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The Best Podcasting Equipment

Podcast Consulting by Daniel M. Clark

On the road at Affiliate Summit

I’ve been asked what I use to create my podcasts, and since it does change periodically, I thought a page here with all the details would be a good idea.

This is my current set-up, though I’ll also highlight a few notable things that I’ve used in other configurations.

Hardware

My computer is a 2009 17″ MacBook Pro running OS X Mountain Lion. It’s a great machine, and without diving too much into the PC/Mac debate, I’ll just say that I’m very happy I switched to Mac in 2006 and I would never go back*.
My microphone… ohhhh, my microphone. It’s hot. It’s the Heil PR-40 and it’s the mic used by many audio professionals all over the world. This is the overall #1 reason for the shows sounding the way they do since January 2011.
The mixer is a Mackie 802-VLZ3. It’s an 8-channel mixer with an aux in/out for handling a mix-minus (required for bringing Skype into a podcast). It’s a great piece of equipment and reasonably priced, too.
The most recent addition to the chain is the Alesis 3630 Compressor/Limiter/Gate. This is a dual-channel processor that excels at, well, everything in the name: compression, limiting and gating. A touch of compression can punch up a voice, while a limiter will ensure that extraordinarily loud sounds don’t make it into the mix without being brought down to a reasonable level. The gate function effectively removes background noise and ensures that only my voice makes it into the recording, not the overhead fan, the clacking of keyboard keys or the kids playing in the next room.
The headset I use is a Shure SRH240. This is, by far, the most comfortable pair of headphones that I’ve ever used, and they sound amazing. The best part of using a hardware solution is being able to monitor your voice in your headphones, something a USB headset just can’t do reliably.
My secondary microphone is a Blue Snowball – goofy name, great mid-priced microphone. It’s USB, and has three modes: cardioid, cardioid -10dB and omnidirectional. It’s compatible with Windows & Mac and works great for all kinds of situations, from podcasting to recording live concerts.
I use a pop filter by Sterling Audio, the STPF2 Professional Mesh Pop Filter. It’s inexpensive and will attach to nearly any microphone stand, so I can’t complain that it doesn’t completely dissipate the hardest popped p’s. Still, for podcasting, controlling your voice is essential to begin with and I find that in normal use, it catches all but the worst plosives.
I record into a Tascam DR-07. This is a great unit, just rock solid. The mixer goes into the Line-In on this and everything gets recorded perfectly every time. It’s more reliable than recording into a computer and it doubles as an excellent field mic for recording interviews out and about. I’ve also used it as an external mic for a Kodak Zi8 video camera.NOTE: This unit has been discontinued. Should mine ever break down, I will replace it with a Zoom H2n (unless there’s something even better around at that time).
The Heil PL-2T keeps my desk free of clutter. I had been using a tabletop mic stand with the PR-40, but it had an undesirable footprint on the desk and the XLR mic cable was loose and in the way. With the PL-2T mic boom arm, the cable is inserted into a channel, hidden from view. The best part? It’s absolutely silent when the position is adjusted. Just a perfect piece of engineering.
iPhone. Yep, for real. The iPhone gives me the ability to play intro music, stingers and sound effects – as well as any voicemails from listeners – live in the recording. Radio stations used to spend tens of thousands of dollars on giant cart machines to handle what my cell phone can now do. Ah, technology.
The iPad is infrequently used to record with, but it does work well when I need it. Many apps exist for recording audio; I use Audio Memos 2. Apple’s Camera Connection Kit is required to connect a USB microphone to the iPad. I’ve tested that with the Snowball; any USB headset or micshould work, but please do some research before purchasing any mic specifically for this purpose.

Software

WordPress Plugins

I use a number of WordPress plugins here at QAQN. These are absoultely crucial to the functionality of the site, and all are highly recommended!

  • Blubrry PowerPress
    Blubrry PowerPress adds podcasting support to your blog. Features include: media player, 3rd party statistics, iTunes integration, Blubrry Services (Media Statistics and Hosting) integration and a lot more.
  • Insights
    Insights allows you to quickly search and insert information (links, images, videos, maps, news..) into your blog posts. This one isn’t exactly crucial, but it’s cuts down on link insertion time dramatically.
  • Pretty Link
    Shrink, track and share any URL on the Internet from your WordPress website! The Pro version auto-posts to Twitter with a shortened URL of your choice.
  • Thesis Openhook
    This plugin allows you to insert arbitrary content into the many hooks that the Thesis Theme Framework provides. Never again edit a file! I love Thesis, and I mean no disrespect when I say: I probably wouldn’t use Thesis if not for OpenHook.

*There’s one condition under which I’d go back to Windows: if Apple locks down the Mac the way they’ve locked down the iPhone/iPad. I understand locking down iOS devices (though I may not always agree with it). If they try to run the Mac the same way, I (and many, many others) will switch back to Windows in a heartbeat.

23 Comments…

Jenny Pisculli November 5, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Thanks for taking the time to show us your set up. Please consider my imitation as a high form of flattery!

Reply

Chris A Spurr February 27, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Daniel,

Just wanted to say thanks for posting your tools for all to see. Great post for those of us looking to get into the trade on a limited scale. Many thanks! -Chris

Reply

Jon Buscall March 30, 2013 at 7:06 pm

A great list of podcast gear. It's quite similar to my set up http://jontusmedia.com/podcasting-gear/.

The major difference I have is a mic preamp. The DBX 286s.

It gives the Heil a richer, fuller sound in my opinion. It's not too expensive but better than the audio solution that Adobe brings to the mix.

Reply

Frank Betts June 3, 2013 at 2:20 am

Good info on what is needed for podcasting.I pretty much use the basic equipment for my shows.
http://www.frontcentermusician.blogspot.com

Reply

Chris Davis January 16, 2014 at 1:47 am

How does one connect everything?

Reply

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23 Comments…