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Podcasting has never been more popular, and it isn’t too late to jump in and start one of your own. But before you do, make sure you have an adequate setup and the essential bits of equipment.
These days, you can’t build an audience with substandard podcast quality.
In this article, we’ll cover the best microphones, stands, pop filters, and headphones for hobbyist and enthusiast podcasters. Start with the cheaper offerings and upgrade when necessary—they’re more than good enough!
Microphones for Podcasting
Obviously, you can’t host a podcast if you don’t have a microphone! The good news is, there is no shortage of podcast mic options across all budgets. The bad news is, there are so many options and specifications that you may be overwhelmed.
Let’s keep things simple. You only need to know two things.
Condenser vs. Dynamic Microphones
Mics fall into two categories: condenser and dynamic. Broadly speaking, condenser mics have better sound fidelity but are more sensitive to environmental noise whereas dynamic mics are more selective about picking up sound but tend to produce a flatter sound. You can learn more in our comparison of condenser versus dynamic microphones.
For a podcast, you need good sound quality but not necessarily great sound quality. I only recommend getting a condenser micropone if you’re willing to build a soundproofed recording closet. Otherwise, you’ll be happier with a dynamic microphone.
USB or XLR Inputs for Microphones
USB microphones (digital) plug in directly to your computer, allowing you to select them as audio input sources. XLR microphones (analog) plug into a mixer, and the mixer plugs into your computer by USB.
If you’re hosting a solo podcast, get a USB microphone. They tend to be cheaper, they’re easier to set up, and they’re less susceptible to electrical interference (“buzz”). If you’re hosting a podcast with multiple talkers on set, then get multiple XLR microphones and a mixer.
Hobbyist USB/XLR Mic: Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB
I highly recommend the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB for anyone who wants to podcast but isn’t sure if they’ll stick it out for the long haul. It’s a dynamic mic with a cardioid pattern (common microphone terms) that effectively picks up your voice and ignores everything else. It also has a headphone jack that lets you monitor your speaking with no delay.
But the key feature in the ATR2100-USB is that it supports both USB and XLR connections. If your podcast grows to include more hosts, then you can switch to XLR without buying a replacement mic. There’s also a bundle including the ATR2100-USB and a pop filter and mic stand.
Enthusiast USB Mic: Rode Podcaster
The Rode Podcaster—not to be confused with the Rode Procaster!—is the best dynamic USB microphone you can get without strangling your wallet. The sound quality is balanced and excellent, and it has an internal shock mount (won’t pick up handling sounds) and an internal pop filter (you should still buy an external one). And like the ATR2100-USB, the Podcaster has a headphone jack for immediate monitoring of mic output.
Enthusiast XLR Mic: Heil PR40
The Heil PR40 is expensive but for good reason: it’s the holy grail of USB podcasting microphones. It has an insane frequency range for a dynamic mic, resulting in a rich and full-bodied sound that you’ll love. And it doesn’t pick up any background noise.
Microphone Mixer: Behringer Xenyx Q802USB
At this price, you won’t find a better mixer interface. The Behringer Xenyx Q802USB boasts six input channels, two of which support phantom power—most competitors in this range only support up to two total input channels. It outputs to USB, so if you have multiple podcast hosts, all of your microphones get mixed together as one audio source.
While you can record your podcast with microphone literally in hand, I don’t recommend it. Not only is it uncomfortable, but the microphone will pick up handling noises as your hand fidgets and repositions. Plus, it prevents you from interacting with your computer while recording, whether to jot down notes, search Google, etc.
I recommend boom arm models with a retractable scissoring mechanism. These hit all the right points: you can position them however you want, you can adjust them on the fly, and you can close them up when you aren’t recording.
Hobbyist Boom Arm: Neewer Compact Mic Stand
When you’re just starting out, don’t worry about getting a fancy microphone stand. You just need one that’ll clamp to your desk and hold up your microphone even when fully extended. That’s why I recommend the Neewer Compact Mic Stand, which is compact when collapsed but extends up to 2.5 feet. I’ve had mine for years and it doesn’t disappoint.
Enthusiast Boom Arm: Rode PSA1 Mic Stand
When you get serious about podcasting—producing at least one episode per day—then you’ll want a heavy-duty microphone stand. The Rode PSA1 Mic Stand may seem a bit expensive, but the build quality is as good as it gets. It also has a dual-axis swivel mount that’s super smooth, allowing for true comfort in positioning freedom.
Microphone Pop Filter
This tiny purchase could drastically improve your podcast’s audio quality. A properly-fitted pop filter prevents bursts of air (e.g. when saying words that start with “P”) from hitting the microphone and causing an irritating pop sound.
Ignore the marshmallow covers that slip directly onto a microphone’s head. These can be somewhat effective, but they aren’t as effective and can never fully eliminate the noise. A real pop filter should sit a few inches away.
Most pop filters cost less than $10, and they pretty much all look the same: a circular frame with two soft mesh screens, a metal gooseneck that twists and turns to your needs, and a screw clamp that attaches to any kind of microphone stand. I bought this InnoGear years ago because it had the highest Amazon rating at the time and it hasn’t disappointed yet.
Headphones for Podcasting
A good pair of headphones plays several important roles in a podcast:
- Dialogue is clearer (e.g. when interviewing over the internet)
- No audio feedback between speaker and microphone
- Better results when editing your episodes
You might think noise-canceling headphones are ideal in this situation, but that’s not quite true. What you really want is a pair of noise-isolating headphones with a flat, middle-of-the-line equalization across all sound frequencies.
Hobbyist Headphones: Sony MDR7506
The Sony MDR7506 may not be the prettiest set of headphones you ever buy, but it’s comfortable and good at dampening outside noises. It isn’t perfect, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a similar quality set at this price. The MDR7506 also comes with a soft carrying case and a 1/4-inch adapter, so you can plug into a mixer interface.
Enthusiast Headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x is one of the best-value noise-isolating headphones you can get. Not only is it good at blocking out noises, I also recommend it for its wide frequency range and all-around balance when producing sounds. Its 90-degree-swiveling cups and detachable cable are just cherries on top.
Tips for Hosting a Successful Podcast
Whether or not you have the optimal equipment, remember that creating a podcast isn’t as easy as hitting Record and seeing what comes out. To maximize your chances of success, I recommend checking out a few of our other resources on this topic:
- How to host a podcast from start to finish
- Making your podcast sound as good as it can be
- Streamlining podcast audio editing with Audacity
And even when you do have all the right gear and tools, there may be times when you need to record an episode away from home (e.g. you’re traveling and stuck in a hotel, or meeting up with an interviewee at a public cafe). For that, see our tips on recording podcasts with a mobile phone.