What do you need to create a podcast, you might wonder? You’ll learn everything there’s to know how to record a show that sounds good enough for release.
For my show, I have two different set-ups. A big one, and a small one. I prefer to use the big setup, as it produces the best sound quality. The problem is, it’s a backpack full of gear.
The small set-up is just one single device about the size of two packs of cigarettes. The advantage of this is that I can take it everywhere, and the sound quality is still decent enough to produce a good show.
Since this podcasting thing has been a learning experience from scratch for me, it took a while to figure things out and get everything right. The first couple of episodes sound rough (especially the very first one) because of this. Around episode 5, I upgraded my recording gear, so the biggest leap in sound quality is around there.
Here’s everything I learned and everything I use.
Recorders & audio interfaces
- Episode 1-5: Zoom H2N + accessories, and a set of standard ear-buds.
- Episode 6-26: Zoom H6.
- Episode 28 and onward: Rode RodeCaster Pro.
- Episode 25 & 27: Rode SmartLav kit with extra microphone (travel kit).
For face-to-face interviews, I use the Electro-Voice PL80. This is a dynamic, super-cardioid microphone with a big, warm sound. For Zoom/Skype interviews, I use the Rode Procaster.
What does “super-cardioid” mean?
This is the polar pattern of the microphone. In other words, the direction in which the microphone picks up sound. These are the most common ones:
- Omni-directional: Picks up sound from all angles. These are the little mics that people wear on their collars, the microphones on headsets, and the microphones that are used in conference calls.
- Cardioid: Picks up sound from the front of the microphone, and some from the sides. Most microphones have this pattern.
- Super-cardioid: Picks up sound from the front of the microphone and rejects most from the sides. Good for noisy environments.
- Hyper-cardioid: Picks up sound from right in front of the microphone, almost nothing from the sides and some from the back as a side-effect. These are the shotgun microphones mostly used by film crews.
- Figure of eight: Picks up sound from the front and the back and none from the sides. Used mostly in studio mics to really isolate a single sound source.
A super-cardoid microphone is great for non-ideal environments. It rejects most sound except for the person speaking into it without being too directional. I don’t have a professional studio; my recordings are done in living rooms, back yards, and parks. There is a lot of noise in those places that I don’t want showing up in the recording.
What does “dynamic microphone” mean?
There are several microphone technologies out there. The two most common types are condenser, and dynamic. A dynamic microphone uses electromagnetic induction to capture sound, and a condenser microphone uses a capacitor.
There are a ton of microphones out there with different sound signatures in both categories, but this is the general difference between a good condenser and a good dynamic microphone:
- High sensitivity (picks up the smallest sounds)
- Extremely detailed sound
- “Hot” (has high output)
- Requires phantom power (power coming from the audio interface)
- More delicate than dynamic microphones
- Expensive. Good ones are $300-$600, and the microphone that Howard Stern uses costs more than $3000
- Generally sounds “bright” and “open”
- Usually used for studio recording
- Lower sensitivity, picks up mostly louder sounds
- Decent detail
- Less hot than condensers
- No phantom power required, works on any mixing board/interface
- Generally indestructible
- Can be had for very cheap, decent ones generally start around $70, prices go up to around $500
- Generally sounds “darker”. Lacks the shimmering detail in the higher tones
- Usually used for live-on-stage and field recording
The high sensitivity of condenser microphones is great if you have a sound-proofed room. Most of us don’t have that. Many podcasters out there think “the more sensitivity and detail, the better”. The problem is, these mics pick up absolutely everything, including the fan in your computer, your voice bouncing off the walls and ceiling, a car driving through the street, and your neighbor walking out to grab his mail.
They are two entirely different beasts that serve different purposes. The high sensitivity of condenser microphones makes them less suitable for the type of recording that I do.
These studio monitor headphones have been the go-to standard for over 30 years. Virtually every radio studio uses them. The large 40mm drivers and powerful neodymium magnets deliver a detailed flat sound, and the closed-ear design provides comfort and isolation.
So what’s the difference between these and Beats or other popular consumer cans?
The sound signature of monitor headphones is completely flat. This means that they represent the recording as accurately as possible. Consumer headphones affect the reproduction of the recording. Certain frequencies are pushed forward (usually bass), and other frequencies are held back a little (usually mids). This makes them sound “full” and “wide”, etc.
To most people, studio headphones sound boring compared to consumer headphones. When you’re editing sound, however, accuracy is the only important factor. If a recording sounds good through studio monitors, it’s going to sound amazing on consumer audio gear. If it sounds bad, it’ll sound horrible. If you’re editing audio on inaccurate headphones, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with a bad-sounding recording.
Studio headphones are also way less tiring to listen to because of the flat frequency range. This is nice when you have to wear them for hours.
Other podcast gear
Promaster CityScape 70 Photo Gear Backpack
This is a backpack for photo gear. It has a brilliant Velcro system inside to organize things. Besides that, it’s durable, lightweight, and comfortable.
LyxPro Balanced XLR Cable Premium Series Microphone Cable
I use these cables to hook up the mics to the recorder. They’re built for stage-abuse, so I’m confident they’ll last forever for my podcast needs. 10ft/3m in black.
On the RodeCaster Pro, I record a live-mix in a standard 16-bit WAV file and use Davinci Resolve to produce and edit it.
Downmixing and finishing
I downmix every recording to a mono MP3 file with a constant bitrate of 96kbps.
I use Tagscanner to properly edit the ID details of the MP3 file. Fantastic application, and it’s completely free.
The cover art for each episode is made in Adobe Photoshop.
I use Blubrry Powerpress for WordPress. This excellent plugin does most of the heavy lifting for me. I host the files on Blubrry. They have been nothing but stellar in terms of service and support.
Now it’s your turn
Now you know all there is to know, to start a podcast! It’s fun and a great way to meet interesting people. I highly recommend it to anyone who feels the urge to do so.