Equipment is where you’re going to be investing the most money. The creative aspects of the show — i.e. planning, writing, and performing — are only one part of the equation; the other is the technical side. Mics, headphones, a mixer, and recording software are the basics you’ll need, but there are some other extra pieces of equipment that you can include in your setup to enhance your recording experience and ensure the best possible sound quality.
While you could opt for high-end recording programs such as Pro Tools, there are several reputable free options out there. The first, Audacity, is an open-source editing and recording program that’s compatible with most operating systems and works well for beginners. Though it dons a rather unflattering exterior, you’ll be able to record live audio directly into the application, or import a variety of different audio files, including MP3 and WAV. The software even touts recovery options in the event that your system crashes. Acoustica Basic Edition is another free option, one that provides audio recording and editing within a well-designed interface. However, you’ll have to pay extra for multi-track editing and other advanced features.
In all reality, podcasters should consider purchasing an external microphone. USB mics, such as the CAD 37 and Fifine USB Plug & Play, plug directly into your computer and interface with your recording software, thus offering superior sound and greater flexibility than your computer’s built-in microphone. Also, be sure to buy the right number of mics for your show, as you’ll want all cast members to be heard loud and clear. And if you’re going to be using a mixer, be sure to buy microphones that can plug into it! Not all mixers support USB mics, and not all mics will work with standard mic plugs.
Amateur podcasters don’t necessarily need to purchase a mixer, as any worthwhile piece of recording software allows users to directly record their voice and store it as an audio file. Mixers often offer other benefits you can’t find elsewhere, however, such as greater control and effects. A mixer is valuable, for instance, if you’d like to include music or movie clips in your podcast, or if you’re using multiple mics.
These don’t have to be all that fancy; all you need is a decent pair of headphones so you can hear yourself and any guests you might have on the show. If you’re using a mixer, however, these become a requirement, as you will need to have headphones in order to correctly adjust the audio channels. After all, you can only do so much in post-production editing.
Ever heard of the term “popped plosives?” Well, if you haven’t, they’re the annoying pop you often hear in a microphone whenever someone punches their consonants. Thankfully, pop filters are an inexpensive way to decrease explosive sounds that are common among casual vocal delivery. There’s a bevy of offerings out there, from DragonPad’s generic offering ($8) to Nady’s clamp-on filter ($11), each of which is designed to eradicate the sudden burst in air pressure and the bassy response that ensues when you say words chock-full of the letters “P” and “B.”