Nov 11, 2021 • 24M

What Equipment Do You Need To Start a Podcast?

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Chris Spangle
Chris Spangle has been podcasting since 2007 and has hosted over 4,000 hours of shows while editing and uploading 18,000 episodes for a total of 30 million downloads on dozens of shows. With his unparalleled experience, he takes you behind the curtain to show you the building of the Podcasting and Platforms brand.
Episode details

I've spent thousands of dollars in mistakes for my podcasts. I lay out what equipment will lead to the best quality for the lowest price so you won't end up wasting precious time and money.



Welcome to Podcasting and Platforms. Thank you for joining me today. Today is equipment day. This is the day that everybody's excited about, because everybody loves a little retail therapy. And the cool thing about podcasting is there's an almost unlimited amount of money that you can waste when buying equipment to do a podcast and I know a ton of podcasters. And I don't know anybody that does it the same way all my friends who started podcasting 10 years ago, they all do it a totally different way than I do it. So there are a ton of options and it's really hard to narrow it down. So what I want to do today is try to help you figure out what equipment to buy without spending too much money.

The first thing I will say is that I don't know if the Blue Yeti was the first USB microphone or what because over the last 15 years, I have seen it recommended as the microphone to buy if you're going to do a podcast. I don't agree with that assessment. It is a condenser mic that is built for teenagers playing video games talking to each other. It is not built for podcasters it's squatty it's got a weird little like, mic stand. I just don't think it sounds good. It just doesn't sound good and it doesn't sound right for podcasting.

That's because it's a cheap condenser microphone. To get a good condenser microphone you usually have to spend a lot of money I am talking into a $500 audio technica microphone to be specific. It is an Audio Technica 4033 No, I'm not sponsored by Audio Technica. No I'm not opposed to that. But I just find them to be the highest quality microphones for the cheapest price.

So if we're not going to use the Blue Yeti, what should we use? Well, it depends on how you're going to record your podcast. Are you going to do it alone in your room talking into your computer over zoom with interview subjects or your friends? Are you going to be doing it with all of your friends in the same room that really makes a difference? Are you going to have a home studio setup are you going to be traveling every episode breaking it down that can make the choice a little bit different in reality there is no right or wrong way to do it. There is the way that is best for your budget and the way that is best for your ability to sound good and you have to sound good.

One of the things that made the we're libertarians podcast different in the beginning compared to other podcasts that gave us an early advantage is that I was willing to spend a lot of money thanks to many of my donors. People like Jason Doolittle, Craig DeCosta, Kristi Avery, who helped me purchase good equipment, those listeners loved the show and wanted to help us get the best quality possible. And that made us sound really good. And so most people were doing blog talk radio, do you remember when podcasts were done on blog talk radio, it was literally conferencing software over the phone and it was just bad in the early days.

Now it's fairly cheap to do a podcast well and there's a ton of great options but those ton of options can be overwhelming. So let's start with just one basic thing about the microphones. Let's start with the microphones. You have basically two choices you have a dynamic microphone or a condenser microphone.

Now I don't want to confuse you too much. But a dynamic microphone is basically like a speaker in reverse this this comes from our friends over at Sweetwater in a speaker electricity vibrates the diaphragm, which creates the sound waves, right? You've all been standing in front of your parents giant speakers when your kids feeling the vibration of that.

The dynamic microphone, on the other hand uses sound waves that vibrate the diaphragm and create the electricity then that electricity is increased with the use of a transformer and sent to the microphones output the condenser microphone is in simple terms like a batteries, the sound waves vibrate the diaphragm with a magnetic plate that's behind it. And when this happens, it creates a boosted voltage which is sent through the phantom power supply to increase it to the output of your microphone. All that is confusing and means nothing to you. Here's the basic principle you need to remember dynamic microphones not as sensitive, they can take a lot of volume and they can pick up less noise than a condenser microphone. So to give you an example of this, let me turn off all the processing on my microphones and let you hear the sounds in this condenser microphone

Maybe you can turn your volume up and you'll hear a the difference in my voice because the processing is off on my Rode Podcaster Pro, but you might also hear that electrical hum now maybe you don't know what that is, but that is my humidifier. I've had some dryness recently and so it's trying to help keep my vocal cords moist. Sorry for the use of the word moist. But here's a dynamic microphone that I'm talking into a Shure SM 48 With that same noise Do you hear it? No. Do you hear the airplane that is flying in the background outside my window? No, probably not. And does this sound pretty good? Yeah, it sounds pretty good. Now this is a $40 microphone and the other is a $500 microphone does the $500 Mic microphones sound better in terms of voice quality and detail that you hear in my voice? Yes. But could you listen to a podcast where someone is talking in into this microphone for a long time because the sound is quiet and clean and the voice is clear and crisp, absolutely, but you get a lot less room noise. Without any processing, there's no processing. If I have the processing off on the condenser mic, you hear all the background noise. If I have the processing off on this, you don't hear the background noise, you got to get close to it, but you hear everything in this dynamic microphone.

So if I'm recording a podcast at my house, and I am recording on something like zoom or doing a solo show like this, I'm talking into my condenser microphone through my Rode Podcaster Pro and if I'm out in the field recording something like the pat down that I'm taking with me my sure sm 48 Dynamic microphones and my h6 recorder, a Zoom recorder. And the reason is that a The zoom is a lot more portable, and then the Rode Podcaster Pro and the dynamic microphones don't require any of the processing of the Rode Podcaster pro, you don't need any of the noise gating. The reason you can't hear the humidifier right now as I'm talking is because of what's called a noise gate. And what that does is that cuts out the bottom of the sound waves. So it takes out kind of the the low hums or the room noise that kind of you know, if I'm talking here, I'm hitting the high peaks on my volume and the middle of the sound waves are deep. If I'm talking back here, it's a lot less volume, the waves are not peaking as high and there's not as much you can also hear a lot of room noise bouncing in the background, you got to consider all of these things when picking your microphones.

A lot of people what they do is they will say the more money I spend the better the quality well that's not necessarily the case, you can buy that Joe Rogan microphone, the Shure SM seven B for 500 bucks, it is a dynamic microphone, but you're still going to probably have to buy what's called a cloud lifter, which is going to add some gain to your microphone so it can even be heard in your recorder. And to make it as sensitive as this the Audio Technica makes $150 dynamic microphone that I think is just as good as the road $500 microphone that is the new Audio Technica 80 2040 hypercardioid dynamic podcast microphone, it looks amazing. It sounds great. And I recommend it, you may need a cloud lifter, I just don't think it sounds as good on my voice as this microphone, which is the 8040 33 A and it's the one that I use because it's a lot more sensitive. And I don't have to push my fragile voice as hard as I do on a dynamic microphone. Now maybe you don't want to spend $500 on a cardioid microphone, but you've got a podcast space and you want to use a USB mic because you want to sound even better than maybe the just the dynamic ATR 2100.

Well, I recommend the AT 2020 the Audio Technica AT 2020 USB plus cardioid condenser USB microphone, this is the choice of many pros in radio. It sounds fantastic in some ways, I think it sounds better than this microphone. And again, it's not that expensive. It is only right now $131 on Amazon. Now that is for the USB version, you can buy the AT 2020 XLR version for $91. It's a great sounding podcast microphone, you'll find the links to all of these recommendations in the show notes. So you can pick and choose what you want to use.

But that $100 Audio Technica 2100 USB microphone, that is simple. That doesn't require processing, that is $100 is my go to for new podcasters. If they're going to do a solo show, it's all you need. You plug it in, you record over zoom, you record over something that is a little more technically challenging, but sounds a lot better, like, then you're good to go. That's all you need to start your podcast. But let's say you want to record in person. Well now you've got a couple more choices to make. Or if you've got a little bit more of a budget that you want to spend and you want to buy some better equipment, well then you've got a couple different choices. The main tools that you have when recording a podcast are your microphone, the mic cord, the recorder and what you're going to edit in basically, those are the tools and the device that I use that I love that I recommend all the time is the Rode Podcaster Pro, it sounds amazing. It's got processing on it. It has four inputs, it allows you to do Bluetooth so you can have Collins or play music which don't play unlicensed music in your podcast. Like you can't just crank out the Led Zeppelin and do a show without getting in trouble legally. But let's say you wanted to play some audio clips because you do a news podcast. You can connect the road to your computer and play them that way. You have an output that goes to some monitors. It's a really versatile device. It's got some sound effects that you can play.

So I have things like Like my podcast intro,

You can do live mixing, it does all the recording. It's a fantastic device that sounds great that is super reliable for round $600. And everything's just right there in one device. Whereas if you go with something like the zoom H6 track portable recorder, it's like the size of a cell phone as opposed to the size of kind of a, you know, a 13 inch laptop is the Rode Podcaster Pro is it's much more portable. So when I was on the road this past week in Houston, I took it with me, I could put four microphones cables in the Zoom recorder in my backpack and take it on an airplane easily. The downside with the Zoom is that if you want to use it to record on your computer, it's going to have it's a lot more challenging. You don't have the sound effects, but it's around 350 bucks, so it is a lot cheaper and will be a great recorder. So if you and your friends are getting together, you're going to record for people in a room you can choose the h6 or the the Rode Podcaster Pro and you know it's going to work great, I recommend them both. The way that I used to do it is I had a Mackie mixer, a 16 port Mackie mixer, it was enormous. And then I would run that into the Zoom h6 And I had like four or five different processing boxes called the dbx x 286.

That would then help me with some noise gating and some other things on the on the microphones, we used Shure SM 58 To record the podcast, it sounded really good, but it was this giant rack of equipment. And all of that has been replaced by the Rode Podcaster Pro that just sits here on my desk. And I use it every day use it all the time. It is a great tool, you know coming from radio, it's it's what we use in the radio industry. Now it's a fantastic product. I know Tascam has one like it, I have no experience with it. But I really love the Rode Podcaster Pro, I recommend it highly. So if you're doing an in person, podcast, or even a podcast solo, you can't go wrong with a Rode Podcaster Pro, you can use those dynamic microphones that I mentioned the Shure SM 58, which are 100 bucks, which when you think microphone, you think of the Shure SM 58. It's what you see every performer on stage with it's like the the black handle with the silver head that's kind of round, they make an SM Sure 48, which is a cheaper option. It's more plasticky and I think it's around 40 bucks, I have the older version, which are metal still, there's like literally no difference in the day between the 48 and 58. I recommend those microphones because they're time tested, they're never going to go bad, you have to really abuse them drive over them with your tractor to like get it to not work. It's just an industry standard workhorse for musicians for reason. And you can't go wrong with them. They're great microphones.

And like I said, if you get the cheaper ones, they're 40 bucks, so you get four of those, that's 120 bucks, and then you've got your Rode Podcaster Pro, that is 600 bucks. So you're up to 720 for that in person podcast, you need windscreens your pop filters, so when you go, then it doesn't pick it up, that's about five or six bucks apiece, I don't recommend skipping on that at all, you really, really want those pop filters, whenever you buy a microphone, you don't have to have mic stands, but you're probably going to want them a good table top mic stand with some weight on it is around 30 $40, I recommend buying them the stands just make it a lot better, because what you get with the dynamic microphone is a lot of that core rattle. And you'll kind of hear that in the pat down podcast. Sometimes as we're kind of fussing with the microphone, you know, or you'll get somebody who is not talking right on that. They'll be kind of back here and then you see if I've got it four inches from my face as opposed to one inch from my face the sound difference. So a lot of times you want to control the consistency of the sound, I don't have a pop filter, which is why you're getting a lot of peas and S's in this then you can kind of control the sound and make it sound better and people don't have to fuss with it. But spending those little hairs I'll put on the pop filter and see how much better that sounds. And if you have a stand in the pop filter, it just those like little $25 $45 touches per microphone can go a long way because especially if you're doing interviews with people who are inexperienced with microphones, they're going to kind of hold it back here.

You know if there are they're gonna hold and you don't want that in your sound. What else do you need if you're doing an audio podcast? Well, that's kind of it. So around $800 You've got an in person podcast and full flexibility to do any kind of podcasts that you want to do with the Rode Podcaster Pro which is the biggest expense the Shure SM 58 or 48 and your microphone cables. The mic stands on the pop filters. If you're going to be going out on the road a lot then I do recommend going with the cheaper option the zoom h6, those same microphones and cables when it comes to cables don't cheap out on the cables either.

The difference between a $12 cable and a $25 cable or $100 cable is enormous. I personally use what's called Mogami cables. If you buy the $25 Audio Technica cables on Amazon, they're gonna sound great. If you buy the $10 cables from some Chinese manufacturer, they're gonna go bad quickly, you're gonna get a lot of noise that kind of sounds like that humidifier earlier, the little electrical hum that you can't quite track down the sound of your voice will not sound as good. I personally use Mogami gold cables or Mogami silver cables and Mogami in it's a high end cable maker. They're fairly expensive, but they're just like rock solid. They don't have any noise interference. You don't get any RF from radio signals or Wi Fi signal signals picked up in the microphone because they're well insulated and they last a long time and I think they have a lifetime guarantee as well. I use cheap cables early on and I always had to replace those cables. I've never had to replace a Mogami or audio technical cable. They weren't great. I promise Audio Technica. It's just top quality stuff you cannot go wrong with sure Audio Technica road. Mackie, some of these things are just top end for a reason. And then if you see the cheaper options, like let's say Beringer sometimes you get what you pay for now Beringer makes a lot of good products and they make some cheap products at hand. So you know you you sort of get what you what you pay for there. So let's talk about headphones. My headphones are the AKG K 240 studio headphones. They are the headphones that I started using in radio in 2004. I cannot talk into a microphone with any other type of headphones or else it sounds weird to me. They're about 60 bucks, they sound great. It's what I recommend. You can get some $15 Sony headphones that are cheap you can use your Apple earbuds you can use you know beats whatever, whatever sounds good to you use them whatever sounds comfortable to you. It's not really a big deal.

I don't think you need headphones for your guests I have found in radio and podcasting that when a guest has headphones on it throws them off hearing their own voice so honestly I just wouldn't even give headphones to your guests. The Rode Podcaster Pro has headphone amplifiers and four ports and then if you have the h six and you go that route and you want a headphone amplifier Beringer makes a $25 option. That's pretty good. That works pretty well. Now why would one other thing I would add is consider adding on the cases that can add up and I can add up a lot that can increase your your budgets but I have a microphone case for my Shure SM 48 I have these zoom hardshell case that's waterproof that has saved my butt numerous times. The Zoom h6 also has a bunch of attachments like a shotgun microphone, which is kind of the long microphone that people use for videos I have that I have the the various attachments and windscreens that go to that I have a hard waterproof case for my Rode Podcaster pro if I need to take that with me I have a little case for my microphone cables and I put them all into like a frankly it's a gun bag.

You can get some really nice bags that are built for guns with tons of pockets and those hold all of my gear in there you know I've got the the cover for my road so it doesn't get all dusty as it just sits here in my office. I really recommend getting cases and bags that kind of go along with your stuff especially if you're going to be traveling a lot but that's not a necessity. It just kind of helps keep it all organized and safe and secure. So that's the physical equipment like I said I use the 8040 33 microphone I have a windscreen on it. I have a cheap stand that then goes into a Rolls mic switch. You can hear me I have to cough I've got a cough button you don't need that there is a mute button on this. This is just kind of leftover from some old equipment I'm using Mogami gold cables going into my Rode Podcaster Pro that is then connected to my Mac and then I edit my audio in Adobe Audition you could use Audacity which is free there's tons of great tutorials out there that I'll link to that will teach you how to edit audio for free in Audacity that is the technical way to do a podcast you can do it online with that setup you can do it in person I'm not connected to a computer and doing this over zoom I'm I'm I'm recording this right into the road podcast Pro and but I will do a podcast later today where I need to be on Zoom.

And so then I will connect the same setup to my computer and record it on the Zoom site as well as having a backup on my Rode Podcaster Pro. Now what about video video is a whole different podcast that we will do later. What about hosting and where to put it next? We'll do those in the coming weeks. We'll talk about what podcast host is right for you. But this is just about the physical equipment you need for audio and how to make the right selection if you're going to buy, I would appreciate you buying through the links in the show notes. Those are affiliate links, which means that if you use them, I will get a commission. So that helps support the show. It helps thank me for the effort of all this wisdom that I am bestowing upon you. You don't have to use it but it is polite. So thank you so much for listening to podcasting and platforms. I really appreciate it.

If you have any questions. It's Chris at podcasting and I will be happy to answer your questions. Thank you so much and we will talk to you again soon.