Podcast Recording Equipment
The Ultimate Equipment Guide for Podcasters
01.16.17 | Recording Equipment | By: Jacob Bozarth
As we continue our series on 10 essential steps to launching a podcast, this week we will look at Selecting your podcast recording equipment.
There is definitely no shortage of opinions when it comes to podcast recording equipment, and if you have never bought recording equipment before, it can easily be an overwhelming decision. For that reason, we want to make make this guide as simple as possible, including only the bare minimum equipment needed and the options we recommend.
Before we get into the specifics, we want to give you a high level understanding of signal flow that will be helpful to know before you start recording. Signal flow is the path an audio signal takes from source (the sound being captured) to output (what you hear through speakers or headphones). Knowing each component in the signal flow is critically important for capturing a great sound. Below you will see the signal flow for a typical “in home” recording studio setup:
Source → Microphone → Preamp → A/D Converter → DAW(computer/software)
Podcast Recording Equipment Essential #1 – Microphone & Accessories
The mic is arguably the most important element it comes to podcast recording equipment, and every podcaster will need a microphone. But what kind of mic is the best for your recording setup?
Dynamic : When recording a podcast, you may be recording in a less than ideal studio, and a dynamic microphone will suit these types of scenarios best while providing quality sounds. There are many great and affordable dynamic microphone options. The two microphones we recommend vary significantly in price, but they both are great microphones. We recommend if you’re just getting started to go with the more affordable option and reward yourself with an upgrade once you celebrate podcasting for a year.
The Audio-Technica ATR2100 and AT2005 are essentially the exact same microphone. The cosmetics are a bit different but other than looks, it is essentially the same mic. Occasionally the price for these drops on Amazon or B&H to around $60 or even $40. These microphones sound great and have an excellent frequency response for the price. We have done some intensive recording and testing with both of these and they consistently out performed many other USB mics with a much higher price point. In addition to it sounding great, there are many other features that make it a great choice and a favorite to many podcasters.
XLR & USB Outputs: This is one of the few mics that offers both XLR and USB outputs. The versatility of this mic is one of the main reasons why we love it. Many podcasters will use the USB output to go directly into their computer to record a Skype or Zoom style podcasts. You can also use the XLR analog output and run the mic into a mixer or audio interface, if you prefer to use an external preamp.
Direct monitoring: The built-in headphone jack allows you to directly monitor your microphone output without any audible delay. You can adjust headphone volume with an easy to use knob on the bottom of the mic.
On/Off Switch & LED indicator
Cardioid Polar Pattern: Reduces pickup of unwanted sounds from rear and side of mic.
Audio-Technica AT2005 → UAD Apollo Twin Duo Sample Recording:
The RE20 is our favorite broadcast mic! It does come with a bit more of a hefty price tag than the ATR2100 or AT2005. For this reason, we recommend if you are just starting with a podcast to start with one of the 2 AT mics and then upgrade to the RE20 once you have faithfully been podcasting for a year or two. (Happy Podcast-birthday to you!!!)
The RE20 is a broadcast industry standard. You will see this mic being used by broadcasters from NPR to ESPN. The RE20 uses electro Voices’ patented Variable D technology to minimize the proximity effect. Normally as you get closer to a microphone, the low frequency bass response increases, but not with the RE20. The Variable D technology controls the low frequency bass response of the microphone as you get closer, creating a smooth, warm, big, full, and transparent sound. The RE20 also features a supercardioid polar pattern, which helps isolate the sound of your voice while rejecting background noise that can creep in from behind the microphone. The RE20 is a recommended choice for both the novice and advanced podcaster!
Electro Voice RE20 → UAD Apollo Twin Duo Sample Recording:
Mic Stand / Broadcast Boom Arm– Many mics, including the ATR2100 and AT2005, come with a desk stand; however using the desk stand is not ideal. This desk stand will function best in your trashcan. 😉 A mic placed directly on your desk will pick up on any movement noise. We recommend using a broadcast boom arm or standard microphone stand with a boom arm to avoid unwanted sounds being picked up from your desk or tabletop.
Shock Mount & Pop Filter – Ever listened to a recording where every word that started with a “P” had a huge burst of air or pop? This can be a major distraction to listeners and can be eliminated by a simple pop filter.
A shock mount will help eliminate sounds that may resonate through your mic stand and into the recording due to movement. Most shockmounts are made to go with specific models of mics, so make sure to get one that fits your microphone.
Headphones – When recording, sound isolation is very important. This is why it is essential to use headphones when recording your podcast. It is recommended to never use your computer speakers or other external speakers to monitor your recording so audio bleed can be prevented. While recording, you do not want audio bleed to be picked up in your microphone from your headphones or computer speakers. If you are doing a Skype or Zoom style podcast, it’s a good idea to communicate to your interviewee to not use their external speakers or internal mic on their computer when recording. As a best practice, request that your guest use iPhone earbuds which are only about $10 on Amazon.
Podcast Recording Equipment Essential #2
– Recording Hardware & Software
You can’t record your podcast without a piece of hardware to capture it.
Audio Interface & A/D Converter
Many “audio interfaces” today house both the mic preamps and the analog to digital converter. While there are some advantages to having a dedicated A/D converter and mic preamp, for recording a podcast, we have found it most beneficial to have a simple audio interface. While the preamp is a very important element to the audio signal flow, we want to hone in on the analog to digital converter.
How the Converter Works and Why You Need a Good One
Think about the analog to digital conversion process like taking photos with a cheap 5 megapixel camera versus a high-quality 50 megapixel camera. At first glance the cheap camera’s photo may not look that bad, but when compared to the photo taken by the high-quality camera, you can clearly see the difference. The higher megapixel camera provides clearer, cleaner, and sharper images that can be manipulated and printed in all shapes and sizes and it still gives you a great photo.
A converter works in a similar way. When the audio waveform comes in through the microphone, the converter is taking 1000s of snapshots simultaneously (Sample Rate). A cheap converter causes audio “blur” and noise which goes straight into the preamp which then goes into the recorder creating audio noise. The better the audio converter, the quieter it can take those snapshots and leave you with a clear, clean recording. Point blank, some converters are just made better than others just as some cameras are made better than others. While it may take some practice and experimentation to hear the difference between different analog to digital converters, if you take the time, you will begin to hear the difference in quality.
The Universal Audio Apollo series provide some of the best preamps and converters on the market. The Twin USB or Lightning Duo offer you two inputs that should be enough for your home recording setup. We have a few Universal Audio hardware and software tools in our recording setup, and they continue to perform above and beyond anything else we have used.
Focusrite also provides some solid choices when it comes to preamps and A/D converters. While they are not as pristine as the Universal Audio Pre’s and converters, they are great for the price . In our experience, the quality of these converters will be better than using the internal pre and converter on a typical USB mic to computer setup.
*If you are only recording Skype or Zoom calls, it is worth noting that you can forgo having an audio interface if you decide to use a USB microphone. If you use the Audio Technica ATR2100 or AT2005 mic and your computer, you can use the built in preamp and A/D converter.
A computer is the most versatile and practical tool when it comes to podcast recording equipment. However, with the amount of new technology available today, there are many other ways to record a podcast, including but not limited to using your ipad, iphone, phone system, & handheld recorder.
From our experience, Apple computers are more of an investment up front but they pay off in the long run by outlasting and outperforming most of its competition. We admit that we exclusively use Apple computers. This is partly due to the fact that MTSU, where we studied recording, exclusively used Apple computers. Further, Apple computers work great for recording since you have the ability to easily run multiple applications at the same time. Also, all Apple computers come with Garageband, which is a good and free recording software option that we highly recommend. Regardless, your best bet will be to purchase the computer you can afford with the highest powered processor and highest amount of RAM. The Macbook pro 15″ is our favorite choice and one of the most trusted tools we use.
When it comes to recording software there are a variety of choices . This may come as a surprise to you, but recording software doesn’t actually affect the quality of your recording. Recording software is simply a user interface for you to capture and edit your recordings. For this reason, we will not strongly recommend one piece of software over another. Just ensure that the software is easy for you to use and navigate when recording. Also, make sure your software is set to capture the highest quality recording possible. Please contact us if you have any questions about how to optimize your settings for recording your podcast.
Digital Audio Workstations(Recording Software) – The options below are used to capture a recording directly to your computer using either a USB mic or an XLR microphone going into an audio interface or mixer that goes into your computer via USB, Firewire, or Thunderbolt cable.
Garageband(Mac Only)- FREE
Audacity – FREE
Reaper – $60
Pro Tools – $24.92/month
Adobe Audition – $29/month
Computer to Computer Call Recording
C. Handheld Recorder (Another Option)
While a computer may be the most versatile option for podcast recording equipment, we would argue that a handheld recorder is the simplest and cheapest option for recording a high quality podcast. Most handheld recorders have at least 2 XLR mic inputs. The ideal scenario with a handheld recorder would be using two of the mics we recommend above plugged into the handheld recorder. Most handheld recorders have built in condenser microphones that can be used for simple interviews or other recordings, but these mics are typically pretty sensitive and can be noisy, so beware of the background noise you may pick up. Please note that if you decide to go this route, you really only need two mics to pair with your handheld recorder. It is also worth noting in your recording signal flow that a handheld recorder houses the microphone, preamp, A/D Converter, and software. In our opinion, it is worth spending a little more on a higher quality recorder to ensure you get the highest quality preamps. In our experience, some of the cheaper recorders have noisy preamps that will affect the quality of your recording. Here are a few handheld recorders we have used and recommend:
In a future post we will take a more detailed look at and compare a few different handheld recorders and other Podcast Recording Equipment.
You can find the next post, Planning Your Podcast here. You can find the intro post for this series on Starting a Podcast here. If you have any questions or would like help starting your podcast, you can contact us here.
By: Jacob Bozarth
As President & Co-Founder of Resonate Recordings, Jacob leads the team & oversees all sales & marketing initiatives. Jacob can be found recording, producing, & mixing podcasts when he is not spending time with his family. Jacob & his family live in Louisville, KY.