This is one of my favourite subjects. I make no secret of the fact I love podcasting kit and I'd buy it all if I could.
But when I first started out I was a little bit clueless about where to start. There's a lot of choice out there and a lot of words and terms I wasn't familiar with such as audio interface. I was going from a world of radio to a more DIY world of podcasting.
I did the most sensible thing I could think of and asked a couple of my radio engineer friends for advice. And probably for the first time in living memory I followed their advice.
I've obviously learnt a fair bit over the years too. And of course I have a habit of collecting microphones - there's worse hobbies.
But where do you start when it comes to getting kit for your podcast?
It depends on the type of podcast you want to make.
Here's our old friend "it depends" back again. And it really does depend on what you want to do with your podcast.
If you just want it to be you every week then you are not going to need an all singing all dancing podcast mixing desk. If you want to interview guests from all over the place on the phone, zoom, skype etc then you might want to think about getting something a bit fancy pants.
But for today we're going to KISS. Keep it simple stupid.
One Person Podcasts - no guests!
If it's just you and no guests then I'm confident you have everything you need to make a podcast right now.
I bang on about this all the time because it's true - you only need a smart phone or a tablet to record. In fact I bang on all the time about how I started my first podcast with just my phone. I'm fairly sure you know how to use your phone so that's always a good starting point too. You won't have to spend long learning how to work the kit so you can crack on.
You can record in to your phone - holding it up to your face in the way you would normally talk in to a phone will produce the best quality because that's the way phone microphones are designed to work the best. Simply record what you want to say in to a voice memo app. There are other apps you can download for your phone to record on. I regularly use the Røde Reporter app and the Lexis Audio Editor if I'm recording on my phone. I promise they are super simple.
If you don't want to use your phone to record you can record on your laptop or computer.
A really simple way to just start recording is to record in to zoom. If you're used to zoom as a tool then keep using it. Even if it's just you. I use Zoom to record videos quite often and I have clients who record their solo podcast straight in to Zoom because that is what they know.
Is the audio quality as good as if you recorded into software designed for vocal recording? Well guess what? No. It's not. But is it good enough? Yes it is - if you are bringing good content and great value to your audience. I say this all the time but now more than ever we are forgiving of a slightly lower quality audio. And if using Zoom to record your podcasts is what's going to get you podcasting then do it. Then when you get confident move you might want to move on to other software.
There are also voice memo type apps you can download from the internet and use in the same way you would on your phone.
If you're a Mac user there is Garageband pre-installed for you. And it has preloaded settings to make your voice sound super good. I stick to natural - but some can be quite fun to play around with.
If you're a Windows user Windows Voice Recorder is what you want. It's free and from what I've seen really simple to use.
There are also various editing software you can record directly in to as well. I'll talk more about them in the editing section otherwise this will all get messy.
Of course taking your recording away from your phone to a computer changes your need for a microphone.
You will need something more than your inbuilt laptop or computer microphone because it will sound as though you're on hands free a mile away. I know I said not perfect audio is ok - but a dip in quality is different from not being able to hear and understand what's being said.
Buying my first microphone was truly daunting for me. And that's because there's so much choice and such a difference in prices. I didn't want to spend a load of money for a rubbish microphone, nor did I want to get a cheap one and end up buying another one quickly because it's no good.
Essentially I was scared of getting it wrong.
But I have good news for you. The best microphone for you is the one you have. I stole that line of my friend Ant McGinley. And he's right. (Don't tell him I said that). Nobody knows what your podcast will sound like on a "better microphone" they only know what it sounds like on your current microphone.
And I'm 99% sure you've already got a good enough microphone. In fact I'm nearly willing to bet my mortgage on you having that microphone on you (or near you) right now.
Because your phone headphones or your ear pods if you're posher than me are more than fine to be recording your podcast on.
And if the comfort of knowing that they are ok is what it takes to get you to record your podcast, guess what - yep, use them.
Otherwise if you want to get all fancy pants you can buy a USB microphone that will plug straight in to your computer and you can start recording. Yes it really is that simple.
I personally love the Røde USB microphone - both the full size and the mini. They're essentially the same just different sizes. They are beyond simple to use, just plug and play and it has a headphone jack so you can listen to yourself (and monitor any background noise). And no I'm not on commission from Røde.
I recommend this one for simplicity over the Blue Yeti because the Yeti has different settings and if you use the omnidirectional setting when you want the cardiod (front) setting you will end up picking up all the noises in the room and you might not get the sound you wanted. Equally if you have it on the cardiod setting when you wanted it bidirectional so you could share the mic with a co-host or guest in the room then one of you is going the horribly off mic. You can also guarantee that person off mic does all the talking too.
There's also the Blue Snowball on offer too. Similar to the Røde it only has a front facing option and is simply plug and play so really simple to use and miles better than just recording direct in to your computer. It doesn't have a headphone jack though so you can't monitor yourself talking. Maybe it's just me who enjoys listening to themselves talking...
So because this is a review of simple tech I would guide you towards the Røde USBs or Blue Snowball if you were going to buy a microphone at this point.
There are other options for recording your podcast including podcast recorders but I will end up getting tech geeky and I promised no tech geekiness. I will do a review of these in another episode. I just want to make this as easy as possible for you so I'm leaving it for now with kit you are hopefully familiar with - phone and laptop and a microphone.
More than one person podcast
The good news is involving guests or co-hosts doesn't have to make life more complicated - woo hoo! Especially in these times of social distancing and lockdowns.
There are some great options. And yes Zoom is one of them. You use it already, your guest is likely to use it already. Job done.
I do always advise you to record on separate tracks. Doing this means you and your guest will be recorded on different tracks - so if you sneeze while your guest is talking you can remove that sneeze without deleting what your guest is saying. To record on separate tracks you want to open Zoom, go to preferences, click on recording. You'll see an option to tick a box which says record a separate audio file for each participant.
You only need to do that once - but I do double check it every time I record because I don't trust anybody or anything.
Other good and options are Zencastr and SquadCast. Both have been designed for podcasters to do recordings on. Zencastr has a free option - but as it stands there is no video option so you can't see who you are talking to. Squadcast has no free option but video.
These are both really simple to use. Only you need an account and you'll get a link to send to the other person on the recording. They don't need to download any software beforehand. So that's a benefit over Zoom. It's better quality audio too and the audio files you get are mp3. In Zoom you don't get mp3 files they are m4a files which means if you want to upload those files they will have to be converted to mp3.
On the grounds I don't think we're doing close contact in person recording anytime soon - unless you're co hosting with your household bubble then I'll come back to fool proof set ups when we're in person. And no I'm not even going to pretend I know when that might be.
The simplest editing is no editing. Which really does make life easy.
But you might want to get rid of big mistakes, sneezes, burps (just me) and coughing fits rather than start recording all over again.
Not all editing software is created equally and one person will tell you the system they use is the best and another will tell you differently.
I use Adobe Audition because I think it's really simple and intuitive. It's probably intuitive because I've been using it for more years than I care to think about.
I would say that Audacity is probably simpler to use though. It's basic, although that's not a negative, so doesn't have all the flashing lights and shiny things. If you just want to trim the beginning and end of your podcast, take out really obvious mistakes and add an intro and outro Audacity is perfect.