Ultimate Podcast Setup

Most of us who get into podcasting do not have a background in audio equipment or even editing for that matter. Add to that the fact that the understanding of how sound travels is not anything we’ve been taught or have come across in our careers. More often than not, many of us have gotten into or are getting into podcasting to promote our personal brand. Everything that comes with setting up a podcast (other than strategizing the actual content) is pretty foreign.

If you can relate to this feeling, then this guide is for you. If you’re already an expert at podcasting and you’re happy with your gear and overall setup, then this could be just some additional information you can take advantage of.

Okay, so now that we know you’re here for the right reasons, let’s go ahead and dive in. You should be happy to know that this guide is structured in such a way that you can easily skim it over to find the section that best fits your needs.

One last thing before we begin. Just so you know, my friends call me SwagSam because outside of my love for podcasting, I actually sell cool Swag full time to companies like Facebook, Salesforce, eBay, to name a few.  We carry a cool line of promotional materials that can help your brand improve its visibility. You know, like shirts, hats, bottles, practically anything with a logo on it. In fact, we have more than 1 million items that we can brand with your logo. So you’ll notice that I will be recommending some branded options for you from time to time.

 

The Basics: Understanding How Sound Travels

We don’t need to fully understand how sound travels. Knowing the basics like turning off your fan while recording is a good place to start. While this seems like common sense, common sense isn’t always so common nowadays, is it?

Make sure the door is shut because any sound from the outside will be picked up if the door is open. The biggest thing to know about sound is foam.

Basically, there are these little sectional foam pieces you can buy from Amazon that you can put up on your walls to make your office sound (and function) more like a studio. Putting some foam on your walls to get studio-quality sound could be a bit foreign for many, but that’s one simple thing you can do to get started.

Make sure to put foam directly on the wall in front and behind your recording area. I did this once and everything changed, with my sound quality going through the roof!

Please remember however to at least turn off your AC, fan, and shut the door.

Here are some examples of foam pieces you can snag for your walls.

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Finding Your Home Base: Mobile or Studio Setup?

A lot of podcasters will use their office to set up a “studio.” This is ideal if you plan on interviewing guests from any part of the country (or world for that matter). If you plan on having a solo podcast, then this could also be a good route for you.

However, if your plan is to be able to interview people in person, and for whatever reason you might want the flexibility of picking up your equipment and traveling rather then them coming to your “office studio,” then a mobile setup will make more sense for you.

Action: Decide if you want a mobile or studio setup. You can do a “pros versus cons” list to help you with this.

Mobile Setup

I got my start in podcasting by doing mobile pods. And although I do have an office studio setup as well, I highly prefer my mobile setup. Scheduling a call-in pod to be recorded via Skype, Zoom, Cast, or any other online resource works just fine. But honestly, I never feel like the conversation goes as deep as it does when we record face to face and in the flesh, which is why I prefer my mobile setup better.

Option 1: Basic

For over 80 podcasts, all I used was this Roland R-05 recorder pictured below. At $300 and just one piece of equipment, this recorder is the ideal start if you’re just getting into podcasting and want to get off the ground quickly.

Pros:

  • Easily fits in your pocket (coz it’s likely smaller than your phone)
  • Can take with you everywhere, so you can record snippets to do behind-the-scenes type material or just in case you might run into someone famous that you could get a quick interview with
  • 1 single piece of equipment to remember when you leave your home/office to meet your guest
  • Cost-effective price point in terms of initial investment
  • Can be easily synced to your computer for audio exporting
  • Efficiently picks up noise

 

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Cons:

  • Because it efficiently picks up noise, if your guest is a fidgeter, for instance, it will easily pick up the slightest of sounds from shuffling papers on the table to a loud sigh, among many others
  • Only provides one track recording with even volume levels. In most situations, you will find that your guests won’t normally talk as loud as you. So we usually position the speakers towards the guest so they pick up their voice more than our own. (I have a co-host for one of my pods.) With your equipment doing only one track recording, you can’t do anything more to help each specific person’s volume level.

Option 2: On-the-Go Studio

I highly recommend against going this route if you’ve never recorded one single podcast. This setup is ideal for someone who has already done some podcasting and knows what he needs. The on-the-go studio arrangement entails for a more long-term use rather than just temporary so going for this setup means you have to know that you're going to be in it for the long haul.

There are a couple factors to consider when deciding on whether you should go for this. For one, the investment here is quite a bit more. Second, the amount of equipment and the time that goes into burning this style into your muscle memory may be too much for a beginning podcaster. One has to remember that podcasting will require a lot from you to begin with, such as learning to edit, recording in advance, scheduling, promoting on social media and other avenues, and everything else that comes with just getting your podcast off the ground!

Having said that, if you’re interested in this setup here are the details you need to know:

Equipment Overview

  • Zoom H6 Recorder (approximately $300)
  • Mics (approximately $90 each)
  • Mic stands (approximately $15 each)
  • Cables (approximately $7 each)
  • Mic flags (approximately $40 each, great for branding!)
  • Headphones (approximately $100)
  • Case (approximately $40)
  • Backpack (if you want one with your podcast logo I can hook it up for $60)
  • Spare Batteries (approximately $13)
  • Emergency Charger (great for branding and better than getting extra batteries, I can do it for $50!)

Initial Investment: Approximately $800ish based on getting a set for 3 people— 2 for you and 1 for your guest. I would normally recommend a third in case you interview 2 people, have a co-host, or just to have a backup.

Equipment Overview

Zoom H6 Recorder: What I love about this recorder is that it can easily record 4 guests. It even has the capability to add 2 more people, bringing the total to 6! That’s a lot. This is great if you plan on doing events like a panel discussion or anything like that. The 4 lines should really be enough.

Unlike the Roland R-05 we talked about earlier however, this one is a bit larger. For that, you likely wouldn’t be able to just put this in your pocket and take anywhere.

Most importantly, the Zoom H6 Recorder allows you to increase (or decrease) the volume for every person/voice you’re recording. It will definitely come in handy in situations where you might have one person who speaks louder than the other. All you simply need to do is lower the volume for the loud person and raise the volume for the other person who doesn’t speak as loud. Love it!

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Mics: You have tons of options when looking for mics. I’ve tried a lot, but I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t even gotten close to trying everything on the market, but who has? Seriously,do a simple Google search to try to find the best podcasting mic and you will get a gazillion results you won’t know where to even start.

One of the most common mics is the Yeti by Blue. I do have a Yeti, and we’ll talk about that later, but the Yeti is designed better for non-mobile purposes. Right now, we want to focus on the equipment that best fits our needs for being easy to travel with. And for that, we use the Shure SM-58 mics at the WhatUp Silicon Valley Podcast Network.

You can check out the reviews on the Amazon link, Google to find more info about it, or you can try it out and see for yourself! This mic is everything you would need for the perfect mobile setup. You will be able to find mics that are less expensive, butat the price point and level of quality for this specific mic, you won’t find anything better!

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Mic Stands: This mic stand is a must-have for us podcasters because again we always need something that isn’t too large that we can easily lug around with us when have to travel to record our podcasts.

When folded up, this mic stand measures just under 12 inches. Take a look at any podcaster’s setup and you’ll likely notice a large mic boom. I’m not gonna lie. This looks super cool having the huge boom coming off the side.

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But since our focus here is on simplicity, we honestly don’t need that huge mic stand. This stand works perfectly for what we want it to do and I can’t even imagine another that would make improvements on this. Get these and just move on, you’ll be happy you did.

Cables: These 3-foot cables are exactly what we want. Don’t overthink it, the price is good, the size is ideal, and the quality is great. When you start to look for cables, you’ll find lots of different sizes. Think about it though. For most situations, you’ll be at a conference table or some platform with a similar size. You don’t want the hassle of long cables.

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Note: When looking at mics, some packages can seem like a good deal because they come with a cable. They are actually upselling you in these situations. They can overcharge for the cable when positioning it as a “combo deal,” and what’s worse is often times the cable will be too large for our mobile purposes.

Mic Flags: You don’t really need mic flags. This is just a bonus. If branding is important to you, then I definitely recommend getting these. I can you hook up with some mic flags. Our minimum is just one piece, and we have a ton of different shapes available. Just email me at sam@valuebp.com for more info.

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Headphones: You can get a pair of Audio-Technica headphones like these for $150, or you can get similar quality headphones for the same price but with your branding!

I’m huge into branding, so I’d recommend ours, but the choice is yours to make!

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Case: If you’re getting two or three mics, then this case should work just fine. The foam is what they call pick and pluck. Basically, it’s pre-perforated foam that makes it easy to just pick and pluck the foam out with your fingers. You don’t need to use a knife, do any measuring, or anything at all. You can just lay your equipment right above the foam, eyeball it, and start plucking away. This case and the foam will give you the freedom to customize it to fit your specific needs.

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Backpacks: You will most likely already have a backpack, but if you don’t yet I would recommend in investing a backpack for podcasting for two reasons.

One, I like to have my go-to backpack that has everything I need for podcasting. Put it this way, the hard equipment goes in my case (mics, mic stands, etc.), but you’re always going to have other little things that you’ll need to bring as well.

Whether it be a specific journal you keep for notes related to the podcast, some branded bottle openers for your guests, or even extra cords, batteries, etc. I would rather have everything in my “podcast backpack” as opposed to needing to transfer the little stuff from one backpack to another. For example, I would never take my podcast backpack to the beach.

Second, branding. You want to look the part and look professional. A cohesive look from your mic flags to your headphones to a branded backpack makes you look like the real deal!

For more info on our custom backpack options, just fill out the form below and we’ll get a conversation going.

branded bags

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Spare Batteries: Simply put, if your batteries go dead, then you’re out of luck. Don’t let that happen to you; be prepared and just keep some spare batteries with your equipment.

Emergency Charger: A charger is a better alternative than carrying batteries around. This charger can charge your phone 5 times before needing to be plugged back into the wall to rejuvenate itself.

What does this mean for your recorder? Well, if you show you’re low on batteries before recording just plug this guy into your recorder. It serves a double purpose since it can charge your phone as well.

Just fill out the form below for more info on our custom charger options.

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Studio Setup

We started this guide talking about sound. We earlier recommended for those opting to have their home base be in their office to make sure to get some foam pieces lined up on the wall.

Now, we’re going to be discussing about the actual recording. Let’s do a deep dive for each component you will need for the setup.

Equipment Overview

Equipment Details

Blue Yeti: This is arguably the most popular podcasting microphone and for good reason too! While you can bring this on the go with you, it is limited in its capacity to serve your needs to record multiple guests. Plus, it requires being plugged into your computer. For these reasons, this is a go-to mic for an in-studio setup.

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Mic Boom: These really vary in price, just know that you don’t need the name or brand with the most expensive boom. Check out your desk setup and make sure the boom will fit for your needs. The one I’ve linked here is a good quality one but definitely check out a few more.

As an added bonus, this one comes with a pop filter as well, which is just another piece of equipment that will help with your sound.

Cast or Zoom: It seems like there’s no end to new apps from your phone and web-based companies popping up to help you record calls to use as a podcast.

I love Cast. Cast is my go-to. It’s super easy to use to record a remote call, although it is good to have a backup. My back-up is Zoom. You can record skype calls as well but I’ve found that the skype calls are shakier and that it’s just easier to record with Cast or Zoom.

Headphones: We touched on this earlier; and since you likely won’t be seeing your guests, maybe for this setup you want to go non-branded. It doesn’t really matter too much, but just remember that you can get branded headphones for less money than the non-branded ones and the quality is pretty similar.

Summary

Whichever route you choose to pursue, don’t lose sight on why you started and make sure to have fun along the way.

Podcasting is one of the components of my work life that I enjoy the most. It truly is so special to talk with people on such a real level. You’ll notice after getting started how rewarding podcasting is—both from meeting new people in terms of your guests and the listeners that reach out as well.

The last thing I want to leave you with is editing. Editing your podcast doesn’t have to be difficult. I use virtual assistants (VAs) to do all my editing. In fact, I get help from my VAs for just about every aspect of my podcasting journey.

Here are a few examples:

  • Project Manager (to make sure everything is on track and keep track of accountabilities
  • Editing (both the audio and the written show notes)
  • Scheduling (on WordPress, iTunes and other directories, social media, etc.)
  • Graphics (cover art, episode art, flyers, etc.)

If you’re new to working with VAs or don’t even know what a virtual assistant is, then you might be interested in my book!

My book Success with Swag(ger) is all about working with virtual assistants so that you can focus on growing your business by working on it and not in it. In my book, I give a step-by-step instructional guide on how to hire your first VA to how to train them to finally managing a team of VAs.

If you want a one-on-one session to learn more about VAs, please  fill out the form and we can have a 30-minute strategy call for free!

Good luck in your podcasting journey!

And for any questions, comments, or feedback, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can reach my by email at sam@valuebp.com. For more on my pods, head to WhatUpSV.com and for more about my Swag biz head to MoreThanSwag.com.

Swag on!
SwagSam

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About the author, SwagSam

Sam Kabert is the Creative Director of ValueBP Marketing Group and the Creator and Co-Host of the podcast “WhatUp Silicon Valley!” A risk taker who embraces permanent beta, Sam is leading the transformation of his family-run office supplies business into a promotional products’ powerhouse.

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