In Episode 0, we covered podcasting microphones at various price points. In this episode, we cover everything else you’ll need to get started. Below you’ll find a collection of all items mentioned in the episode divided into various price points. To get you started, we’ve also included links to a microphone recommendation for each price point so that each list contains everything you’ll need.
Budget Setup: $50-100
Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB $60
On Stage Foam Ball Windscreen $2
If you want to get a more professional sound than can be achieved with just the built in microphone in your laptop, phone or tablet, you don’t have to break the bank. The Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB / AT2005-USB microphones (the differences are largely cosmetic) sound great, reject background noise, include workable, if not sufficiently tall, stands, both USB and XLR microphone cables and contain headphone jacks for monitoring their output without latency. Just keep in mind that if your show has multiple hosts, in order to record more than one at a time via USB, you’ll either need to spin up multiple instances of Audacity (a free piece of recording software, also known as a DAW or Digital Audio Workstation) for each microphone and then import the separately recorded files as multiple tracks into a single project, or purchase software like Cakewalk’s Sonar that’s capable of working with multiple interfaces at once. Either way you’ll need to issue a single clap in front of all microphones at once so that you can later sync up the tracks from the same peak (even using Sonar, depending on your setup, each microphone will likely have a slightly different delay and thus produce an echo in any sounds loud enough to be picked up on more than one mic without doing so).
A Step Up: Add a budget Audio Interface: +$150-200
A decent audio interface like the Presonus AudioBox 22VSL will provide a slight boost to sound quality over the built in USB interfaces in the ATR2100 as well as allow you to easily record more than a single microphone at a time. Its preamps aren’t powerful enough on their own to support professional level dynamic broadcast microphones, but it can handle the ATR2100 or any condenser microphone with aplomb. If you need support for higher end microphones, a Cloudlifter or FETHead per channel will work great, or you could check out the more expensive Focusrite Forte described below. The Presonus AudioBox 22VSL USB 2.0 Audio Interface also includes a copy of the excellent Studio One recording software. If you need more than two inputs, similar options exist with 4 inputs, or you could opt for a mixer like:
Or a Mixer: +$180-400
While you could get by with something like the Mackie PROFX8 8-Channel Mixer, we recommend the Behringer UFX1204 Xenyx 12-Channel Mixer. While the preamps and overall quality of the Mackie are likely a bit better, the UFX1204 has two huge advantages over every other mixer in this price range: the ability to act as a USB or Firewire interface capable of recording each input as a separate individual track, along with the main and aux outputs as four more, and, impressively, the ability to record each track directly onto a USB drive allowing you to operate without the need for a separate computer to plug into. Both options come with a license to Tracktion, another DAW that’s again a good improvement over Audacity. Despite the improved preamps on the Mackie, both are insufficient on their own to provide enough gain for our recommended higher end dynamic broadcast microphones without using a Cloudlifter or a FETHead.
Pro Setup: $768
Heil PR40 Package $369
Focusrite Forte $399
If you’re looking to step up into the world of professional equipment, the Heil PR 40 Package is a great way to start. You’ll need an audio interface like the Focusrite Forte that has a preamp with enough clean gain to handle the low output of the PR 40 or other professional dynamic broadcast mics. Other than an audio interface, the Heil PR 40 Package includes everything you’ll need – an easily adjustable desk boom arm, a shock mount to isolate the mic and an XLR cable. If you’re only ever planning on working with a single in-studio host, you can save a bit by purchasing a lower end audio interface and combining it with a FETHead for $80. The more in studio hosts you must support, the less you gain with this approach as you must purchase one FETHead or Cloudlifter per microphone.
Money Is No Object: $2608
Electro-Voice RE27N/D Package – $589
Heil Sound PL-2T Overhead Broadcast Boom – $120
Avid Pro Tools Quartet Interface – $1899 or
RME Babyface Pro – $750, a two mic interface with much more digital expansion.
If money is no object, you probably want to check out the Electro-Voice RE20 and RE27N/D. The RE20 is a classic broadcast microphone whose authoritative sound you will certainly recognize from news radio. The RE27N/D is an updated design with a rounder, and in my opinion clearer sound that some may find more appealing. If you really have no budget, the Neumann U87 Ai is a classic condenser microphone that sounds amazing for all sorts of applications, including voiceover. Just don’t go using it an room with background noise like computer fans, hard surfaces causing undesirable echoing etc. A broadcast dynamic microphone is much better suited to those sorts of situations (and if you’re not totally crazy, Neumann makes less expensive models). Finally, check out the Avid Pro Tools Quartet audio interface, a special version of the Apogee Quartet interface released by Avid, the makers of Pro Tools, the industry standard in recording software. Avid has produced its own drivers for the Pro Tools Quartet which work on both the Mac and Windows (while the Apogee original only supports the Mac and iOS), and includes the full standard version of Pro Tools in the box. While the Avid version includes Pro Tools, it will work with any other recording software you may be using as well, making it the only way to use an Apogee device on Windows machines. Apogee preamps provide a full 75 db of gain – well more than you is required, even with the gain thirsty RE20 and SM7b microphones, and are regarded as having some of the best sound in the business. The Quartet provides 4 XLR mic connections with preamps and supports expansion with an additional 8 channels via digital connection. The Avid version is identifiable by its more premium looking black finish vs the original Apogee model’s silver. If you are using a Mac for your recording, and have no need for Pro Tools, you can save $500 by going with the Apogee version. Finally, if you’re really planning on running something like a professional podcast network, you’ll probably want to piece together a custom broadcast console – you can check out the TWiT wiki to see what Leo & co use.
Finally, I’ve collected a few remaining bits and bobs that can make your life easier, along with all the items previously mentioned in this post in an Amazon list you can find here. As usual, purchases made through the Amazon links in this page will generate a small referral fee for the site.
That’s it! For more information, check out the resources listed below:
5 USB Audio Interfaces / Preamps for RE-20 & SM7B
SM7 Output Level and Preamp Gain Specifications
The Audacity to Podcast: 10 Reasons You Should Get a Mixer – TAP124
GFQ Network Podcast Studio