Video: The Easiest Way to Record a Podcast—the Gear You Need and How to Use It

Podcasting has come a long way as a medium over the past decade, and these days, it seems like you're almost as likely to hear a friend talking about a podcast they plan on creating as you are to hear about a podcast they enjoy listening to.

If you count yourself among the legions of aspiring podcasters getting ready to create your first episode, there are a lot of questions to ask. You have to think about the format, topic, research, and distribution. At an even more basic level, you need to think about how you're actually going to get your words recorded.

Luckily, today's gear market includes a wide range of solutions that can help you achieve pro-level broadcast audio without having to invest a ton in fancy equipment. Take a look at our video above to the sorts of audio you can achieve with different podcasting setups. Stay tuned also for more videos about podcasting recording and editing coming your way soon.

Option 1: Smartphone Mics
Flexible, simple, affordable

One of the most basic ways to get high-quality audio that you can then edit into a podcast comes in the form of microphones made specifically for mobile devices. For iPhone users, the Shure Motiv mv88 mic plugs right into your phone and will drastically improve audio quality over the microphone that's built into your device. With a mobile mic like this, you can also record to your phone on the fly, and then export the audio for further editing on a computer after the fact.

Option 2: USB Mics
Ideal entry-point for single-voice podcasts

A USB microphone is a microphone that connects to a computer directly via a USB port. These plug-and-play devices have been used by some the biggest names in the podcast world. Welcome to Night Vale, for instance, has been recorded entirely on a single USB mic for its whole run.

If you’re planning on just recording one voice, a decent USB mic and some recording software is all you need to get started. To record, just connect your USB microphone to your computer and fire up any piece of recording software. For Mac users, Garageband should already be installed on your system. For PC users, Audacity is a reliable and simple free option as well. In your software you should be able to locate the USB mic and set it as the input device on a track. Then all you need to do is hit record and go from there.

One note: There are USB microphones out there that are designed more for video conferencing or gaming (often these have headphones attached). What you're looking for is specifically a USB condenser microphone. Some solid options include the Blue Yeti, Rode Podcaster, and Audio Technica AT2020 USB, all of which can be found at fantastic used prices here on Reverb.

Option 3: Recording Interface and Multiple Mics
For multiple voices and slightly more elaborate studios

If the podcast you hope to create is likely to include more than one person in conversation, you're going to need more than just the one microphone. While you can simply buy a second USB microphone, a more flexible solution comes in the form of an audio interface with multiple mics. The interface plugs into your computer and acts as the intermediary device between your mics and computer. Similar to the USB mic, you’ll be able to select the inputs of your interface in your recording software and add them to separate tracks.

With this route, you'll have separate control over volume and monitoring (that is the sound coming through your headphones) on your interface, which makes your entire operation a bit more professional and versatile. You can also use virtually any microphone with an audio interface, so you will have a ton of options to work with.

One of the go-to mics for a professional podcasting and voiceover sound is the Shure SM7B which picks up the voice with clarity and presence while excluding external room noise. On a lower budget we’d also recommend a Shure SM58 or something like the Audio Technica AT202.

If opting for multiple microphones and an interface, you'll also need to grab a pair of XLR cables. Mic stands—such as low-lying desktop mic stands—are also an essential add-on.

Affordable Audio Interfaces
Recommend Mic Pairings
Mic Stands
Pop Filters

Option 4: Portable Recorders
For in the field reporting

If you fancy yourself more of an NPR-style field recordist, the more stationary setups described above may not be the best route. For your needs, a portable recorder like the Zoom H4n Pro or H6 are convenient, best-of-both-worlds options that can work in a number of different situations.

With these sorts of devices, you can record high-quality audio directly to SD memory cards or use them as audio interfaces and record to your computer. These come with decent mics built into the recorder, but also have XLR inputs so you can use higher-end mics as well. Recorders of this sort are also commonly used with on-location video shooting, so if you have any aspirations to add a YouTube channel to your empire, you might end up getting a lot of use out of a portable recorder.

Sound Proofing Notes

One last practice to keep in mind when getting into podcast recording is that of basic soundproofing. No matter what setup you use, you can drastically improve your sound by making sure the room you’re in isn’t too big or echoey. When recording voice-overs, an easy way to fix this is by just going into a closet filled with clothes or setting up a few pillows or an old mattress around your microphone as you record.

There's a lot more to explore with this topic which we'll save for another video, but for now, even just having a basic awareness of how much echo and space is getting into your audio can help guide you as you start to record your podcast.

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