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You want to start a business podcast, but you do not want to break the bank. There are a lot of blogs on this topic. You have probably read half a dozen blogs about podcast setup already, and if not you will likely read a few more after this. Our aim here is to show you that you that your business can jump into podcasting without a $1,000 investment in gear. If you have an idea of what you are talking about, a microphone with a USB connection, and a computer with an internet connection, you have the basics. So let’s get into the nitty gritty details about what is essential podcasting gear.
We have already laid out precise details of how to write a podcast script HERE, but for planning, it cannot be stressed enough. We firmly believe that having a script is as important a piece of gear for podcast recording as the microphone, computer, and editing software. Your script is your lifeline that keeps you on topic and on target to interest the audience that your buyer persona represents. We will not belabor the point further; we only want you to understand the importance of a script.
Being a business in the 21st century, we certainly hope that you have a computer. There are fans of Mac and, of course, there are fans of Windows. While the software you use will depend on the brand of computer you use, great quality podcasts can be created using either platform. You do not need some specially built supercomputer, just the average big box store job that has been purchased within the last few years will do. We do not recommend trying to record a podcast from a TRS-80 or Commodore 64, though it is entirely possible.
Without a doubt, if you have the time to master the learning curve, and you have the spare cash laying around, Adobe Audition is a sophisticated and fully featured program that will run you at least $20 a month. You could drop $25 a month and get Pro Tools. The reality is, you don’t need anything that powerful to run a podcast. Here are a few simple tools that are completely free, and will suit your needs.
Audacity is an open source software that can handle your basic podcasting needs. For the average podcaster, Audacity has everything you need; live recording, level meters, the ability to create multi-track recordings, export in many formats including WAV, AIFF, AU, MP3, and FLAC, easy editing with cut, paste, copy and delete tools, faders, filters, and effects, as well as support for a host of plug-ins. The audio quality you will get from Audacity is no different from the quality from high end, expensive software. The main difference for the average podcaster is a saving of $20 a month.
If you are running a Mac, you already have all the software you need. GarageBand is everything you need to record and edit podcasts. You can even create intro and outro songs, and if you are musically inclined, it will record any instrument that you can plug into your computer (though that might require additional hardware no covered by this blog.) Much the same as Audacity, it includes multi-track editing, EQ “Smart Controls” and once again, there is a broad range of available plug-ins.
Both programs have the power to produce a clean audio track that you can upload to your podcast host for distribution, and best of all, they are free. Many other blogs will tell you that you must have a mixer or your podcast will sound like garbage. This is simply not true. Mixers are perfect for cleaning the audio before it ever gets to your recording software, but if you are recording solo, or in a group chat on Skype, either of these programs will cut out your need for a mixer.
If you have a set of headphones for web conferences, you have a microphone. If not, you can go to nearly any electronics retailer and find a set for under $20. So, you are asking yourself, “why use a dedicated podcasting microphone?” The simple answer is sound quality. While you are indeed able to record your voice with that cheap set of headphones, you will also record lots of hissing, pops, and the conversation that Wanda and Rufus are having over by the water cooler. Nothing ruins a good track more than hearing Pat telling a story about how a dog flew around the world in the background. So you do a search on Amazon for “microphone,” and you receive 1-16 of 1,534,479 results. More than a million and a half results, this is not helpful. You will see dynamic, condenser, lavalier, computer, and shotgun mics, which all have different uses. The two that are most commonly used in podcasting are dynamic and condenser. Let’s look at the differences.
Choosing the right mic for your environment is crucial. Not only will your voice sound better, but you will spend less time in post processing. Here are a few that we recommend:
This is an easy plug and play mic that will ensure good quality sound for under $50. There is no special software, no learning curve, just pop the USB cable into the back of your computer, set your recording device to Snowball, and you are all set. It does come with a stand, though it may also be used with a shock mount or boom. It is fairly durable, easily transportable and will hook up to PC or Mac.
Another great choice for the under $50 the Samson Meteor offers clean condenser mic quality. Smaller than the Snowball, it packs well and is convenient for travel. The Meteor even has a headphone jack for no-latency monitoring.
Outputting directly to your computer via USB, or into a mixer with the XLR plug, the ATR 2100 is a solid choice while staying under $100.
Going over the $100 mark, the Blue Yeti is a solid piece of gear. It features the ability to record in stereo, omnidirectional, bi-directional, and cardioid patterns, it is plug and play like its little brother Snowball, has controls for instant mute and volume adjusts, and is everything that the average podcaster will ever need.
So why didn’t I recommend the $700 Neumann TLM 102 MT Condenser Microphone? Because you don’t need it. Let’s face it, you’re recording a business podcast, and unless your business is a comparison of the latest in audio engineering (in which case you probably do no need to read this blog!), a simple mic will suffice. You get more bells and whistles with higher priced microphones, but when you are recording at a 96 or 64kbps bitrate, the additional quality will be wasted.
So now you’ve been browsing microphones, and you see that there are all these blinky little toys that you can get. Microphone stands, booms, pop filters, shock mounts, and all kinds of crazy contraptions. Most of these gimmicks, honestly, do have a use.
Without a doubt, if you have purchased a condenser microphone, your immediate next purchase (or bundle pickup) should be a pop filter. If you think that you really ought to save the $7, watch this video from Media6D. He clearly shows the difference between recording audio with and without the pop filter. There are a few websites that give you DIY instructions for making a pop filter, but you will end up spending just as much as if you went ahead and bought one. In our search for the cheapest available pop filter, one old grizzly guitar shop owner told me just to use a dishrag over the mic, and it would work just as well. Sorry Elmer that just produced a muffled and poor audio track, but thank you for the advice. While pop filters are not on the unconditional must have list, they certainly have a place on the “should buy” list.
If you have the surplus real estate, you can just keep the mic on your desk. If you are like many of us, you already have enough clutter, dual monitors, keyboard, mouse, TPS reports, and of course your coffee cup. Booms are an excellent way to keep your mic off your desk but close at hand. Scissor booms such as the Neewer Microphone Suspension Boom Scissor Arm Stand are inexpensive, flexible, and attach right to your desk. There are some booms that even come with pop filters, and for the right money include shock mounts. One very important thing to look for is that the boom is compatible with your mic. If you have the space in your office for a floor stand, there are advantages to standing when speaking. As any choir director will tell you, your voice is bolder and cleaner, you produce a better breathing technique, and your overall sound will be better if you speak while standing. Booms and stands are very helpful, but totally not on the required gear list, unless your mic did not come with one.
Microphones are susceptible to picking up every sound, including the vibration that comes off your desk. The technical term for that hum is “mechanically transmitted noise,” which does nothing to improve your audio quality. What will help is a shock mount. Shock mounts prevent low frequency vibrations from traveling up your boom arm or mic stand, producing a better audio track. Not all shock mounts are equal, some like the Weymic Black Universal Microphone Shock Mount accept heavier mics, while others like the Neewer Universal Microphone Shock Mount is more suited to a lighter mic with a smaller handle. Is it an absolute must have? No. Will it make post-processing easier? Yes.
So there you have it. Podcasting is not rocket science. You do not need a million-dollar soundproofed recording studio, professional DJ, or a mixing table the size of a train to record a good quality podcast. Podcast gear doesn’t have to break the bank. Of course, you need to have a decent audio quality (nothing will make a listener unsubscribe faster than a podcast full of hisses and pops), but the single most important thing you will need is a message for your audience. Whether you are using a $50 Snowball iCE and editing with Audacity or a $10,000 Sony C800GPAC studio mic edited by Daft Punk, give your audience a reason to want to tune in next week!
Getting started in podcasting but don't know WHAT to talk about or HOW to talk about it? Our FREE ebook will get you started! You'll get sample podcasts in multiple show formats, tips on brainstorming, and a whole lot more!