13 Aug Best Podcasting Equipment (For the Beginner and the Pro) to Help You Rank Your Podcast
“Buckley, your voice sounds so clear and crisp on your podcast. What’s the best podcasting equipment to rank a podcast?” That’s a question I get asked over and over again. And I totally understand why. The SOUND QUALITY of you and your guests is THE FIRST THING you need to get right in order to position yourself as a podcaster these days. I say that emphatically and with confidence because I know from experience just how critical sound quality can be to achieving your end goals.
Whether you’re new to podcasting or a seasoned pro, your goal is to rank your podcast as high as possible and gain maximum visibility, right? Right! I get it because I’ve been in your shoes. But before I get in too deep here, I need to make a confession. I originally started my first podcast, Marketing In The Know, as an SEO-style experiment to see if I could rank the podcast in the top 10. Spoiler alert: I did.
In fact, I’ve grown two podcasts (that’s 2!) to the #1 position in my categories (education, technology, and business) rising up close to some of the biggest names in the industry like Seth Godin, Amy Porterfield and Gary Vaynerchuk.
That ain’t half bad considering the first was just a fun experiment. I don’t say this to toot my own horn. I say this to emphasize the fact that I know what it takes to rise the ranks. Someday I’ll write a post on how I did it, but for now let’s focus on just one critical angle — making you and your guests sound your best so that poor audio quality doesn’t drive your listeners away.
The first two types of equipment you’ll need are obvious:
- A computer
- A microphone
Most aspiring podcasters have these two items at their disposal already, and that’s fine to get you up and running. As you bring on more people to record, however, you’ll need to adopt a more advanced approach. I’ve listed some pro tips along with my personal favorite setups below. This list showcases the equipment I’ve used to create the clarity my listeners have come to love and expect from my podcasts. Incorporating these items into your own setup can help you mimic the sound quality of my podcast.
Table of Contents
List of Podcasting Equipment
Here’s a quick glimpse of the essential podcasting equipment. These and more are listed below to give you a few more options.
- Dynamic Element
- Dual Mesh Screen
- Internal Shock Mount
Focusrite Scarlett 2i4
- Two Scarlett Mic Preamps
- Four Balanced Outputs
- Mix and Record Up to 24-bit/192kHz
- Thin Footprint
- Six Headphone Jacks
- Full Control over Output
JHS Red Remote Footswitch
- Easy Setup
- More Tonal Options
- Remote Activation
- Tuned for Enhanced Detail
- 40mm Drivers
- Comfortable Design
- No Coding Experience Required
- Branding Options Available
- Rich Analytics
If you’re thinking about getting into the world of podcasting, I’m willing to bet you already have a computer at your disposal. I’m not about to tell you to run out and buy another computer. There’s no silver bullet computer that’ll shoot you straight to the top of the ranks, but if you’re in the market for a new computer, here are a few of the ones I recommend.
I’m an Apple fan, so I opt for an Apple MacBook Pro when it comes to podcasting. Not only is this computer sleek, but it also runs well and lasts for the long haul. I’d suggest getting 512 GB storage because audio files are big.
If you’re a Microsoft fan, I’m not going to try to talk you off that ledge. I work with enough Microsoft fanatics to know it’s a losing battle. Instead, I’ll steer you to this laptop — the Surface Pro 6. I like that you have plenty of options to build a computer you’ll love using and that will serve your podcasting goals now and long into the future. It’s also a little less expensive than the MacBook.
Want the best podcasting equipment to rank a podcast? Don’t — I repeat, don’t — use your computer’s built-in microphone. Here are a few other options to help you sound significantly better without breaking the bank.
If you’re flying solo on your podcast, a USB microphone will be sufficient for recording. There are quite a few USB microphones out there, but for podcasters, I recommend the ATR 2100-USB. That’s because it doubles as a USB microphone and an XLR microphone.
There are plenty of options built into the hardware of the ATR 2100-USB to help you sound your best. The cardioid polar pattern reduces background noise, which you can monitor by plugging in your headphones to the headphone jack on the mic itself. It’s flexibility will make it easy for this microphone to grow with you as you start ranking your podcast higher on the charts.
If you have more than one person on your podcast, you’re going to want a dynamic microphone that can keep up with the conversation taking place. The Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording microphone is that mic. The dual mesh screen on the Heil eliminates distracting noises such as breath blasts and popping sounds. The smoother your voice comes through, the easier it is for listeners to focus on what you’re saying.
If you’re using your microphone in analog mode at any point, such as at live events or for on-the-street interviews, you’re going to need an audio interface. This device connects the analog audio to your computer, turning it into a digital file you can then edit and upload to your favorite podcast platforms.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 helps you get the more open sound and brighter vocals you’re looking for on a podcast. If you want to monitor how you sound throughout your recording, use one of the four balanced outputs and make your adjustments in real time. Once plugged into the converter, you can mix and record up to 24-bit/ 192kHz.
I like that you also get Pro Tools with this piece of hardware, including creative packs, a time and tone bundle, a plug-in suite and more. Just register the device, download the extras, and you’ll be off to the races.
When it comes to mixers, I live by the rule that more is better. Even if your original intention was to do a solo podcast or a podcast with call-in-guests only, you’ll want a mixer that will give you the opportunity to expand. This way, if a guest ever shows up or you have the opportunity to interview multiple influencers at one time, you’ll be ready. Choosing a mixer with more inputs than you anticipate needing is never a bad idea.
If you’re just getting started or if you only have a USB connection, the Behringer Q1202 USB is a great option. Although USB microphones are popular, I want to give you a word of warning. You won’t have the same amount of control over EQ, levels, gains and more.
The Behringer is a little over $100 (at this writing) and offers 4 XLR inputs with an easy-to-use interface. The single knob functionality and control LED make it easy to use for beginners and professionals alike. There’s also a built-in USB option, which means you can use your USB microphone with this mixer and plug it directly into your computer. It also comes with free editing and podcasting software with instruments and effects available.
If you’re okay with spending a little more on a mixer, the Mackie ProFX8v2 is the way to go. This mixer is great, both for recordings and live events. You get the same 4 XLR inputs plus better control over the compression and faders. Each channel has 60mm faders, making it easy to adjust to the perfect sound.
A word of warning here. It might be tempting to downgrade to the 4-channel version. If you do, be aware that this version does not have a USB input or output, so you’ll need to verify that your microphone will still be compatible.
I have this mixer in my studio and really love how well it’s worked over my dozens of podcasts. The thin footprint is nice because it doesn’t clutter up my workspace. I can manage input from six different headphones, which is ideal for instances when certain interviewees want to hear more or less of themselves. I also maintain full control over the output, which lets me create the best sounding audio possible.
One of the most critical pieces of podcasting equipment is the pop filter or windscreen. These little devices will dampen or eliminate the natural pops of air that happen when you say certain letters. They allow you to enunciate without worrying that your levels will quickly spike into and drop out of the red. Some microphones sell specific pop filters or windscreen attachments, but if you don’t want to hunt down the one made for your microphone, consider this universal one instead. It’s just as good, if not better.
The Stedman Corporation Proscreen XL attaches with a clamp, so it’s easy to add to any microphone. It has a 6” diameter and 13” gooseneck, so it should fit just about any setup you have.
This screen is made with ultra-fine rubber, which makes it more effective than the typical fabric filter. It doesn’t just diffuse sound bursts, but rather redirects airflow away from the microphone entirely. No matter how crisp your vocals are, having this on your microphone will make you sound even better than you already do.
A foot pedal is the single piece of equipment that has saved me countless times while podcasting. Whenever I need to cough, sneeze, adjust my chair, or you name it, I can tap the mute button with my foot and make as much noise as I need to without it distracting my guests or muddling the podcast audio. Having a foot pedal has made editing so much easier and has dramatically reduced the number of times I or my guests have had to repeat ourselves. Can you tell I’m a fan?
The specific foot pedal I use is this one — the JHS Remote Footswitch. It is relatively inexpensive (around $35 at this writing) but to me, it’s priceless. To set it up, simply plug it into the jack on your mixer or sound amplifier, then you’re ready to start recording without superfluous sounds.
Okay, I have to admit it — headphones will mess with your head the first few times you use them while podcasting. Rest assured, though, you will get used to hearing your voice — and there will be many times you’ll be glad you pushed through the initial discomfort. I can’t tell you how many times I recorded without headphones only to listen back and hear my grandfather clock ticking in the background, which forced me to re-record.
Many podcasters start out using ear buds but quickly realize they aren’t sufficient. When it comes to podcasting equipment, you need more advanced headphones that will pick up the same background noises your listeners will hear.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M30x headphones come pre-tuned for the best quality sound. They have a single-side cable that helps reduce any extra sounds as you shift in your chair or move around while speaking. The headphones are easy to pack up and take with you out in the field for any podcasting events where you’ll need to record away from your studio, office, or home.
If you have more than one person on the podcast, you’ll want to be sure you’re hearing everyone’s mic — not just your own. A headphone amplifier lets you plug numerous microphones into one set so you can hear exactly what the show will sound like to your listeners.
This headphone amplifier lets you plug in four separate microphones/headphones to hear the same thing your co-hosts or guests are hearing in high-quality. I like that you have full control over the audio levels of each headphone you’re tuning in to, which makes the recording session even smoother. A word to the wise, you’ll also need a TRS cable to hook up each headphone.
If you’re a singer, you’ve likely been advised to sing from your diaphragm. Similar advice holds true for podcasting. Speaking from your diaphragm will help you sound better, but you can’t fill your diaphragm with air if you’re hunched over. A mic stand can help position the microphone to fit your height and studio setup so you maintain the best posture while recording. Then, when you head into editing and promotion mode, the mic stand will store the microphone out of your way.
If you’re looking for a tabletop mic stand, the Proline MS112 is the way to go. This model has been used by the pros, so you know it’s tried, tested, and proven to do the job well. The height adjusts from 12 to 17 inches and the boom is adjustable from 1 to 9 inches, giving you have a range of options. If you like a clean setup, you’ll appreciate the cable clip too.
If you’re looking for a boom arm, I recommend the Heil Sound PL-2T. Unlike other boom arms, this one doesn’t have cable connectors you’ll have to move around while setting up your equipment. Instead, there are removable top and back plates for cable threading. It also comes with a clamp, so you don’t have to screw anything in when mounting it to your desk or table. The dimensions give you tons of flexibility. It’s 21.75 inches from mount to elbow and 20 inches from elbow to mic.
A shock mount is critical to your sound — so critical, in fact, that most microphone manufacturers offer shock mounts specific to their microphones. Some even send one along with the microphone itself.
The shock mount minimizes background noises like typing, clicking your mouse, or moving your boom arm around. Having a good one will save you hours on editing and re-recording.
If your microphone doesn’t come with a shock mount, the Rycote 44901 Invision is a universal mount that will work on just about any equipment. This one in particular has a wide range of working temperatures, which means it’s more likely to fit your setup than an elastic or rubber shock mount. It’s discreet enough to fit in seamlessly with your studio or office, but strong enough to give you plenty of flexibility while working sufficiently to mask background sounds.
When you think of the best podcasting equipment needed to rank your podcast, cables might not be the first thing that comes to mind. They weren’t for me either, but let me tell you — the right cable can make a world of difference. The best ones can improve your sound quality by reducing excess noise.
Rapco Horizon cables are excellent for beginner podcasters who want a durable cable to grow with them as they rank their podcast. If that’s you, these cables will offer you a lot of functional flexibility in just about any studio setup and on most stages.
These cables might be a little more than many beginner podcasters want to spend up front but they’re worth it if you’re in this for the long run. Switching out any stock cables with these will rectify many common problems podcasters have with equipment-generated background noise. Because the Mogami GOLD XLR is a quad cable, it’s significantly better at quieting background noise than the more commonly used 2-conductor cables. If you ever plan to take your show on the road, these cables are a must-have.
If you have tile or concrete floors or high ceilings, chances are your room will need acoustic paneling so that you don’t sound like you’re podcasting through a tin can. Echo and reverb are hugely distracting and diminish the quality of your sound.
Uplift’s 3D Tube Acoustic Panels come in two sleek colors — white and grey. More importantly, they offer a nice noise reduction coefficient (NRC) of 0.8, which means that 80% of the sound hitting those panels is absorbed. That’s more than many recommended acoustic panels out there, which often have a 0.4 NRC. These panels are a little bit more expensive but worth the extra investment because the higher sound absorption makes them more effective.
Once you’re satisfied with how your audio sounds, it’s time to mesh that audio together to make it sound cohesive and professional. Taking this extra step to polish what you recorded is critical to how your listener hears your message. Although software isn’t technically podcasting equipment, it’s an essential component to throw into the mix to rank your podcast.
For Mac: Adobe Audition
If you’re an Apple lover like I am, then Adobe Audition is a great piece of editing software. It’s cloud-based, which gives you flexibility that is especially valuable if you have co-hosts or are working with a team to edit and distribute the podcast. This platform is included in the Adobe Suite, so although it comes with a price tag it does give you access to other nice apps such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Premiere.
For Mac: Garageband
If you’re still in the beginning stages of podcasting or are just not ready to pay for editing software, your Mac has a free option that is pretty decent. Garageband is the audio editing software which comes preloaded on your computer when you buy it. The learning curve for Garageband is short, making it an ideal piece of software for any podcaster, regardless of technical expertise.
For PC: Audacity
Many beginner podcasters assume it’s possible to upload an mp3 file to the podcasting platforms and call it good. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. Podcasting platforms are actually RSS feed readers, which means your file needs to live somewhere with a feed. That somewhere is NOT your website. If you host your audio files on your website, they’ll slow things down and hurt your ability to rank your podcast. Instead, you need a podcast host to store those files and push out a feed to the players.
The podcast host I use and recommend is Libsyn. They’ve been in business for awhile and continue to be a popular choice among many podcasters, so they deserve a spot on this list. What I like about them is the amount of control they give back to the person who owns the podcast — you. They also have monetization options to earn you a little extra income from your podcast.
Buzzsprout is a popular podcast host choice because their dashboards are simple and intuitive. The built-in transcription feature is ideal for anyone who wants to add a transcription to their show notes or use quotes for social snippets. You can also add chapter markers to help your listeners stay tuned longer, which is essential to climbing the podcasting ranks.
Before and after your podcast, you’ll need to send your listener somewhere online to learn more about what you cover and offer additional context or links to the topics you discuss. Having a website is critical as you grow your listener base and start ranking your podcast, and having a reliable website host to ensure your website is online when your listeners head over to your URL is just as critical to help you rank your podcast.
Cloudways is a leader, in my eyes, in the world of website hosting. Their agility, ease of use, and fast-performance lets beginners and experts alike set up a website and go live in seconds. As you start to grow and rank your podcast, Cloudways is set up to scale alongside you. At every stage, this website host offers a secure, fast and reliable service.
Podcasting isn’t just about recording and publishing audio. It’s about the experience you deliver to your listener. That experience happens on your podcast player and/or your website before, during and after your listener hits play.
Smart Podcast Player
You’re already familiar with the popular podcast players like iTunes, Spotify and Stitcher. While those are great in their own right, I chose to customize a podcast player — I use one called the Smart Podcast Player — specifically for my website. Since this blog has a following, it was nice to be able to add the podcast player to my pages and simplify the listening experience for my audience.
When your listeners are done with your podcast and head to your podcast page or summary page with show notes, they’re there to continue their experience with you. Pulsemotiv is a conversational guidance platform that incorporates your human voice along with subtle calls to action. You can use Pulsemotiv to bridge the experience from listening to reading via your familiar human voice. Then, with triggered slideouts, you can prompt your listeners to take action to help boost the rank of your podcast, such as give you a rating or download the next episode.
Mobile Podcasting Gear
I haven’t done many on-the-road interviews for my podcast. Still, I have bought the gear and taken my show on the road enough times to know which mobile podcasting equipment will help you sound your best.
When you’re not in a studio setting, you need a recorder that will let you record your conversation with your guests. Although you can use an iPhone to record, you’ll probably want more flexibility, such as the option to plug in a USB microphone.
Probably the most popular digital recorder out there is the Zoom H4N Pro. This recorder has four-channel recording and built-in stereo microphones to let you dialog back and forth with ease. The audio records directly onto an SD Card and the recorder comes with a USB interface. It’s also compatible with both Mac and PC.
If you’re on the road, chances are you’re interviewing someone. And if you’re interviewing someone outside of a studio, chances are you’ll have background noise. Having a microphone that can keep up with the background noise and still keep you sounding your best is important.
This Audio-Technica Dynamic microphone was designed for concerts and sporting events, so it can handle loud areas with ease. It has an extended handle, which makes it easier to hold or mount. It’s also durable, which is especially important as you head to the field to conduct interviews. Not only will it withstand the elements if you’re outdoors but it’ll also reduce handling and cable noises.
If you’re heading out, you’ll need something to hold your audio files as you record.32GB should be sufficient for most podcasts. Don’t forget to get several SanDisks to use with your digital recorder. I always opt for having more than enough. You don’t want a disk to fail you when you’re conducting an interview and not have a backup.
Podcasting Equipment Can Help You Rank Your Podcast
Now that you’ve gotten the full overview of the best equipment, you can probably see why it’s important to have the right stuff. If you don’t sound your best, your listeners will bounce, which can wreak havoc on your ability to rank. Check out the links above to get what you’re missing from your podcasting library. Once you’re all set up, tweet me a picture of your studio.