The ultimate podcast starter kits for 3 different budgets

Teenager recording podcast on starter kit microphone, computer, headphones and recorder

It’s easier to start a podcast right now than at any point in history. But it's also still easy to get overwhelmed by reading about all the equipment you supposedly need for podcasts. Don’t be fooled — if you’ve got a computer, you already have most of what you need, and you can easily get everything else you need for the initial setup for $100 or less.

The most important thing to know is this: the biggest determinant of your success as a podcaster will be your content. So before you invest a lot in gear, just start your podcast, see how it lands, and make whatever adjustments you need to format, pacing, and other content elements. Get your show down, then worry about equipment.

Here’s everything you’ll need in your podcast starter kit, whether you’re on a tight budget or interested in investing a bit more into your podcast equipment.

Record or import audio, make edits, add fades, music, and sound effects, then publish online, export the audio in the format of your choice or send it directly to your hosting service.
Create your podcast from start to finish with Descript.

Questions to ask yourself before buying podcast equipment

The equipment required for making podcasts depends on the scope of each project — sometimes you just need a single mic, and sometimes you need a few mics, a few boom arms, and a mixer to make sure everyone sounds good. 

Answering the following questions can help determine which podcast recording kit best suits your specific needs:

  1. 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.
  2. What is my budget? Decide how much money you want to spend on your podcast studio. Podcast equipment comes in at many price points, so it’s a good idea to have a plan before you start spending. If the answer is "zero," that's fine.
  3. 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’ll be at home, that portion of your budget may be better spent on a great microphone, like the Shure SM7B.
  4. Does my podcast include video elements? Video podcast equipment is more substantive than audio equipment. From cameras to lighting to computing power to editing software, video adds a whole new dimension to the podcast process.

6 items every podcast needs 

Actually, a podcaster only needs one item: a podcast. Before you start buying this stuff, try just recording on your laptop or phone, making a rough edit in Descript, and publishing. But if you're ready to up your game, or you just really want to buy some stuff, here's where you should start.

Headphones

If you're going to start buying equipment, start with 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. 

Image of Audio Technica podcast headphones
Audio Technica is a popular headphone option for podcasters

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.

A mic

The centerpiece of any pro-level 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. 

Image of a USB microphone
Source: The Blue Yeti USB microphone is a good option for under $100

For higher-quality sound, the best podcasts use 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 a couple items down. Again, your laptop and phone have mics — and they're more than sufficient to get you started.

A mic stand

When you host a podcast and you use a mic, 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. 

Image of a podcast microphone stand
Mic stands help stabilize your microphone and prevent background noise

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 one of these. 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.

Image of Focusrite Scarlett audio interface
The Focusrite Scarlett audio interface goes for under $100

A computer or digital recorder

You’ll have to record your podcast somehow, and for most people, that means a laptop. 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 iPads and iPhones, 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.

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.

No-budget podcast kit: $0

  • Laptop or smartphone. If you own one of these, you already own a decent microphone. The mics in phones work especially well. And there will be some recording app built-in — a voice-memo app or a media app on your laptop.
  • Software. You'll need to edit your podcast, and of course we think you should use Descript, but you could also use Audacity for free (more below).
  • That's it. Just start making it.

Low-budget podcast kit: $150

  • Microphone: Blue Yeti. This USB mic produces solid sound quality — and you won’t need a USB 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 AI Voices, 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)

How to choose the best podcast starter kit: 4 tips

Research your niche and audience

Imagine you're gearing up to launch a podcast about home gardening. Your research shows a ton of interest in organic gardening among urban dwellers. Most existing podcasts focus on rural or large-scale gardening, leaving a gap in the market just for you.

With this info, you can choose a podcast starter kit that fits your needs. A kit with a high-quality microphone to capture your voice in a noisy city environment is key. You may also want a portable setup for on-site interviews in community gardens.

If your audience prefers video, you may need an excellent camera to record and share these gardening techniques online. See how it's all coming together? Consider what your audience seeks in a podcast and let that guide your kit.

Look for quality equipment and software

Audio quality can make or break your listener's experience, and high-quality equipment adds clarity and richness to your voice. But you don't need to start with a thousand-dollar kit.

Begin with the basics and purchase higher-quality items as you go. You can find a solid podcast equipment bundle on Amazon for about $100 in most cases. Once you get into the groove, slowly upgrade your equipment. There's really no rush.

As noted, your budget will largely determine your podcast equipment and software. While finding high-quality equipment is important, tools like Descript can turn any audio into a professional recording with Studio Sound. It analyzes and processes audio to remove unwanted background noise, reverb, and other imperfections. The result is a cleaner, crisper sound.

Consider the number of hosts

Consider how many people will be speaking on your podcast. If you plan to have multiple guests or hosts, you'll need a kit that includes (ideally) two dynamic microphones. Both parties will also need to wear over-ear, closed-based headphones. Your recording software will need multi-track support to adjust and edit each voice. 

Of course, if you’re remote recording, you’ll just need software like Descript that lets guests join your recording session with one click from their device—no downloads or hardware needed. 

Create a setup that helps you grow

Start with a kit that’s easy to use, but has features for more advanced use as you become more experienced. For example, you could get a USB microphone like the Audio-Technica ATR2100x, which is great for beginners, but also has XLR compatibility for future use with mixers. 

For software, maybe you start with a free podcast editing software like Descript to get comfortable with the production process. As your podcast grows, you might upgrade to a Pro plan for more sophisticated features like 4K video, Dolby Audio Mastering, and unlimited integrations. 

A podcast editing app for beginners and pros

Podcasts start with excellent content. That doesn't just mean you need good recording equipment, but also that your editing software can turn an average podcast into something fantastic.

Descript is trusted by thousands of the world’s top creators who use it to:

  • Edit podcasts from an automatically generated transcription
  • Remove filler words like “ums” and “uhs”
  • Fix audio mistakes with an AI clone of your natural voice
  • Turn typing into talking and add sentences into audio post-recording 
  • Remove unwanted background noise with Studio Sound

Thousands of popular podcasts like Planet Money and FreakonomicsRadio use Descript to produce their shows. Want to join them? See how Descript can help your own podcast

Podcast starter kit FAQs

How much does it cost to start a podcast?

Using basic equipment and free hosting, you can start a podcast for free. But professional equipment, studio space, and premium hosting can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. The main costs are a microphone, headphones, and hosting service. You can start recording and editing your podcast for free using Descript. 

What do you really need to start a podcast?

How do I start a podcast for the first time?

Start by identifying your niche or topic, then plan your content and format (e.g., solo, co-hosted, interview-based). After getting the necessary equipment (microphone, headphones, software), record your episodes, edit them for quality, and upload them to a podcast hosting service for distribution on platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify. You can also promote your podcast through social media to gain more listeners and eventually monetize your podcast with sponsorships and ads.

Featured articles:

Podcasting

Podcast planning: Everything you need to plan your episodes

A podcast has a lot of moving parts, so podcast planning is a must. Here’s everything you need for a successful show.

Tips & Tricks

How to send a video through email: 5 best methods

Emailing large videos is anything but easy. Learn how send a video through email with five different approaches to find the one that works for you.

Articles you might find interesting

Podcasting

How to record a high quality podcast (the easiest way possible)

High-quality audio requires the right podcast equipment, solid recording techniques, and basic audio editing chops. Let’s explore what you need for your podcast.

Video

How to make a commercial: 8 crucial steps

Video commercials are a time-tested way to advertise your brand. Learn how to make a commercial in the digital age with these tips.

Product Updates

Communicating Success: Mastering the Most Important Workplace Skill

What are communication skills, and why are they so crucial to your career? Here are some tips on how to improve them in the workplace.

Product Updates

Which Automatic Transcription Service is the Most Accurate? — 2018

This post continues our series on Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR), the foundational technology that powers Descript’s super-fast transcription.

Related articles:

Share this article

Get started for free →