Over the years since the show first launched I have been asked countless time by listeners what Podcasting equipment I use to produce the show. Up until now I would wirte a huge email or dozens of twitter posts back and forth explaining what we do. I have decided to put all this info into one place and give some recommendations on what we got right and what we should have avoided.
This article was first written in 2010 and has been amended a few times over the years.
The links to products are all affiliate links, so if you want to purchase anything from my recommendations you will help out buy giving us a bit of a kick back, but be sure to shop around first, even a few £’s saved will help in the long run, it’s not always cheap setting up a new show.
In short, we started out with a single USB mic and recorded ‘around the table’ after about a year upgraded to a mixer and individual mics starting with 2 and adding another 2 later on. Until recently that was how the show was recorded every episode until recently we have added a few new toys including recording to the iPhone and iPad while on site.
I’ll start with what Podcasting equipment we are using now and keep this updated as we add more gear.
We are using now the same mics that we have used since moving from a single USB to a mixer – Samson C01 Microphone.
They are pretty cheap but well made. I’ve had them over 2 years and not had one fail yet despite taking them all over the country to various tournaments and storing them on the stands in a box between shows. The only downside i would say is that when having guests they want to talk into the end of them rather than into the face of it. They are XLR mics and need phantom power so that needs to be taken into account when choosing a mixer.
One more thing to note on microphones is the choice between Condenser or Dynamic. When I set-up I took some advice and went for Condenser mics, having done a ton of research since then i will eventually upgrade to higher quality dynamic mics. Condensers are reported to be great for studio vocals but as most podcasters are recording in their kitchens/bedrooms/other noisy location then they tend to pick up a lot of sounds from the room. Dynamic mics will pick up less background noise but they will also require better mic technique . However, as a beginners mic the Samson C01 has been fantastic.
All my mics have been fitted with these windscreens. I should probably get some proper Pop screens but these do a pretty good job for cheap.
The mic stands we use are Gooseneck stand with a heavy base. They do the trick but i’ve never really been happy with them but I can’t really see a better option while I don’t have a permanent studio set-up.
The Mixer we use is an Alesis Multimix 8 USB 2.0 mixer. I have mixed feeling about this. It cost me around £250 when i picked it up in 2010. As with the mics, i looked around and took some advice on a few different mixers and decided that a USB interface was a must. Over the years a few things have become apparent, 1. there is now a huge amount of information online about podcasting and seting up a show, 2. there is more equipment avaliable so suit each type of arrangement (single host, skype, recording to laptop or portable recorder) 3. The iPad has been released. (Yes! This article was first written pre-pad launch!)
So taking all that into account if i were buying again a mixer to get set up with podcasting i would look for the following features;
- USB connectivity that is compatible with the iPad and the Apple camera connection kit (more on this later)
- At least 2 main mix outs so I can sent to my recording device and a 2nd out to Laptop for live streaming.
- Aux channels to allow ‘Mix-Minus’ recording to Skype (again, more on this later)
- at least 4 XLR inputs with Phantom Power + extra channels for other audio sources.
One of my best purchases is my portable recorder. The Roland R-05.
I bought this amazing bit of kit, not to take out and record on location, but to remove my laptop from the recording set-up unless it is used to bring audio in or take it to a live stream. Since day 1 the major issues that cropped up now and again were always software based. The laptop would crash, the software would freeze, or even record a whole show then not be there after a save. Added to that I had a laptop in front of me while recording which means noises from the fan, typing and playing with the mouse and also a distraction of emails popping up and all the other things that draw your attention away.
The Roland unit receives the main mix out from the mixer and records direct to an SD Card. Then later i put the card into my laptop and move the files over to edit together into the final show. My aim is to run all the music/intro/ads into the mixer from the iPad during recording meaning that when we finish recording the show should be ready to upload right away. For that to work you need to be pretty tight with avoiding anything that might need editing.
David Witek from Garaghammer recommended that I use a Zoom R16 or R24 Mixer. This mixer records to SD card, (again removing the need for a laptop to record to) but it was lacking some of the features I was looking for (Only 1 or 2 Phantom Powered XLR connectors and no AUX/Mix-Minus capability)
This is my newest bit of kit, Behringer HA400 Microamp 4 Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier, it really cheap and basic but does the job of dishing out a headphone port for each host. It has individual volume on controls so each host can set their own levels. This should let each person hear their own voice from the mic and let them hear when they are ‘off-mic’ or ‘clipping’. It uses 6.35mm Jack’s this is a better connection than the 3.5mm, all my 3.5mm connections tend to fail when using a converter.
Other bits and pieces
One you have all your main components there are also a load of other bits you need.
- Mic Cables – I got them in a few different colours so you can easily see which mic is plugged into which channel and always have at least 1 spare cable.
- Connectors – You can’t have a enough connectors for connecting various devices to your mixer. I have about 10 of the RCA to 6.35mm (1/4″) jack and about the same amount of 3.5mm to 6.35mm Jacks in mono and Stereo.
- Other cables – I have a couple of USB cables, about half a dozen 3.5mm jack to pair of RCA phono in various lengths and also a few 3.5mm jack to 3.5mm jack cables. As with the mic cables, I try to have at least one spare for any cable that gets used. Its the worst thing to have to abort a session due to a failed cable.
- Headphones – I have a set of overhead closed back headphone. They were cheap are quite uncomfortable to wear for 2+ hours and are quite heavy. Bear these things in mind when looking for some.
Recording at an event can be difficult, I love the effect of the ‘Live, on location’ shows but getting good sound quality is difficult. We have taken the full set-up on the road a few times but over the last year we have recorded using the IK Multimedia iRig iMic plugged into either the iPhone or iPad.
There are a huge number of app’s avaliable to use for this sort of recording but the one I use most is AudioMemos. It has some great features including the ability to record to the iPad, edit the episode and publish via FTP. Using some nifty wordpress plug-ins you could have a blog post created and the show sent to iTunes all via a 3G connection while still on site! That’s a whole other topic though….
I bought an iPad 2 just after release. I went for the 64GB 3G version and never looked back. It has masses of use for a podcaster some of the things that I have used it for are;
- Easy access to show notes while recording, create show notes as a Keynote or simple word doc.
- Sending sound clips into your mixer during a show
- Using the camera connection kit mentioned earlier some USB mixers can connect to the iPad, others (like the one i have) can connect to it via a Behringer UCA222 Audio Interface.
- On location recording
Original Podcasting equipment set-up
When we the show, we decided that a mixer, a bunch of mics, all the cabling, stands and all the rest was out of our budget. I wanted to spend less than £100 getting started so went for a Samson C01u Mic kit. The kit came with a stand, shock mount, Mic, USB cable and some software. As far as i can tell this is no longer available but you can buy just the mic for a decent price. We recorded using this for almost a year before investing in some new gear.
What to start with?
If someone were to ask me now to recommend to them an easy way to start podcasting with a view to investing in some better equipment once they know that they want to go down that route I would suggest creating the whole thing on your Smart Phone. Record a few shows on the phone, send them to your PC/Mac and edit using some free software (Garage Bang or Audacity). Get your first 3 shows done then throw them in the bin and start again from scratch. Redo your first 3 shows then get them out in the world. If you still like it and want to spend some money I would stay away from USB Mics. For a 2 host set-up you can get a really good mixer (similar to the one i showed earlier) for £120, possibly cheaper if you look at other brands, and 2 good quality mic’s for less than £100. A USB interface for the mixer, and some stands/cables sets you up with a really solid kit for less than £300 all in.
It all comes down to sound quality and how much you want to pay to get a better sound. Recording on a single mic that picks up all the sound in room will always sound bad, but some shows aim for the ‘live’ effect and it could be pulled off.
Whatever you decide to do, Good Luck. I’ve always enjoyed podcasting, it does get hard work at times but after 7 years I’m still looking forwards to recording lots more shows.