When it comes to buying podcast equipment to start making your next great idea, the number of options to choose from can be paralyzing. There are tons of guides extolling the seven different types of microphone, mixer, stand and other items that you could get to achieve the perfect podcasting setup. Most podcast creators want advice on what to buy so they can start their project. Fewer want detailed explanations about every way one item is better than another.
With that in mind, this guide won’t present you with every possible microphone you can buy for your podcast. Instead, we’re giving you three common options for each category of item you’ll need, at three different price points, so you can build your podcast setup as quickly as possible.
It goes without saying, but you’ll need some type of microphone to record. There are lots of options out there, but most podcast creators will want to start with a USB-powered microphone plugged into their computer. Later, you can upgrade to an XLR-connected microphone, attached to external hardware that can better control your sound.
Good: Samson Q2U Handheld Dynamic USB Microphone ($46). Better and less expensive than the often recommended Blue Yeti USB microphone ($110), the Q2U has both XLR and USB connections for when you eventually upgrade your studio. Simple functionality with the USB connection makes for an easy plug-n-play experience with your computer. Both microphones come with a stand (the Blue Yeti’s is built-in, while the Samson has a tripod), however some reviewers have noted that the Samson’s stock tripod is a bit flimsy and could be replaced with a better stand (see below).
Better: Rode Podcaster Cardioid USB Microphone ($220). Rode’s USB-enabled and more cost-effective version of their excellent “Procaster” microphone, the Podcaster is directly marketed toward podcast creators with its USB functionality, plug-n-play setup, and excellent sound.
Pro: Shure Beta 87A Supercardioid Dynamic Microphone ($249). This microphone has an excellent sound and can be easily used by podcasters (compare that to the much-lauded Shure SM7B microphone which is more power-hungry and thus has a more involved setup). The 87A has a great sound when properly powered. You’ll need a proper studio arm, preamps for power, and an XLR cable to use this mic.
You should be wearing headphones while you record, both to hear yourself and your guest. When it comes to editing, having a solid set of headphones can make the difference between a well-edited episode and a poorly-edited one, because headphones with a greater frequency range can help you catch subtle sounds in your mix that a cheap pair of Apple earbuds will miss.
Good/Better: Sony MDR-7506 ($80). One of the most popular set of closed-ear headphones on the market, the MDR-7506’s and often used as the workhorse of big podcast studios. They’re comfortable studio microphones with a great sound for monitoring levels and editing your podcast, all for a very reasonable price.
Pro: Audio Technica ATH-M50x ($149). This pair of headphones is noticeably more expensive than the Sonys, but it has a higher frequency range, being able to pick up some of the highest frequency noises, and it has an uncoiled, detachable cable, which can help with packing into a bag. The padding on the ears is also more than the Sony headphones, which might be more comfortable for users during long editing sessions. However, for most users these two pairs of headphones are functionally the same and come down to preference.
Microphone Stands, Boom Arms, and Shock Mounts
Your microphone needs to sit in something. Using a stand will get it close to your mouth, while a shock mount attachment on the stand will hold your microphone in place and make it resistant to vibration when recording.
Good: On-Stage DS7200B Adjustable Desktop Microphone Stand ($13) plus a Koolertron Universal 50MM Microphone Shock Mount ($13). With shock mounts, make sure your microphone will fit by checking its diameter against the shock mount’s listed diameter range. Amazon’s product answers and user reviews can also help you figure out if a shock mount and microphone are compatible. The Koolerton will work with the Samson and Rode microphones listed above.
Better: The NEEWER Adjustable Microphone Suspension Boom ($13) is an inexpensive boom arm that will attach to your desk with a grip and supports microphones that weigh up to 1 kg (2.2 lb). The benefit of boom arms is it can allow for a near-permanent podcast setup at your desk and let you move your microphone out of the way when you’re not recording. Note that Neewer states its product isn’t compatible with the Blue Yeti, and it should be purchased with a shock mount attachment (like the Koolerton) that fits your microphone’s diameter.
Pro: Rode PSA1 Swivel Mount Studio Boom Arm ($98). This kit is Rode’s premiere boom arm with a sturdier cone-shaped desk mount and internal springs for quieter moving of the arm. Use the Koolerton shock mount at the end.
No matter what stand or boom arm you go with, you should have a pop filter placed in front of it to avoid “p-pops,” the popping sound created when saying the consonants “p” and “d.” This popular DragonPad Pop Filter ($11) is inexpensive and can clamp onto almost any setup.
Unless you have a professional studio, you should consider adding sound treatment to the room you’re recording in. A few items and a bit of ingenuity can make most offices an ideal recording space.
Good: Make your own home studio “booth” using Yowei Shaw’s guide on Transom. You’ll need: Auralex StudioFoam (at least 4’ total length), a fabric cube (find one on Amazon, or we also like this Bigso cube from The Container Store for $12), and a glue gun. Before buying your cube, make note of how tall your microphone and stand are, as they’ll need to fit inside with 2-3” clearance. You can also adapt this method by using a larger board box or cardboard box. The price for this method will vary, but could be done for around $40.
Better: Buy a microphone shield like the LyxPro VRI-20 (four sizes available ranging from $30-130, we recommended Standard). This will cut down on a lot of echo on three sides of your mic. You’ll need a microphone stand and a shock mount for your microphone.
Pro: Turn your office into a studio with multiple squares of Auralex Pyramid StudioFoam ($50-200). These will dampen the sound and prevent echo in larger rooms when attached to your walls (note that they dampen outside noise, but don’t soundproof a room). Full Compass sells individual 2’ by 2’ squares for $25, and you can get discounted 12-packs on Full Compass or Amazon for around $200.
Optional: XLR Cables
XLR is the main connection for microphones. Most of the microphones we’ve suggested are USB microphones that will connect to your computer with a universal USB cable. However, if you use a microphone with an external mixer or a field recorder (see below), you’ll need an XLR connection to provide power and transmit your audio signal.
Good: AmazonBasics XLR Male to Female Cables ($7 for 6 foot). Amazon’s stock cables come with surprisingly high reviews, and for the price bring an unmatched quality to your kit.
Better: LyxPro Balanced XLR Cable ($12 for 6 foot). Users love LyxPro’s cables for its sturdy connections and its number of length and connector combinations.
Best: Mogami Gold Studio-06 XLR ($35 for 6 foot). Arguably one of the best XLR cable makers around, Japanese manufacturer Mogami makes a solid-feeling XLR cable that resists interference and has great connectors.
Optional: Sound Mixer
While a simple podcast setup can consist of a USB mic going straight into a computer, more advanced podcasters may want to use a mixer to control their raw audio, control elements like music, or feed in audio from a Skype call.
Good: The Behringer Xenyx Q802USB Mixer ($90) is a solid audio mixer for creators who want to take the next step with their podcasting setup. It will also allow for a “mix-minus” setup on a budget. Mix-minus is a process by which you can send a Skype guest back your podcast audio during an interview without them hearing their side of the conversation again.
Better: The Mackie-402VLZ4 4-Channel Compact Mixer ($99) is a bit more expensive than the Behringer, and it has a lot to show for the increase: it has great Onyx preamps that will power your mics, and enough inputs for most podcast creators. It can also be taken with you, given its well-constructed body and small form factor.
Pro: The Mackie ProFX8v2 8-Channel Sound Reinforcement Mixer ($220) is a best-selling mixer that will allow you to record straight to your computer easily with a USB connector. It has four XLR connections and users love its build quality and small size.
Optional: Field Recorder
For creators who expect to be recording on the go or in the field, having a field recording kit is a must. A field recorder should be sturdy, record a clean sound, and have an easy-to-use interface. For field recorders, we’re deferring to the field gear experts at Transom.
Good: Tascam DR-60DMKII ($199). An entry-level recorder that can handle two XLR microphones and has the ability to hang from neck straps to free up one hand while recording. Note the DR-60D has no built-in microphones.
Better: The Zoom H5 ($280, B&H $280) is a solid flash recorder for the money, with built-in left/right microphones for getting a great stereo sound, plus two XLR connections for external mics. Its interface is simple and easy to use, and its gain knobs are silent and easy to change while recording, with a bar to prevent accidentally changing levels.
Pro: Sound Devices MixPre3 ($650). The MixPre3 is a professional level field recorder with 3 XLR inputs and a stereo mini-jack input. It provides ample pre-amps to dynamic and condenser microphones that need power, and you can preset your preferred recording settings for quick activation. It also has rails that allow it to hang by a neck strap. If you need another XLR input for more complicated setups, try the Sound Devices MixPre6 ($899).
Your Complete Podcast Equipment Setup
Here are three theoretical setups you could use for your podcast, using our suggestions above. Remember that you can choose from different categories for each item, depending on where you’d like to spend your budget.
Good ($190-$500) : A Samson Q2U microphone, sitting in a On-Stage DS7200B Desktop Stand and Koolerton Universal 50MM Shock Mount, with a DragonPad pop filter in front of it and monitoring your audio with Sony MDR-7506 headphones. If your recording space is large, has hard furniture in it, or is producing echo-y recordings, invest in a home-made recording booth. If you need to record outside the studio for your podcast, go with a Tascam DR-60DMKII connected to an external microphone (see Transom’s field microphone recommendations) using an AmazonBasics XLR cable. No mixer needed to start, plug your USB mic into your computer.
Better ($520-$900): A Rode Podcaster microphone sitting in a NEEWER Adjustable Microphone Suspension Boom and Koolerton Universal 50MM Shock Mount, with a DragonPad pop filter in front. A LyxPro VRI-20 Standard Microphone Shield around your recording area if your space is producing any echo. Go with the Sony MDR-7506s for your headphones, and a Behringer Xenyx Q802USB Mixer if you want more control over your studio recording setup. If recording in the field, get the Zoom H5 and an external microphone (again, see Transom’s recommendations) using an LyxPro Balanced XLR Cable.
Best ($850 - $2,100): A Shure Beta 87A Supercardioid Dynamic Microphone sitting in a Rode PSA1 Swivel Mount Studio Boom Arm and Koolerton Universal 50MM Shock Mount, with a DragonPad pop filter in front. Listen to your audio through Audio Technica ATH-M50x headphones. Add sound treatments to your office with a multi-pack of Auralex Pyramid StudioFoam. Use LyxPro Balanced XLR or Mogami Gold Studio-06 XLR cables to connect your 87A to a Mackie-402VLZ4 4-Channel Compact Mixer or Mackie ProFX8v2 8-Channel Sound Reinforcement Mixer, depending on how many discrete audio inputs you’ll have. If recording in the field, consider the Zoom H5, or the Sound Devices MixPre3 if your recordings are really crucial, using a higher-end field mic from Transom’s recommended list like the Sennheiser K6 kit.