounds in them. If listeners hear this, it might make them wince and it will send the message that your podcast is cheap. Nobody wants that.
Thankfully, a pop filter solves the problem. A pop filter goes between your mouth and the microphone and helps contain any horrific sounds you might accidentally make. This is a worthwhile investment because nobody wants audio files that make it sound like you’re spitting on your listeners.
A boom arm or a mic stand might also be necessary if you want to adjust the height and position of your microphone. If the desk you use to record is very low, you’d hate to have to bend down to be able to speak into the mic. A boom arm lets you control where your microphone is situated so you are able to record at a posture where you can project instead of being at the mercy of your desk.
A shock mount is another option if you are worried about your microphone picking up unwanted sounds, like street noise, fans or you moving in your chair. If your microphone doesn’t come with one of these, you might want to buy one in order to minimize the pesky blips of background noise that will surely be a hassle to edit out.
As I mentioned before, you might also need to purchase an audio interface or a mixer if you bought an XLR microphone. These are not only necessary in this case, but are very handy if you want a device that lets you tweak the audio quality to your needs if you are recording away from a computer.
Your Computer Matters
This is an obvious one, and you probably have some sort of laptop or desktop computer that you can use to record, edit and upload your podcast.
The bigger point here is that you need to make sure your computer doesn’t fall short in any way when it comes to being there for you at every step of your podcasting journey. For example, some recording and editing software doesn’t run well on older, weaker computers. Needless to say, cheaper, out-of-date macs might not be sufficient for podcasting.
You’re going to use a computer at some point in the process, so make sure it is able to handle what you’re about to put it through. Nobody wants to deal with a slow, overheating laptop when doing something as laborious as editing a podcast. Even worse, you want to avoid the nightmare scenario of your computer crashing while recording!
How Did I Live Without a Handheld Recorder?
You might assume that you will do all your recording on your computer. While this works sometimes, there are many instances where you might not want to rely on your computer to do everything for you.
As implied earlier, some computers simply aren’t able to handle the recording process. If you have the type of computer that crashes often, you are going to need an alternative.
Also, handheld recorders make it very easy to adjust certain recording settings and plug different recording channels into separate tracks so you can adjust levels accordingly. If you have multiple people speaking into multiple microphones, a handheld recorder is a must!
Digital recorders also give you the option of recording on the go. You never want to be limited to recording in places where your computer is, so if you want to get creative with recording outdoors or in public, a handheld recorder is a nifty device you can carry around with you in any setting.
Also, many handheld recorders come with built-in mics and a lot of these are very high quality. They are also specifically designed to handle and mix audio, so they end up being more geared towards what you’ll be doing than a computer is.
If you get one of these, make sure you get an SD card with it! This is a no brainer, but you absolutely want to avoid the hell you’ll have to go through if you spend hours recording on the go just to realize there was nowhere to save the audio.
It’s pretty likely that you already have a pair of headphones or earbuds you use to listen to music or podcasts that will fulfill your needs when recording and listening back to your podcast.
However, there’s a case to be made for investing in a pair of high-quality, noise-canceling headphones.
First, they allow you to monitor the audio being recorded as you are recording. That means you don’t have to wait until editing to know how your recording sounds and you can fix any problems as you’re talking.
Also, headphones are absolutely necessary if you have a guest who is not in the room with you when you record. If your guest is talking from a device like a phone or a computer and you’re playing their audio out loud as you’re recording, there will be feedback and it will sound terrible. If you’re recording your guest off of Skype or Zoom, you’ll need to hear what they’re saying without them getting picked up on the microphone you’re speaking into. You want your recording space to be as quiet as possible, so make sure you keep the sound of your guests in your ears only.
The better your headphones are, the easier it will be to identify any potential issues with how your podcast sounds. You want to make sure you account for all the ways listeners will interact with your podcast to make sure that you’re aware of any blemishes that might be hidden in your audio file.
A Quiet Place to Record is Worth the $$$
While this doesn’t technically qualify as podcast equipment, no podcasting set-up is complete without a great place to record.
While you don’t necessarily need to rent-out a soundproof booth or podcast studio to have a great sounding podcast, you definitely need to be aware of how the environment you record in can affect the quality of your audio.
For example, if you’re recording in a room with lots of echo and reverb, these distracting effects will be picked up when you record. Nobody wants their voice to sound distorted when recording a podcast, so make sure you do a test run anywhere you record before you commit to it.
Any place with lots of background noise is a big no-no. If you live in a city and there’s a lot of street noise coming from outside that finds its way into your room, you might want to find somewhere else to record. Remember that air conditioning and fans get picked up on your microphone too, so a place with distracting ambient noise is also far from optimal.
If your home isn’t sufficient, considering finding a room at the local library or renting out a conference room in a coworking space. It might seem a bit excessive, but you don’t want to find out that there are unfixable hums and strange sounds taking away from the power of podcast late in the game.
Sometimes it’s easy to tell what types of rooms will be bad for recording. If your room has glass panels, tiled floors or a lot of desks, it might be at risk of overwhelming echo. Of course, you never know until you try! Test out at least two minutes of recording before you decide on a space.