Over the past decade, podcasting has become one of the most popular forms of entertainment on the planet. 38% of Americans listen to podcasts on a weekly basis, thanks in no small part to the sheer number of podcasts and topics you can choose from.
From true crime to daily news, there are over 3 million active podcasts that listeners can put on to make their commute feel shorter, to make their chores feel less mundane and to grow a sense of community around their hobbies and interests.
If you've ever thought about starting your own podcast, you're definitely not alone. From discussing Victorian-era doll collections to starting a true crime investigation into what your neighbors are really up to, there’s no limit to your creativity and self-expression when it comes to podcasting. And it might be easier to get started than you think—all you really need is a great idea and a few essentials.
You don’t need a ton of fancy microphones and expensive mixers to get started as a podcaster. All you really need to start a podcast is a great idea and a few essentials. Keep reading to learn about the podcasting equipment you need to start your podcasting journey.
What Equipment Do I Need to Be a Podcaster?
You don't need a high-tech home studio setup to record a great podcast. The basic podcast equipment needed for a podcast varies depending on your general podcast needs.
Still, it almost always includes a microphone for each host and guest, headphones and some sort of recording interface. Most podcasts also use digital podcast editing software on a computer, though some podcasts publish live, unedited recordings.
How Much Does It Cost to Start a Podcast?
You can start a podcast with professional-sounding audio for less than $100. Seriously.
It’s easier than ever to find affordable podcast equipment. For example, high-quality, budget-friendly USB microphonesand studio-quality headphonescan be found brand new for as little as $40 each. There are also free podcast recording and editing software options, which help keep the cost down.
The first piece of equipment needed for a podcast is a microphone—and no, the mic on your earbuds or headphones probably isn't going to cut it. Even with great content, it’s essential to have high-quality, intelligible audio to hook your listeners.
We recommend getting one microphone for each podcast host and guest. Separate microphones mean separate audio files, making it easier to get crisp, clean edits. We'll provide some specific podcast microphone recommendations below, but the best microphone for you depends on your budget and the rest of your setup.
If you're recording your podcast straight into a computer, a USB microphone could be your best choice. USB microphones are the most beginner-friendly thanks in large part to their convenience—you simply plug in your USB mic and you can start recording, no separate interface required. And you don't have to worry about sacrificing audio quality for ease, because these convenient mics are catching up in quality to standard XLR microphones.
There are USB mics for every budget, but even the more affordable options can offer studio-quality sound. For example, our EM Series USB Microphonesstart at just $49.99 and feature a cardioid polar pattern that bucks background noise.
The biggest downside of using a USB microphone for podcasting is that it’s difficult to use two at once. In other words, if you record your podcast in person and have two speakers, you won’t each be able to use your own microphones, which can make editing more difficult. There are some workarounds to this problem, but they’re a little complex and don’t always work.
An XLR Microphone is what most people think of when picturing a microphone. We call them XLR mics because they use an XLR connection instead of USB.
Many podcasters favor what's often referred to as a broadcast microphone like the Mackie EM Series EM-99B dynamic broadcast microphone, which is perfectly tuned for speech and captures just the right amount of detail and warmth.
You don't have to use a microphone that's advertised as a broadcast mic for your podcast. Most condenser and dynamic mics will work great as podcast microphones.
The microphone itself isn't the only thing that's going to affect your sound quality. You can avoid a lot of podcast editing by investing in a few accessories.
A pop filter is essential for podcasters. When we're speaking into a microphone, certain consonants—like the letters p, b and k—create what we call plosives, a sudden release of air from your mouth. A pop filter dissipates the plosive so you won't get those annoying pops.
Mic stands or boom arms are also a good investment for podcasters. A desk clamp boom arm or microphone stand and a shock mount will minimize any structure-borne noise—the low rumble that occurs when something bumps the microphone.
Whether your podcast is just you or features guests or co-hosts, in-person or remote, you should invest in a good pair of podcast headphones. Headphones help you hear guests and co-hosts even if they’re on the other side of the room (or country).
Even if your podcast is just you, wearing headphones improves your audio quality by helping you improve your microphone technique. For example, if you’re speaking too close to the mic you could find yourself fighting the proximity effect—which exaggerates lower frequencies—in post-production. Headphones enable you to hear these kinds of issues before they become major problems.
Over-ear headphones are, by far, the most popular podcast headphones. You can find studio-quality headphones like our MC-100 professional closed-back headphones, for under $50.
There are two types of over-ear headphones—closed-back and open-back. For recording a podcast, we recommend closed-back headphones. Open-back headphones are popular for mixing and mastering music, but they don’t offer as much isolation. As a result, the audio from open-back headphones could be picked up by the microphone, creating phasing issues.
Those with video podcastsmay prefer in-ear monitors (IEMs) like our MP-120 professional in-ear monitorswhile recording. In-ear monitors offer the same sound quality of over-ear headphones but are invisible on camera. Plenty of video podcasters happily wear over-hear headphones while recording, but IEMs are gaining popularity among YouTube podcasters.
Audio Interface or Podcast Mixer
Now that you have a microphone and headphones, the next piece of podcast recording equipment you need is a way to capture your audio. The two most popular options are an audio interface or a podcast mixer.
Audio Interface for Podcasting
While a USB microphone can plug directly into your computer, an XLR microphone needs to have its signal converted into a format your computer will recognize. That’s where audio interfaces come into play.
Audio interfaces are a great option if you’re primarily recording near your computer. If you’re recording a podcast with one or two people in-person or online, try an interface like the Mackie M•Caster Studio.
Many podcasters are turning to podcast mixers for their versatility and functionality. Podcast mixers—which are similar to compact mixers like our VLZ4 serieswith added features—allow podcasters and their producers to mix and fine-tune audio in real-time, minimizing post-production.
More advanced mixers for podcasting can accommodate audio over Bluetooth, from smartphones via USB or aux, have built-in effects like compression and may even have programmable sound pads for intro music.
Podcast mixing boards are also convenient for traveling. While an audio interface needs to be connected directly to a computer to capture audio, a podcast mixer or even a compact mixer like our 402VLZ4 4-channel mixeris easy to record with on the go. Set your levels before recording and record directly to an SD card or USB flash drive.
Or, you could use your USB podcast mixer as an interface, sending audio files directly to your digital audio workstation. Speaking of which…
Digital Audio Workstation
The name may sound intimidating, but a digital audio workstation (aka DAW) doesn’t have to be complicated. A DAW is a computer program in which you record and edit audio files.
Unless you’re using a podcast mixer and recording directly to an SD card or USB flash drive, a DAW is an essential piece of podcasting equipment. Connect your USB microphone, audio interface or, if you prefer, your podcast mixer to your DAW, check your levels and hit record.
You can also easily edit your audio in your DAW. Most DAWs have built-in effects and plugins that allow you to fine-tune your audio via compressors, limiters, multi-band EQs and more.
Examples of free DAWs include GarageBand on Mac. Windows has free options as well, including Audacity or Cakewalk by BandLab.
Sometimes your hardware comes with software, including DAWs and plugins. Much of our podcasting equipment—including our popular Carbon Premium USB microphone—comes with a download for Waveform OEM Professionalas well as a host of plugins that will make editing your podcast a breeze.
We have just one more piece of podcast equipment to talk about—and the great news is you probably have something that’ll work at home. We’re talking about acoustic treatment.
If you’ve ever clapped your hands in an empty room, you’ve heard the quick, tight echo that we call reverb. Sometimes you want the natural reverb from the room in your recordings. Podcasting is not one of those times.
Podcasting as a format typically favors as little reverb as possible. You want crisp, clear audio, and the best way to get that is to start with minimal natural reverb.
You can buy acoustic panels, but DIY acoustic treatment works just fine. Curtains and blankets hung on the wall absorb sound so it doesn’t bounce off the room’s hard surfaces and into your microphone. Carpeting or a rug has the same effect, and if your walls and floor are covered, you’re good as gold.
If curtains and blankets aren’t an option, try recording in a closet. It might sound weird, but some of today’s biggest podcasters record in closets, like Sarah Marshall of You’re Wrong About. Even Hollywood stars like Adam Driver have recorded audio for film overdubs in closets.
Things You Need for a Podcast
So, what equipment do you need to start a podcast? It depends on your experience, needs and budget. Let’s wrap it up.
We’ll start with podcast microphones. USB and XLR microphones will both work for a podcast. With a USB mic you’re trading some flexibility for convenience—you don’t need an audio interface or podcast mixer, but you might have trouble using more than one USB mic with your DAW. Regardless of which type of microphone you use, invest in a mic stand or boom arm as well as a pop filter.
As far as the best headphones for podcasting, either in-ear monitors or over-ear closed-back headphones are the ideal choice. They’ll both enable you to practice better microphone techniques and have plenty of isolation.
When it comes to capturing audio for your podcast, you have a few choices. The most common are audio interfacesand podcast mixers. An audio interface works well if you plan on doing all of your recording at a computer. If you plan to podcast away from your laptop and want added controls and convenience—like connecting call-in guests—consider using a mixer for podcasting.
The final piece of podcasting equipment is also the easiest—acoustic treatment. Instead of recording in a room with bare walls and a hardwood or tile floor, fill your space with curtains, rugs, and maybe even hang a few blankets.
Ready to start podcasting? Our Mackie Creator Bundlehas what you need to start your podcast, including a USB microphone, podcast headphones and more.
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