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If you are thinking about creating a podcast, or have already started, then welcome to this exciting world of audio. Podcasting is changing the landscape of how we consume information and entertainment. Technology is rapidly changing and giving us podcasters new tools every day to make our shows easier to produce and our sound quality even better.
Launching your own podcast is straightforward once you have all your appropriate equipment in place. This article will discuss the most important pieces of technology you need before starting a podcast.
It All Starts With a Microphone
Podcasts rely on good audio and sound, so you need to purchase a good microphone. Avoid using your computer or phone’s built-in microphone if possible and buy an external one. Poor audio will generally result in fewer listeners. Higher quality audio sounds more professional and will be more pleasing to the listener’s ears, thus making them stay around longer.
If you do get an external microphone, you need an external XLR cable to connect it to a mixer; or you can also use a USB microphone that connects straight to your computer and can handle single-person podcasts easily.
When considering a microphone, you also have two major options; a cardioid microphone, that will only pick up sounds directly in front of it. Or, you can opt for a bi-directional microphone, which is good if you have a co-host. Either way, do your research and make sure you use a good microphone. This is essentially the foundation for starting a podcast.
Headphones for Live Playback
If you are doing Skype interviews with other guests, you need headphones to hear what they are saying. These don’t need to be top of the line headphones, however, you might want to stay away from headphone and microphone combos (two-in-one).
The reason for getting headphones is so that the audio from the computer doesn’t feed back into your microphone, causing an echoing or ear-piercing feedback loop. Most headphones and microphone combos (like earbuds) typically handle this pretty well, but you’ll be better off spending the extra money to have separate headphones and microphones.
You will also want to look for a hard-shell headphone that is going to trap the sound inside. This will keep unwanted sounds out of the podcast audio being captured, and also let you concentrate on the sound being created. You will be surprised at what you can hear going on around you when you put headphones on. Monitoring excess noise will make the post-production process go much faster.
Computer or Laptop with Internet
Any PC or Mac can handle what a typical podcast does, so there is no need to go buy a fancy one just for your podcast. If your desktop or laptop doesn’t have the appropriate connections for recording audio, you can usually find adapters easily online.
For obvious reasons, you also need a good internet/broadband connection for both recording interviews long-distance and for uploading your audio files to your podcast hosting platform. Podcasts can be large in file size, depending on the length of the show, and so having a speedy connection will make your upload times quicker.
Mixer or Audio Interface
Though it’s not necessarily important, especially when you’re just starting out, you may want to consider getting a dedicated mixer or audio interface. There have been some very successful podcasts that only use an iPhone to record, edit, and publish, but most professional podcasts are using the proper gear.
Investing in a mixer or audio interface will give you much more control over the sound going into your show. With this hardware, you can adjust the volume, gain, pan, effects, compression, and other attributes. Another benefit is that the preamps in the mixer or audio interface will automatically sound better, even if you don’t adjust any of the controls.
Recording and Editing Software
To record and edit your audio, you need a program such as Adobe Audition, or if you have a Mac, you can use GarageBand which comes pre-installed. The software will allow you to record your podcast, merge audio files together, add background music, add voice-over introductions, and export the final audio into one file.
Some podcasting applications, like Anchor, actually have a built-in editor so that you can both record and edit your podcast directly into the app. You won’t have as many features and tools as you would with GarageBand or Audition, but it gives you a very easy and quick way to get started without having to learn all the bells and whistles of higher-end editing software.
Extras: Pop Filter, Boom Arm, Cables, Etc.
Of course, you are going to need some additional equipment when setting up your personal studio. Make sure you invest in good cabling as it goes a long way, as well as any connectors, wires, or adapters that you use.
You can include some extra accessories to boost your podcast quality such as a pop filter or foam ball. When speaking into the microphone, it is likely that your p’s and b’s will sound very poppy and amplified. Getting a pop filter is cheap and can fix this small issue.
A suspension boom is also another thing you can get, which will hold the microphone for you. Typically, these arms hold a shock mount for the microphone and the complete setup makes sure the microphone doesn’t pick up any unwanted sounds; like you accidentally bumping the desk it’s on. This will give you great sound quality and it decreases you drifting away from the microphone from time to time.
Once you have these basic pieces of equipment and software setup, you are ready to begin your first podcast.