The Quick and Easy Guide to Buying Podcasting Equipment

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If you feel the urge to podcast, you’re not alone. This fast-growing form of entertainment is virtually free of gate-keepers; all you need is a bright idea and some basic audio tools to get started. But what are these tools?

Well, it depends on the kind of podcast you’d like to make. If you’re running a one-person show, you don’t need much. But someone orchestrating a four-person panel requires a more complicated setup.

In the next few paragraphs, we’re going to break it down and make it simple: whether you see yourself making solo podcasts or multi-person panels, you’ll know which tools to buy.

The Single-Person Pod

All you need is the simplest route from your voice to the computer—and that would be a USB microphone, a pair of closed-back headphones, and a relatively quiet room (We’re only going to handle the mic here. You can read about how to make your room sound great in this complementary article if you wish.

With USB mics, you needn’t worry about the technical aspects of podcasting all that much. Sure, there was a time when USB microphones were—let’s face it—terrible. But that time is long ago, even for people on a budget. Consider the Blue Yeti, a popular mic with podcasters and bloggers. At a wallet-friendly price, you’ll get a mic that sounds good for the job. It also comes with a table-stand for holding the mic on your desk.

Blue Yeti USB Microphone

Want something with the formal look of a professional mic? A mic with a sound tailor-made for the spoken word? Check out the RØDE Podcaster, another great USB mic for the money.

RØDE Podcaster USB Broadcast Microphone

Audio-Technica makes a USB Mic for which I can personally vouch, having used it for multiple B&H articles and one award-winning podcast. However, this is a condenser microphone, more suited for music purposes. It captures a brighter sound than the previous mics, and can sometimes sound too sibilant for a podcast (you’ll need to mitigate any pesky “sssss” sounds in post).

All of these mics are decent, and all of them are dead-simple: Simply plug the mic into the USB port of your computer, plug a pair of headphones into the mic, load up your favorite podcasting software (Audacity is free—and plenty of podcasters use it!) and you’re good to go.

If you want to buy a mic, a clip, a stand, the cables, and a pair of headphones all in one shot, check out the Samson Q2U Podcasting Kit. The mic, which sounds perfectly acceptable for podcasting purposes, is more than a USB mic—you can plug it into external recorders, mixers, and interfaces with its XLR connection.

Samson Q2U Recording & Podcasting Kit

See, you do have your future to think of: perhaps your podcast will grow from a one-person show to something with a guest. If that happens, a USB mic is no longer viable. You’ll need an interface that can handle two microphones.

So, it might be worth it to purchase a mic that offers XLR outputs too. Here’s where the Samson Q2U comes in handy—or, if you’re budget is a little bigger, the Blue Yeti Pro USB. Get one of these, and you’ll be able to integrate your existing mic into any of the following setups.

Blue Yeti Pro USB & XLR Microphone

Multi-Person Podcasts

Two-person podcasts can take the form of an interview or a conversation between friends. The multi-person panel, where three or more people speak, is also a widely loved format. For any podcast with two or more people, you’re going to want multiple microphones, or else the audio quality will suffer. Also, it’s incredibly difficult to edit many people speaking on one mic.

So why can’t you just plug more USB mics into your computer? Well, computers don’t play so nice with multiple USB microphones. It might work for a while, but you’ll likely run into stability issues. You don’t want your gear to crash mid-recording!

No, you need an interface for a multi-person pod—a hub that can handle multiple microphones and deposit them as individual channels in your recording software.

Here are some options.

The Rock-Solid choice

Focusrite is a trusted brand in the industry, and the Scarlett models represent its entry-level products. Take the 2i2: coming in at a reasonable price, the 2i2 lets you record two people cleanly, effectively, easily, and with any broadcast-quality microphone you choose. You’ll need a headphone splitter or a headphone amp if you want you and a guest to both monitor in headphones.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 2x2 USB Audio Interface

You can also level up to the 8i6 for two headphone outs, as well as two inputs for microphones, making the unit great for two-person pods. The 8i6 lets you record phone calls over VOIP straight from your computer, so you can patch-in remote guests relatively easily; this is also an attractive feature to many podcasters.

To make your life easier, we package kits for Focusrite products, such as 1-person and 2-person podcasting bundles with mics, stands, cables, and headphones.

The Handy Favorite

Zoom’s Handy recorders are exceedingly popular among podcasting pros, and with good reason. Designed to be portable, sturdy, and battery powered, these recorders sound good, and they provide a ton of bells and whistles. You can record straight to a Zoom without a computer, and then transfer files to your computer when you’re finished. They also double as audio interfaces.

Zoom H6 6-Input / 6-Track Portable Handy Recorder

If you’re worried about people speaking or cackling too loudly, you can engage limiters that protect you from distortion. You’ll only find one headphone output though, so you’ll need a splitter or headphone amp.

For a two-person pod, I’d recommend the H5. For 4 to 6 people, I’d recommend the H6, as well as the EXH-6 attachment. It’ll buy you more inputs to use for any H5 or H6.

Zoom EXH-6 Dual XLR/TRS Combo Input Capsule for H5, H6, and F4 Recorders

The Classic Look

A buddy asked me recently to recommend a “mixer” for his podcast. I told him to get a Focusrite interface or a Zoom Handy recorder. Like an idiot, he went with a mixer, because it “looked like the real deal.” He could raise or lower the faders like a real engineer! Whoopee!

Guess what: two weeks later he had a problem. He couldn’t separate his guests into separate tracks for editing—all he had was a stereo track.

And this is the issue with most budget mixers. Sure, they give you the look. But unless you never plan to edit, they kneecap you.

People like the XENYX 1204USB for the money—but I wouldn’t use it as an audio interface for podcasting. You’ll only get one stereo track out of it, which will make editing much harder.

Behringer XENYX 1204USB - 12-Input USB Audio Mixer

If you’re set on something that needs to look the part, check out the RØDECaster Pro. This interface has everything you need to record four people in one easy-to-use package. It also provides the classic look of an old mixer. Another boon: it makes recording audio from phone calls super easy—just pair your smartphone or computer via Bluetooth, and you can bring in the call on its own track and fader.

RØDE RØDECaster Pro Integrated Podcast Production Studio

What mics should I get for the multi-panel pod?

Lots of podcasts, including the Joe Rogan Experience and WTF, use the Shure SM7B. These mics look professional and sound great. Able to take a strong beating, the SM7B doesn’t require power, and it won’t run you a fortune.

Shure SM7B Vocal Microphone

RØDE’s PodMic is another good option, for it gives you a nice sound while going easy on the wallet. You can grab four PodMics for the cost of one SM7B—but the SM7B is a classic (everything’s a tradeoff, you see).

RØDE PodMic Dynamic Podcasting Microphone

If you and your guests want to hold the microphone, as you would on stage, you can’t go wrong with a Shure SM58—this mic is used on stage all the time, and it’ll work just fine for podcasts, too.

Shure SM58-LC Vocal Microphone

Conclusion

Due to space constraints, we’re going to have to leave it here, but doubtlessly there’s more to cover. What’s the best pair of headphones? What other accessories do I need? How do I record a phone-call on a Zoom recorder? If there’s something you want to know, please don’t hesitate to ask in the Comments section!

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