I’m frequently asked about the steps and tools necessary to start a podcast. The good news is that you can get started with very little money and still sound good. Here’s the best of what I’ve found in 4 years of podcasting and experimenting.

Microphones

In my experience, dynamic microphones produce better sound for podcasts than condenser microphones in all situations.

Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB Cardioid Dynamic Microphone (ATR Series)

  • I use this mic for recording remotely because it has USB and XLR connections. So, it’s easy to plug directly into my computer to record with Zencastr, and into my Zoom H4N for backup recording.
  • Less than $100
  • This is the mic that Tim Ferris uses and his podcast gets 100s of millions of downloads. It’s also the mic that Pat Flynn gives students of his podcast course.

Shure SM58-LC Cardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone

  • I use this one when recording on the road. It’s tried and true and once you have one you’ll see them everywhere you go.
  • I love using this mic. It’s well made and feels great in your hand. I think it gives me a slightly better sound than the ATR2100, but it’s XLR-only so you need a USB interface (see Scarlett below) to use it on a computer.

Recording

Zencaster is my favorite way to record remotely.

  • Easy to use. Just send a link to your guest and have them connect from chrome or firefox on a computer (mobile is not supported).
  • I use the $20/month account, but there is a free option that may work for beginners.
  • I’m 99% on this platform. It’s the best one I’ve used so far, but it’s not perfect.
  • Annoyance #1: I have to walk my guests through chrome settings every time to allow notifications – I paste this chrome shortcut in the chat window: chrome://settings/content/notifications and have them allow notifications from https://zencastr.com:443 to get rid of the warning.
  • The audio tracks tend to get slightly out of synch and you need to adjust them (Well my editor does. You should pay someone to edit for you. See below).

Zoom H4n Pro 4-Track Portable Recorder

  • I use this for backup recordings and remote recording.
  • It’s a great conversation starter at conferences. People have guessed that it’s a torture device, a fancy vape machine, etc. Anything that gets people joking and comfortable before an interview is helpful. Definitely an unexpected benefit fo using this device.

A note on backup recordings. It’s an extra step, and you almost never need it, but when you do it’s pretty damn valuable. It’s saved my bacon twice. My setup is: ATR-2100 USB to PC, XLR to H4N Zoom left channel and headphone jack to H4N Zoom right channel.

Editing

My #1 piece of advice is to hire a podcats editor. I started out doing it myself in audacity and was plowing 6 hours an episode into it. After about 10 f those I hired an editor off Freelancer.com and never looked back. You will most likely hate editing and you won’t be very good at it. If you can afford it, this is the best money can spend on your podcast.

Descript is my favorite “extra” tool. I say extra because I have an audio engineer who edits my podcasts. If I didn’t, then Descript would be an essential tool.

  • Edit Audio as Text – drop your audio file in and its auto-transcribed. Then you can delete text and Descript automatically cuts the audio. It’s very cool, but also a huge time saver. Grabbing the right spot in an editor like Audacity is tricky and annoying if you’re a novice (like me, and probably you).
  • Super helpful when creating show notes. I read the text as I listen to finished episodes and can copy past for show notes and quotes.
  • It’s way easier to find stuff in the audio than scanning the file in Audacity. I had to remove about 20 references to a company in one of my episodes. It would have taken hours in Audacity. Using text search in Descript it was done in 30 minutes.
  • I use Descript to grab short clips of the audio for MP4 social media posts with captions (see Wavve.co).
  • Descript is updated with new features regularly and they’re ussually good.
  • They’ve added all kinds of tools to make this a full-fledged editing platform. Again, if I didn’t have a pro editing for me, I’d be using Descript.

Audacity is open-source audio software. It’s free and very good. You can learn the basics in a few hours, but it’s feature-rich and fairly complicated. I use it for various things, but I probably wouldn’t have had Descript been around when I started.

Hosting

There are many options here. I’ve only used one and it’s been great, so I’ve had no reason to experiment.

Libsyn is one of the top platforms in the space and many of the largest podcasts use it.

  • Plans as low as $5/month. I use the Advance 400 level for $20/month because it gives more detailed stats.
  • Easy to use and reliable.

Other Stuff

Monoprice Microphone Isolation Shield: Skip all the complicated soundproofing and throw one of these on your desk. You’ll sound great.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface: If you want to hook an XLR mic up to your PC then you’ll need an interface. This one’s a great option. If I’m recording solo, my Shur SM-58 plugged into this with the Air setting on gives me the best sound of any of my setups.


This is a work in progress. Check back soon for more! ~Don