Who doesn't love gear? I'm one of those types of people who loves to drool over new microphones and video cameras or admire someone's recording studio or watch equipment comparison videos. I also love making lists that gather together different tools that you need to complete a project -- so without further ado, here is the Lean Podcasting Gear Guide!
Don't Obsess Over Your Gear
Before we get started, I want to tell you not to obsess over your gear when you're starting a podcast. You don't need to go out and spend thousands of dollars to get "the best possible sound quality". You are also under no obligation to listen to people like me when it comes to telling you what gear you should use for you podcast. When it comes to picking and choosing your podcasting equipment, find what works for you. If you didn't want to spend any money at all, you could use a smartphone for recording your podcast. Even NPR reporters have phone interviewees record themselves with a smartphone instead of using the crackly telephone recording in their broadcast.
What I'm trying to say is; take this guide with a grain of salt. Your gear doesn't matter. It's what you record that does.
There are several different subcategories of microphone -- each of which record sound completely different from each other. I won't go into the specifics of each different type of microphone but when you are looking at which type of mic you should buy, it's important to keep in mind that every microphones 'polar-pattern' is different - that is, that every microphone will record sound differently.
Recording microphones are generally classified as either a Condenser Mic or a Dynamic Mic. One isn't necessarily better than other but it's important to understand the key differences between them when you are choosing a microphone for your podcast.
Dynamic microphones tend to be more durable and less sensitive to the sounds they record. They are often made out of metal and they use magnets to pick up sound. Dynamic mics also tend to be a little less expensive when compared to Condenser mics. You'll often find Dynamic microphone used on-stage for live performances.
Condenser microphones use electronics to pick up sound and as a result, they tend to be less durable than dynamic mics. The trade-off comes with the pickup sensitivity of microphone -- Condenser mics are extremely sensitive to sound so you'll often find these types of microphones used in soundproofed studios or coupled with attachments likes pop-filters.
Another thing to keep in mind is the connector type. This is something I find is often overlooked in these types of guides and that's through what device are you are going to recording your show. Are you going to connect your microphone to your computer? Will it plug into an external recorder or a mixer? An XLR mic may be considered 'industry-standard but if you're just starting out and recording on your laptop, a USB mic might be a better fit.
Now; let's look at some microphones.
USB microphones are a podcasters godsend (especially if you're just starting out). The ability to plug a microphone into your computer or laptop and start recording is part of what makes podcasting such an accessible medium for people just starting out. The quality of these types of mics has also greatly improved -- and as the quality has gone up, the cost has come down.
Blue Snowball iCE
Avg. Price: $69.99
I'm a big fan of the Blue product line and this inexpensive mic is a great starter microphone. I've used it for many of my projects. It's cheap and produces a clean sound.
Audio Technica ATR2500
Avg. Price: $119.00
The ATR2500 is one of those mics that you're surprised is so inexpensive. If you're looking for a high quality and affordable microphone, the ATR2500 is for you.
Samson G Track
Avg. Price: $179.00
The G Track is a funky looking mic but it packs a ton of features into a small package. With a built-in audio interface, it's a great mic for home-studio use.
Blue Yeti and Blue Yeti Pro
Avg. Price: $189.00-$299.00
As I mentioned previously, I'm a big fan of Blue microphones and I drool over every Yeti I come across. With both mics, you can choose which type of polar pattern you want to use which is a great feature if you're trying to obtain a specific sound with your show. The "Pro" version includes an XLR output in addition to a USB connection. Without a doubt, this is a very popular microphone among podcasters.
Audio Technica AT2020 USB
Avg. Price: $300.00
The AT2020 is often mentioned as the go-to microphone for podcasters looking to upgrade their equipment. When compared to its cheaper counterpart (the ATR2500), you can see why.
Avg. Price: $329.00
Rode is well-known for their high quality microphones but they usually gear their products towards filmmakers. The Podcaster was their foray into catering to the (you guessed it) podcasting market. Similar to their other microphones, the podcaster produces a deep, clean sound but the higher price tag leaves something to be desired.
With XLR mics, you'll find sturdier construction -- I often find that USB mics tend to feel a little flimsy. The trade-off with these types of microphones are the fact that you'll need additional accessories for them to work. Some microphones require 'phantom-power' in order to work properly. Still, XLR mics tend to be very high quality and most professionals continue to use XLR microphones to record their shows.
Audio Technica AT2020 XLR
Avg. Price: $199.00
Not to be confused with it's USB counterpart -- the XLR version of this mic provides higher quality sound recording at an even cheaper price. If you're looking to start with XLR mic, this is the one for you.
Avg. Price: $300.00
Rode's high end studio mic, the NT1A is a solid choice when it comes to XLR microphones. It boasts low-noise and a wide dynamic range.
Avg. Price: $499.00
The Shure SM7B is a high-end, professional microphone used by NPR reporters and big name podcasters. Shure is known to make very high quality and durable (unbreakable) microphones. In addition to solid construction. The SM7B has that deep "radio sound" that every podcast strives for. Again, this is a high-end microphone and it's price tag reflects that.
Audio Technica AT2100 USB/XLR
Avg. Price: $119.00
If you're not looking to spend a lot money and you aren't sure if you want a USB or XLR mic, the AT2100 is a solid choice. With a traditional stage microphone design, it's an affordable and versatile budget microphone.
Avg. Price: $100.00
Lavalier (or "Lav") microphones are small microphones that clip on to the person talking and they're traditionally used in interview situations. The Rode SmartLav is a high quality lav mic that plugs right into your smartphone. It's definitely a handy device if you're out in the field.
Type: iPhone Mic
Avg. Price: $155.00
The iQ7 is another microphone geared towards smartphone users. This mic allows you to get crystal clear audio recordings from your iPhone. In my opinion though, the internal microphone in most smartphones already produces great sound quality (depending on the recording environment.
Portable Audio Recorders
Portable audio recorders are the best -- I love carrying around a device specifically designed to record audio. While the cheaper models generally have an onboard mic and a 3.5mm connection, more expensive models will have XLR inputs for using XLR mics.
Avg. Price: $79.00
This is one of my favorite recorders. I bought one several years ago and it still gets a lot of use. It's super durable, easy to use and records great audio.
Avg. Price: $249.00
The DR-40 is a 4-track XLR portable digital recorder. If you have an XLR microphone, this is an affordable multi-track recorder. Definitely a popular option among budget podcasters and filmmakers.
Avg. Price: $599.00
Zoom is known in the audio space for their superior audio products -- the Zoom H6 is no exception. With 4-track XLR inputs, dual SD card recording, the H6 is bundled with a detachable X-Y pattern microphone. On top of that, it also acts as a USB mixer meaning you can plug it into your computer and control your recording through the H6.
USB mixers allow you to add another level of control when it comes to recording your podcast. Chances are that if you have an XLR microphone, you're probably going to need one.
Avg. Price: $99.00
Behringer makes a lot of mixers but this one stands out as the most affordable, feature rich, and aesthetically-pleasing mixer for podcasters.
Pylo-Pro 5 Channel Audio Mixer
Avg. Price: $85.00
The Pylo-Pro is another budget-friendly USB mixer. Designed to remove as much noise as possible, this mixer is a good option if Behringer's products don't appeal to you.
Focusrite Scarlet 2i2
Avg. Price: $239.00
A more expensive USB mixer, the Focusrite Scarlet is meant to be a truly portable mixer solution with phantom power and high quality mic preamps.
Audacity is obvious because it's open-source and free. For many people (including yours truly), it's our first introduction to audio and multi-track editing. I'd recommend Audacity for anyone wanting to get into podcasting or learn about audio production.
I love Reaper; it's fast, it's simple to use, it includes a host of useful plugins. I find it incredibly simple to edit my files. It's also one of the more affordable DAW's out there. If you're looking to beef up your audio production skills, Reaper is for you.
Due to Adobe's status as "industry-standard", Audition makes this list by default. In my opinion, it's one of the more difficult programs to work with. It's certainly a powerful software and audio editor and it's integration with other Adobe apps is useful so if you're already familiar with Adobe, it should be easy for you to pick up.
ProTools is the defacto king of DAW's. Used by professionals and amateurs alike, ProTools is a powerful and feature rich audio editing software. It's also really expensive so unless you're planning on becoming an audio engineer or working in radio, another solution might be your answer.
Hindenburg is the "new kid on the block" when it comes to audio editing software. Hindenburg was designed for broadcasters and podcasters. With automated leveling, Skype integration and a user-friendly interface, it looks like it could become the new standard for digital audio production.
Avg. Price: $15-30
Pop Filters are used to reduce noise or 'pops' created from your mouth. They're a good addition to your microphone setup and add to your podcasts overall production quality.
Microphone Boom Arm Stand
Avg. Price: $20-100+
Boom stands are used to suspend your microphone in the air above your face. If you've ever seen a video of a radio talking on air, I'm sure you've seen one before. They're great and I love working with them. Microphone boom stands range in price so you'll always get what you pay for. If you're going to invest the money in a stand, I'd recommend going for high quality over price.
Soundproofing Foam Panels
Avg. Price: $5-$100+
Unless you have the luxury of recording in a professional studio, you likely have to put up with noisy or 'grainy' recording . You can put soundproofing foam on your walls to reduce unwanted noise and contribute to a better sounding podcast.
Avg. Price: $50-$150+
I live right by a busy road so I'm always dealing with unwanted sounds. Isolation shields are small booths that surround your microphone and block out some of the sounds. If you aren't interested in fully soundproofing your home studio but you're dealing with unwanted noise, an isolation shield just might do the trick.
Well, there you have it. The Lean Podcasting Gear Guide. I know we covered a lot but the most important thing to remember is to pick the gear that's right for you. You don't have to spend a single cent and you can still produce a good sounding podcast. If you haven't started a podcast before, you probably shouldn't go out and spend hundreds of dollars on the "best" gear you can find. All you need is an audio file and nowadays, it's super easy to make one. It all depends on you, your show and what you want to accomplish. My best advice is to do your research and find out what works for you.