Whether you’re dissecting the week’s latest news, diving into an unsolved crime, or just chopping it up with a few friends, podcasting is the medium that welcomes all.
The ever-growing podcast industry is big business nowadays, with virtually every TV show, celebrity, and news organization jumping in with their own podcasts. But you don’t need millions of followers or the backing of a corporation to get started. All you need is a theme, a format you can stick with, and a few essential items.
I’ve dabbled with podcasting in the past, starting an Overwatch League podcast last year before the season ground to a halt for obvious worldly reasons. However, I’ve picked up some things along the way, such as what gear to purchase and what software to use to get started with podcasting.
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The AT2020 USB is a condenser microphone with a cardioid polar pattern, which means it’s very sensitive and only picks up sound directly in front of it. For solo or remote podcasting, the AT2020 is an affordable, reliable choice. I’ve had this microphone for over three years and have used it in podcast recordings, online gaming, video conferencing, and everything in between. Because it’s a USB mic, you won’t need to spend any extra cash on an audio interface. That being said, you’ll want to use software to apply a noise gate so that the sensitive mic doesn’t pick up every breath, movement, and passing car.
When it comes to USB microphones, Yeti’s name is at the top of the list. The Yeti X comes with must-have features like a gain control knob and headphone output jack. It also has a pickup pattern button that can switch between cardioid, omni, figure-8, and stereo, which lets you record multiple people on the same microphone. Since this is a condenser microphone, high sensitivity will be an issue, though lowering the gain can make a difference. The gain knob also has LEDs that act as a sound meter to help you visualize your sound levels. Finally, the microphone is compatible with Blue Vo!ce, which lets you tailor the sound to your needs.
There’s no doubt about it, the Shure SM7B is a professional microphone through and through. It’s the mic that professional recording artists and podcasters tend to go with because of its superior depth. Unlike less expensive condenser mics that tend to pick up every little sound, the SM7B is a dynamic microphone designed to capture loud, nearby sounds. Though due to the low sensitivity, you may need to also purchase a Cloudlifter Mic Activator to increase the gain and make it sound better. Of course, the XLR connection means you’ll also need an audio interface. This route is expensive, but you’d be investing in a top-of-the-line setup from the get-go.
If you’re going with a USB mic, you can go ahead and skip this one, but you’ll need this if using an XLR microphone like the above Shure SM7B. While Elgato’s Wave XLR is aimed at the streamer market (check out our best microphones and headphones for streamers guide), the simple yet intuitive device has much to offer to solo podcasters. For one, the multi-function dial can increase your microphone’s gain (up to 75 dB), adjust the headphone volume, or tweak the balance between the microphone and the computer. The compatible Wave Link software is not necessary, but you’ll want to use it to mix multiple inputs and outputs.
If one XLR input isn’t enough, you may want to consider the third-gen Scarlett 2i2 audio interface from Focusrite. The device has two XLR inputs with independent gain control knobs for each one, perfect for dynamic microphones with lower sensitivity. There’s also a headphone jack to monitor the sound. With many podcasts being hosted by two people, this audio interface makes sense. However, there is a beefier version with four inputs that’s better suited for large podcasts. The two are identical, except for the extra inputs. As a bonus, this device comes with a ton of production software, including the lite version of the popular Ableton Live.
The Wave Arm LP (low profile) is the microphone boom for those of us with cluttered desks or limited space. Instead of a large boom arm that towers on the side of your desk, the Wave Arm LP discreetly tucks away. However, the low-profile mic arm can be extended vertically and rotated, so you still have plenty of movement. One cool feature is that both arms have removable panels for cable management, making your setup look much cleaner and cable-free.
Pop filters are relatively inexpensive accessories that can improve your sound by preventing plosives. Plosives are created by saying certain consonants, such as the letters P or B, which let out concentrated puffs of air. This causes audio to pop, hence the name pop filter. Pop filters tend to vary in shape, but the round kind with the long adjustable neck is the most common. Though you can spend up to three times more on a high-end filter, This Nady SPF-1 pop filter does the job.
If you’re planning on recording a remote podcast, Riverside FM is one app that can make it happen. The main feature is that you can record audio and video separately — a great feature for audio-only podcasts. Recordings are stored locally for the best quality and are then uploaded after the call is over. With up to eight people (including the host) you can host a large podcast, with each guest’s track available to download so you can mix the podcast to your liking. While there are other similar services, Riverside FM offers a straightforward experience for all involved. There are three monthly subscription plans, with the Pro plan allowing up to 15 hours of stored video/audio a month.
I’ve used Hindenburg Journalist for years, and it’s been great for my needs, but the Journalist Pro version includes many podcaster-friendly features. The only setback is the steep price. But in my opinion, it beats paying a subscription for the rest of your life. The most important feature with the Pro version is multitrack recording, which gives you the ability to edit individual tracks in post. Also, the software lets you record from other sources on separate tracks, such as a Zoom call, or anything else playing on your computer. What I like most is the auto level and magic levels features, which does real-time audio adjustments and makes my USB mic sound twice as expensive. If you have the money, this is a top choice.
I’m a huge fan of Audacity for one reason: it’s free. That’s right, the digital audio workstation (DAW) doesn’t cost a thing, and it’s plenty robust for editing a podcast. I’ve used Audacity since my college days, and I still regularly use it when working with audio. The user interface is definitely outdated, but it’s capable of polishing your sound just as well as other paid DAWs. With a large user base, there are also tons of tutorials and help online. Once you learn the ropes, you’ll find that the humble software is a bit of a heavyweight.