Whether you are looking to launch a podcast to share your passions, make a name for yourself, or generate a little extra income, the consensus is that your podcast is only as good as your setup; it takes an investment in equipment and space to do good work.
As little as twenty-years ago, professional grade video and audio equipment were well beyond the price range of any amateur, looking to ‘rock the open mic’ from home, but today there are multiple high-quality technology options that won’t break the bank. Not only can you equip a home studio that will compete with any commercial set up, you can do it at a fraction of the cost, thanks to entry-level equipment with superior performance specs.
In this article, we’ll review some of the most popular podcasting equipment out there for home based podcasts, and how to set up a professional quality studio (even in a small space).
Creating space for a professional sound studio
Not many people have an entire room that they can dedicate to insulating as a recording studio, but if you do, we might be jealous. If you have the space, various products are available to insulate walls and windows to create a separate sound studio. Alternatively, some people have ingeniously created studios by refurbishing storage sheds in the backyard, sound proofing walls and windows with acoustic panels.
No extra room or shed? No problem! New innovations in both microphones and sound insulation to make it possible to turn your desk into a recording studio. Desktop soundproofing models like the Primacoustic Voxguard DT come ready to install; simply unpack and place behind your microphone and boom, for superior sound reduction. Stand up acoustic panels can also be purchased, like the Auralex Acoustic panel from Grainger, which can sit on a table to create a completely insulated sound box, for smaller recording areas.
All microphones are not created equal
The technology for microphones for smartphones and other personal tech is not the same as what is required for professional voice and sound recording. Even though your iPhone could produce some spectacular sound captures, if you are serious about being taken seriously as a podcaster, some investment in hardware (and software) is required.
One of the most popular at-home use microphones is the Blue Yeti USB model. The price point for the microphone is under $150 (£120), and it offers the essentials for both Mac and Windows users, including:
- 16-Bit/48 kHz Resolution
- Custom 4 selectable polar patterns
- Instant mute function
- Latency free monitoring and 1/8” monitoring jack
- A compact desktop stability stand and USB cable
The popular Blue Yeti USB microphone also comes in a bunch of cool colours, but does not come standard with a shock mount. Vibrations from the counter or desktop can be recorded during podcasting as increased ambient noise, whereas the use of a shock mount helps suspend the microphone so that it cannot be bumped or moved during recording. Most shock mounts are universal, and can fit with any mic; they are easy to use, simply insert the mic through the centre, and you are ready to record.
Pop-blockers and mixing boards
Another essential part of a sound recording is the pop blocker. You’ve seen one used on television, or in music recording studios, and they look like a large circular black screen that is mounted directly in front of the mic, fixed to the boom. Speech pauses, sentence starts, laughter and other nuances of podcasting can result in a rapid exhale of air, that is recorded as a ‘pop’ sound by audio equipment. The Pop blocker or filters insulate the mic, and the refines the sound, further removing background and ambient noise that can lessen the sound quality. Equalising and other audio editing techniques are difficult to remove after recording, making a pop filter essential to remove plosives.
No podcast would be complete without introductory music, sound effects and other elements that help break up the voice broadcast into interesting segments. While computers and laptops crash, multi-channel sound mixing software does not, which provides an extra layer of safety.
Mixers also allow podcasters to evolve their recording technique by using lo-cut filters, equalisation and gain on separate channels. If you intend to do live broadcasting, such as your own radio or Facebook, or Livestream video, mixers allow for mix-minus, allowing users to do live productions as a co-host, while interviewing someone who is remote, such as someone appearing on Skype or Google Hangouts. This prevents the echo and reverb from multiple channel audio sources.
To create quality sound effects, choose a mixer that has faders, instead of knobs, to adjust EQ, gain, Pan and other settings. While the knob button style works well for settings that do not change throughout the recording, faders provide more finite control over the sound, allowing you to perfect the music or sound effect volume level. Mixers with faders are more expensive, but worth it.
Finding an audience
Many podcast hosting companies provide free promotion that can help a new podcaster develop an online audience fast. Check out sites like Podbean, SoundCloud or the grandfather of all podcasting online communities, BlogTalkRadio for affordable hosting packages.
Photograph by The Angry Teddy