How I Podcast with Lex Starwalker E01 - What Software & Equipment Do I Need to Get Started?

This series of podcast episodes, blog posts and YouTube videos is for my listeners who are curious about how I produce my podcasts and what equipment I use. In this episode I cover the basics of what you'll need to get started with your own podcast.

Image Copyright Amazon.com

Image Copyright Amazon.com

There’s a lot of great information on how to podcast out there. I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here.

However, I’ve gotten quite a few requests for information from people wondering how I podcast. What equipment do I use? What software do I use? How do I do interviews?

I’ve spent a LOT of time learning all this myself, and I’ve spend a LOT of time answering these questions for people. So I’ve decided to answer them one more time, in as detailed a way as I can, and have it up there for anyone who wants it.

I am not saying, “This is the only way to podcast.” I am not saying, “This is the best way to podcast.” This is how I podcast.  I am providing this information because my listeners want it, not because I think I’m better than other podcasters or the best podcaster or anything like that.

I do think my perspective will be helpful to some people, though. I do some things differently than a lot of other podcasters do, especially podcasters who share how they do what they do. For example, I don’t use Wordpress; I don’t use Mac; I don’t use Garageband. It was a little frustrating for me starting out because so much of the information on podcast that’s out there assumes you use an Apple computer. It can be more difficult to find information for Windows users, and you can get the impression that all podcasters use Apple (I know I did). This simply isn’t true.

Software

You'll want a good editing program. If you want something free, Audacity will do the trick. It's available for Windows and Mac. It can basically do everything you need, it's just not always super user-friendly. Luckily there's a lot of support out there for it. 

Download Audacity.

You will also need the LAME MP3 Encoder for Audacity. You can find instructions here.

If you're using a Mac, I hear it comes with a program called Garageband that you can use. 

If you're willing/able to pay for software, I highly recommend Adobe Audition. It's more powerful than Audacity and more user-friendly. It has much better noise reduction software. Unfortunately it's part of Adobe Creative Cloud and costs $20 per month.

Learn more about Audition and try it out for free.

Also, if you're doing it remotely you'll also need Skype or Google Hangouts. I prefer Google Hangouts; I think the sound quality is a lot better, but your mileage may vary.

Equipment

Think about your budget, and think about your goals. Too many people try to produce a podcast without spending any money. It can be done, but you get what you pay for, and it’s no different with podcasting. If you want to produce a podcast without spending any money, you can do it, but it’s going to sound like a podcast produced without any money.

That said, you don’t have to spend a LOT of money to produce a professional-sounding podcast.

The minimum is a decent computer with a good sound card and a microphone.  You can always upgrade from there. If you get really serious, you'll eventually want a mixer, but you don't need it starting out. If you’re not sure if podcasting is for you, start here. You can get a good mic for $60, and start with just that and your computer, which you already hopefully have, and free software.

The minimum setup I’d recommend for someone who’s sure they’re into podcasting for the long haul is a decent computer, mixer, and microphone (along with microphone stand, cables, etc.).

Think about what you want to do, and think about growth you anticipate and desire.

Shure SM58s Image Copyright Amazon.com

Shure SM58s Image Copyright Amazon.com

Microphone

As far as your mic, you can get a decent USB mic, and then that's all you need. The other way to go is to get a mixer, and then you can use studio analog mics which sound better. Here's a good article on basic podcasting gear.

If you do get a studio mic, make sure to get a dynamic mic and not a condenser mic. A condenser mic will pick up too much background noise. They’re better suited for professional studios with soundproofing.

I use Shure SM58s mics and a mixer (currently $95 on Amazon). 

Audio-Technica ATR2100 Image Copyright Amazon.com

Audio-Technica ATR2100 Image Copyright Amazon.com

It all depends how much you want to spend and how good you want the sound to be. You can do pretty well with the USB mic that Ray Ortega recommends, the ATR 2100 (currently $60 on Amazon). The nice thing about this mic is you can use it as a USB mic when you start out, and later when you upgrade to a mixer, you can still use it. Ray often uses this mic on his Podcasters’ Roundtable, and it sounds really good. 

Mixer

When looking for a mixer ideally you want one that can interface with your computer using USB. You can make it work without USB, but USB makes it easier.

You also want to think about how many channels you want. This is where you want to think about not only what you need now, but also what you’re going to need in the future. You need a channel for each person on the show. So if you’re going to have a cohost, you need two channels for just your mic and your cohost’s mic. If you want to bring in outside sound effects, you’ll need a channel for that. If you want to be able to bring in someone on a Hangout or Skype call, you’ll need a channel for that.

Just a note, if you’re wanting to do music as well (I’m a musician, so have to note this), you’ll want a channel for each microphone and/or instrument.

You also want a mixer with good preamps. These amplify the signal from your mics (makes them louder). Dynamic mics need a good preamp. You want a mixer that doesn’t add a lot of noise to your signal.

Behringer Xenyx X1204USB mixer Image Copyright Amazon.com

Behringer Xenyx X1204USB mixer Image Copyright Amazon.com

I use Behringer Xenyx X1204USB mixer (currently $180 on Amazon). This can handle 12 inputs, which is way more than what I need right now. However, I would rather spend more now and not have to replace my mixer in the future, and I also wanted the capability to record music if I ever want to. I also paid a little more for a mixer with effects, which you absolutely don’t need unless you’re recording music.

Again, check out Ray Ortega’s article on podcasting gear.

He uses and tests a lot of gear, so I think you can take what he says to the bank. You can find a lot of great information on his website.

You'll also want microphone stands, microphone cables, etc.

Computer

You also want a decent computer, with a decent processor and a decent amount of RAM. Luckily, for less than what people pay for a Macbook, you can build a PC that will run circles around any Mac out there, and will be more than powerful enough to do anything you want to do, including producing and editing video.

My PC has an i5 processor, 16 GB of RAM (overkill), and is running Windows 7 64 bit. For audio podcasting you want as much processor and RAM as you can afford, for video you need even more processor and RAM. If you’re planning to do shows longer than half an hour, or if you’re planning to do video, I recommend going 64 bit so you can handle larger files.

The nice thing is, is I can upgrade my computer, e.g. getting an i7 processor, getting a better motherboard and/or soundcard, etc. without having to buy a whole new computer.

It’s actually really easy to learn how to build your own computer. I built mine myself, and I’m completely self-taught. Don’t be one of those people who buys a Mac or an Alienware computer, etc. If you’re smart enough to podcast, you’re smart enough to build your own PC, and you can make it exactly what you want, without getting features and software you don’t need, and save a lot of money doing it. Premade computers are for people who don’t know what they’re doing and don’t want learn. If you’re wanting to be a serious podcaster, this probably isn’t you. (Note, I’m not referring to laptops. That’s a different animal.)

To record Skype or Hangouts you'll need a soundcard that allows you to record the computer sounds (look for a Recording Device called Stereo Mix in Windows - Recording Devices. if you see it, you can record computer sound). The other option is to use Hangouts On Air, download the mp3 from YouTube, and extract the audio from it, but that won't allow you to have people on different tracks for editing.

Resources

Here are some great podcasts about podcasting that can really help you out.

The Podcasters’ Studio by Ray Ortega (find on iTunes)

Podcasters’ Roundtable by Ray Ortega (find on iTunes)

Watch Podcasters' Roundtable on YouTube

School of Podcasting by Dave Jackson (find on iTunes)

The Audacity to Podcast by Daniel J. Lewis (find on iTunes)



©2015 Starwalker Studios LLC