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
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.
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.
Headphones: Podcast equipment
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
The Rødecaster Pro
TASCAM MIXCAST 4
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.
We need to talk about microphone technique.
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!