Best Podcast Equipment for Beginners & Pros Alike

Let’s talk about podcasting equipment for a minute, you cool with that? From buying crappy sound treatment panels on Amazon to building 10ft tall and 8ft wide sound treatment panels, I have been down the “let’s build a podcast recording studio” track a few times now. I had a ton of fun building all of those recording studios but man, was it a lot of work. Even with having amazing people like Adam Levin over at Podcast Outfitters, it has been a learning journey from day one.

As the owner of a podcast production agency and creative design house, I have made enough mistakes, recorded enough sessions, and edited enough episodes to share a few observations, which is what I am hoping to accomplish with you here. I consider myself an audiophile but not an actual one, whatever that means. Is there a certificate? Anyway, I’m low-key going deaf so my ears aren’t what they used to be, which is exactly why I don’t edit podcasts and get told to keep it down, a lot. I digress.

In the five years that I have been producing podcasts I can honestly say the podcasts that sound the best, perform the best. You can have great content but if it sounds bad and the audio quality is nonexistent you are not going to have long-term listeners. Additionally, if you don’t have a plan it’s gonna get old, real quick. 

Quality audio is really important, it's the very basis of the format.

Here’s the thing about this new remote world. You can 100% get away with not so great audio on LinkedIn and YouTube because its really about the video and the messaging. But when your crappy sounding podcast is played on an audio first and audio only platform like iTunes or Spotify, you are donezo! Ain’t nobody have time for that. Your bad audio will stand out like Shaq at a daycare. People won’t know how to turn your podcast off fast enough. I recently discovered that the guy who wrote the book that changed my business drastically has a podcast. I was super stoked until I actually listened and realized he is recording it from his phone, on speakerphone. Ya’ll, no. No. No. No. No. No. One more time for the people in the back, no. 

The Microphone: Podcast Equipment

The most important item in your arsenal will be your microphone. This is the very basis of everything. Far too many people don’t understand how important a good microphone is to the success of your podcast. If it sounds like it was recorded in a tuna can do you think people are going to listen to you? All these years of surround sound and Dolby2.0 and you think people are going to sit through your really, really, really bad audio? Even when you are on sales calls, that microphone matters. Sounding good is always the best option. Bad audio says more about your brand than you might be willing to admit. 

How you sound is the most important first step to take

You hear it all the time, “fix it in post!”. Hate to break it to you folks, but that’s not a thing. We are audio engineers, not magicians. 99% of a good recording is how it was recorded. It’s like baking, you can’t take out the baking soda once it’s been baked but you can certainly prevent yourself from putting it into the recipe in the first place. Know what I am sayin?
Let’s start with my favorite, USB mics that is…

USB Microphone

A common piece in podcast technology is the use of USB microphones, which plug directly into a computer. A USB microphone is a great choice for just about everyone because they are practical AF. Throw that bad boy in your attaché and keep it moving. Going on a business trip? No problem, throw it in the suitcase. The only problem is that most of you are buying the Yeti. I am not sure if there are enough words to use to drive home that this is the WORST microphone YOU can buy. If you want good audio quality, buy a dynamic microphone and a mic stand to go with it. Going with a USB mic is a solid choice for 95% of people.

Why do I hate the Yeti microphone?

I thought you would never ask. First things first, it’s a condenser mic so it’s pickup pattern is going to be more circular so it will pick up every single background noise. And if you are reading this right now and feel the urge to mansplain pickup patterns and rejection in the comments, don’t. Yes, Tom I am referring to you. Anywho…

Why does everyone buy them? Because they see other people buying them and they think it’s the best. Also, it ain’t cheap so it’s giving people a false sense of security. Listen, it’s a great mic for a treated space but none of you are in treated spaces. You have no idea how loud your HVAC, neighbor’s lawnmower and children are until you plug in a Yeti. Like whoa. You can get a better mic for less, its not about how much you spend it’s getting the right mic for your environment. 

Listen I get it, some of you are feeling a little upset at my disdain for the Yeti. Get over it, it’s a bad mic for recording a podcast. You have tons of options that are cheaper and won’t require you to build a pillow fort in your bedroom closet every time you want to record. 

Also, guess who never shows up at Podcast conventions… that’s right Yeti. Wanna know why? Because they are not meant to be podcast microphones! Imagine that. They will soak up market share but they know that their real audience is in music, not podcasting. Don’t get fooled, don’t buy a Yeti.
Back to the audio gear…

XLR Mics

These microphones require a different setup. You can connect an XLR mic to your computer but you will need an audio interface to get that done. That will require a little bit more effort and knowledge. The good thing about XLR mics is that if you want to do an in-person recording you can connect lots of mics to one interface and have a little podcast party, wahoo! All of the top-of-the-line mics out there are mostly XLR, so if you really wanna go super pro, this is the way to go. You might also need a cloud lifter and you will definitely need a better understanding of audio, levels and things like gain, if you want to use this type of microphone. 

Lavalier Mics

A lavalier mic is a small microphone that you can clip to your shirt. They are great for on-the-go recordings, like if you are recording an interview at a coffee shop or something like that. The only problem with lav mics is that they can be hit or miss. I have used some amazing ones and I have also tried and failed epically with these because just like me, they are so damn sensitive. If you are going to go this route, consider going wired. Bluetooth is great but the last thing you want is for your mic to cut out in the middle of an important recording and there is usually a slight delay that can make your editing process a low-key nightmare.
So there you have it, a USB or XLR mic is your best bet for podcasting. If you go with a lav, make sure it’s weird, I mean wired. Oh wait, before we get too far from the topic of microphones please do not waste your money on a pop filter if your microphone has foam on it. Your sound quality is more likely to go down with a detachable pop filter on it because it will make a ton of noise when it rattles around on the mic stand. Additionally, a pop filter will take you further away from the microphone and 100% impact your sound quality. More on that later.

Headphones: Podcast equipment

The headphones are an integral part of your podcasting equipment because of the villain of all recordings, echo. If you don’t have headphones while you are recording, there is a very good chance that your final product will have an echo and it will make everyone who listens to it hate you. Just kidding, or am I?

No seriously, buy headphones and for the love of audio do not use airpods. You know who loves those? People who use them, everyone else secretly wants you to fall into a river.

Here is the skinny on the cans:

If you are editing audio get the big ones, and buy super expensive headphones that will let you hear the nuances of the audio. It matters. If you are not editing, buy some low pro jammies that won’t stand out and won’t mess up your hair. If you have glasses you will appreciate some earbuds and not full-on cans. That’s audio engineer lingo btw feel free to wow your friends at your next dinner party with that little gem.

You don’t need super expensive ones, but if you want a pair that will last and sound good, we have a few featured in the guide that I know you will love. The important thing is that you get headphones that are comfortable because you will be wearing them for a while. We love Audio Technica at Heartcast Media and we have used them in all of our recording studios.

Audio Interfaces: Podcast Equipment

An audio interface is the bridge to convert microphone audio data to digital and send to your PC. It is the audio recording equipment that you need to get your XLR mic to work with your computer. This process allows playback, mixing, and uploading. There has never been a better time in podcast and audio equipment, there are so many super awesome options these days it’s really impressive. Let’s chat about a few of them that I really love.

The Rødecaster Pro

It’s an all-in-one solution that has a built-in mixer and four mic inputs and recording software. It looks a little bit like a “my first mixer” with all of its huge colorful buttons but let’s face it, who doesn’t love colorful buttons that light up? It’s got lots of inputs and tons of firmware updates that keep this piece of equipment poppin! It took the market by storm and while it has great competitors, that might even be better, this is a solid a** piece of equipment to buy. It’s got 4 inputs for XLR and 4 headphone jacks and even an extra one on the front for the engineer, brilliant!

TASCAM MIXCAST 4​

This is a great piece of podcast equipment that gives you lots of options and it’s easy to use. You can use it as an audio interface with your computer or as a stand-alone mixer. It has Bluetooth so you can easily stream music during your podcast and play sound effects, it’s pretty awesome. This is a very easy machine to move around if you need to AND its battery operated for endless super stealth podcasting recording possibilities. It’s a great tool to have for audio editing as well, it’s all about how you record the audio and this is a great place to start.

ZOOM P8

This is a great all-in-one solution for podcasting, it’s got everything you need in one place. It’s got an audio interface, mixer, and recording software. It even has built-in effects so you can make your voice sound like a robot if that’s what you are into. This machine is perfect for on-the-go podcasting, you can easily take it with you and set it up anywhere. In short; more inputs, and more functionality. The only Podcast recorder of its caliber that is also completely battery-powered. 

ZOOM P4​

We voted this the best podcast equipment for 2021 because it’s the most compact, most badass little piece of recording gear that came out all year, and it’s still a great . What a stunner! Not only does it record quality audio but its got everything you need to record professional sounding podcasts on the go. Great in almost any recording environment, this is a solid choice. It’s a mini podcast studio that fits in your pocket.

We need to talk about microphone technique.

This is probably the thing that will impact your sound quality the most, and it has nothing to do with your microphone. Whether you are in a professional recording space or a home recording studio, how far away your mouth is from the microphone is going to dictate how you sound. This is why having a mic stand is so important to your podcasting setup. Mic stands are an easy way to get better sound quality in one easy step. You have options but the main thing to remember is you want a stand that is going to get your microphone as close to your mouth as possible. Personally, I prefer a boom arm because it keeps it off my desk which helps with typing sounds and it keeps the mic really close to my face naturally.

If your microphone has a built-in pop filter, whether it’s inside the mic or a foam cover, you do not need one of those detachable pop filters. They are the telltale sign of a rookie podcaster. If it was a drink in a bar it would be the long island ice teas of podcast equipment. They are complete overkill and end up creating more sounds because they never stay on the mic stands and more importantly, put you further away from the mic. Trained musicians will use them because they are belting out vocals, you are not, lose the plastic junk asap. Plus, it blocks your beautiful face, we can’t have that now can we?

If I had a dollar for every time I saw someone on LinkedIn not using their microphone properly I would have enough to buy a Bored Ape, the NFT not an actual monkey. Having the right podcast equipment is important, using it the right way is even more important. Oh, maybe that’s the next blog post. If I see one more person talking into the wrong end of their microphone I might just lose it. Kinda like the stock photos I used in this section. They are both literally talking into the a** end of the microphone. You would think the metal band would indicate that it’s not the right place to talk into…le sigh. Don’t be like these fake people doing real things.

I hope you have found this helpful. I have put together an equipment guide with a free mini course to walk you through all of the options and there is even a hookup for you. If you purchase any equipment from Podcast Outfitters use the code TPC10 for 10% off your entire order, super solid!

Well, it’s been great hanging out with you but I’ve got to get back to work. I hope you found this helpful and I look forward to seeing you next week. If you are diggin the content please consider sharing with your network, it’s the greatest compliment a gal can get.
Happy Wednesday, I wish you fantastic recordings!

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Molly Ruland

Molly Ruland

"Listening is the Revolution"

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