You’ve just finished another landmark podcast episode. Pop the champagne! Starting a podcast isn’t easy. Keeping it alive is harder still. Now that you’re in a groove of sharing your show with fans, It’s time to see how you can make your podcast grow.

One quick way to improve your show is by using better gear. Whether buying new or used, often a slight cash infusion can greatly improve the sound quality of your podcast.

So, in today’s post we’ll show options for upgrading your equipment: both for those working on a budget, and those with fatter wallets.

 

Microphones

Microphones have perhaps the greatest impact on the sound quality of your podcast. Why?

Vocal recordings made with cheap microphones will sound tinny and thin. They often contribute annoying hissing noise to the recording. That’s a problem when podcast listeners are focused on the richness and character of your voice. Superior microphones are clearer and contribute better tone. As a bonus, they also have better rejection, which means intrusive background noises will be greatly reduced.

With a greater budget, you can choose between condenser or dynamic microphones more freely. Condensers have a broader frequency range and are considered more rich. However, they are also more sensitive, which means they are prone to picking up mouth clicks and saliva movement. Dynamics are more robust, don’t require phantom power, and tend to be less expensive.

Here are options for both USB and XLR microphones:

 

USB Podcasting Microphones

Under $200

 

 

  • Blue Snowball. The Snowball condenser is a sub-$100 offering that is often a beginning podcaster’s first pick.
  • Samson Meteor. A compact cardiod condenser known to have more richness in the low end.
  • Blue Yeti. A step up from the Snowball with 4 microphone condenser patterns and built-in headphone monitoring.
  • Shure MV5. Another condenser, also with headphone monitoring, known for good sound quality for its class.
  • Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB. A handheld dynamic cardiod microphone from a reputable Japanese company. Built-in headphone jack.
  • Røde NT-USB. Complete with tripod and pop shield, this condenser offering from Australia’s Røde is designed to have everything you need to get started quickly.

 

Over $200

 

 

  • Audio-Technica AT2020USBi. A USB version of the widely respected AT2020 cardiod condenser microphone.
  • Røde Podcaster. A dynamic microphone option with 18-bit and 8-48 kHz sampling resolution. Though higher quality, unlike the others in this list, it doesn’t have a tripod.
  • Apogee MiC. Apogee is well known for creating products with superior, smooth sound. This USB microphone includes gain control on the unit itself, as well has headphone monitoring.
  • Apogee HypeMiC. An upgraded version of the MiC that comes with a pop filter.

 

XLR Podcasting Microphones

 

Under $200

  • Audio-Technica AT2020. The XLR version of Audio-Technica’s high-value classic cardiod condenser microphone.

 

 Over $200

 

 

  • Røde NT1-A. A cardiod condenser microphone respected for its value and low noise (5 dBA).
  • Røde Procasater. A dynamic offering from Røde with a frequency response designed for vocals. Comes with an internal pop filter.
  • Electrovoice RE20. A cardiod dynamic microphone with a legendary reputation in the broadcast community.
  • Shure SM7B. A well-respected microphone known for its luscious vocal quality.

 

Audio Interfaces

USB microphones are a great choice. They can be connected directly to PCs to begin recording quickly and effortlessly. In many cases, though, XLR microphones offer higher quality sound. To connect them, an audio interface must be used.

Audio interfaces have important benefits. Of course, they become the middleman to connect XLR microphones to the USB input of a computer. More importantly, they provide clean and quiet amplification, ensuring a pure sound.

 

Under $200

  • Blue Icicle. A simple XLR to USB converter. It supplies 48v to power XLR microphones and provides USB output for PCs.
  • Shure X2U. A similar offering from Shure.
  • Behringer U-Phoria UMC2. This USB audio interface is one of the most economical on this list. Providing 1 input, it’s a good choice for those on a budget. Limited to 48 kHz.
  • Focusrite Scarlett Solo. Focusrite is well known for their clear-sounding audio interfaces. The Solo offers a single XLR input in a stylish package.

 Over $200

  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. Similar to the Solo, with two XLR inputs.
  • Behringer U-Phoria UMC202HD. Similar to the UMC2, with two XLR inputs.
  • Zoom UAC-2. A two-channel offering from Japan’s Zoom with USB 3.0 support, and MIDI, too.
  •  Apogee Duet. A two-channel audio interface known for its silky smooth sound.

 

Audio Recorder

 

Recording your podcast on the road? Interviewing a guest far from your studio? Use audio recorders to record your podcast on the go. Better options include more XLR inputs and cleaner preamps for a more pure sound recording. Many of them double as audio interfaces as well.

Under $300

  • Zoom H4n Pro. One of the most popular entry-level portable recorders, the H4n Pro allows for two XLR inputs in a robust form factor together with onboard microphones for a total of 4 channels of recording.
  • Zoom H5. An upgrade from the H4n Pro, the H5 retains 2 XLR inputs with an intriguing feature: swappable onboard microphones.

Over $300

  • Zoom H6. Need more inputs? The H6 has them: 4 in total. It also adopts the H5’s innovative swappable microphones.
  • Sony PCM-D10. A slim, modern portable recorder designed with audio fidelity in mind, the D10 includes 2 XLR inputs.
  • Tascam DR-100mkiii. A higher-end portable recorder with dual XLR inputs and superior sound quality.
  • Zoom F4. A four-input audio recorder with discrete level control and onboard mixing.
  • Sound Devices MixPre-3. A high-quality diminutive recoder with three XLR inputs and onboard mixing.

 

Headphones

 

Why bother with improved headphones? Of course, better headphones will be more durable and comfortable. Advanced models provide clearer, more accurate audio and superior sound isolation, too.

Under $100

  • Audio-Technica ATH-M30x. A reliable entry-level option with a long legacy.
  • Sony MDR-7506. One of the most popular studio headphones in the world, known for its accuracy.

More than $100

  • Sennheiser HD25. Another pair of headphones used in professional studios everywhere, well-respected for their fidelity and sound isolation.
  • Beyer Dynamic DT1770. Designed as reference headphones with an uncompromising attention to detail and quality, and a price to match.

 

Accessories

They may not be the first purchase people think about when podcasting, but accessories can have a huge impact on the quality of your recordings just the same.

  • Pop filter. These mesh screens are placed between the speaker and the microphone. They protect the microphone from saliva and eliminate the popping sound caused by strong “p” and “b” words.
  • Microphone stands and boom arms. Smaller microphones can use desktop tripods. For larger microphones, a boom arm and shock mount are a better way to get the mic close to the speaker and isolate the sound from vibration and movement. Røde and Blue offer inexpensive options. There are also choices from Electrovoice (309A shock mount), Heil Sound (PL-2T boom or PRSM shock mount).
  • Acoustic treatment. Sense a bit of an echo when you speak? Perhaps you can hear the neighbours when you’re speaking? Acoustically treat your room. This can be as simple as hanging moving blankets on the walls, or using professionally made acoustic foam panels.
  • Vocal reflection baffle. These small walls of sound-isolating foam are positioned behind the microphone and attached to the stand. The idea is that the baffles provide isolated audio when a sound booth is hard to come by. The Marantz Sound Shield is one option.

The best thing about gear improvements is that they can take place over time. Buy new or used. Grow as your budget expands. Aim to improve your podcast’s presentation to listeners.

Better gear will sweeten your show. Creating will be easier. Your voice will be smoother and cleaner. The result? 

Your ideas – and the way you present them – will draw listeners closer to your show.