Minimum needed podcast equipment?
May 1, 2019 7:06 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to start a podcast and am wondering what the minimum comfortable set up is. I assume I need a microphone for each person, and I already have Reaper to use as a DAW, but what accessories do I want without going overboard on getting e.g. a high-end mixer?
posted by LSK to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I produced and recorded a 60 episode run of a podcast. This was several years ago so there may be more elegant solutions today. My setup consisted of the following:

XLR-to-USB box (there is a 4-port version of this as well)
XLR cable


Those links are all just the first things that popped up on Amazon for me. You may be able to find them cheaper elsewhere. If you don't have a Mac I might actually suggest finding the cheapest used Mac Mini you can find with Garageband installed and use it for recording. It's so much easier than any Windows-based option I've found, though there are still some fiddly setup things with setting your audio inputs and outputs correctly, but I don't remember all the details.

If you want to record someone else who is calling in via skype or something it gets exponentially harder. Your best bet for good sound quality, if they're regularly going to record remotely, is to send them a mic and have them record their end of the conversation and then edit the two tracks together.
posted by runcibleshaw at 8:25 PM on May 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Definitely get pop filters for each mic.
posted by jonathanhughes at 8:33 PM on May 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Microphone wise, the Samson Q2U is generally recommended as a good starter USB microphone for recording your podcast. You could edit/record on your computer with either Gargeband as suggested above, or Audacity which is also free.
posted by amil at 7:21 AM on May 2, 2019

Best answer: I have podcasted for 14 years, won a couple of awards, and am constantly praised on the quality of my audio. So here is my $0.02.

First, the question is -- is everyone recording in the same room, or are you separate and communicating via Skype? This matters because it changes the audio set-up.

If you need multiple microphones in the same room, I do suggest XLR mics that go into a mixing board. I use the Shure SM-57 with both a windscreen and a pop filter. This is a dynamic, cardioid mic that works well, but you need to be sure you're speaking directly into (or at least at) the microphone. One of our podcast hosts is very dynamic in his body movement and has to be reminded to talk into the mic or he gets a bit of an echo.

For a mixing board, get one with as many XLR ports as you need microphones. I have tried mixing XLR and 1/4 inputs to a mixing board and the 1/4 does not have nearly the strength.

I also up the Bass ever so slightly on the mixing board to give it a more "radio" sound.

I have tried USB mixing boards several times. You'd THINK Digital is better than analog. However on every board I've tried, and recording on both Mac and Windows machines, I get some lag and some skips in the audio. As such, I recommend using an analog output on your board and going into a 35mm mini-jack on your computer. If you don't have a microphone mini-jack on your computer, the $8 USB items that have a headphone and a mic jack work fine for me and do NOT have the lag or popping issues.

If you are only using a single microphone in each room, I have had many of our podcasters use the Blue Yeti USB microphone. It runs only about $100 and DOES need a POP filter. As computers only allow recording from 1 USB device at a time, this is not suitable for many people in one room.

If you need to be mobile, the Zoom H4N recommended above is incredible, but only has 2 XLR inputs. It may be more expensive than you want or need if recording in a "studio" setting only.

Then when the show is recorded, post-processing is a must. I haven't tried Reaper (though I may now...). The two tools I've worked with extensively are Audacity (free) or Adobe Audition ($21 per month from Adobe). The minimum, primary tools you want to run are:

1) Noise removal. No matter what, there will be SOME ambient noise in your room. Air conditioner hum, computer fan, something like that. Noise removal makes the audio much cleaner (if not overdone)

2) Compression. This doesn't mean making the audio smaller, it means reducing the dynamic range. People listen to podcasts on a number of devices (Air Pods, Car stereos, etc.) Having level volume is key so they neither blow out their ears nor strain to hear as voices raise and lower.

3) Truncate Silence. Find what feels natural for you, but using an automatic silence truncation tool removes any instances of Dead Air. I find 1/3 of a second max silence works well for group chats, whereas solo podcasts sometimes need longer pauses for rhythm. (Due to inhale sounds, etc. the 1/3 of a second is often longer than that so it doesn't sound too fast).

Then the question is if you want to edit the podcast. I'm very pro-edit, but that's a personal decision. Several podcasters find edited shows to be too artificial.

Finally, you asked about minimum setup. I'm not sure if this includes posting the show. I have tried many podcast hosts (self-hosted, Libsyn, etc.) My favorite is Podbean. They allow video and audio podcasts, unlimited bandwidth, and a reasonable price. You can use their default web site, or create your own and just point to the files on their server (which greatly reduces your server traffic). Plus they automatically generate your RSS feed, which is nice.

Hope this helps and good luck with your show!
posted by arniec at 8:26 AM on May 2, 2019 [9 favorites]

I disagree with a few of these points.

a dynamic microphone is a bad choice for podcasts
Literally thousands of radio producers, voiceworkers, and podcasters use the Shure SM7B and/or Electro-Voice RE-20 - they're standards of the industry.

Condensers are much more sensitive than dynamic mics, so better suited to picking up the subtleties of quiet voice and spoken word.
Moving coil mics are generally less sensitive than capacitor mics, but in an untreated room that's usually a good thing - less room noise, street noise, refrigerator noise, etc.

I'd record damn near anything with a $100 SM57 over most $100 condenser. In that price range of condensers we're talking peaky, fragile highs and weird rumbly lows and lots of self-noise.

computers only allow recording from 1 USB device at a time
This is simply not true. I recorded an entire EP with 4 daisy Focusrite Scarlett 2i2s on a hub, set up as an aggregate device clocked over USB.

Finally, those Samson USB mics sound terrible to me.

IMO the Blue Yeti straight into Garageband or Reaper is the easiest minimal setup that will get you decent quality, but if you can spring for it get a Scarlett 2i4 and a couple Shure 57s/58s or decent condensers (the AT2020 is a decent mic for the price).
posted by aspersioncast at 2:00 PM on May 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

There is a a great extension for reaper specifically designed for podcasting needs: ultraschall.
I linked to their github Readme because I have no idea if their website is also available in English. Another project helps with publishing: podlove
(I am not a podcaster, just a listener, but podcasts about podcasting recommend them.)
posted by mmkhd at 5:14 AM on May 3, 2019

I’m sorry, I looked into it a little bit more an apparently all the important video tutorials for ultraschall are only available in German. (Another podcast oriented DAW you could try is Hindenburg)
posted by mmkhd at 5:24 AM on May 3, 2019

You asked for "minimum" though, right? My friend and I have a podcast and we record it on MacBook Pros using Garageband. He sits in his car in another state and I sit in my car here. We each have a MacBook open with Garageband recording our voices as we talk on the phone. He sends his track (with only his voice) to me and I sync it with my the track that only has my voice on it. It's easy and honestly I would be surprised if you could tell the difference in audio quality between our podcast and that of a professional.
posted by crapples at 9:08 AM on May 3, 2019

... to be clear, we're just using the MacBook built in Mic. It works great for voice audio.
posted by crapples at 9:09 AM on May 3, 2019

... and yeah, the omni mic in an MBpro is actually good if you're just recording one voice. Although if you don't already have one (and since you mentioned Reaper that would be my assumption), you can set up a solid recording rig for the price of a Macbook.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:10 AM on May 3, 2019

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