Looking for a list of the best podcast gear and equipment? Today we took the time to not only list what you need, but our favorite picks in those categories as well. We remember back in the day listening to Loveline with Dr. Drew and Adam Carolla and countless other ‘radio shows’ — we were always inspired to ‘start our own’ but didn’t really have the means to do so. Cue technological advances today and we’re met with amazing capabilities and opportunities at our fingertips on our computers to start our own ‘podcast’, or ‘online radio show’ for lack of a better phrase. Also working in our favor is the affordability of some of this equipment, so no, you will definitely not need an arm and a leg to spend on your podcast gear. Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
- What is a podcast?
- What gear do I need?
- Audio Interfaces
What is a Podcast?
To quickly overview, a podcast can be difficult to technically define. Coined from the term ‘iPod” and “Broadcast” back in 2004, think of podcasts as an online radio show that isn’t necessarily live. They’re literally an audio file with the same format, feel and intention as a radio show, but can be listened to “on demand”, or on your own time whenever you’d like. Some podcasts are indeed live and simultaneously recorded, allowing others to download them after if they weren’t able to catch it in time. However, many just pre-record their podcast episodes (so they can edit it, remove mistakes or redo certain segments of the podcast) and release the podcast series all at once or one at a time on a weekly or monthly basis. That’s all up to you in terms of how you want to release them or perhaps even broadcast live.
When it comes to starting your own podcast, there are countless online guides out there that help spell it out. However, you can ultimately just record yourself speaking into a microphone into your computer with a little background music, compiled that into a downloadable audio file and voila, you have a podcast. If you do want to be serious about it, there will be a few more steps, such as learning how to use audio software, thinking of an idea of what to actually make a podcast about, starting social media profiles and a website for marketing, as well as in our case, buy some high-quality gear to make sure it meets at least some of the industry standards of today. Which leads us to our next point — what gear exactly should I buy for starting my own podcast? You can always read our podcasting packages guide if you need more than one piece of equipment and want to save some money, otherwise we’ll explain what we recommend as well as our top picks for you to get going with.
What Gear Do I Need to Start a Podcast?
- Microphones: Although self-explanatory, we want to make sure you have a few details in mind when it comes to shopping for a podcast microphone. Of course, any mic will do, even a smaller microphone under $10 you can buy at your local super store, or perhaps even an old headset you may have lying around. However, if you do want to at least provide some decent quality for your podcast to make it marketable and legit, we recommend putting the most money of your budget in this category. On the contrary, this isn’t necessarily a professional music studio — you don’t have to drop thousands on a professional studio mic (although if you do want to, be our guest). It will depend on your budget, but we do recommend buying either a USB microphone or a true studio condenser microphone.
- Headphones: We of course need to be able to block out outside noise when we’re recording, as well listen to not only ourselves but mix our podcast in post-production later down the road. To be honest, any pair of headphones will be feasible. However in our experience and extensive knowledge in the recording world, we recommend closed-back, studio headphones to provide a few “necessities” when recording audio to achieve optimal quality. For one, the closed-back design of our recommendations will keep your audio inside of your ears as opposed to leaking out into our microphones during recording. Studio headphones will also give us ‘clarity’ for when we’re mixing our audio later down the line. When we mean clarity, we mean studio headphones in particular that provide an even distribution of all three (low, mid and high) frequencies so we can know what exactly our listeners will be hearing.
- Audio Interface: If you aren’t aware of what these are, we’ll start by saying that not all podcasters have one. We did decide to include these in our gear list because of their usefulness and the quality it will bring our recordings. To put it simply, these devices act as an ‘external sound card’ that both organizes our gear (you’ll plug your headphones, speakers and microphones into this as opposed to the back of your computer or laptop) as well as processes audio a lot better than the sound cards inside of our computers (especially laptops). If you end up grabbing an XLR connected microphone, you will definitely need one. However again, audio interfaces aren’t a must, but if you grab a good model, will only help work flow and wire management as well as most importantly increase the audio quality if our podcasts, which to us is important, no?
- Cameras: Not all podcasters record video of their stuff. Actually, we think a larger percentage of podcasts do not. However, we did want to include this in here in case you were planning on doing so. In our opinion, although it will take some more work, it wouldn’t hurt to just run a camera will you record your podcast like a lot of the bigger names out there. You can then just upload it to YouTube for further marketing and exposure. We’ll leave that up to you. Which camera you need to podcast with will depend on a few questions, such as your budget, as well as where and how you’ll be recording your podcast. If you’ll be at your computer desk, we recommend a smaller web cam to attached to your computer screen, laptop or set on your desk. If you have a bigger budget and are able to work with a larger camera, such as a DSLR or mirrorless camera, we recommend going that route for some better quality, but that will of course start get a little costly.
- Software: There isn’t really a ‘special podcast software’ out there. In our opinion, any stock software that handles audio your operating system comes with or general music software will be fine. Unless you’re already familiar with sound FX, mixing and mastering and other audio tweaking methods, you won’t need to do much in your software in post-production aside from perhaps panning, a few fade-ins and outs, volume adjustments, and of course, mixing your separate tracks of voices and music together. This is why we recommend just downloading some free music software to get started with. Or you can download free trials of nearly all of the most popular digital audio workstations out there to see which one you may like, and later down the line buy the full version the more you practice.
- Recorders: Last but not least, we have an optional podcast gear choice for only a few. A portable audio recorder is a device that allows you to record audio without being limited to just a desk, room, or even home. If you let’s say want to go out and record in a different environment for special FX, interview some people about specific topics, or merely go to a friend’s without having to bring all of your podcasting equipment with you, one of these may be useful. You can record into a handheld device and later drag your audio into your computer in post-production. They typically record very high-quality and specialize in blocking out ambient noise in case you’re somewhere with a lot of background clutter. We also know podcasters who use both a traditional podcast gear setup as well as a handheld recorder to switch it up depending on their episode or topic for that day.
The Best Podcast Gear
Microphone: Blue Yeti
Let’s get started with an obvious must for being able to run a successful podcast — microphones. Enter one of our favorite (and many others as well) USB mics of all time. For those in the beginning stages of their podcasting career, the Blue Yeti is easy to set up by simply plugging in the USB cord to your computer and launching the operating system (yes, compatible with both Mac and Windows). Working as a side-address microphone, the Blue Yeti is placed in an upright position and spoken towards the sides rather than at the top to achieve the best sound quality. You can however also take the little desktop stand off and mount it to a traditional microphone stand or arm if that’s how you’ll be recording — it’s very versatile, especially with some polar pattern choices to change the directional pickup of the mic.
Plus with an included headphone jack, you can listen to yourself as you are speaking to ensure that there is no distortion or fuzziness in the sound. Finally, with the ability to mute at the press of a button, and to adjust the clarity with gain control on the microphone itself, the Blue Yeti provides a great start to the list of the best equipment for podcasting in the microphone world. It’s great for beginners as well as semi-pros looking for a relatively affordable microphone option, especially if you’re recording inside on a desk.
Microphone: Rode NTK
Australian made and an upgrade from its predecessor, the Rode NTK microphone is one of the best pieces of podcasting equipment on the market if you have some extra cash to spend and want to take microphones and the quality of your recordings a step further than most. While its best use is considered to be with studio vocal and instrumental recordings, the quality of recording is a perfect option for those in the podcasting industry looking to standout from all of the others. Designed to bring warmth to the tone and audio of its recording using a high quality valve condenser, this microphone is able to capture a wide range of sounds to deliver clarity and precision to the listener.
With a gold-plated diaphragm and a larger design, the NTK is able to capture low sounds that are otherwise difficult to hear, and enhances that by working to eliminate any radio interference that may take away from the quality of the audio. To isolate any vibrations that naturally occur during recording, the microphone has an inner capsule mount that takes away the shock. All of this makes the NTK one of our favorite condenser microphones ever. A solid quality microphone that is well reviewed by customers, the Rode NTK is an example of some higher-end gear for podcasters. You’ll just need an audio interface (which we list later) to power this up.
Headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
When discussing the best podcasting equipment, it’s important to remember that with the necessity of a microphone also comes with the same necessity of needing high quality headphones. Some may say headphones aren’t really important when it comes to podcasts since it won’t affect recording quality; however, hear us out first. The ATH-M50x, an award-winning and well-regarded piece of equipment, is one of the best you can have when you are podcasting, let alone any use for listening to audio as well (even recording music). Able to deliver a variety of frequency ranges with clear and precise sound, the ATH-M50x uses a 45 mm large-aperture driver, which is known for being able to produce a high quality sound in every frequency with an even distribution to make sure your mixes are accurate for your listeners.
Additionally, the headphones conform over the entirety of the ear to not only provide a rich tone in the audio but also cancel any external noise with it’s closed-back design, therefore isolating your chosen sound. The ear cups are even able to move all the way to a 90 degree angle for the purpose of multi-tasking by only using one ear for listening. With included cables that are detachable, and the convenience of being able to fold them compactly for the ease of transportation, the ATH-M50x demonstrate plenty of reasons why they are highly recommended by audio engineers and podcasters alike.
Headphones: Sennheiser HD 700
While higher in price than many of the other items on this list, the Sennheiser HD 700 headphones also deliver high quality for podcasters, making them necessary when procuring podcasting gear. We recommend these simply because they’re some of the best headphones for anything, period. With ear cups that cover the entire ear (the fancy term used is “circumaural”), these comfortable headphones use top-of-the-line drivers that deliver pressure levels at a higher sound frequency. Additionally, with the production of lower total harmonic distortion (THD) the audio that is produced gives an accurate representation of what you are recording, so that you as the podcaster know exactly what it is that you are sending out to your audience.
The Sennheiser HD 700 is also have a true closed and over-ear design, which is intended to make the transparency of the sound easier to recognize. With reviewers finding little to no fault in the design and praising the quality provided, the Sennheiser HD 700 are the headphones for the serious podcaster in mind. We just hope you have the cash, otherwise our previous pick for podcast headphones are quite feasible as well.
Audio Interface: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
Since we’ve covered the basics of the microphones and headphones (both items which make podcasting possible in the first place), we now need to move on to the discussion of the audio interface, a piece of equipment that not many people take into account when venturing into the world of podcasting. The intention of an audio interface is to connect various pieces of equipment to your computer, such as your headphones and microphones. While that sounds simplistic, if podcasting is something you are serious about, then it is necessary to have high-quality equipment. The Scarlett 2i2 is one such piece of equipment, featuring a lower latency (transfer of data from equipment to the computer) which therefore allows you to get your information out to the public at a quicker rate.
It is even equipped with two outputs for headphones, which means if you have a guest on your podcast or are doing it with a partner you can each be talking and sharing information simultaneously. One of the best features of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, however, is the lightweight design that allows you to take your equipment anywhere in case you’d like to record your podcast remotely or at a friends. All you need is a computer and a USB cord and you’re ready to go. They also have a lot of other versions of the Scarlett based on ins and outs, for example if you want to have 3 or 4 mics, you’ll grab a higher version, such as their Scarlett 2i4 (which also comes with Pro Tools if you need software, too).
Audio Interface: Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII
Another option when choosing an audio interface is the Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII, a piece of podcast equipment that is compatible to both Windows and Mac with a user-friendly monitor and low latency in data transfer. Containing lines for both microphones and headphones, as well as a variety of options for instruments if your needs require them, the Twin MKII is able to give you audio a richness and clarity that is hard to match. It even comes with a talk-back mic that, while primarily helps in more musical settings, allows you to communicate with those that you are recording.
One of the more helpful options is the app that you can connect, which gives you options in how you mix your recordings with features such as drag and drop and even presetting your frequencies and volumes to your desired range. While primarily used in musical recording sessions, the Apollo Twin MKII is one of our favorite high-end picks in our list of the best podcasting gear for those looking for quick data transfer and multi-device use. Please note this is a thunderblolt only interface.
Camera: Logitech HD Pro C920
While podcasts used to be primarily audio only (and is still what is accessible the majority of the time), there are many podcasters who are beginning to bring in a video aspect to their venture as well (Anna Faris or Joe Rogan particularly springs to mind). If this where you plan to take your own podcast, then the Logitech HD Pro C920 is etched in the list of the best podcasting equipment for this use. This web cam has an advanced compression technology, which essentially means that uploading your recordings or video clips is not only faster but clearer than the webcams you can use on laptops or other devices. This camera even allows you to have personal face-to-face time with the people your podcast is reaching through things like Google Hangouts, Skype, or Facebook messenger.
Another bonus to the camera use is that you can forego the usual set up needed for a podcast and simply rely on the built-in microphones located on either side of the camera (we would not recommend this, but if you’re on an extremely strict budget, it can work). With images that are captured in high-definition and an automatic balance in low light, the Logitech HD Pro C920 brings another element to the world of podcasting if you want to go above others and record your episodes — it definitely won’t hurt.
Camera: Nikon D3300
Nikon, a brand that is synonymous with videos and pictures in the camera world, has created one of the best pieces of equipment for podcasting in the D3300 when it comes to video cameras. Easily portable and able to record 1080p HD videos, one of the strongest features of the camera is the ability to upload your videos and pictures wirelessly to your Apple devices for an easy and quick transfer of information. An Auto Lock system makes sure that, even in movement, the subject you are trying to capture on-screen is always clear in its image, even if it happens to be on the move.
You can retouch all of your videos and pictures directly on the screen of the camera, including low-light areas that you may need to brighten in order to get a clear picture. Plus, for those are just beginning to venture into the camera aspect of the podcasting world, the Nikon D3300 is user-friendly, with six different modes that you can experiment to see what works best for your video, keeping your podcast with your own unique flair. It’s definitely higher-end and some may consider it “overboard” for cameras, but DSLRs are the industry standard for video cameras, simply put. It’s worth the investment.
While podcasting relies heavily on the equipment mentioned above, it’s next to impossible to create the podcast you want without the correct software to do so. Audacity is a software system that lets you easily edit your audio or video clips, convert your audio into the highest quality available, and add in special effects to add your own individual personality to your podcast. The time record feature is a positive for those who need help to stay on schedule, and the ability to import and export your information on multiple platforms offers a wide variety for how you publish your podcast.
Particularly interesting for podcasters, however, is the auto duck feature (which honestly, the name alone is both humorous and intriguing), which is meant to help you create voice overs specifically for podcasts. This Audacity software can be used over various platforms, and is one of our favorites as the backbone of the best podcasting gear, not to mention completely free.
Recorder: Zoom H5
Finally, we return to what was once the most basic, and only way, to record audio — the classic recorder. However, while the Zoom H5 harkens back to the days of recording in movement, the features included create for a high quality device. With two condenser microphones angled in at ninety degrees, the H5 is able to captures audio at a wider range of space, yet still capturing sounds with the clarity needed in podcasting. With six different types of mics that all have their own function and are easy to change, this mic can pick up sounds in a quiet-as-a-mouse atmosphere to as loud as a rock concert (personal preference I suppose).
The Zoom H5‘s outputs for headphones, connections to video cameras, microphones, and a USB to connect to your computer provide a variety of ways in which to both record and utilize your audio, as well as a compatibility to MP3 and WAV formats. Simply power your recorder with two AA and you are good to go. Definitely recommended for those who may be recording remotely or want to add in some interviews in the field for podcast segments to change-up the pace, or even those who don’t want to lug around their podcasting gear and equipment if they travel.