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Choose Your Weapon: Podcasting Tools

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When it comes to setting up your tools for podcasting, it is entirely possible to spend $35,000! You can choose a $10,000 mixer, two or three microphones at $1000 each and a Mac Pro to tie it all together for the low price of $20,000 (seriously, customize it at apple.com to see what twenty grand gets you). Headphones, cabling, software and accessories… sure, you can easily spend $35,000 or more.

It is also entirely possible to spend $300 on a netbook or small laptop and call it done.

Somewhere in the middle is where you really want to be. Podcasting neither needs to cost more than a college eduction nor be so cheap that overall quality suffers. Fortunately, there are some really great podcasting tools in the middle. In fact, there’s gear in the middle that can make it sound—to your average listener—like you’re talking on a crazy-expensive rig.

The Basics

I won’t assume you have a computer for this exercise. You could very well be reading this in your local library or maybe you’ve just got an iPad. It’s possible. So first, you need a computer. PC or Mac, doesn’t matter. If you’re budget-conscious, stick with PC. Off the shelf, they are far less expensive. If you have a bit of money to invest, consider a Mac. Though pricier, they tend to be more reliable for average users. Let’s not have a giant flame-war here, okay? I said consider, right? Any computer manufactured in the last decade will suffice as far as horsepower and capability, so find your ideal price range and pick a computer.

Your next choice (or your first since you probably have the computer covered) is whether or not you want a hardware or software recording solution. Going with software is cheaper but requires more work with results that can vary wildly. Going with hardware gives professional-level results but is more expensive.

If you choose to go the software route, you’ll need recording and editing software at a minimum, but please throw in a USB headset. Recording into your computer’s built-in microphone nearly always sounds terrible. For the PC, try out Audacity, Adobe Audition, Sony SoundForge or Google for alternatives to these applications. I’m a Mac user so I have no personal recommendation, but I’ve used both Audacity and Audition on the Mac side and am very pleased with both. GarageBand on the Mac is also a solid recommendation. That’s really all there is to the software route. Recording/editing software and a web browser are all you really need to publish.

The list of necessary items grows when you get into hardware. In addition to your computer, you’ll need a mixer, a microphone, headphones and cabling to hook it all up at a minimum. I’ve recently added a boom arm (love it) and I’ll be adding a rack-mounted audio processor (a compressor/limiter/gate) in the near future. A nice 8-channel mixer will support a couple of microphones and other assorted input sources – like a computer, tablet or phone. Your microphone can be dynamic or condenser. Your headphones should be comfortable and produce good sound. Your mixer will output to either your computer for recording (via your computer’s audio input jack or USB) or to a dedicated audio recorder (like the Tascam unit that I use, for example). Podcasting equipment needn’t be super-expensive; you can budget for $1000 and set up your own studio in an hour or two.

So, which will it be? Will you be doing your show with a software solution or will you be trying out a hardware set-up?

Daniel M. Clark is a podcaster at QAQN, a writer at danielmclark.com, and an all around cool dude everywhere else. He wrote a little book called The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Podcaster for NMX. You can follow him on Twitter (@qaqn) or email him at daniel@qaqn.com.


Feedback

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  • Dave Thackeray

    Thanks for getting this valuable information out there, Daniel. Would love to host you on my Audio Marketing show some time to talk more on this subject.

    Meantime, please keep spreading the good word about how awesome podcasting is as a dynamic, living communications channel. You’re doing amazing things!

  • John Lee Dumas

    Hi Daniel,Thanks for the info.  I personally use a Presonus Firestudio to podcast and love the simplicity/all in one nature of it.  All in all, the most important thing is to get started! 

    • WordsDoneWrite

       @John Lee Dumas That’s so true, John. You can wait and wait for the “right time,” but just jumping in and committing to it is sometimes the best way to go!

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