Essential Equipment for Podcasting

 The number and variety of podcasts available has just exploded in the last couple of years. There are more podcasts of quality now than there are radio shows worth listening to. One of the advantages of podcasting is that your audience can take your broadcast wherever they go, and listen to it at their leisure. The format can be whatever the podcaster wants and this lends to quite a bit of freedom.

If you’ve been wanting to get in on the action, but are unsure what kinds of equipment you’d need, this article will serve as a quick guide for you. Hopefully once you’ve read this article, you’ll at least have an idea of what kind of podcast you can get done using whatever grade of equipment you decide to go with.

Computer or Digital Audio Recording Unit

It seems almost too obvious, but you can’t skip over the fact that you’ll need either a computer or some kind of portable, multi-tracking unit to record the audio for your podcast. I’d of course recommend going with a computer, as you probably already own one, and editing the audio will be much more intuitive using whichever software application you choose to utilize. The computer’s specs should be good enough to handle the requirements of the recording software without dropping out (audio engine freezes and stops recording). Nothing is more frustrating than trying to use a computer to record audio that just doesn’t have the resources to get the job done.

Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) Software

Assuming you are going the computer-based route, the next essential piece of equipment you will need is the software to actually record your podcast. Given the cost of some of these applications though, you may want to go with the open-source (free) DAW available on the Internet called Audacity. The reviews on it are quite good, and it has all the essential functions you’d need for podcasting.

Recording Interface

While it is totally possible to use an analog audio source such as any mixer with stereo outputs to get the audio into your computer, it’s much easier and cost effective to purchase an interface. Think of the interface as your way of getting the microphones to talk to your computer. In considering your interface, it might be wise to determine how many people will be there in the room with you, using mics simultaneously.

If you plan to be the only one on your podcast, or if you decide to record your co-host’s audio via Skype, you can use virtually any USB or Firewire audio interface with an XLR input. If, however you want to have multiple people speaking in the same room using more than one mic at a time, you will want to make sure you get an interface with an adequate number of simultaneous inputs and outputs. PreSonus and Tascam both make interfaces that can handle up to eight mics at once for a reasonable price. Being able to assign each mic to its own channel will be a life-saver once you get down to the business of editing your recorded audio.

Microphones

Here is where your budget can absolutely explode, or stay within reason. It all comes down to the kind of money you feel comfortable spending. For around $100 you can buy a decent quality USB microphone that will even bypass your need for an interface. However, those microphones will be pretty limited, and in the long-run your money may be better spent bumping up another $30 or $40 and going with a better quality XLR condenser mic. If you go that route, you will want to make sure you have a source of phantom power, as these mics don’t have built in preamps. Most recording interfaces with XLR inputs will have 48 volt phantom power built in.

Sound quality makes a big difference, especially in a medium that is all auditory. Taking the time to get at least medium level consumer grade equipment will help tremendously in making your project sound its best. Personally my experience with Sterling and MXL brand condensers has been nothing short of great. There are definitely more expensive brands out there, but an MXL 909 or a Sterling ST51 will never steer you in the wrong direction.

Miscellaneous

Once you have the basic equipment taken care of, you can focus on making sure you have XLR cables for your mics, headphones and a headphone amp if you want you and your guests to hear themselves through the mics, and other less expensive, but just as important equipment. With all of the bases covered you can now start your journey into the world of podcasting.

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