How Much Do You Need to Spend for Good Audio Gear?

You don’t need to spend much money to start podcasting.  Following are my recommendations for equipment that’s commercially available for making podcasts using desktop and laptop computers.

The first list, Studio 1, is for starter podcasts.  As you become more proficient you may consider equipment from Studio 2.  My suggestions are based on two questions:

  1. Does this provide the functionality to produce professional looking content on the Web?
  2. Is this affordable – ie is it the cheapest or one of the cheapest options?

Podcast Studio Level 1

Microphones

Before I say anything else, don’t use headset mics.  They’re great for gaming and Skype calls.  But you won’t sound good using them in your podcasts.

If you’re not a very technical person, I suggest you get a USB studio condenser microphone.  USB mics are slightly less responsive than traditional mics but they plug straight into your computer.  As such, I’m recommending USB mics for Basic studios.  Here are some suggestions.

 

 

 Entry Level USB  – CAD Audio U37SE-CA

This is a great affordable microphone that will get you up and podcasting in no time.

 

 

 

 Rode NT-USB.

This is a great microphone.  You probably don’t need to spend this much.  However, Rode is a brand respected by broadcasters around the world.

Headphones

It’s important to use headphones that are comfortable as well as providing good sound quality.  Headphones are far better than relying on computer speakers either built into your laptop or hooked into your computer.  Computer speakers generally do not provide accurate audio reproduction.

 Behringer HPS 3000.

Behringer is a great brand that offers top notch audio products.  These cans (headphones) are extraordinary value.

 

 

 

 AKG K 240 Semi-open Studio Headphones

Still not a very expensive set of headphones but very well regarded.

Computer

You’ll need a computer to record and edit your software.  Most desktops and laptops these days have good enough sound cards so we won’t go into that here.

Audio Editing Software

Frankly, I don’t recommend you shelling out for a commercial audio editing program. Audacity is a free audio editing software package and has most of the features an average podcaster needs.  You can download it for free at:  www.audacity.org

Podcast Studio Level 2

OK – so you want a bit more firepower?  Or you have a bigger budget.  Here is a list of equipment people tend to buy for more advanced production power.

Traditional Microphone

I recommended a USB mic for the basic studio.  They’re very easy to use but you’ll find they’re less responsive than traditional mics.  I recommend the intermediate studio include a traditional studio condenser mic.  Tradition condensers will need to be powered either by a battery or phantom power.  Most studio condensers do not have space for battery so you’ll also need to buy a phantom power supply.

 Berhinger C-1U

This is a great entry-level professional microphone.  You’ll sound crisp and warm when using this one!

 

 

 

 Behringer B-2 Pro

A lovely microphone – more expensive though.  You really don’t need more than the C-1U because people will be listening to your content over the Internet.  That said, I know an audiofile somehwere will say the B-2 is essential.

 

 

 Neewer 48 Volt Phanotm Power Supply

This affordable unit will supply the phantom power to your studio condenser mic.  Don’t forget you’ll need a cable to run from the phantom power box to your computer.  Most likely you’ll need this one – XLR-F to 3.5 Mini – but check your computer’s mic input to be sure.

 

Digital Audio Recorder

Digital audio recorders enable you to work in the field.  Whether you interview a subject matter expert or head out to record sound effects, a good digital audio recorder is an invaluable asset.  Here are two I recommend.  I have owned and used both.

Zoom H2n

This is a great recorder – it’s the little brother of the H4N which was my first digital audio recorder.  (The H4 like many digital recorders was designed for musicians and had too many features that a journalist would never use.)  The H2N is simple, light and easy to use.

 

 

 

 Tascam DR 40

Great company that’s being making broadcast equipment as long as I can remember.  When I started out in broadcasting I used to drool over their reel to reel tape recorders.  I guess that ages me a bit but oh well.  🙂

Monitor Speakers

Headphones can get tiring to wear so professional audio engineers will often opt for speakers.  The problem with choosing speakers is not all are created equal.

Manufacturers tend to ‘tweak’ them to make music sound better than it is.  But you don’t want that – you want to have as natural and original playback as possible.  That’s why I always recommend against using computer speakers for editing serious work – whether they are external or built into the computer.

Here are two excellent models to choose from.

 Behringer MS 16

These are great entry level speakers from a good manufacturer.  They’re active speakers so your don’t need to buy a separate amplifier.  They’re designed to work close to your ears, so best located on your desk or mounted on a wall in front and close proximity to your desk.

 

 

 

 Behringer MS 40

These are near field active monitors.  It means they’re designed to be no more than five feet away from you – ideal for your desk.  Active monitors means an amplifier is built into the speakers. These are the monitors I use in my studio.  And they’re lovely.  🙂  I have purchased some monitor speaker mounts to hang them on the wall slightly above my head.  I don’t like clutter so getting them off my desk makes my workspace nicer.

Telephone Recorder

It’s easier to record Skype interviews because everything is software based and you don’t need to pay for expensive equipment.  The downside is that both sides of the interview sound like they’ve been recorded on the phone.  Whereas, a telephone hybrid is like a real radio telephone interview – while the gues sounds like they are on the phone, the presenter sounds live.

 JK Audio Inline Patch Telephone Recorder

This will record telephone interviews professionally and reliably.

Acoustics

There are two aspects to consider when thinking of acoustics.  One is echo and the other is sound proofing.  Echo is relatively easy to affect whereas soundproofing is more complex.  Echo is about the shape of the room and its surfaces.  Soundproofing requires things like insulation and decoupling of walls something you need to talk to a builder or architect about.  But echo is easy to fix – here are two options.

Acoustic Wedges Multipack

You can buy these wedges and glue to your wall and ceiling.  The irregular shape ensures the sound waves don’t bounce back an forth, something that happens with parallel surfaces.  Of course, you could also hang curtains to help achieve these acoustics but these look much cooler.  And they’re also designed for just this function!

 

 

 

Marantz Acoustic Shield

If you can’t put acoustic tiles on your wall and or ceiling, then an acoustic sheild may help.  It is mounted around your microphone and helps reduce noise (marginally) while bouncing the sound waves around to prevent that echo that makes your podcast sound like it was recorded in the bathroom.

 

 

DISCLAIMER: All of these items are recommended based on what I think is affordable but also provides an acceptable standard.  However, you need to consider your options and weigh up what words in your situation.  Also, these links to Amazon are affiliate links.  This means that when you purchase the product after clicking on the above link, this website will get a small commission. This helps finance this site.  If you don’t want to help this site, simply type the name of these products into Google and you will find the products after a few clicks.  I also recommend that you look at how much these are on other sites because while we’d like you to support this site, we also want you to get the best deal – even if you only save 5 or 10 buck.  🙂