It seems that podcasts are becoming the way to go these days. Ha ha ha. I suppose that’s why I and lots of other people have one running now. So thanks for listening. Mind you, I have found that a lot of people seem to shy away from taking on such a major job. And as a job, it needs you to be consistent and exact in what you create. In some respects, I am more fortunate than other podcasters as my podcasts tend to be specific and unique to the writing world. Am I going to drown in listeners? To be honest, probably not, as I am not chatting about things that are classed as the norm. You know, items such as what the latest fashion is or what a certain celeb has been up to recently. And yet, I am building a constant following of listeners who appear interested in what I am saying, so for me that is a good thing.

I know that wanting to start a podcast can make one feel as if it is a daunting task to navigate. Often you may have a rough idea of how it all works, but there is still some specific stuff you need to know and understand before starting. One of those is making sure you have the right sort of equipment. I know that working out what the right pieces of equipment are can be quite a challenge. Many people think they need top-notch stuff but that’s not always true. A lot will depend on what type of podcasting you are doing and how often.

With these thoughts in mind, I want you to relax while I suggest ways in which you can become a podcaster. Let’s start with deciding what you need for a Podcast Starter Kit. Of course, what your show is all about will help you decide what sort of podcast starter kit you will need. So before you start reviewing that online shop, or start adding all those strange bits of equipment to the cart, you need to think carefully about the following:

First, you need to ask yourselves what is your Budget.

Calculating what your budget will be will most definitely help you work out what the contents of your podcast starter kit should contain.

Next, you need to understand and know what your show is going to be about.

You will have to plan out its format, length of recording, the profile of listeners, etc. The list goes on. But most importantly you must know what content you are going to include within your podcast.

By doing this, it will help you to better determine what equipment you need. Now, if like me you are going to be a solo podcaster well the chances are your needs will probably be fairly minimal. At the most, you will likely only need a decent microphone, and perhaps a stand. However, if there is more than one host for your show, then that will mean extra microphones. And remember if there is more than one host then the format will need to be adjusted accordingly to allow for their different personalities.

And, of course, you need to ensure you set your equipment up in the right place to achieve good recording results.

When recording you have to be aware of your environment as often rooms can sound like echo chambers if you are careful. I live in an apartment that has good soundproofing but even so the best place to record is in one specific bedroom. It has a lower ceiling than the rest of the place and has carpet. To help me keep good soundproofing I have built a recording box that sits on a small desk.  It is made from a thick card and has a polystyrene base. The inside is covered with proper sound-absorbing sponge panels that one finds in recording booths. It works quite well for the individual podcasts that I create.

So, the next job is to determine what a Podcast Starter Kit includes.

However, the first question to ask yourself is, what do you need? Also, what can you actually afford to spend? In other words how much are you willing to invest in this new project of yours? Now it could be that you have some audio equipment already. I know I did. Things like a microphone, a recording software programme, etc. If so, then before you go live, start using the items you’ve already got to practice recording your podcasts. Doing so will keep the costs down.

Once you’ve nailed down the above points, the next step is to take that step and invest in the right equipment. Now, you shouldn’t go into this blindly. Doing so could mean you parting with a lot of wasted money. To assist you I am going to suggest 5 pieces of essential equipment that I think you should consider buying to get your podcast off the ground.

Let’s look at what type of Microphone you should use.

We’ll start with the basics. It doesn’t matter what format your show is, you will still need a decent microphone. As in all things, the price paid for one will depend on the quality of the audio you are wanting. However, one decision you must make is whether you choose: USB or XLR.

The main difference between USB and XLR microphones is the connections. XLR mics have 3 prongs. This has to be connected to an audio interface before connecting to your computer. Whereas, USB models, on the other hand, connect directly to the computer. This will reduce the need for an interface system.

For a beginner, I would recommend you start by using a USB microphone. Although they are convenient and easy to use, do remember that sound quality will not be as good as the XLR model. Having said that, an XLR microphone will require you to purchase an audio interface system.

When recording your episodes, you might want to consider spending a little more on your microphone. Choose a better quality one. I use a Rode NT1-A Condensor Microphone. This has an XLR connector which I use with a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Computer Audio Interface for Mac/PC. It connects to my laptop by USB. To hold the microphone I have a small stand for the desk and an extended floor stand for when needed.

Another microphone you could invest in is the Shure SM7B. But if recording on the go or perhaps if you have a guest spot then you would probably need a more portable digital recorder. In this case, take a look at the Zoom H8.

And of course, if you do decide to have guests calling in, then a mixer with Bluetooth audio is a must. Having said that, I tend to use Zoom to record my interviews. That way I get video and audio versions. It also means I can edit both accordingly afterward. And using Zoom allows me to put the audio version on the Podcast and the video one on YouTube.

If you want to add intro music or other sound effects then you will need a decent mixer with a good soundboard.

You will also need a decent set of Headphones

It doesn’t matter whether you are recording or editing you will need a good set of headphones to add to your starter kit. Now there are plenty of options available, so remember to consider the product's features. Which ones are a priority for you? Comfort? Quality? Design? Weight? The choice is yours.

You will need a pair that will isolate any background noises, such as traffic. And don’t forget a flat frequency response is important to avoid those additional sounds; such as an increased bass response, during the playback.

One other thing to consider is should the headphones be wired or wireless. Now this will probably depend on the show format. For recording in a studio, then I would say wired headphones. No charging is needed. But if you are on the move, then a wireless pair might be better.

Of course, you need something to record onto. Whether it’s a Laptop or a Computer.

I would expect that in the main most people have one or the other. However, if you haven’t then that is going to be a cost you might not want to consider.

Of course, the age of the equipment is also relevant. If it’s an older model the chances are it will be unable to handle the large WAV audio files and/or selective types of software programmes. You will also need to ensure that it has the processing power to do the job, can run specialist editing software, and that there is enough storage space. Having said that with the latter I store my podcasts on mini individual hard drives; the same as I do my laptop backups.

Don’t forget the larger the files the more space you will require. And when producing a video podcast, your computer or laptop must have high processing power capabilities. Video files are larger and more demanding than audio-only ones. Remember to factor this into your plan.

Probably one of the most important elements of your Starter Kit is the Recording & Editing Software

Without this, there are no good self-produced podcasts. Recording software can be found by searching the internet. Some are free downloads and work brilliantly for a beginner. While other software providers have charge points suitable for all budgets.

Free ones include Audacity (compatible with Windows and Mac) and GarageBand (compatible with Mac only). As a small podcaster, I have been using Audacity from the start and am very happy with it. Bear in mind both these two are for more general purposes, not originally having been designed for podcast editing. However, I have to say it does do the job.

If you have no confidence or are not a talented editor, then consider one of the paid options of editing as it reduces your process timings. One that has been recommended is Alitu. I haven’t tried this but I am informed that it lets you simply drag and drop your recorded audio files into the correct slots with ease.

Last on the list is an Audio Interface

This is a piece of hardware that manages all the inputs, outputs, and sound processing of your audio equipment while improving your computer’s audio capabilities. However, this is only necessary if you plan on using an XLR microphone such as I do.

As mentioned earlier I use an XLR Rode Microphone. This is attached to my Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Computer Audio Interface by a three-prong cable. The Scarlett in turn connects to my laptop by a USB connector. Personally, I feel I get a better-quality sound when recording through the Rode Microphone and the Focusrite Interface. I also think it makes editing a lot easier and quicker, even when using Audacity.

The idea is to make sure you do your research. I was fortunate to have some clues and some equipment when I started as I had been involved in music recording which gave me a slight advantage. Still, I did ask people I knew a lot of questions about the podcast recording process, so you do the same.

Now there are a few other items you could have in your starter kit.

Having extras when first starting your podcasts isn’t always necessary and, of course, your budget must allow for them. Just in case your budget does allow for extras here are a few suggestions:

You will need a Mic Stand or Boom Arm

The difference between these two is:  A mic stand sits on the floor, while a boom arm is an attachment for your desk. Both help with the positioning of the mic, thus allowing you to find the most comfortable position to be in when recording, without compromising the audio quality.

Again as mentioned earlier I have both. However, in the main, I use the desktop stand as it makes it easier for me to sit and record my podcasts. The mic is set at a nice height for me for producing a good-quality sound.

Use a  Pop Filter

This is a great piece of kit. Not only does it help eliminate the hard plosive sounds (e.g “p’s” and “b’s”) when spoken into a mic, but it helps create a smoother and softer sound overall. Mine fastens to the desktop stand and is adjustable. It tends to be a round frame with a cloth that absorbs those unwanted sounds. However, it does not eliminate them completely, meaning that when editing you may have to remove or reduce the amplification on them.

Have a Reflection Filter

Using a reflection filter allows you to eliminate any echo or reverb without you having to play around with how your room is set up. It’s placed behind your mic and cleverly absorbs any stray audio waves. Please be aware that if you search for reflection filters you will discover they tend to be quite large and sometimes cumbersome. This means they can end up blocking your face from view, which is not suitable when creating video podcasts.

I overcame this problem by building my own recording booth. It is lined on three sides with sound-absorbing tiles. I was surprised at the difference it made to the quality of sound in my podcasts. I also have enough space to put my laptop inside for when I do my Zoom interviews so I get better sound quality all around.

Picking out the right pieces of equipment that will suit you and your budget will take a lot of research and careful consideration. However, I hope that this podcast will have given you some useful tips and a much clearer idea about what you should have in your podcast starter kit. Whilst I accept that there’s only so much research one can do when it comes to choosing the individual pieces of equipment you might find it easier to start with the simplest of tools. You might find that podcasting isn’t for you after all. In which case you won’t have wasted a big budget. However, if you think it’s the way for you to go then get stuck in and see where your creativity takes you.

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