Getting Started: Additional Podcast Equipment
We’ve covered the essential hardware items for recording a podcast. Now let’s talk additional equipment that, whilst not necessary in some cases, will elevate your show's audio quality and give you that cutting edge.
Headphones and Monitors
A good quality pair of headphones will help you hear your show mix as the world will. Headphones also allow each individual to determine the volume in their set, so everyone is happy and comfortable when recording.
A solid pair of monitors are great for listening to your podcast when in post-production and editing, and will help a lot when adding musical or sound effect elements to your podcast. You should avoid using them when recording your show as there will be bleed from the speaker going into the microphone.
There are plenty of microphones on the market that serve plenty of use cases with interesting types and features you may want to consider for your podcast and recording needs.
There are several types of microphone out there, and audio interfaces are designed to work with them all. Microphones, regardless of their classification, convert sound waves into electrical signals, but they do so using different methods (we won’t go into that here). There are two types of microphones that we will explore that podcasters should know about; dynamic and condenser.
Generally speaking, dynamic mics have a low sensitivity and therefore can handle very loud and transient sources — as voices can be when speaking normally to being animated and laughing. They usually also pick up less ambient noise and spill than condensers, and as such are very useful when there are numerous people on your podcast with their own microphone. They’re handy when you need to manage the amount of spill making its way into your show.
A condenser mic can typically handle just as much SPL (Sound Pressure Level) as a dynamic mic, but it will also pick up a lot of the ambient sound from the space you’re recording in. This makes a condenser perfect for capturing several speakers on your show if you only have one or two condenser microphones at your disposal.
This type of microphone will also need a power source, in the form of 48V, known as phantom power. Most audio interfaces will give you this option to power the mic.
One of the most important parameters of a microphone to consider when recording is the polar pattern. Some mics are very directional, others pick up sound equally from all directions, and the polar pattern describes the shape of the pickup area that emanates from the microphone capsule.
Polar pattern: Cardioid
Cardioid microphones with a heart-shaped polar response are most common. This polar pattern primarily picks up sound from the front and not the back. This is great for avoiding any unwanted sound at the back of the mic and focusing in on the speaker themselves.
Polar pattern: Omni
Omni is a polar pattern that picks up sound from all angles. If you can only facilitate one mic and have multiple guests in the same room talking, Omni can make sure all speakers are heard equally.
Microphone pattern: Figure-of-eight
The figure-of-eight polar pattern is perfect for when you have one microphone and two podcasters in the same room. It looks like the number eight, and the pattern picks up sound from the front and rear, avoiding unwanted noise from the sides of the microphone.
Boom arms and stands
Boom arms and stands will give you a consistent audio level throughout your recording since you’re not having to hold the microphone. They fix the microphone in place and free your hands, so you can be more relaxed and confident when recording your show. If adding video to your podcast, stands allow you to freely gesture and move about without the mic in hand.
These will range in price of course and whilst you don’t need to pay a lot for a boom arm or stand, having one of good, strong quality will be needed. Cheap stands for example have a tendency to not stay in place and slowly lower the microphone over time — not a desirable trait to have.
From using makeshift household items to purchasing professional treatment, there are plenty of things to use to dampen reflections of your voice. Reflections will be picked up by the microphone in the space you’re in if there are surfaces where sound bounces on them — if you want to dive deeper into this, we’d recommend further reading on acoustics of sound.
Room acoustics could be the difference between a recording sound good to sounding professional. While we don’t expect everyone to be making podcasts in a recording studio, there are some simple things you can do — often for free — to maximise your acoustic experience. Small, reflective rooms, i.e. with untreated walls and hard surfaces like windows and tiled floors, are a podcaster’s worst enemy. When reflections from the room overpower the sound coming from your speakers, you can’t hear your show mix properly leading to bad mixing decisions.
Household soft furnishings like rugs and curtains really help to dampen high-end reflections. For low-end absorption, bass traps can be employed to minimise the low-frequency standing waves. A sofa or large cushioned chair will do a decent job of absorbing bass if proper acoustic products are out of the question. If you’re in a bedroom, the bed will do a remarkable job of trapping the bass.
Remember that the objective with acoustic treatment is not to totally deaden the room — at that point, everything would sound boxy and flat. Some amount of ‘liveness’ is needed so that the sound isn’t unnatural, and acousticians often recommend an absorption coverage rate of around 30%, where 70% of the whole surface of the room is left untreated.
Pop shields are another useful tool to prevent unwanted noise making its way into your podcast recording. A pop shield acts as a buffer to plosives, which are the pressure waves created when we pronounce ‘p’ and ‘b’ sounds. A stray plosive hitting your mic capsule can destroy a vocal take, so a pop shield can be a session-saver.
Some microphones will come with some form of pop shield/cover on the mic itself. These work superbly when there’s a good distance between the speaker and the microphone. As you may expect, the more expensive the microphone, the stronger chance that the pop-shield it comes with will be of good quality. However, if your mic does not come with this, buying a pop shield is relatively affordable and will drastically improve the quality of your show’s audio.
Handling noise and stand-borne vibrations can affect the clarity of a microphone’s signal. They’re hard to hear and even harder to track down, but oscillations travelling up mic stands from non-solid floors can taint your recordings with a low rumble that clouds your bass ranges. Lots of condenser mics come with a shock mount, which suspends the mic body in an elastic cradle.
It’s important to use these, to prevent unwanted rumbles and bumps. If you have hollow floors, you might want to invest in some good shock mounts for your other sensitive mics — especially if there’s unexplained low-end activity on your recorded tracks. You can, of course, high-pass filter your mics, if that’s a suitable option for your sound source.
Getting Started: Podcast Hardware There are three key pieces of podcasting equipment needed for you to get started, which will make a minimal, yet perfectly formed, podcast setup.
Getting Started: Podcast Software From DAWs, podcast specific recording software, and music and sound platforms, there is a wealth of software available to record, mix, and finalise your show.
Podcast Recording Tips A step by step guide on how to record a podcast show once you’re set to get started.