What to think about for your podcast starter kit
Your budget will be the biggest determinant for your podcast starter kit. Before putting your money where your mouth is, really think about how much you are willing and need to invest.
If you’re on a tight budget, think about what you’ve already got. If you’ve dabbled in podcasting before, you may have some perfectly good equipment lying around which will do just fine.
On the flip side, if you’re looking to invest in your podcast for the long-term, there’s some really nice equipment out there (as we’ll see later on in this article) with your name on it.
#2 Podcast Aim
The aim of your podcast will probably correspond with your budget. Thinking about what you want to get out of your podcast will not only help to refine your vision, but it’ll also be a pretty good indicator of how much you should be spending.
If you’re starting a podcast as a passion project or just for fun, the likelihood is you should keep it light and stick to budget equipment. But if this is a serious side-hustle or a business venture, properly investing in durable and studio-quality equipment is advisable.
#3 Podcast Format
For obvious reasons, your podcast format and set-up will directly affect what kind and how much equipment you will need.
Solo Show/Monologue Set-Up
- If it’s just you, your podcast equipment set-up can be minimal - if you want it to be, that is.
- The advantages of doing a solo show are that you don’t need to rely on anyone else for scheduling, recording, or planning. That being said, the pressure is all on you.
Guest (2+ people) Set-Up
If you’ve got two or more people on your podcast, whether that’s co-hosts or guest participants, you’re going to need additional equipment to accommodate everyone.
Your podcast format could vary from episode to episode, so make sure to accommodate for this with spare equipment!
- Present alongside friend(s) or colleague(s)
- Invite a guest to speak on your show in an interview format
- Discuss a topic with several guests
- Create your episode out of a mix of interviews, conversations, and studio-recordings
#3 Audio-Visual Quality
Whatever you do, don’t skimp on audio or video quality. There’s nothing worse than putting in hard work to produce and record your podcast...only to find the final recording has been tarnished by sup-par audio or video quality.
The good news for podcasters on a budget is that price doesn’t necessarily correlate to higher quality these days. With the array of products available on the market, you’ll be able to find something at your price point without compromising quality.
Top tip: think about how to conserve audio and video quality in the context of remote recording. In a COVID-19 world, remote recording is the new norm, and it’s a great way to include international guests.
What Equipment do I need to start a podcast?
Essential Podcast Equipment:
If there’s one thing you’ll need for sure, it’s a microphone. Podcasts are made to be listened to, and you’ll want a reliable microphone to capture your dulcet tones.
When choosing a podcasting microphone, there is no right answer. We’ve outlined the different types and specifications below, but at the end of the day, just try and find a mic that sounds good to you, and it’ll take care of the rest.
USB versus XLR Microphones
USB Microphones (usually condenser mics) connect directly to your computer, like any other USB device. For this reason, they are very easy to use.
XLR Microphones must be connected to a mixer which is connected to your computer. XLR mics are a good option if you’ve got multiple guests because the mixer allows you to toggle individual audio levels.
Note: choosing an XLR Microphone means you’ll have to also invest in a mixer. This might not be the best option for those on a tighter budget.
Condenser versus Dynamic Microphones
Condenser mics operate by vibrating a conducive diaphragm against a charged backplate to convert acoustic energy to electrical energy.
- Delicate sounds. Used to capture more delicate sounds and higher frequencies because of their ability to pick up clear, crisp, and detailed sound
- Exceptional voice clarity. Condenser mics are perfect for most studio applications because they capture voices with exceptional clarity. Some might argue they’re a bit excessive for a podcast context, but again, it’s down to personal preference.
Note: Condenser mics are not suited to extremely hot or humid environments
Operate by suspending a coil of wire connected to a diaphragm inside a magnetic field. When sound vibrates the diaphragm, the coil vibrates and produces an electrical signal.
- High volumes. Dynamic microphones can capture high volumes without distortion
- General vocals. Dynamic microphones are suitable for general vocals that don’t need accurate and smooth reproduction. Think interviews, hosting, live venues.
- Eliminate background noise. Dynamic microphones tend to eliminate more background noise, but this does mean some nuance may be lost
- Durable. Unlike condenser mics, dynamic mics can handle heat and humidity well.
Headphones not only enhance your editing abilities, but also improve your mic technique and allow you to closely monitor your audio in real-time. Make sure your chosen headphones are comfortable, you’ll be spending a lot of time in them.
Closed-back versus Open-back Headphones
- Open-back headphones allow air to pass through ear cups to the speaker. This means you hear more ambient sound, at the price of less sound isolation and a higher risk of sound bleed.
- Closed-back headphones are sealed or ‘closed’, so they limit sound leakage and let in less ambient sound.
Top tip: Closed-back headphones are preferable for podcasting.
Wired versus Wireless Headphones
The choice between wired and wireless headphones depends on personal preference and habit. If you tend to wander around or enjoy being free of cables, wireless headphones are your answer.
For those of us who are indecisive, many headphones have the option to be wireless and wired. The best of both worlds!
Note: With wireless headphones, you’ll have to consider higher latency (the time it takes for sound to reach your ears) and battery life
On-ear, over-ear, or in-ear headphones
Although this really comes down to what you prefer, in general circumaural (over-ear) headphones are the go-to for podcasters and sound engineers.
You’ll be using your laptop to record, save, edit, and upload your podcast.
- Mac versus PC? This comes down to what you’re used to and there is a wide range of strong contenders on both sides!
Budget option: Stick with what you’ve got! Just make sure you’ve got enough storage space for those hefty audio files and operating capacity to run your recording and editing software.
4. DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
This is the software that you use to record, edit, and produce audio files for your podcast. Some will either offer all or some of the above, so you may find yourself using more than one DAW (especially if remote recording).
There are a couple of things to consider when choosing a DAW:
- Which DAW are you used to (if any)? Using an interface you’re familiar with will significantly speed up your working process in the beginning.
- What are you willing to pay? Studio or professional-grade DAWs are often pricier, so certain options may be ruled out if you’re sticking to a tight budget.
- What functionalities do you want? If you want studio-level editing capacity, you’ll probably want to be using a professional-grade DAW.
- How much time are you willing to invest? Spending time accustoming yourself to a new interface can be a great way to invest in your podcast for the long term. However, with some of these professional software comes a steep learning curve, so make sure you have the time and energy to give.
5. Audio Interface
As we mentioned above, an audio interface is a requirement if you’ve got yourself an XLR mic.
An audio interface connects to your microphone, records, processes, and converts analog signals into digital signals, and sends them directly to your computer.
For those who have a bigger budget and want to really amp up their podcast recording quality.
If you’re going to be producing a video podcast and you have the budget, invest in a video camera. Using a video camera instead of your in-built webcam is the best way to make sure you look your best in HD.
A mic stand holds your mic in place and ensures it doesn’t pick up vibrations, knocks, and bumps. This will benefit your audio quality to no end.
A shock mount is like a cradle for your mic. It protects your mic from vibrations, noise interference so disturbance will be minimized.
A boom arm suspends your mic, meaning you can get perfect mic placement and your voice will sound its best. Will also reduce any handling noise, vibrations, and knocks.
A pop filter helps to reduce popping sounds like p’s or t’s. This minimizes the risk of your audio sounding weird and stops spit from hitting your microphone.
2+ people (guests, co-hosts or otherwise) - additional equipment:
If you’re recording together in the same studio, you’ll need extra headphones and mics for each of your guests, you’ll also need:
A mixer is essentially an audio board that can send and receive multiple audio inputs. As the name implies, mixers can mix the audio coming from many inputs.
They are great if you have guests because they have independent volume controls for each input, so each participant can toggle their own audio without affecting anyone else.
Remote Podcasting Software
Remote podcasting is here to stay. To include international guests and participants in your podcast you’ll also need to consider how you’ll record your session. We’ll look at how to do this later.
How much does it cost to start a podcast?
The answer to this question is somewhat elusive. There is no single answer because this is about you and your podcast:
- Is this a hobby or a business venture? What are you looking to get out of your podcast?
- What are you willing to invest in your podcast? You determine your own budget, and if you stick to it then there’ll be no nasty surprises.
Basic start-up costs can include:
- Marketing Material / Cover Art
- Music and Effects
On a budget?
What do you already have? You can save by using what you already have, and by keeping your podcasting setup minimal.
Got money to spend?
Invest in all aspects of your podcast. If you’ve got more to spend, invest in a full podcasting set-up - you won’t regret it. You can also think about extra bells and whistles like outsourcing your graphic design.
Best Podcast Starter Kits (On a Budget)
#1 Blue Yeti Nano USB Microphone
- Price - $99
- Connectivity - USB
- Type - Condenser
#2 Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB
- Price - $99
- Connectivity - XLR/USB
- Type - Dynamic
Note: you’ll probably want a mic stand or boom arm with this handheld mic
#3 Samson Q2U Handheld USB Microphone Recording & Podcasting Kit
- Price - $99
- Connectivity - USB/XLR
- Type - Dynamic
This bargain equipment bundle also includes:
- Desktop mic stand
- Mic Clip
- USB & XLR Cable
- Stereo Headphones (closed-back)
- Microphone Sanitizer
Audio Technica ATH-M30x
- Price - $69
- Price - $98
Stick with what you have already. If you’ve got a working laptop, there is no need to buy a new one just for podcasting!
There are a wide array of budget laptops out there, but if you’re an Apple person, unfortunately, the cheapest available model is the Macbook Air.
- Price - $349
- Operating system - Windows 10s
- Manufacturer - Intel
- Screen size - 15.6 Inches
- Price - $999
- Operating system - MacOS
- Manufacturer - Apple
- Screen size - 13 inches
- Free with all Mac computers
- Easy to use, even for first-timers
- Intuitive and familiar interface
- Free to use
- Learning curve can be steep
- Powerful features
2+ person setup
As we mentioned earlier, you’ll need a microphone and headphones for each participant, as well as the following:
Audio Interface or Mixer:
If you’ve got XLR mics, then you’ll need an audio interface or mixer with at least enough inputs for you and your guests:
- Price - $153
- 4 Microphone inputs (XLR/Jack)
- Connectivity - USB
Note: The USB output on this mixer only provides one stereo track, instead of individual recordings.
Zoom PodTrack P4
- Price - $215
- 4 XLR Microphone inputs
- Records all inputs as separate tracks
- Also doubles up as a USB audio interface and can record up to four local participants and remote guests.
You’ll need a way to plug in multiple sets of headphones, so each of you can monitor your audio in real-time.
Behringer HA400 Microamp 4 Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier - $26
2+ person remote setup
If you’re including international or remote guests in your podcast, you’ll need to optimize your audio and video recording quality. It’s probable that your guests won’t have access to the same standard of equipment as you, so you’ll need to compensate for this.
Zoom is a household name and has an in-built recording function.
- Free up to 40 minutes. If you’re on a tight budget, you can use Zoom’s free plan which lets you call for 40 minutes for free.
- Recording is reliant on internet connection. Zoom’s recording is entirely dependent on a strong internet connection, so it’s likely that your recording will be negatively impacted by unstable WIFI. This also means you won’t get a crystal-clear HD recording.
- Your recording is only uploaded once your session has concluded. This means there is a much higher risk of losing your file.
- Lower audio-visual quality. Zoom uses compressed mp4 files which sacrifice quality for file size.
Riverside.fm is the best way to record a remote podcast in full HD.
- Full HD local recording. Each participant is recorded locally on their computer, which means your internet connection has no influence over how you all look in the final recording.
- Progressive uploading. Your recording is progressively uploaded throughout your session, which significantly lowers the risk of losing your data.
- Studio-quality audio-visual quality. Riverside.fm uses WAV file format, which is uncompressed and lossless, meaning quality is preserved. It also records your video in up to 4k quality. The only limitation is your equipment.
- Basic subscription starts at $7.5/month
Best Podcast Starter Kits (No Budget Constraint)
- Price - $249
- Connectivity - USB/XLR
- Type - Dynamic
Can also buy with stands included:
- Price - $399
- Connectivity - XLR
- Type - Dynamic
Bose Quiet Comfort 35
- Price - $268
Sennheiser HMD 300 - XQ-2
- Price - $295
16” Macbook Pro with Touchbar
- Price - $2799
- Operating system - MacOS
- Manufacturer - Apple
- Screen size - 16 inches
- Pro-level production tool with spectacular editing capabilities and functionalities
- Steep learning curve
- Price - $29.99 / month
Logic Pro X
- Pro-level production software
- If you’ve used Garageband before, the interface will be familiar
- Price (Available only for Macs) - $199
Hindenburg Journalist Pro
- Designed specifically for podcasts, interviews, and radio
- Straightforward and intuitive interface
- Multi-track recording and enhanced editing capabilities
- Price - $375
Mic Stand/Boom Arm
Canon Vixia HF G50 4K30P Camcorder - $999
- 4K video quality even in low light settings
- 6 hours of battery life
- HDMI output so you can live stream directly from your camera
2+ Person Setup
As we’ve said, you’ll need at least enough headphones, microphones, and mic stands for each of your guests. If you’ve got the budget, you might want to consider investing in a shock mounts and pop filter for each of your participants too. You’ll also need:
Rode Rodecaster Pro
- Price - $499
- 3 XLR Microphone Inputs
- Bluetooth functionality enables you to record phone interviews directly
- Can add pre-recorded sounds
Remote Recording Software
- As we saw earlier, to ensure all your guests are looking and sounding their best, Riverside.fm is the one for you.
- The basic subscription starts at only $7.5/month
- Don’t just take our word for it, try it out for yourself with our free trial!
Whilst starting a podcast is a big (and exciting) task, we hope we have relieved you of some of the stress with our starter kits. As we’ve seen, there’s something around for every podcast format, setup, and budget.
It’s possible to start a podcast with the bare minimum or with all specialist equipment out there - it’s really all about what you are aiming for and what your budget looks like.
For obvious reasons, the number of guests and/or hosts you intend to have correlates directly with how much you’re going to need to spend. At the end of the day, view your podcast equipment as an investment in yourself, your idea, and your podcast!
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