If you're looking to take the audio quality of your podcast to the next level and get great sound it might be time to start thinking it's time to upgrade your podcasting equipment.
Having made over 140+ episodes of my own Online Marketing & Communications podcast [as of Feb 2015f], I've learned a lot about podcasting equipment by trial and effort.
Call me an audio snob if you will, but from the outset I wanted to get the best sound quality possible to reflect the professionalism of my business.
There is a stack of great podcasting equipment out there, and plenty of gear recommendations from other podcasters, but I wanted to share with you my own set-up to show what works best for me and give you an idea of the kind of quality you could be getting.
I'm going to look at what I see as the three most important bits of equipment but before I do that I can tell you that I record in my home office at a standing desk, often with four basset hounds under the table ! That's why I call it the Dog House Studio.
The Podcasting Equipment I use for Great Sound
I record my show into a Zoom H4n Handy Portable Digital Recorder via an analogue mixing desk rather than into my computer as I've found it more reliable. Also, it keeps the machine free to use Skype for interviews. I have no sound proofing equipment in my studio and I don't have stacks of books or soft furnishings. I also have a wooden floor this being a typical Swedish house.
This post includes some audio recordings; all of them were recorded and published without adding any effects or processing by my audio editing software. I leveled the volume to make it easier on the ear but that's it. Everything is as recorded live in the room.
So with that lets get on with the equipment review.
Use the Best Dynamic Microphone You Can Afford
Great audio starts with your microphone. No matter what.
The trouble is that USB mics can pick up quite a lot of background noise because they are so sensitive. Yes, you'll get rich voice tones but you'll also get things like the sound of your room, computer fan or the neighbour cutting the lawn outside.
You can always reduce some of the background noise from a recording with your audio editing software, but this means extra work and it will impact the overall richness of your voice recording.
I started out with USB mics like the Blue Snowball and Rode Podcaster USB Dynamic Microphone but really found my feet very early on when I made the jump to the Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone.
The Heil PR 40 is a podcaster's favourite. It produces condenser-like sounds even though it's a dynamic mic. The most important thing, though, is that it is a front firing microphone that has excellent rejection, keeping unwanted sounds to a a great addition to a podcast studio in any environment.
To illustrate just how great the Heil is, I've recorded four examples here for you to check out and compare.
The microphones in the example recording are:
- Shure SM58-LC Cardioid Vocal Microphone without Cable
- Sennheiser MD 421 II Cardioid Dynamic Mic
- Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone
- Line Audio CM3 condenser mic
- Rode Podcaster USB Dynamic Microphone
Choose the Right Mixer for Your Podcast Equipment Set-Up
Now I love my Heil PR 40 but the pre-amps on your mixing desk make a lot off difference to the sound you'll get out of it.
Early on I tested a few mixers like the Behringer Xenyx 820, the Behringer XENYX X1204USB and the Mackie PROFX8 but settled on the Soundcraft EPM8 8-channel Audio Mixer because I liked the richer sound. Now don't ask me why this sounded better for my voice, but the guys it specialist music store here in Stockholm told me they recommended SoundCraft preamps.
Add a Mic Pre-amp to the Chain
Recently I've taken the audio quality of my sound to the next level by adding the DBX 286s Mic Preamp / Processor to the chain.
Although I'd been doing quite a lot of voice processing in AdobeAudition to beef up the sound of my voice, it was adding the DBX to my podcast equipment that really got me to where I wanted to go.
Listen to an example of what the DBX 286s added to my sound:
If I had the budget I might have gone up to the Warm Audio WA12 Classic 312 Style Preamp which blew me away when I tried it, but it's just beyond my reach just now.
The Best Podcasting Equipment – Depends on so many factors
When it comes down to it, there is an immense amount of equipment to choose from if you're a podcaster after the very best in audio sound quality.
Personally, I am happy with my set up now but proper soundproofing in my office would certainly help. I also think I need to have a better understanding of compression techniques and AdobeAudition, my audio editing software of choice.
Still, I firmly believe that you can't go very wrong with a top quality dynamic mic, mic preamp and mixer.
If you've got a different set up that you think rocks, feel free to put your recommendations in the comments.
Check out some great podcast equipment recommendations with sound examples http://t.co/7pFmJyGHq0
— Jon Buscall (@jonbuscall) February 21, 2015
Updated: February 21, 2015