Questions to ask yourself before buying podcast equipment
The equipment needed for podcasts depends on the scope of each project — sometimes you just need a single mic, and sometimes you need a few mics for all of your guests plus a mixer to make sure everyone sounds good. Answering the following questions can help determine which podcast recording kit best suits your specific needs:
- What’s my show format? Are you the star and sole host of your podcast? If so, you probably need one good microphone and a mic stand. Are you a group of friends chatting around a table? In that case, you need more mics and stands. Do some guests call in over the phone? Get a mixer that handles Bluetooth audio. What about music and live sound effects? These might call for a podcast soundboard built into your mixer.
- What is my budget? Decide how much money you want to spend on your podcast equipment bundle. Podcast equipment comes in at many price points, so it’s a good idea to have a plan before you start spending.
- Where am I recording? If you’re doing field recordings or traveling to meet your interview subjects, it makes sense to invest in a portable digital recorder, like the Zoom H6 Pro. If you’re at home, that portion of your budget may be better spent on a great microphone, like the Shure SM7B.
- Does my podcast include video elements? Video podcast equipment is more substantive than audio equipment. From cameras to computing power to editing software, video adds a whole new dimension to the podcast process.
6 items every podcaster needs
Here are the essential components of a podcast recording kit.
- A mic. The centerpiece of any podcast setup is a high-quality microphone. Many beginning podcasters like the convenience of a USB microphone, which plugs directly into your computer without the need for an audio interface. For higher-quality sound, upgrade to an XLR microphone. While a bit pricier, XLR mics use three-prong connectors that produce a balanced audio signal with little noise or electrical interference. To use one, you’ll need a recording interface, which we cover in item number 3.
- A mic stand. When you host a podcast, your mic stand is almost as important as the mic it holds. A solid mic stand not only protects your precious microphone from damage, but it also prevents unwanted background noise due to table vibrations and hand movement. Consider adding on a shock mount, which helps steady a large condenser microphone by suspension, and a pop filter, a thin membrane placed in front of the that prevents plosives (like the letter “p”) from exploding onto the mic.
- A digital recording interface. If you’re using a USB microphone that plugs right into your computer, you don’t need this component. But if you’ve upgraded to an XLR mic, you’ll need a digital interface or mixer that converts analog audio signals to digital signals your computer can understand. A couple of popular options include the Focusrite Scarlett and the Mackie Onyx Blackjack.
- A computer or digital recorder. You will have to record your podcast somehow, and for most people, that means a computer. But if you’d rather, you can use a standalone digital recorder like the Zoom H6 Pro, which has its own built-in microphones plus the option of plugging in two XLR microphones. Some people record on tablets or even smartphones, but these don’t have quite the same functionality as recording on a computer.
- Digital recording and editing software. If you choose to record your podcasts on a computer, you’ll need software to do it — and regardless of how you record, you’ll need editing software. There are good free software options out there, including Audacity and, of course, Descript. We’re partial to Descript not only because we’re paid to be, but also because everything you record is automatically transcribed so that the audio editing process is as easy as editing a word document. For paid software, Adobe Audition, Pro Tools, and Logic Pro are popular do-it-all programs that handle both podcast recordings and multi-track music recordings.
- Headphones. Whether you’re recording or editing, a set of high-quality studio headphones isolate sound and give you a clear sense of what you’re making. The best sound isolation comes from closed-back, wired studio headphones. Wireless headphones use Bluetooth, which compresses audio frequencies, and noise-canceling headphones add extra frequencies to the mix to shut out your environment, making both of these options less than ideal for monitoring your recording.
Podcast starter kits for every budget
A podcast recording kit should include most or all of the items outlined above, but each one has a vast price range. With this in mind, here are three sample podcast equipment kits for low budgets, medium budgets, and high budgets.
Low-budget podcast kit: $150
- Microphone: Blue Yeti. This USB mic produces solid sound quality — and you won’t need a digital audio interface to convert the analog audio signal. ($100)
- Mic stand: None. The Blue Yeti has a tabletop mic stand built in.
- Recording interface: None. A USB mic plugs straight into your computer, so there’s no need for an interface.
- Digital recorder: Your personal computer. Whether you use a Mac or a PC, you’ll find that a recording workflow is easiest on a personal computer with a generously-sized screen.
- Software: Audacity. This free multi-track audio editor is a standby for many indie creators for a reason: it’s as functional as many pricier options out there but it doesn’t cost a thing. It’s available for macOS and Windows.
- Headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-M20X. Audio-Technica is a brand that’s beloved by audiophiles, yet many of its products are surprisingly affordable. This model has everything you need in a set of studio headphones — they’re closed-back, comfortable, and have a detachable cable to avoid damage — but with a price tag that’s perfect for a budget podcast kit. ($50)
Medium-budget podcast kit: $775
- Microphone: Shure SM7B.This XLR microphone is a large-diaphragm dynamic mic and a popular choice with radio stations and professional podcast recording studios. It produces deep, sonorous audio for relatively little money. Note that the SM7B has a lot of signal impedance, which means you need an external preamp to boost the sounds it produces. ($400)
- Mic stand: Gator Frameworks desktop microphone stand. This adjustable mic stand has a hefty weighted base that keeps vibrations at bay, and it’s strong enough to hold the Shure SM7B at any height you need it to. It’s designed to sit unobtrusively on your desktop, which makes it great for both audio-only and video-based podcasts. ($15)
- Recording interface: Focusrite Scarlett 4i4. Focusrite’s Scarlett line is an industry leader in digital audio interfaces. The 4i4 allows you to record four inputs at the same time; two are dedicated microphone inputs, each with their own preamp, and two are line inputs that use quarter-inch plugs. The Scarlett 4i4 also has four line outputs, which you can use for individual headphone feeds if you have multiple podcast hosts with individual headphones. It connects to your post-production editing computer via USB. ($250)
- Digital recorder: Your personal computer. It’s really all you need!
- Software: Descript. Descript is an established favorite of both podcasters and handsomely paid Descript blog writers for its automated transcription and text-based editing tools that make editing a podcast faster and easier. It operates on a subscription model, with different price tiers to suit different budgets and functional needs. For basic editing, the free version is all you need, but for some of the more eye-popping features like unlimited Overdub, which imitates your voice for quick word corrections, and Studio Sound, which uses AI to clean up your audio at the touch of a button, you’ll have to pay. (Plans start at $12/month)
- Headphones: Sony MDR-7506. ($100). These $100 headphones are wired and closed-back, making them ideal for podcasting. They offer a neutral sonic palette with no artificially boosted frequencies.
High-Budget Podcast Equipment Kit: $2,500
- Microphone: AKG C414. This do-it-all condenser mic is expensive but captures remarkable amounts of detail. It draws phantom power through its XLR cable, so it has to be paired with a mixer or interface that provides 48 volts of current. ($1,000)
- Mic stand: Rode PSA1+. This boom arm stand from popular podcast audio company Rode mounts to your desk and swivels over two axes to get it in the exact position you need. It also comes with velcro straps to keep your XLR cable neat and tidy. Add in an AKG H85 shock mount to make sure your pro-level mic gets pro-level sound. ($130 for the stand, $135 for the mount)
- Recording interface: Rode Rodecaster Pro. The RodeCaster Pro is a combination mixer and digital audio interface. It has four XLR inputs, each with its own preamp. It also has a very stable Bluetooth connection — great for recording remote guests calling in by phone. The unit offers four quarter-inch outputs designed for headphones, meaning four co-hosts can listen to playback at the same time. Its eight programmable pads work like a podcast soundboard, letting you load up specific sounds to trigger at a moment’s notice. Note, that the RodeCaster Pro has no XLR outputs, making it a poor choice for live sound. ($500)
- Digital recorder: Zoom H6 plus your personal computer. Once you’re sinking serious money into a podcast studio, you’re going to want a way to record anywhere and everywhere. The Zoom H6 can record up to six tracks onto an SD card via its detachable stereo microphone and four XLR microphone inputs, and it runs on just four AA batteries so you can capture sound far from a power port. When you’re back in the studio, just transfer the files to your computer via the SD card or a USB cable and get to editing. ($350)
- Software: Logic Pro and Descript. Descript is perfect for editing podcasts, but many podcast production houses supercharge its functionality by combining it with an all-in-one digital audio workstation (DAW) like Logic Pro or Pro Tools. Use Descript to edit and arrange your content, then export to Logic Pro to fine-tune the audio. ($200 + $12/month)
- Headphones: Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro. Beyerdynamic has a longstanding reputation for high-quality audio, and the DT770 Pro headphones deliver this quality at a reasonable price. In the headphone market, the sky's the limit, but the priciest options tend to be open-back headphones, which aren’t ideal for recording because they allow sound to bleed out. A solid, wired set of cans like the DT770 Pro is all you need. ($160)