For many online businesses, including my own, podcasting is the very heart of everything they do.  When I had a large following of my blog, customers would call in and say “It’s so cool to be talking to you!  I have read your blog forever…”  Then, I launched a podcast.  Since that day, customers no longer say they read my blog.  Now, they say they listen to my podcast.

I hope the importance of that last sentence sunk in.  It is likely that podcasting will not only be a part of your brand, but it very well may become your brand.  That being the case, do not do a half-job of it.  I want you to do your podcast right, but also at a level that you can afford.  To that end, I have put together three podcasting packages at varying price levels.  I have personally used each of these setups and reviewed dozens of other competing products, so I can say confidently that these setups will work for you.

In addition to the recommended equipment on this page, I’ve also put together all the best information I have on how to take your podcast and make it look and sound professional, how to get more listeners, and how to turn your podcast into a full-time income.  If that interests you at all, check out Podcast Advance!

Notice: Many, but not all of the links on this page are affiliate links.  This gives me a small commission but doesn’t cost you anything.  I would get the same percentage by recommending other items on Amazon, but this is the actual setups that I use and have used in the past.  I have tried tens of thousands of dollars of other gear and I have learned what works.  These setups cost a FRACTION of what other Internet Marketing websites are recommending to their readers, and I think the quality is significantly better.

I have broken my podcasting setup recommendations down to three setups at various price points below…

Premium Podcasting Setup – Approximately $600

This is the setup I use for podcasting. If you're looking for a cheaper way to get started, check the other suggested setups below.

This is the setup I use for podcasting. If you’re looking for a cheaper way to get started, check the other suggested setups below.

MicrophoneRode Procaster.  I feel very comfortable recommending the Rode Procaster as the best podcasting mic available–and even better that it’s only $230!  The Rode Procaster is an analog dynamic microphone, which means it has an XLR connection on the bottom.  Because it is not a digital mic, you won’t be able to record the sound directly onto the computer.  You’ll get an XLR cable to go from your Rode Procaster to the Zoom H6, and then the Zoom h6 will record the audio onto an SD card.  You may be tempted to skip the Rode Procaster and choose a simple USB microphone like in the Intermediate setup, but if your budget allows for it, you’ll see a significant improvement by choosing this mic.

XLR CablePlanet Waves 6′ XLR to XLR mic cable. Unlike digital cables that make little difference whether you buy the cheapie or the expensive cable, analog mic cables are not the same.  I used to use cheap XLR cables until one day I went to podcast and I could hear the local Spanish radio station through my headphones!  Another time, I heard an intermittent zapping sound which I later learned was interference from the power cables in the wall.  Spend just a little more on a nice XLR cable and you can prevent some really frustrating problems with your setup.

Many podcasters have used the Heil PR40 for years (including me), but the Rode Procaster was released not long ago and, in my opinion, is a better mic.  Watch my Rode Procaster vs. Heil PR40 Review here.

Audio RecorderZoom H6.  This audio recorder was released not too long ago and it completely changed the way I podcast.  My previous setup included an expensive mixer and compressor and audio recorder, but the Zoom h6 is so good that it convinced me to sell off the unnecessary gear and just use this little device.  The Zoom h6 is an audio recorder with 6 mic inputs.  It allows you to record up to six inputs to a separate tracks (so you can mute one person while another is talking), has XLR, 1/4″, and 3.5mm inputs, comes with handy mics built-in, gain dials for each input, and a nice big color LCD screen.  If you’re new to this, that may all sound intimidating but I assure you this is easy to use and does what you need it to do.  No one has ever regretted purchasing a Zoom h6.  It’s that cool.  The Zoom comes with a 2gb SD card if you don’t have one.

A cheaper alternative to the Zoom H6 is the Zoom H4n.  It’s an excellent recorder with similar audio quality, but the biggest difference is that you only get 2 inputs (one for mic and one for the computer to record skype interviews) so you wouldn’t be able to plug in a second mic to have a co-host or plug in a sound cart on your cell phone or tablet.

Mic StandRode PSA1 Boom Arm.  This is a nice looking boom stand and seems to get good reviews.  I actually use the Heil Boom stand, but I would prefer switching to this one.

Shock Mount –  Rode PSM1 Shock Mount.  This is a good choice of a shock mount for your mic, but most people can skip this expense.  For me, I podcast in a room alone and never touch the mic or stand, so there really is no issue at all with vibration.  I notice no difference with or without it, but sometimes I think I would look cooler with it 🙂  If you don’t buy a shock mount, you can just use the little attachment ring that comes with the Rode Procaster to attach it to your boom arm.  The shockmount is meant to prevent noise if you bump your mic, so if you skip this purchase… just don’t bump your mic 🙂

Pop FilterBSW RE27POP.  A pop filter is simply a piece of screen material that is placed in front of the microphone to keep your “p” from popping on the audio and your “s” from sounding too hissy.  This pop filter looks really really nice and works well, but I still think it was dumb of me to spend $60 on a little pop filter.  Probably wasn’t worth it.  You can find one much less expensive that will do just as good of a job.  This item is about the looks.

Media HostingBlubrry.  A media host is totally different than your website hosting.  A media host hosts the mp3 files from your podcast and lets others download them.  The reason you can’t simply put the mp3 on your host is twofold: (1) Website hosting companies set up servers differently than media hosts, so downloads will be slow and may even fail frequently, and (2) I don’t know of any web hosting company that will put up with it.  If you only have a few downloads you could certainly use your hosting provider, but most podcasts get thousands of subscribers fairly quickly, so they will definitely notice and not be okay with it.  Just spend $12/month with Powerpress and it will be worth it.  I promise.

Another option for media hosting is Libsyn.  I am a long-time Libsyn customer but recently switched over to Blubrry and LOVE their download statistics and easier integration with the awesome Powerpress Plugin for WordPress.

Headphones – You have two options here depending on how much money you feel like burning.  If you want to be a podcasting rockstar, then these are the headphones that Leo Laporte uses, and which I wish I used.  If you are a mere mortal and have a spouse you need to face after this purchase, then I’d highly recommend the Audio Technica ATH-M30 headphones.  These headphones are way more comfortable than the Sony MDR-7506 headphones that Cliff Ravenscraft recommends, and I can tell no difference in sound quality despite repeated tests (but that’s just my opinion–Cliff is THE podcast answerman for a reason).

When you are podcasting, you’ll want to keep your headphones on all the time.  There is a 3.5mm port on the Zoom h6 that will allow you to listen to yourself as you speak.  This helps you recognize if there is ambient noise making it into the recording, if you sound okay, if there is any hiss in the audio, etc.

Theme MusicAudioBlocks.com  I spent hours and hours and hours researching places to find stock music for my podcast intro.  Most stock audio websites had really lame music.  Most others, like iStockphoto, specifically write into the license that you can’t use the music for a theme song.  Ugh!  AudioBlocks is very inexpensive and gives you a year to download music.  It has some really good music at good prices.   There are very royalty-free audio stores that allow music to be used on a podcast, so this is quite the good find.

Voice OversFiverr.  Okay, I’m sure there are lots of more “premium” options for getting voiceovers for your podcast intro, but the truth is I still like Fiverr.  There are some extremely talented voice over artists on there who will get you an intro for just $5.  This guy is really good.

Sound Cart –  Soundbyte – $4.99.  This is a way for you to play your intro music, recorded voice feedback from listeners, drops, and any other sound clips you may want to play during your podcast.  If you have an iPad or iPhone, purchase an app called Soundbyte.  This app allows you to load in a bunch of mp3s and then displays a graphic for each sound clip.  There is also a desktop version of this software, but I had issues with it and wouldn’t recommend it.  The thing I like about Soundbyte is that it allows you to adjust the volume of each clip individually, fade the sound with the touch of a button, and speed up the audio if someone sends voice feedback that is longer than you want it.  If you use Android, then this app will do much of the same and it’s free!

Sound Cart CableHosa stereo breakout cable.  This cable plugs in to the headphone jack on your iPad, iPhone, or Android device and goes to the Zoom h6.  You only need to plug in the red end of the 1/4″ to the h6.  Just leave the gray end dangling loose.  This took me about 10 trips to Radio Shack to find.  I know this seems like a simple cord, it really isn’t.  They were throwing around terms like “balanced audio, polarized wires, etc.”  It was terrifying.  Now I know this is the cable.

Audio EditingAdobe Audition.  Personally, I use Adobe Audition for podcasting.  This is mostly because I already pay a monthly fee for the full suite of Adobe products on Creative Cloud, so it’s really only natural for me to use this professional tool.  Adobe Audition has some really nice features for podcasters, but frankly, unless you’re a power user you won’t get any benefit out of using Audition instead of Audacity.  Most podcasters will find the free program Audacity to be just as good of a choice.

Another tool I use for audio editing is Auphonic.com.  It’s a free program that helps to normalize the sound from the podcast.  If any parts of the show were louder or softer than the rest of the speaking, Auphonic will fix it.  Even if you’re careful to keep audio levels consistent during your podcast, it really is worth it to quickly pass the .wav through Auphonic before editing the clip in Audition or Audacity.  The program is no longer under development, but remains a free download.

Recording Interviews – I highly recommend just getting a second Hosa cable that I recommended above for the sound cart.  This way you can plug the headphone jack from your computer straight into the sound recorder.  By doing this, you don’t need to purchase software like Pamela for PC or Call Recorder for the Mac, and ALSO you don’t run the risk of a software glitch ruining your interview.  Skype has excellent call quality, so most podcasters use it for recording interviews.

Transcripts/Show Notes – I personally don’t pay to have a transcript of my shows recorded, but my listeners do appreciate getting show notes.  Sometimes I write them myself, sometimes my office manager does them for me.  If you want to go the transcript route, you can use Speech Pad, which charges $1 per minute of your show.  Personally, I don’t think transcripts are worth the cost because most podcasts cover more than one topic in a single show so it is unlikely Google will send traffic to that page, and reading a transcript is painful.

Album Art48hourslogo.com.  Your album art probably has more to do with your rankings on iTunes than the quality of the content you put out (obviously that statement can be taken too far, but I think a “good” podcast can get TONS of downloads with great album art).  Apple likes nice looking things, and so it is extremely picky about album art.  I would actually try 48hourslogo.com for good album art.  That is a logo design website where you pay $99 and then designers compete in a contest and you pick the winning entry and award the best design the money.  Although it is for logo design, I’m sure nobody over there would mind if you used it for your album art.

As a side note, be sure to get your designer to send you the file at a resolution of 1400px X 1400px which is the resolution iTunes now recommends.

Intermediate Podcasting Setup – Approximately $300

MicrophoneThe ATR2100 mic.  This is a $100 USB microphone OR XLR mic that captures the voice very nicely.  You can absolutely record a professional podcast on this mic, but you should be aware of two limitations: (1) There are some downsides to all USB microphones for podcasting, and (2) Like almost all other mics at this price point, the sound pickup on this mic is extremely wide when compared with the Rode Procaster mentioned in the premium setup.  This means if you have kids in the other room, a noisy neighbor, police cars outside, or any other ambient noise, it will probably be recorded.

If you live outside the United States where sometimes the ATR2100 is not available, you can try this Samson mic which I’m told is a very close substitute.

The best way to fix this problem is to record your podcast in your closet.  Yup, your closet.  The clothes in the room are excellent for damping ambient noise as well as cutting down the echo.  If you feel uncomfortable spending an hour talking to yourself in a room full of laundry, then you’ll need to set up a home studio with foam pads on the walls to cut down the echo and ambient noise.  I bought a whole bunch of foam camping pads and discretely lined them behind my desk and along the walls to reduce the echo.

I have heard sample audio from just about every USB mic on the planet and none of them sound as good as the ATR2100 for a similar price.  If you want to go USB but can spend more money, you might choose the Rode Podcaster.

I used an Audio Technica USB microphone for a full year before moving up to XLR mics.  This is a great starting point and will make your show sound really nice.

Mic StandOn Stage Small Mic Stand.  This is a simple $15 mic stand to put on your desk.  Its job is simple–hold the mic.

Media Hosting –Blubrry.  A media host is totally different than your website hosting.  A media host hosts the mp3 files from your podcast and lets others download them.  The reason you can’t simply put the mp3 on your host is twofold: (1) Website hosting companies set up servers differently than media hosts, so downloads will be slow and may even fail frequently, and (2) I don’t know of any web hosting company that will put up with it.  If you only have a few downloads you could certainly use your hosting provider, but most podcasts get thousands of subscribers fairly quickly, so they will definitely notice and not be okay with it.  Just spend $12/month with Powerpress and it will be worth it.  I promise.

Headphones – I’d highly recommend the Audio Technica ATH-M30 headphones.  When you are podcasting, you’ll want to keep your headphones on all the time.  There is a 3.5mm port on the Zoom h6 that will allow you to listen to yourself as you speak.  This helps you recognize if there is ambient noise making it into the recording, if you sound okay, if there is any hiss in the audio, etc.

Theme Music – AudioBlocks.com  I spent hours and hours and hours researching places to find stock music for my podcast intro.  Most stock audio websites had really lame music.  Most others, like iStockphoto, specifically write into the license that you can’t use the music for a theme song.  Ugh!  AudioBlocks is very inexpensive and gives you a year to download music.  It has some really good music at good prices.   There are very royalty-free audio stores that allow music to be used on a podcast, so this is quite the good find.

Voice Overs – Fiverr.  I like Fiverr.  There are some extremely talented voice over artists on there who will get you an intro for just $5.  This guy is really good.

Audio Editing –  Skip Adobe Audition and just get Audacity.  It’s a free audio editing program.  All I use my audio editor for is cutting off any dead space at the start or end of the recording.  Or cutting out part of a show if it’s too long.  I don’t do any audio sweetening, but I do levels and noise removal with Auphonic.

Another tool I use for audio editing is Auphonic.com.  It’s a free program that helps to normalize the sound from the podcast.  If any parts of the show were louder or softer than the rest of the speaking, Auphonic will fix it.  Even if you’re careful to keep audio levels consistent during your podcast, it really is worth it to quickly pass the .wav through Auphonic before editing the clip in Audition or Audacity.  The program is no longer under development, but remains a free download.

Recording Interviews – Skype, and either Pamela for PC or Call Recorder for the Mac.  For recording interviews, you will need software on your computer to record the Skype conversation.  Skype has excellent call quality, so most podcasters use it for recording interviews.

Transcripts/Show Notes – I personally don’t pay to have a transcript of my shows recorded, but my listeners do appreciate getting show notes.  Sometimes I write them myself, sometimes my office manager does them for me.  If you want to go the transcript route, you can use Speech Pad, which charges $1 per minute of your show.  Personally, I don’t think transcripts are worth the cost because most podcasts cover more than one topic in a single show so it is unlikely Google will send traffic to that page, and reading a transcript is painful.

Album Art – 48hourslogo.com.  Your album art probably has more to do with your rankings on iTunes than the quality of the content you put out.  Apple likes nice looking things, and so it is extremely picky about album art.  I would actually try 48hourslogo.com for good album art.  That is a logo design website where you pay $99 and then designers compete in a contest and you pick the winning entry and award the best design the money.  Although it is for logo design, I’m sure nobody over there would mind if you used it for your album art.

As a side note, be sure to get your designer to send you the file at a resolution of 1400px X 1400px which is the resolution iTunes now recommends.

Basic Podcasting Setup – Approximately $35

This setup may seem extremely basic, but when I was starting and had no money to invest in my first blog, it worked and worked well.  Don’t allow yourself to be the curmudgeon who sits around complaining about not having the gear to start a business.  Be the person who has a talent for making something out of nothing.

MicrophoneLogitech H540 Headset.  This is a great option for podcasting because the microphone is extremely high quality for a headset and you get nice headphones as well for when you are doing interviews.

File HostingArchive.org.  You can actually upload your audio to Archive.org and they will host it for free.  The problem with this solution is that you need to give them a Creative Commons license and you don’t have the control over your files like you would if you spent $12 per month you’d use with Blubrry.  But, this is a good free way to go if you’re bootstrapping it.

Theme Music – Do a search for public domain music or music you can use with a creative commons license.  You’ll find it.

Audio Editing –  Just get Audacity.  It’s a free audio editing program.  All I use my audio editor for is cutting off any dead space at the start or end of the recording.  Or cutting out part of a show if it’s too long.  I don’t do any audio sweetening, but I do levels and noise removal with Auphonic.

Another tool I use for audio editing is Auphonic.com.  It’s a free program that helps to normalize the sound from the podcast.  If any parts of the show were louder or softer than the rest of the speaking, Auphonic will fix it.  Even if you’re careful to keep audio levels consistent during your podcast, it really is worth it to quickly pass the .wav through Auphonic before editing the clip in Audition or Audacity.  The program is no longer under development, but remains a free download

Album Art – Pixlr or GIMP are free programs like Photoshop that will help you to design your own album art for your podcast.

Back to My Recommended Tools

Comments

  1. Hi there! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone 3gs!

    Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward
    to all your posts! Carry on the great work!

  2. Jim,

    In your premium set up, what would I do if I wanted to have a cohost that is in the same room? Can I add a second mic with the H6.

    Value information and my equipment is on the way.

    Thanks,

    Marion

  3. I noticed you recommend Adobe Audition to record your podcasts. What is your opinion of GarageBand?
    I have a newMacBook Air and I do not use Adobe and GarageBand seems pretty good.

  4. Hi Jim!

    What is your zoom setup (Low-cut filter, compressor, etc…etc…)? I’m bought same setup, but mic level is very low… I’m speak normal voice, about 15-20 cm from mic.

    my setup:
    rode procaster
    zoom h6
    mic channel gain:
    0-6 too low
    7-8 ok, but little bit noisy
    8-10 ok, but very noisy

    I’m thinking replace Procasterto Rode NT2-A microphone. I did not experienced this problem.

    You doing post-production on the soundtrack (Noise removal, normalize, etc…etc…)?

    Thank you for answer!

  5. Hi Joe!

    Plug jack into H6 line output and your computer mic connector.
    Or: use iMic. Plug in- and output into iMic, and connect iMic to computer via USB. After then go to skype voice setup, and change in and output to iMic. I hope it helps.

  6. Hi Jim:

    Thank you very much for the info. I bought the premium podcast setup equipment per your recommendation. Like it very much. I do have a question. Someone I want to interview would rather not use Skype. The prefer to use their phone. How would I hook up my cell phone to record their call through the H6?

    Thank you.

    Mike

  7. Hi Jim,

    Excellent advice. Just got the H6 and I love. Only trouble is I get lots of static when plugging in the 1/4″ Hosa cable into the input. They feel very loose when plugged into the multi XLR/TRS input. Is this normal?

    Thanks again,
    Bill

  8. Hey Jim
    Do you find the gain on the Zoom H6 sufficient? What is it
    set at for the Rode mic?
    Looks like it handles the Procaster OK, what about RE20 or Shure SM7B?
    Thanks

  9. Jim,

    First I have to say that I love your podcast and I listen all the time. I’ve learned so much that I’m working on implementing. I am writing because I have one critique, something you mentioned on an earlier podcast show and in this article above, regarding album art. As a graphic designer by trade, I have a hard time with you promoting sites such as 48hourlogos.com. These sites diminish the value of good graphic design and seek to cheapen the industry and our (graphic designers everywhere) skill set.

    To give you a better idea of how designers view these types of sites, I wanted to link you to a couple of articles on the topic:

    http://www.logodesignlove.com/logo-design-contests

    http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-04/11/crowdsourced-design-risky-business

    I wanted to comment today because I think your stance on this is going to offend other graphic designers such as myself. I don’t think album art needs to cost a lot of money, but I also don’t agree with going the crowdsourcing route either. The main issue that the graphic design community has with this is that these sites ask the designer to do “spec work” without promise of payment. Designers are usually more then happy to do a few rounds of revisions with their clients, even show sketches and discuss concepts before beginning detailed work, but doing spec work is considered unethical to many professionals in the design industry.

    I would suggest using other sources for album art. Sources such as new designers that need experience, students, or local (in your area) designers that will be able quote you a reasonable price. There are also many sites online that work with designers in a more ethical way. A couple you could check out: flexjobs.com, freelancer.com elance.com and even posting on your local craigslist page. Thumbtack is another one. These sites allow the designer to submit a quote to you upfront and agree on basic terms before any work is completed.

    I would hate for you to continue to offend other designers, and I really hope that you will reconsider this issue. Again, love what you are doing and I hope that I’m providing some insight to a sticky issue in the graphic design world. Thanks!

    1. Author

      @Darlene – I’ve done graphic design several ways. I’ve hired graphic designers and I’ve done it the logo contest way. Hands down, not even a comparison, the contest way produced MUCH better work for me at a MUCH lower cost.

      So until I’m convinced that I’m going to get better work at a lower price, I won’t be changing. If that’s offensive to graphic designers, then they need to accept that all industries are competitive and if you can’t provide better work at a better price you won’t get the job.

      That’s how capitalism works. You can either complain about the market or offer something better to change the market.

  10. Thanks for the tutorials. Quick question:

    I’m a little confused about how your are using the H6 alone for your skype interviews. I’ve been using a large mixer with an old Tascam recorder and doing mix-minus. I would LOVE to get rid of the mixer and hardware compressor/limiter/gait. I now have the H6 and love it.

    Clearly, I see that you are bringing the skype call from your computer to your H6. But how does your caller hear you, any effects or music? I don’t see a connection back to your computer. Or are you just using your computers mic input for them to hear you?

    Thanks!

  11. Jim,

    What is the best option for making a video podcast that captures my screen? For example, making a video showing the screen while I work through processing a photo.

    Love your site! My wife and I are both starting our own blogs and are absolutely inspired. Thank you!

    Chris

    1. Author

      I definitely recommend Screenflow if you use a Mac. If you use a PC, then go with Camtasia. If you’re producing a lot of video, it’s totally worth it.

  12. Jim
    Is the same cable used for the phone to recorder as the computer to recorder?

    1. Author

      @David Johnston – Yep! I have two of them–one that plugs from my phone to the recorder and the other is from the computer to the recorder.

  13. Great stuff Jim. I used your recommendations and tweaked it a little. Here is my setup for a Skype recorded interview:
    MacBook (2009 model with Mavericks), H4n recorder, the headphones you recommended, the Rode ProCaster mic, voice overs for intro and outro with some music from Audio Jungle.

    I do not suggest you try the video call with Skype. Only do the call because your quality will be much, much better. My SoundCart Cable goes from the 3.5mm jack on my laptop to the H4n like you have suggested and the XLR mic goes to the second port on the H4n. I listen to the call through the H4n with my headphones. Once the call is over, I take that .wav file and then add the intros and outros in Adobe Audition and then to Auphonic (or some other audio polishing service). Then up to Libsyn and my website.

    I just uploaded episode 17 and have your website and encouragement to thank. You can check us out at http://www.101homeschoolideas.com and iTunes under the same name. So… Thanks Jim.

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