• John Lim

MF 265 : Getting started with podcast equipment and software

Today, we dive into podcast equipment and software with my number 1 rule: keep it simple to start! More at bemovingforward.com.

Moving Forward is also available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Google Play, iHeartRadio, and Spotify.

[Note: links to equipment, software, and books are affiliate links for which I may receive compensation for purchases through those links.]

Part 1: When it comes to podcast equipment, keep it simple to start

Continuing our discussion on podcasting, if you’re new to this mini-series, I recommend you start with episode 262. Today, we’re going to dive into podcast equipment. Let’s start with hardware.

My best advice on starting a podcast is to start simple. Too many people put the cart before the horse and in their enthusiasm and excitement buy a ton of podcast equipment – fancy mics, sound mixers, soundproof insulation and more, without knowing if they’re actually going to stick with podcasting over the long haul. Instead, start simple and cheap. The beauty of podcasting is that you can start with equipment you have at hand.

As I discussed last week on episode 264, you probably have a smart phone, a computer, a tablet or some combination of all three. If you have phone earbuds or ear phones, you have a combination mic and headphones. Yes, the quality may be staticky and raw but that’s ok. The important thing is to start and I’m of the philosophy of starting simple and cheap and investing more if this turns out to be a long-term commitment.

Moreover, as I covered last week, host service providers are also budget-friendly. You can even go free with apps like Anchor or trial periods on premium providers like Libsyn. You have everything you need to experiment with podcasting before you invest a lot of dollars.

A hack that I didn’t get to mention on the podcast is that YouTube is one of your best free “classrooms” out there. You can start by publishing an audio episode as a video to get a feel for podcasting before you commit to a host service provider.

The reason why I’m big on experimenting and trying things out is that because you don’t know that you’ll stick with it. Moreover, if you started with episode 262, you may have come up with a quick exit – a short-run podcast of 12 episodes or 20. That may not be enough to justify spending hundreds on equipment that you’ll use for the short-term. The beauty of podcasting is you can invest more time and dollars if you decide it’s right for you; if you decide you want to grow your show, spend the time and energy committed to it. So, do yourself and your wallet a favor. Start with what you have and don’t worry about it being or sounding “perfect.”

Once you do decide to stick with it for the long haul, then you can start by looking at upgrading your equipment. For Moving Forward, I use the same setup that I did from day 1, episode 1:

  1. A high-grade microphone for quality sound (I use the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB mic)

  2. My Macbook

  3. Headphones or earbuds if you’re doing interview podcasts (I use the Philips SHL3750NC/27)

  4. Basic software (which I’ll cover in Part 2)

  5. Host service provider (which I covered last week)

As you grow and if you decide to really go all in, you can look into more equipment such as:

  1. Sound or “pop” guards (you can also make your own)

  2. Soundproofing (or a sound booth)

  3. Sound mixers

However, unless you really want to become a professional broadcaster, most of that stuff won’t be necessary. If you’re just launching a podcast for fun or even for your business, you don’t need to invest in a bunch of equipment that you’ll never use or worse will leave you overwhelmed and frustrated.

Part 2: Let’s talk about software

Solo podcasts

I love Garageband for the Mac. It comes natively installed and it’s very easy to use. For Moving Forward, that’s what I use to record my solo episodes. It’s also great for editing interviews. For PC (and available for Mac), Audacity is a great free platform you can use to record a solo podcast and for editing your sound files.

  1. GarageBand (Mac): for recording solo podcasts, I keep it simple and cheap. GarageBand is an audio media program that comes pre-installed on the Mac and does a great job of editing and sound mixing to splice in music and transition effects. Cost: free (Mac only, download here).

  2. Audacity (PC or Mac): Audacity is an open-source audio platform that will do pretty much everything that GarageBand does. Cost: free, download here.

Interview podcasts

Skype is my go-to for interview podcasts. Skype to Skype calls are free and can be done on laptops, tablets or mobile devices. Skype now has a native recording feature that makes it easy – just push a button and record your interview or conversation.

For Skype to phone calls you need Skype credits which you can prepay for or pay for a subscription. If you have Office 365, it comes with 60 Skype minutes per month. However, the majority of interviews I did were Skype to Skype so I mostly stuck with the free call feature.

  1. Caveat: as I understand it, Skype’s native recording feature currently only works for Skype-to-Skype calls. If you are using Skype credits to call a phone number, I don’t believe it will allow you to record those conversations at this time. If you are using Skype’s native recorder, encourage your guests to download and set up a Skype account which is free to do and can be done on nearly any device. Of the 200+ interviews on Moving Forward, I only had two conversations that were Skype to phone and for those, I used Ecamm, which does allow you to record Skype to phone calls.

  2. For more on Skype’s recording feature, check out Microsoft’s blog.

Prior to this, I used a plugin for Mac called Ecamm which is a one-time license fee. I find that it produces a very rich sound. Comparatively, it’s higher quality in my experience than Skype’s native recorder but Skype’s recording is perfectly fine for quality sound for interviews and conversations. Ecamm also allows you to record Skype to phone interviews if you are using Skype credits.

Homework

Continue practicing solo or interview / conversation podcasts. If you’re doing interviews or roundtable-style podcasts, practice using Skype and make sure you’re comfortable with recording the conversations. The key to this is what I said last week. Practice-practice-practice. Once you’ve honed your style and figured out your show, then start looking into host service providers and equipment. However, you can also start simple with what you have on hand. Don’t overthink sound quality, etc. Just getting started is key. You can always upgrade and improve later, especially if you’re on a budget.

Try out Libsyn for free with promo code: CAST

If you’re interested in trying out Libsyn, I am an affiliate. Go to Libsyn.com, pick a plan and use promo code: CAST to get your sign-up month plus the following month to try it out for free [Note: you cannot change your plan during the trial otherwise the billing will kick in so pick a plan with enough storage to try it out and if you decide to stick with it, you can adjust to a plan that suits your show’s needs going forward right before your free trial ends].

What I’m reading

A Mrs. Miracle Christmas by Debbie Macomber (***): the continuing story of an angel sent to Earth to help out those in need. This time, Mrs. Miracle, the titular character, is send to help a young couple that long to have a child but can’t conceive and had a traumatic experience when an attempted adoption was canceled at the last minute by the child’s birth mother. On top of this, they are caring for the woman’s aging grandmother whose memory is starting to fail. In the tradition of Debbie Macomber’s Christmas novels, this is a sweet, heartwarming story. It’s not as great as the earlier books, Mrs. Miracle and Call Me Mrs. Miracle but fans of the series will enjoy this one.

Have a great Thanksgiving and we’ll be back next week at our regular schedule on Thursday!

Books by John

  1. Check out my Amazon author profile for my new book Making Fake Star Trek.

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