All You Need to Know About Building a Podcast Studio at Home

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Last updated:
May 25, 2021
Building a Podcast Studio at Home

Some tips before we get started: 

  • Don’t be afraid to keep it simple. Bigger isn’t necessarily better, and with the wide range of equipment on the market, it’s possible to deliver optimal quality with a minimal set-up.
  • Avoid going too cheap or too expensive. With the variety of high-quality-low-cost equipment out there, price isn’t necessarily a good indicator of what you should avoid for your home studio equipment.
  • Generally a good rule is: too cheap isn’t always cheerful, and a bigger investment usually means more durability and better-sounding audio. However, the difference in audio is usually minimal and really depends on what your priorities are.
  • Basically, do your research and think about what you’re looking for before you start spending.
  • Trust your instinct. A home studio set-up is personal by definition, go with your gut and pad it out as you see fit. 

The soon-to-be Podcast Studio 

Before ordering all your equipment, you’ll need to think about which room in your house you’re going to convert into your home recording studio. Obviously, if you’ve only got one spare room, then go with that - it’ll be just fine. However, if you have the luxury of choice, the ideal home recording studio will be a small room minimally affected by external noise. 

The ideal home podcast studio: 

  • Won’t have external or walls joined to your neighbor’s house
  • Won’t have any or few windows
  • Won’t have any appliances (think boiler or gas meter) that may occasionally make unwelcome noises. 
  • Will have carpeted floors and soft furnishings

Sound Proofing or Sound Treatment? 

Once you’ve chosen the room, you’ll have to think about sound treatment. Obviously, if your room is well protected from external noise this is an advantage, especially because once you invest in a good microphone it’ll pick up on every tiny detail.

What is the difference between soundproofing and sound treating? 

Soundproofing means isolating a room completely (or as much as you can)  from any unwanted external noise. This means:

  • Blocking your rooms with heavy, dense building material and sealing up any air gaps in windows or doors. 

Contrary to popular belief, fixing foam acoustic tiles to your walls does not actually soundproof space. 


Sound or Acoustic Treatment means improving the way sound sounds within a room. It’s all to do with acoustics and reverb. 

  • Sound treatment aims to control how much sound is reflected in your home studio.
  • A room with lots of soft and furnished surfaces will prevent excessive reverb or echo, meaning half your work is done for you.


There are three elements of sound treatment:

1. Bass Traps

These can often absorb bass/mid/high frequencies


2. Absorption

This is where those acoustic foam tiles come in. These reduce resonating frequencies within the space, increasing the quality of your audio recordings. This is often an expensive endeavor, however, as you can wind up needing a lot more tiles than you initially thought.

You’ll want to consider how you attach these to your walls, there are temporary, semi-permanent, and permanent options


3. Diffusers 

According to some schools of thought, absorption works best if you also include diffusers. Diffusers scatter reflected sound, preserving the natural tone. Others would argue that diffusers aren’t strictly necessary for a home studio setup. 

The Ideal Podcast Studio Equipment List

#1 Computer 

If you’re on a budget, or you’re happy with what you have, stick with it. But if you have a bigger budget and are ready to spend, invest in a more up to date model.

  • You’re looking for a reliable computer with a fast processing speed and a good amount of storage. This is because the audio (and possibly video) files you’ll be recording will be large.
  • The Digital Audio Workspace (DAW) you choose may influence the type of computer you need. For example, Logic Pro X is only available for Macs.

Budget: 

  1. Stick with what you have! 
  2. Asus VivoBook - $348


Mid-Range: 

  1. Macbook Air - $999 
  2. Acer Aspire 5 - $699.99 


Professional:
 

  1. 16” Macbook Pro with Touchbar - $2399
  2. Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 - $1975

#2 Digital Audio Workspace / Audio Interface Combo 

DAW is the software you use to record, edit and mix the audio on your computer. It is essentially recording and editing software which you use to fine-tune your audio, edit out mistakes and any awkward silences. 

Budget: 

  • Audacity, a free, open-source DAW which works with all operating systems, although does not have the option for multi-track recording.
  • Garageband, included free with all Apple computers. 


Mid-Range: 

  • Reaper - lightweight and affordable DAW at a $60 (discounted) one time license fee. (For professional licenses it is $225)
  • Hindenburg Journalist - designed specifically for podcasts, interviews and radio. $105 for the basic version. Note: multitrack recording is only available in the pro-version. 


Professional:


COVID-19 Friendly & Professional:
 

It looks like remote working is here to stay, which is no bad thing if you’ve got a podcast recording studio at home. Plus, in the podcasting world, this has opened up an endless world of opportunities to work with international guests.

That’s where Riverside.fm comes in - a browser-based software, Riverside locally records each of your participants and progressively uploads the recording to the cloud. That means you get studio-quality recordings of each and every one of you - no internet interference - and no risk of losing your data.

All you need is a computer and a microphone, and you’re good to go. You won't even need a podcast editing software for post-production due to the platform's magic composer. With one click, you can automatically stitch together the locally recorded, separate tracks that Riverside gives you.

#3 Microphones 

There are two types of microphones: dynamic and condenser, and two types of connector: XLR and USB. All of these have their potential advantages and disadvantages. With the wide range now available, price is not always directly correlated to the quality of the microphone. 


Dynamic Microphones 

Dynamic Mics are often the best choice for home studio setups because they pick up less ambient noise and are often more affordable. They are also more durable and can handle high volumes without distortion. 

Condenser Microphones

Condenser Mics are more sensitive to ambient noise - not so good if your home studio is not completely soundproofed. However, this heightened sensitivity delivers top-tier audio quality and the ability to record crisp and detailed sounds. 

Which microphone is better for podcasting? 

The reason for the difference in capability and suitability between the two types is the size and weight of the diaphragm: condenser mics have a small and light diaphragm, whereas dynamic mics have a weightier one. Heavier diaphragms tend to be sturdier and more resistant to moisture meaning they last longer. 

It’s actually hard to say definitively which type of mic is better.  It mostly comes down to personal preference, budget, and finding one that works for you. However, dynamic mics are often designed with hosting, general voice recording, and interview settings in mind. 

Related article: Choosing a Podcast Microphone

USB Microphones 

USB microphones connect directly to your computer, meaning they are extremely easy to use. For this reason, USB mics are increasingly popular for home studio settings. Note that USB mics are usually condenser mics. 


XLR Microphones 

XLR microphones have to be connected to a mixer which is connected to your computer. This means you need more equipment on hand. These are often the best option when you have multiple hosts or guests because you are able to toggle audio levels directly during the recording using the mixer. 


Budget 


Mid-Range


Professional

#4 Audio Interface

This is the hardware that connects your computer to your equipment. If you choose an XLR microphone you’ll need one of these to digitalize the analog input. You may also want an audio interface with at least two XLR inputs in case you want to connect more than just one mic. 

Important note: If you’ve got a USB microphone you don’t need one. 


Budget
 


Midrange


Professional
 

The Zoom PodTrak P4 is podcast-specific and also doubles up as a USB audio interface. You can record up to four local participants and remote guests. 

#5 Audio Mixers 

Mixers are an audio board which can send and receive multiple audio inputs. Mixers allow you to alter the audio of each individual input. 

Tip: Look out for a mix-minus feature, this means you can split your audio signals into two separate channels, one for you and one for your guest. This gives you total control over your individual tracks. 

Budget:

Don’t skimp on a mixer, if you really can’t squeeze your budget any further, don’t get one at all. 


Mid-Range
 


Professional 

Need more information? Watch the video below to learn whether you should buy an Audio Interface or Audio Mixer

#6 Headphones 

Headphones allow you to monitor your audio closely whilst also canceling out any interfering background noise. 

There are two types of headphones: closed back and open back. 

  • Closed Back Headphones - optimal isolation with lesser sound quality. These are the preferable option for podcasters because they have minimal sound leakage. 
  • Open Back Headphones - optimal sound quality with lesser isolation

What to look for in a pair of headphones: 

  • Comfort: You’ll be spending hours wearing these headphones, so you’ll definitely want them to be comfortable.
  • Sound isolation: Your headphones should block out external noise. To note: some active noise cancellation headphones capture outside noise and invert it inward to cancel it out. This can leave you with distorted compressed audio - not ideal for editing.
  • Frequency response: This makes a big difference in how your audio sounds when you’re listening back.
  • Wired or Wireless: This is down to personal preference. If you often find yourself wandering around your home studio, you should probably opt for wireless headphones to avoid tripping yourself up! 


Budget:


Mid-Range:


Professional:
 

#7 Cables 

You can never have enough extension cables. Make sure not to skimp on cables for your home studio, cheaper cables can seriously compromise your audio quality. 

XLR Cables


USB Cable
:

#8 A Mic Stand 

You may think that once you’ve got the rest of your equipment a mic stand is one of the items you can overlook. Don’t be mistaken! A mic stand holds your microphone in place and ensures it doesn’t pick up vibrations, knocks, and bumps. 

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Some (nice but not necessarily essential) extras:

Boom arm

A boom arm can free up a lot of space on your desk, and honestly? It looks and feels much more professional. Because your mic is suspended, you can get that perfect mic placement easily, meaning your voice will sound its best. 

It’ll also work to reduce any handling noise, vibrations, and knocks that your mic will inevitably pick up.  


Desk Work Station with a good chair

You may end up spending a lot of time editing in your home studio, so taking care of your back and your comfort is essential! If you’re on a tight budget, repurpose some of the furniture you already own. However, if you have the extra dollar, we’d recommend investing in an ergonomic chair. 


Shock mount

A shock mount is essentially a cradle for your microphone. It further protects your mic from vibrations, so if, for example, a heavy vehicle goes by the noise interference and disturbance will be minimized. 


A pop filter 

A pop filter helps to reduce popping sounds like p’s or t’s - thus minimizing the risk of audio peaking and distorting. It can also help stop spit hitting your microphone.

Pop filters clip right onto your microphone, they’re very easy to use, affordable, and highly effective. 


Ear training software 

This may sound like overkill, but never underestimate the value of being able to intricately discern sounds. Train your ears, so you can level up as a sound engineer and get your audio sounding the best.

  • Tenuto - $3.99 on the App Store  


Reflection Filter

If acoustic foam tiles are too expensive, a reflection filter can do a good job instead. A reflection filter is a semi-circle absorption panel that attaches to your mic and wraps around it, essentially doing what acoustic foam would to your home studio. 


Headphone amp 

If you’ve got multiple hosts, you might want to invest in a headphone amp.  This allows you to plug in multiple headphones and give everyone control over their own headphone volume 

Some tips to make up for what you don’t have: 

Close miking. Without getting too close, placing the mic close to the source of the sound (i.e. your mouth) can increase the portion of sound reaching your microphone, thus decreasing reflected sound

Household Absorbers. Think pillows, blankets, sofas, clothes, mattresses. These can work just as well as specialist absorbers. Many swear by mattresses as the ultimate DIY method of recording vocals.

Top tip: use a heavy solid core mattress, not light inner-spring mattresses for best results. 

How to set up your podcast studio: 

Step 1. Prepare the room

Clear the room and its walls, take everything out, make sure to remove anything that vibrates.


Step 2. Sound Proof (as far as possible).

Soundproofing is a massive endeavor, which requires a huge investment of energy, time, and money. A lot of home studio setups give it a miss entirely. 

There are four ways to soundproof your room: 

  1. Add Mass or Density. This increases the amount of material within your space, which means the walls don’t vibrate as much. You can use materials like mass loaded vinyl 
  2. Damping - this helps dissipate and slow the vibrations. You can use Green Glue 
  3. Decouple - this stops sound vibrations from transferring between objects. You can do this by building a floating floor or building double walls for example. 
  4. Filling Air Gaps using Green Glue and Foam Gaskets


Step 3. Sound Treat the Room
 

How to Sound Treat your Home Recording Studio: 

  1. Place the bass traps in the trihedral corners.
  2. Place the acoustic panels across the dihedral corners
  3. Evenly place the acoustic panels across the walls 
  4. If you do choose to purchase diffusers, place them towards the ceiling or the upper part of the wall. 

Step 4. Consider your equipment setup and format

  • This will vary greatly depending on personal preference, the shape and size of your room, and the equipment you’ve chosen. 
  • Make sure to consider signal flow, it’s essential to understand how all your equipment fits to form a single working system and to accommodate for this in your home studio setup. 


Start Recording! 

And just like that, you’ve got your very own home podcast studio setup! Congratulations. We’re confident that a home recording studio is a long-term and fail-safe investment for all podcasters - your recording environment is greatly improved and you’ll get studio quality every time. It’s a win-win.

Ready to start recording? Get started with Riverside.fm. Record 60 minutes for free, no credit card required.

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