My Podcast Setup
While I’m super excited to start rolling out the first season of my new podcast this week, the process of finding the right setup was far from easy.
In my research on Youtube about various headphones, microphones, cables, cords, etc., I learned how helpful it is when folx share about their podcast setups with others. I especially appreciate explanations of tech by people who aren't tech reviewers, as it’s more digestible for people like me who want stuff that works well that’s also user-friendly.
Without further ado, here are the elements of my podcast studio!
I’ve now recorded 3 podcast episodes and I’ve only needed to use two pieces of software to edit and distribute my show:
Anchor is a free software for computers and smartphones where you can create, record, edit, and distribute your podcast all from one place. The editing tools are super simple and I love them for that because having too many options makes me anxious.
GarageBand is a software built into my MacBook (discussed next) that can also be used for editing podcast episodes. With that being said, I’ve only used it once to fix a sound issue that occurred when recording an episode. Moving forward, I will likely only use GarageBand to backup my recordings and to fix problems that the Anchor software does not give me the option to fix.
Macbook Air 2020 (non-M1 version)
I bought my Macbook Air right after the pandemic hit, which forced me to close my brick-and-mortar therapy office and switch to online therapy. This is my second MacBook Air, as the previous one I purchased in 2013 died in fall 2019.
I got my Macbook before Apple started using the M1 chip; however, given that I primarily use my Mac for writing, seeing clients, and light bookkeeping, I don’t worry too much about performance.
Some may go for the more tricked-out MacBook Pro laptops for content creation but I’m happy with the Air for my purposes, especially since my content is saved in cloud storage.
I’ll preface these following pieces of equipment by saying that I’d ideally make the podcast using what I already had (Mac, iPhone, Airpods); however, when I ran tests, the mic quality was not great. Even nice headphones like the Sony M4s (discussed below) did not give the microphone recording quality that I needed for my show.
I was fortunate in that I received an $800 grant from the Virginia Counseling Association to fund my podcast (which focuses on mental health). With that being said, I decided to go all-in and get a professional recorder (mixer), quality over-ear noise-canceling headphones, and a studio mic to ensure quality in my episodes.
Zoom Podtrak P4 Recorder
In my research, I found that the Zoom P4 was one of the most reputable, user-friendly, and affordable ($200) recorders. I love that it helps me connect all of my podcast components such as my mic, iPhone, MacBook, and headphones.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
I actually upgraded my iPhone after a third-party battery replacement mishap burned my hand… I know the iPhone 12 Pro Max is supposed to be the top of the line; however, I just wanted it for the big ass screen and a nice camera.
As far as the podcast goes, I simply use it to interview guests. I connect phone calls to the Zoom P4 via a lightning to aux cable. So for folx considering a phone for a podcast, a flip phone or a free connection to Skype or Zoom could do the same thing for much less.
Sony WH-1000XM4 Noise-Canceling Bluetooth Headphones
Finding headphones was the hardest part of the process… again, that damn paradox of choice! Long story short, I bought and returned over $1100 worth of headphones before settling on the Sony M4s.
Both Best Buy and Apple probably have a price on my head. Sorry, not sorry!
I tried my existing Airpods 2 (poor mic), the wired Apple EarPods (poor mic), the Razer Kraken X (uncomfortable), the Sony M4s (poor mic), and the JVC HA-S3IM headphones (poor mic and uncomfortable). I also ordered but later canceled a pair of Airpods Max because reviews said the microphone was similar to the Sony M4s.
You may notice that I tried a pair of Sony M4s and returned them but eventually went back and committed to the M4s. I did this because I like the sound, noise-canceling, and comfort of them. With with my professional mic (discussed next), I don’t have to worry about recording sound through the M4s because I can bypass it with my Zoom P4 in favor of the standalone mic. I will say, the mic on the M4s is perfectly adequate for basic phone calls and video calls, just not up to par for podcasting.
UPDATE: Since this was posted, I returned the Sony M4s due to them not being so comfortable when wearing for a long time; more specifically, they have a plastic piece within the ear cup that digs into my ear. I replaced with the Beats Studio 3 over-ear noise-canceling headphones, which don’t have the hard plastic piece like the Sony M4s. Later retuned those too. Using basic $10 wired headphones, as I gave up after trying ten pairs 🤦🏾♂️
For more on the tech of the Sony M4s, I highly recommend Paul Alvarez’s piece on how he chose his Sony headphones.
Zoom ZDM-1 Dynamic Microphone
Because I committed to the Zoom P4 Recorder, I developed brand loyalty to Zoom. I especially like how their Youtube channel gives how-to guides for their products. They also design their stuff so that a non-tech person like me can use them properly with little to no stress. It also came with a pop filter (foam mic cover) to soften words that begin with P, B, etc. It’s a dynamic mic in that it filters out background noise; for example, my adorable 14-month-old daughter whose room shares a wall with my home office.
Mic Stand, Rolling Laptop Desk, and Cables Galore
I got the mic stand for $20 at the local music store. The rolling laptop desk was purchased last year at an office supply store for about $50. I needed to purchase a mic cable, as Zoom did not include one. I also got a 64 GB memory card and a power cable for the Zoom P4 (does not come either and would run on AA batteries otherwise.) I got a lightning to aux cord to connect my iPhone to the P4 and also got a USB-C to USB-C cable to connect the P4 to my Macbook.
Though I’m not a tech writer, I hope this helps someone considering starting a podcast. If you’ve been looking at the prices of my choices, don’t get overwhelmed if you’re on a budget. All you need to start a podcast is a smartphone and an internet connection. Everything I’ve shown here can be accomplished using little to no tech and it’s definitely possible to build your studio over time.
If you’d like to check out my podcast, click here.
Thanks for reading!