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
- Auralex LENRD Bass Traps - $251
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
- Auralex SonoFlat Panels - $126
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
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.
- Stick with what you have!
- Asus VivoBook - $348
#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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Logic Pro X - available only for Macs. Arguably slightly overkill for podcast productions. $199
- Adobe Audition - $20.99/month
- Hindenburg Journalist Pro - Multitrack recording, and enhanced editing capabilities. $415.
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.
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 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 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 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 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.
- Samson Q2U $126 - XLR/USB, meaning it is versatile. Comes as a pack with microphone accessories.
- Sontronics Podcast Pro $138, XLR, Dynamic
- Blue Microphones Yeti USB, $166 USB connection, Condenser
- Rode Procaster - $235, XLR, Dynamic
- Shure MV7 - $361, USB, XLR, Dynamic
- Shure SM7B - $537, XLR, Dynamic
#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.
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.
Don’t skimp on a mixer, if you really can’t squeeze your budget any further, don’t get one at all.
- Zoom PodTrak P4 - $199.99 - As we said above, this versatile product is an audio interface and mixer all-in-one.
- Yamaha MG10 XU - $211
- Rodecaster - $760 - Also acts as a digital recorder with a memory card built-in
Need more information? Watch the video below to learn whether you should buy an Audio Interface or Audio Mixer
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!
- Sony MDR7506 - $130 - closed back
- Sennheiser HD280 Pro - $130 - closed back
- Audio Technica ATH-M50x $180 - closed back
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.
#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.
- Rode DS1 Desktop Micstand - $35