Getting your audio right starts with having a proper mic. But you don’t have to break the bank to get started. Many beginner podcasters assume they need to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars to get started, but you can do it on a budget. On the other hand, if you do have a sizable budget for investing in a professional-grade mic, it’s worth it.
Entry level: The ATR2100 and Samson Q2U are both great entry-level mics. A key feature is that they both have USB and XLR outputs, which allows you to plug them into either your computer (via USB) or a mixing board (via XLR). This style of mic is Cardioid Dynamic, which means it only picks up sound in front and reduces background noise in your immediate surroundings.
Mid level: The Procaster is also a dynamic microphone. It’s well-known in circles that do professional voiceover work for commercials and audiobooks, and podcasters love it too. You’ll need an external mixer or preamp since it’s XLR output only. You’ll also need a boom arm or mic stand. As you can see, it takes a little investment so we don’t recommend starting here.
Professional: There are many options at this level. For the sake of keeping things simple, we have two that come highly recommended from our podcasters. The Shure SM7B is a dynamic-style mic with a flat, wide-range frequency response for clean and natural sounding speech. They’re often found in traditional broadcast stations and can be unforgiving if you’re not working with a professional producer. The Heil PR40 is a juggernaut and great for recording in non-studio spaces. You can expect excellent sound quality, and to pay a premium.
We recommend testing out microphones before buying, either by borrowing from a friend, renting from an audio store, or going to a studio using the equipment for a session or two.
Recording and editing software
Entry level: Many podcasters will start their podcast journey using Audacity or GarageBand to record and edit because they’re both free. Audacity can be used on both Mac and PC, while GarageBand comes standard on all macOS and iOS devices. Some other advantages to starting with either of these is that they’re intuitive and user friendly.
Intermediate/professional: Adobe Audition is a step up from Audacity and Garageband. You’ll get loads of features for improving your audio and enough editing tools to keep you busy for months. Pro Tools offers a plethora of advanced tools but is known for having a steep learning curve, so it’s not intended for podcasters who are just getting started. Many of these pieces of software will have free trial periods so it’s worth trying a couple out and seeing what works for you.
One of the beautiful things about podcasting is that your guests don’t have to be physically present for interviews. Programs like Zoom and Skype let you interview remotely, and can be used in conjunction with Ecamm Recorder (Mac) or Pamala (PC) to record audio from your conversations. Explore this link for more in-depth information.
Recording tips and tricks
Invest: This doesn’t automatically mean spending vast sums of money — it’s more about buying the right equipment for what you want to achieve, so you’re not wasting money. There are great forums, communities and Facebook groups talking about microphones and what works where (take a look at the “Find a Podcasting Community” section of this article for more specifics on groups and forums you can join). In most cases, your equipment needs will change depending on the type of show you’re making, but generally a microphone and an audio interface.
Listen: Wear headphones when recording. Remember: if your ears can hear it, the microphone can too. Don’t be afraid to re-say things while you’re recording that you think may sound off in editing. Then, listen back afterwards with a clear mind (or ask someone else to) and don’t be afraid to make substantial edits to ensure the listener gets the best experience. Even the most loosely formated shows likely have hundreds of edits you’re not hearing — be brutal and don’t keep anything in the final product that can be cut.
Be aware of your surroundings: A quiet and windowless room is incredibly valuable. Even the best microphone in the world will sound terrible in a room with bad acoustics – think of all the cars, dogs and people you hear outside your window every day. Many of your favourite podcasts will literally record their intros under a blanket or in a closet to get the best sound possible. If you’re in a house, a living room will sound much better than a kitchen because there are many more soft surfaces. A bedroom is even better.
Prepare: The more you prepare, the better you’ll be able to use your time when interviewing someone or recording on location. Come with a list of questions or a map of your structure, and really hold yourself (and your guest) to that. The more tightly structured your podcast is beforehand, the less editing you’ll have to do.
Backup: Even the best equipment in the world can be prone to inexplicable glitches, so always back up. If you can record with a second device it will give you peace of mind that, if the worst does happen, you haven’t lost everything. Certain recorders automatically save recordings in cuts, so that if something happens, you’ll still have some audio left in the worst-case scenario. And, once you’ve got the audio down, save it to multiple locations – on your computer, on a hard drive, in Dropbox, and so on.