To get started podcasting, you don’t need any fancy equipment. Refer to my article on the absolute basics of recording a podcast to get started. In that article, I show you how a disposable microphone connected to your computer is really all you need to launch your podcasting career. Audio quality is somewhat lacking with a low-end microphone, in part because cheap microphones are notorious for picking up all kinds of room noise (which often includes the computer fan noise). Audio clarity ultimately suffers and it becomes vital to seek out better quality tools. After you get the basics figured out, there are several things you can do to improve the quality of your podcast, without breaking the bank.
Three specific hardware components are needed to record quality spoken audio tracks: a microphone, phantom power and a compressor/limiter. In general, you get what you pay for when you buy audio gear. The cheap stuff does not sound as good as the expensive stuff, but there are varying degrees of cheap and expensive resulting in smart compromises within your budget limitations. Without making a large quality trade off you can get a decent sounding audio setup for about $200.
Mixing Board and Compressor
A mixing board might seem like overkill at first, because all you’re doing is connecting one microphone, but with some experience, you’ll quickly discover uses for the extra channels on the mixer. The Yamaha MG102C makes a great choice for filling the mixer/phantom power dual-role. Yamaha also sells several other mixing boards with more inputs, but even the MG102C has enough input options to allow you to expand your setup to accommodate things like a second microphone, outboard gear like a turntable or CD player, or patching in telephone recordings before passing the signal to your PC recording software. Based on my research in updating this article, you can currently find the Yamaha MG102C Stereo Mixer (10 Inputs) for about $105.
A decent compressor is something you don’t want to be without. Compressors are used to keep the change in volume between quite tones and loud tones less dramatic and effectively prevent you from recording sounds at a level capable of distorting the waveform. The compressor sits between your microphone and line-in on the PC. In the configuration we’re talking about here, you connect the microphone to the mixing board, which acts as both the power source for your microphone and includes a compressor. Standalone compressors come with a wide range of features at prices ranging from $50-1000. The Yamaha MG102C is fairly rudimentary for compression, but as an entry level solution on a budget, it does the job nicely. The Yamaha MG82CX Stereo Mixer also includes a built-in compressor for about $45 more.
To make all the necessary connections, you’ll need a few accessories. At the very least you need a desktop microphone stand, an XLR microphone cable, two patch cables with male ends and a 1/4-in to 1/8-inch adapter. The stand is for the mic. The XLR cable connects the mic to the mixing board. One patch cable connects the mixer to the compressor; the second one connects the compressor to the adapter, which in turn connects to the line-in on your sound card.
A microphone stand shouldn’t run you more than $13. The combined cost of the 3 cables and adapter will be roughly $30, if you buy 5-foot lengths, based on my own shopping experiences.
Here’s the gear rundown:
|C-1 Studio Condenser microphone||$40|
|Yamaha MG102C Stereo Mixer||$105|
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