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  • Writer's pictureRubber Monkey

Podcasting Essentials

Whether you’re looking to get into podcasting, or you’re an old hand, gear is one of the best parts of the craft. Audio gear is exciting because it’s constantly being evolved, refined and improved to reflect the way we use it. For example, as podcasting has taken off we’re seeing low cost, podcasting specific microphones, and a huge selection of audio interfaces under $500 which boast professional quality recording. However, the constant evolution of gear can become overwhelming, especially if you’re new and just want to start podcasting. This is why I’ve put together this list of the essential podcasting gear.


But before you choose your microphone, there are a few things you should know.


Microphone Types

There are two main types of microphones.


Condenser mics are extremely sensitive and provide highly detailed recordings, but that sensitivity means they capture everything in your recording environment. This is great for sound-treated studios, but for most podcasters recording at home, they capture too much background noise.


Dynamic mics are designed to handle loud input sources and are less sensitive than condenser mics. This makes them perfect for podcasting in all types of environments because they capture much less background noise, while still giving you a high-quality recording.


Connection Types

XLR is the connection for professional microphones. To connect an XLR mic you need an XLR cable and an audio interface, which connects to your computer via USB. XLR mics provide a higher quality recording than USB mics.


USB mics are affordable, convenient, and easy to use. Sound quality has come a long way and most people would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between USB and XLR. USB mics are great for solo podcasters and recording remotely, but if you plan on recording locally with more than one person, you’ll need XLR mics.



Zoom ZDM-1 – $88.95


The Zoom ZDM-1 is a newcomer to the podcasting game, with a price point that might indicate a lack of quality, but that’s not the case! This sturdy dynamic mic has an all-metal body and grille and performs well above its price range.


With a built-in shock absorption for reduced handling noise, and impressive rear rejection (great for reducing background noise), the ZDM-1 is the perfect XLR mic for podcasters who want great sound quality on a budget.


Even more impressive is the ZDM-1 podcasting pack which includes the mic, headphones, mic cable, pop filter and a stand for $159.



RODE PodMic – $149


The Rode PodMic is a high quality, end address, dynamic broadcast mic that will sound great in the studio, or the home office. Featuring an internal pop filter and shock mount, the PodMic is ready to go for any type of situation and speaker, and will simply connect via XLR to your audio interface.


While the PodMic is almost double the price of the ZDM-1, it has a richer, fuller sound and will have higher quality internal components.



RODE Podcaster USB – $259

The Podcaster is a USB mic that really stands up to XLR mics in terms of sound and built quality. This mic is perfect for solo podcasters who want the convenience and portability of a USB mic, but don’t want to sacrifice on sound.


Although the Podcaster is pushing the upper range of ‘budget’ mics, when you consider the quality you get without having to buy an audio interface; it’s well worth the price.


Audio Interface

Audio interfaces convert the analogue signal from your mic to a digital signal for your computer, which is why they are so important for quality podcast audio.


RODECaster Pro II - $879


If you’re looking for a few more inputs and outputs, and some advanced podcasting features, definitely check out an interface designed specifically for podcasting; the RODECaster Pro II.


The RODECaster II has 4 XLR inputs and 4 individual headphone outputs, trigger pads for SFX, jingles, music and ad’s (how cool is that?!), and Bluetooth connectivity for connecting remote guests via your phone.


Add built-in dynamic processing (compression and limiting) and the RODECaster Pro II is worth far more than its price tag.


You weren’t planning to hold that mic in your hand, were you? Boom arm stands are by far the best type of mic stand for podcasting, much preferable to short desktop stands and unwieldy stage stands. There’s honestly not a lot to say about boom arms, except that you should avoid the bottom of the range (I’ve learned that lesson). So with quality in mind, here are 2 of the best boom arm stands available!

Tascam TM-AM2

Tascam makes quality products and the TM-AM2 is no different! At $73.95 this is the perfect podcasting companion.


RODE PSA1 & PSA1+

I own a PSA1 stand and it’s been great. It’s sturdy, reliable, and retails for only $139.


Portable Recorder

If you’re planning on hitting the road with your podcast, consider leaving the laptop and interface at home and taking a portable recorder. Handheld portables have come a VERY long way in the last few years and now offer recording capabilities comparable to desktop interfaces.


Zoom PodTrak P4 - $329


The Podtrak P4 has been around for a couple of years and is one of the most sought after pieces of gear for podcasters. Think of it as a mini podcasting studio that fits in your purse. The P4 has 4 XLR inputs, 2 tracks for remote call-ins, SFX trigger pads and individual headphone sends for each guest.

Zoom H8 - $609


Zoom really has the portable recorder scene tied up. I’ve used an H6 for years and their new upgrade for that is the Zoom H8, which features 6 XLR inputs (2 are dual XLR-¼” combo), touch screen control, and 12-track recording at 96kHz.


Ok, so the H8 might be slightly overkilling for podcasting, but if you’re like me and want a dual-use portable recorder for band practices, location recording AND podcasting, then the H8 could be perfect for you.


Podcast Audio Tips

Podcasting is an audio medium so it’s essential we deliver the best quality audio to our listeners. Here are some simple things you can do to improve your audio.


Environment

Your recording environment makes a huge difference to your sound. Avoid big open spaces and hard surfaces (echo), in favour of small, furnished rooms. Set up in your closet for a more focused and intimate sound. Remember, your mic will capture everything you can hear, so remove those distracting background noises before you start recording.


Proximity

Speaking the correct distance from your mic will make your voice sound full and rich. Try to stay between 5 to 15cm (or 2 to 6 inches) away from your mic.


Pop Filter

Even though your mic might have a built-in pop filter, I guarantee you it’s not enough. Using an external pop filter will help reduce pops from plosives in your recording.


Gain

Gain controls the input level of your microphone. Too much gain and you’ll be too loud, too little gain and you’ll be too quiet. Check your gain before you start recording and make sure it’s set correctly.


Headphones

Always wear headphones while recording. Headphones allow us to hear how we sound as we speak, so we can correct volume and proximity issues at source, rather than in post. Wearing headphones when recording remotely also has the advantage of removing echo you might get from your computer speakers.


And there we have it! Hopefully, this article has removed some of the confusion around getting set up for podcasting and has provided some useful information. Happy podcasting!


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