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Podcast Basics: What You (Really) Need to Start a Podcast in 2021

Today, we’re going back to basics and breaking down what you really need to start a podcast in 2021. We’ll cover everything from the basic to the pro level, and everything in between. From equipment and the technical side of things, to software, hosting, and all that happens behind the scenes to make a podcast come to life, you’ll find it all on this post.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ve broken everything down into the three main areas involved in getting a podcast up and running:

1. Hardware
2. Software
3. Hosting

So buckle up, and let’s dive right in! 

1. Hardware

The Basics

Let’s start with the basic equipment you need to start sharing your amazing content with the world. We’ll include both entry level as well as high-end options.

Microphones

If we’re talking about the bare minimum, all you really need to start a podcast is a USB microphone, preferably a pair of good quality headphones, and a laptop. I will say that you can use your mobile phone and onboard microphone (if we’re talking really basic!) but your sound quality will definitely not be all that great. And because we want to set you up for podcast success, we’re going to say that “basic” in this instance means the most basic set-up that will achieve quality-sounding audio.

And for that, you’ll need a microphone. USB microphones are perfect for any level of podcaster, but are particularly useful when you’re just starting out, as you just need to plug that baby in and you’re ready to get the ball rolling.

Some popular microphone choices, particularly when you’re just starting out, are the ATR2100, the Blue Yeti, or the Rode NT-USB.

But if you’re looking for something a little more high-end, we would suggest the Shure SM7B, which is what we use in our studios. These are studio-quality microphones and are the ones used for some of the biggest shows in the world. The wide-range frequency response of the SM7B helps to preserve the natural essence of the sound that it captures, ensuring that your episodes sound amazing each and every time. 

Headphones

Again, talking basics, some may say that headphones are not a strict necessity, but we would urge you to consider them part of your standard podcast toolkit, and mainly because headphones give you real-time feedback on the quality of your recording. They also help keep you focused by minimizing auditory distractions, and they are an asset to the editing process as they can help you pick up any audio issues during the recording, which can then be fixed right away. A good pair of quality headphones will let you know immediately if you’re talking too loud or too soft, or if there’s any popping or ambient noise creeping onto your recording.  

Two popular entry-level headphones are the Audio Technica ATH-M30x and the Sony MDR-7506.

Going up a level, you could use the Audio Technica M40x headphones, and they are the ones we use in our studios. These headphones are tuned flat for incredibly accurate audio monitoring across an extended frequency range. They enhance your studio experience with superior sound isolation and swiveling ear cups for convenient one-ear monitoring. These guys will help you nail your recordings whenever you hit record.

The Pro

We now move onto the equipment you’ll need if you’re looking to capture more high-quality, professional-level recordings. 

XLR Microphone and Sound Mixer

An XLR Microphone is what is used by many podcasters to get the highest quality recording possible and is considered to be the audio industry standard. XLR microphones are favored because they give you a lot of flexibility in your recording set up. Combined with a mixer, you’re able to adjust input levels for multiple mics, which is perfect for interviews or a co-hosted podcast, as this set-up consistenly delivers balanced audio. With XLR mics and a sound mixer, you get individual channels which you can control separately. This gives you way more flexibility in the post-production.

One of the most popular choices when it comes to an advanced recording set-up is RODE’s RODECaster Pro. Famed as the world’s first fully integrated podcast production studio, it gives you amazing audio quality while seriously simplifying the process of podcast production. With four high-quality XLR microphone inputs and four headphone outputs, you’re able to support up to four presenters. It’s also got  intuitive controls, an automatic level setting, as well as offering the functionality of one-touch recording to a microSD card or computer. It’s easy to see why it is the gold standard when it comes to your podcast recording set-up.

Shock Mount

Another “pro” piece of equipment is a shock mount. A shock mount “surrounds” your mic and its main purpose is to isolate microphones from mechanically transmitted noise. This can be caused by handling the microphone, accidental bumps of the table, or from vibrations from the floor or surrounds. Your shock mount serves to minimize the effects of these vibrations, and will help you achieve a much cleaner sound. 

Pop filter

A pop filter is a type of screen that acts as a noise protection filter for microphones. Pop filters are great tools for enhancing audio quality as they help to reduce or totally eliminate the popping sound that often happens when speaking into a microphone, which obviously will lead to a much cleaner sounding podcast.

Camera

If you’re looking to launch a video podcast, or you want another version of your podcast content to share via your social media channels, you can add “camera” to your list of equipment in order to capture the visual side of things. 

At an entry level, you can make use of your webcam or the camera on your smartphone (many of which offer amazing quality video!) but if you’re looking to up the ante quality-wise, then a DSLR camera could be the way to go! 

Related read: How to Create a Home Podcast Recording Studio

2. Software

Once you’ve got your hardware set-up sorted, you can turn your attention to the next podcasting “must-have” – your recording and editing software.

If you ask us, editing your podcast is the most important part of creating a high-quality show. Yes, you need certain hardware and a quiet environment to actually capture that beautifully crisp audio, but it is in the editing that a well-crafted audio masterpiece comes to life.

And you need certain software to make that happen! A great editing software in your podcasting toolbox will help clean up your audio and get it ready for publication. It will help you remove those “um’s” and “ah’s”, (and let’s not forget the “likes”!), it will smooth out any stutters and restarts, and it will enable you to add color to your episodes through the use of background music and sound effects. 

Let’s start with the basics…

Audacity

Audacity is a free, open-source, cross-platform, audio software that keeps it simple and offers you all of the basic tools that you’ll need to create an excellent podcast. It’s a multi-track audio editor and recorder compatible with Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems, and best of all, it’s really user-friendly! (But there are also some great resources online to help you get started!) Audacity also offers some impressive audio-processing effects that will help you remove unwanted coughs, static, or other distracting sounds. And as we’ve mentioned, it is a user-friendly, fairly intuitive software, with all the editing tools you need displayed on the main dashboard. 

GarageBand

Another entry-level option if you’re using Apple devices is GarageBand. GarageBand has some really great editing features, but it is also fairly simple to use. GarageBand comes pre-installed on most new Apple products and can be found for free in the App Store. It has an intuitive, modern design, making it easy to learn, play, record, create and, of course, share your podcast worldwide. The software even comes with a complete sound library, making it easy to add these to your podcast episodes. You can create multiple tracks with premade MIDI keyboards, pre-made loops, an array of various instrumental effects, and voice recordings. The software has tons of helpful recording and editing features that make this perfect for podcasters of all skill levels. 

Adobe Audition

If we’re looking at more “pro” software options, we’d recommend Adobe Audition, which is what we use here at We Edit Podcasts. It is probably the most well-known recording and editing software out there, and most consider this a premium option. It is, therefore, perfect for the podcasters that understand and love audio editing and are willing to invest in the software to add it to their podcasting toolbox. Audition is a comprehensive toolset that includes multitrack, waveform, and spectral display for creating, mixing, editing, and restoring audio content. Their powerful audio workstation is designed to accelerate video production workflows and audio finishing, delivering a polished mix with pristine sound. 

Related read: Overview of the Best Podcast Editing Software

Other

There are some other recording software options that you may need to use, particularly if you are recording in a different location to your co-host or guest. Your top options in this regard are Zoom, Zencaster, Iris, SquadCast, and Ringr

Related read: How To Successfully Record Your Podcast Remotely

3. Hosting

You’ve got your hardware and created an enviably podcast recording set-up. You’ve picked your software, and you’ve carefully recorded and edited your first podcast episode. Now what? Now, you need to get your podcast out into the world, and so now, we look at the final aspect of what you really need to start a podcast: a host. 

A podcast host stores your content, including your metadata and artwork, online, and then distributes your show’s RSS feed so that your listeners can access your episodes via their podcast listening app of choice, such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.

There are a vast amount of podcast host options available, and the final choice will come down to your specific needs, like storage capacity, as well as your budget. Some of the most popular options include Buzzsprout, Libsyn, Blubrry, and Podbean.

We love Buzzsprout for their simple approach to hosting podcasts. We host a few hundred podcasts with them and we haven’t had any issues. Their team is constantly working on features to help elevate the podcaster’s experience, and so we highly recommend them if you’re looking for a supportive, innovative place to host your podcast. 

Closing Thoughts

And there you have it. You’re all-in-one guide for all that you really need in order to start your very own podcast. What should be clear from the post is that podcasting is open to anyone, no matter your technical skill level, software knowledge, or even your budget. Anyone, with a little guidance, can create a truly stand-out podcast that will make listeners sit up, turn it up, and take notice! Get the equipment that best meets your needs, pick your software that does the same, and then find a podcast host who best aligns with your vision and budget, and you’ll be all set. Armed with this knowledge, you’re ready to take the podcasting industry by storm!

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Jennay Horn

Jennay Horn

Jennay is the Content Director at We Edit Podcasts

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