For many of us, podcasts are a favorite way to get our news or stay entertained while we’re working out, commuting, or getting stuff done around the house. Chances are you probably have a favorite (or seven) that you keep up with on a regular basis.
Before you start, be ready to commit
Before you rush into things, it’s important to keep in mind that podcasts take a lot of effort to get going. It’s easy to assume they are easy to produce because most are audio-only, but don’t be fooled. They can take a lot of time to put together, especially when you’re first starting out.
Don’t expect to get rich from podcasting. It’s possible to generate income from podcasting, but that usually requires advertisements and sponsorships and patrons—all of which you can get only after you’ve built up a listenership big enough to make it worthwhile to advertisers.
Gears you will need to get started podcasting
- Microphone(s): Any microphone will work for recording your podcast, but listeners can usually tell the difference between low- and high-quality microphones. (I use four analog Audio-Technica AT2020s for my own podcast). As you shop around, you’ll also need to decide whether you want to use a USB or analog (XLR) microphone. USB mics convert analog sound into digital, so you can plug a USB mic directly into any computer and start recording without much hassle, but you could potentially get lower audio quality compared to analog. Considering you don’t need any extra tools or devices to record with a USB mic, they can be a little cheaper in the long run.
Analog microphones use XLR connectors, which means you need another device to get your audio onto your computer, but you can get higher audio quality and can use them with other sound equipment (if you had a PA system or wanted to play live music, for example).
Of course, if you have a gaming headset or other basic microphone around, you can easily use that to the podcast, too, so long as the quality is decent. That won’t work well if you are co-hosting or plan to have frequent guests, as you’ll need multiple microphones to capture everyone.
- Portable XLR Recorder (optional): If you plan on using analog microphones for your podcast, you’ll need something that captures your analog audio and converts it to digital. Portable XLR recorders can capture multiple microphone channels and allow you to do basic sound level adjusting and muting on the fly. Your Audio files automatically get organized and stored on a memory card that you can insert into a card reader or slot in your computer.
These are amazing tools, but they can be expensive. You can find them for anywhere between $100 and $500, depending on how many channels and options you need. (I use a Zoom H6 Handy Recorder with four available analog channels, which costs $300–$350.)
- Audio interface (optional): If you want to record directly to your computer with your analog microphones, you’ll need an audio interface. These devices allow you to plug in one or more analog microphones and will convert the analog audio to digital. Most audio interfaces will connect to your computer via USB or USB-C. Audio interfaces can cost as little as $30 and go as high as $300, depending on what you need.
- A computer: Any Windows or Mac computer should work fine to record, edit, and upload your podcast. Thankfully, editing audio doesn’t take a ton of computing power. Additionally, depending on how you choose to record—directly to the computer or onto a dedicated recording device—your computer will also need the right ports. USB microphones, for example, will obviously need an open USB port. If you’re using analog microphones with a portable XLR recorder or audio interface device, you’ll need either a 3.5 mm audio-in jack, a USB/USB-C port, or in some cases, a FireWire port. Before you spend any money on equipment, make sure you have a computer that can support it.
- Audio editing software: For the actual recording and editing, you’ll need a Digital Audio Workstation (or DAW). There are a lot of good options out there, but the licenses for most aren’t free. Professional-level DAWs like Reason cost anywhere from $99 to $599 depending on the features you want, while Pro Tools runs $29-$79 per year. Hindenburg offers audio editing software licenses for $95-$500, Reaper is a fully loaded audio production app that’ll run you $60, and Adobe’s audio editing software Audition CC is available with a $20.99 monthly subscription.
You probably shouldn’t start dumping money into podcasting software as a beginner. Because of that, most people will recommend free open-source programs like Audacity when you’re just getting started, and that’s what we’ll use an example throughout this guide.
- Pop filters (optional): The clearer your audio can sound, the better. Pop filters, while not required, are fairly cheap and can keep your plosives from making a nasty sound on your recording.