The Best Podcasting Equipment You Need, According to a Seasoned Podcaster

Best podcasting equipment

A podcast is a powerful way to connect with your audience. Audio offers an up-close feeling full of inflection and personality. It allows your listeners to experience you in a more dimensional way than they would through an Instagram upload or blog post. But, as with all new marketing tools, you need to make sure the medium is right for you.

Before you spend any more time daydreaming about format types and catchy episode names, take some time to get to know the tools of the trade. There is a short list of specific skills you’ll need to cultivate and some podcast equipment you’ll need to collect before you launch a successful show. It is worth investigating the technical side of podcasting before you start to really invest in the craft.

To get you started, we spent some time talking with Ray Ortega, the creator of Podcasters’ Roundtable. Ortega got hip to podcasting way back in 2006 – well before Serial and long before podcasts had their very own Apple app. Ortega started his own podcast and eventually realized his real passion was sharing the process and teaching others how to get in the game.

We asked Ortega to help you think through the “big bucket” podcasting gear items you’ll need to consider as you strategize about your own future as an independent podcaster.

You can’t create a podcast if you don’t have the proper gear. But knowing what you need and figuring out the best equipment to buy isn’t always easy. Fortunately, Ray Ortega is here to show you the way.

The podcasting gear you need with Ray Ortega

1. A dedicated space:

There aren’t many podcasters out there who have a fully built-out podcast studio safely squirreled away from the audio and environmental influences of regular life. Most folks are making do with a dedicated corner of a multi-purpose space. And that isn’t a bad thing! In fact, Ortega explained how your already furnished office space has some serious advantages, “the common issues you run into are reverb or reflection. Your spare bedroom or your office could be fine because it has stuff in it.”

Furniture, curtains, and carpeting are excellent at sound absorption and will reduce an echo you’d hear in a sparsely occupied space. But not just any room will do, you’ll want to find a relatively quiet spot and record at an hour when you are less likely to experience an interruption. “You don’t want to be next to the kitchen sink where someone is doing dishes.”


2. Microphone:

Obviously you need one, but which one? Surprisingly, despite the crucial nature of this piece of podcast equipment, Ortega doesn’t recommend spending a million bucks. Or even a hundred. “There are a wide variety of broadcast microphones anywhere from $200 to $500 to crazy.” But don’t go crazy. Because, as Ortega advises, “the average person would never know the difference between a $70 and $400 microphone.”

You’ll want to make the important decision about how you are going to record before you invest in a mic. The minimalist approach is to simply connect a USB microphone to your computer and record directly into your machine. It is a lean approach and lots of people use it, but it isn’t Ortega’s preferred way. The only reason you might want to avoid it and head the audio interface way is if you’re recording with multiple people.

xlr microphone

The two common types of mics on the market for consumers are dynamic mics and condenser mics. “Dynamic and condenser is the way the microphone picks up the signal,” Ortega explained. He recommends sticking to a dynamic mic like the ART2100 that you can use as a USB mic or xlr microphone when plugged into a mixer with an xlr cable. Condenser mics pick up more of the ambient sound and while lots and lots of people recommend condenser mics like the USB Blue Yeti or the slightly pricier Rode Broadcaster, he thinks a basic dynamic mic will give you an audio track that is easier to work with.

Other things to consider: A pop filter to help minimize any excess noise like breathing and a boom arm to support any microphone configuration in whatever space you’re using.

3. Audio recording software and editing tools for good sound quality:

“The least friction, lowest barrier to entry” option for recording your podcast is to plug a USB microphone into your existing computer and use existing software [to] start recording. But that doesn’t make it the best potion. “My preferred method is to take a decent microphone and plug it into an audio recorder,” Ortega explains, “going into a computer is notoriously loud.”

Yes, you’ll have your audio file in your machine and immediately ready for edits if you record straight into your machine, but you also have some additional risks. What happens when the software needs an update or your computer crashes mid-recording? Computers are also less portable than hand-held recording options.

The drawback? “A recorder will increase your budget by at least $250,” Ortega explains. And that is an expense worth weighing in a world where most podcasts don’t make it past episode seven…

You can’t create a podcast if you don’t have the proper gear. But knowing what you need and figuring out the best equipment to buy isn’t always easy. Fortunately, Ray Ortega is here to show you the way.

The podcasting gear you need with Ray Ortega

If you are working on a Mac you can use GarageBand for recording and edits. In fact, “most editing software is the same thing you are going to record in.” But GarageBand isn’t your only option. For Ortega, Adobe Audition is his preferred editor and recommends getting to know your options before you commit because “most of the time you stick with what you learn on. You want to start somewhere more efficient.”

Audacity is a free, open-source option but many podcasters lean on Pro Tools if they came from radio. “There is a middle ground that is a one time purchase and it is Hindenburg Journalist. It has got great tools inside of it for podcasting. It is an option I really like.”

4. Headphones:

It is important to understand the function of wearing headphones while recording a podcast in order to make the right purchase. “You don’t need crazy high-end headphones. You are trying to accomplish the task of keeping audio inside headphones.”

Headphones help you hear exactly what your mic is picking up and over-the-ear closed-back earphones will allow you to hear how you sound while keeping the audio in. As Ortega explains, “You don’t want that sound leaking back into the microphone.”

The most recommended one you’ll hear is Sony MDR headphones. Ortega says, “something like Beats by Dre is going to color the sound. As someone who is editing you want it to be accurate.” Ortega personally recommends Senal headphones. For his money they are essentially the same as those high-quality Sony headphones and cost much, much less.

High-quality headphones

5. Podcast hosting:

You need a place to host the audio file that is your podcast so the whole world can download it or play it. The hosts that Ortega likes to recommend are ones that automatically creates your RSS feed. You have to have an RSS feed to submit a podcast to a directory like Apple Podcasts.

On the top of Ortega’s hosting list are lybsyn and Blubrry. From his perspective, “they have been in the space since the beginning. They are on top of everything. Time tested and proved.” Both tools are paid and rates are based on how much bandwidth you need to use. A good host also gives you stats so you know where your listeners are coming from and how many of them you have.

Speaking of where your listeners are coming from…

6. Distribution:

Ortega jokes, “if you have a podcast and you are not on Apple, do you really have a podcast?”

You’ll see that 70-80, even 90% of your listeners will come from Apple Podcasts. Thus getting your podcast set up with Apple Podcasts via iTunes Connect is the exact right place to start. There are lots and lots of directories and you may want to explore them (Ortega has a very helpful infographic for that) but if you only go one place to distribute your podcast, make it Apple.

Once you’ve set up your account with Apple Podcasts, Apple will automatically pull in new episode via the RSS feed from your host. Ortega explains, “you will upload your new episode to your host and then it is all automatic.”

Bonus: When you are in the Apple directory you are automatically in hundreds of other directories because they use their API to populate their podcast offerings.

The podcast is revolutionizing storytelling, and you want to be a part of it all. But do you have what it takes? Join CreativeLive for ‘Podcasting Week’ to learn everything there is to know from your favorite podcasters.

Rachel Gregg