Basic Podcasting Gear
Let’s talk about the basic podcasting gear you’ll need to get started? We’re going to start out with podcasting gear that you probably already own or can get for cheap.
To get started you will need a computer with broadband internet access, a mic and headphones.
Your first piece of podcasting gear is your computer. Most likely you will record and edit your podcast on your PC or Mac.
There are ways to record and publish your podcast without a computer. These methods are limited as to what you can do and the quality will not be the same.
These days you can get a PC for very little money. Also, Apple has now released the Mac Mini, an entry-level Macintosh that is also inexpensive.
Most computers that have been released in the last few years can be used for podcasting. I have a 900 MHz PC with Windows XP that I bought 5 years ago that I have used in my podcasting setup. The most demanding thing your computer will need to do is record and process the audio.
Podcasting on a PC
It’s a safe bet that if you have a PC that runs Windows XP (without crawling like a tortoise), then you can use it for podcasting. You might be able to get by with older computers or operating systems, but it might be slow and difficult.
If you do have an older computer (or a basic entry-level computer) and you want to upgrade it a bit for podcasting, then the best thing you can do is add memory. I am not talking about hard drive space (although that helps as well). I am talking about RAM.
More RAM will make your computer operate faster when recording and processing audio. Upgrading to 512 MB or more of RAM will make a noticeable difference.
You will need at least 2-3 gigabytes of free hard drive space to save your audio files to. If you plan to archive the audio without compressing it to MP3, then you will want to have several gigabytes available.
The final thing you need on your PC is a sound card and a line in and line out. These jacks may also be labeled “mic” (in) and “headphones” (out). Most PCs and laptops have a built-in sound card and in/out jacks.
If you need to purchase a sound card for your PC, I recommend the Creative Soundblaster Audigy 4.
A cheaper option is the Griffin iMic. This is an audio device that connects by USB. It adds a mic input and a headphone jack to your computer and is very inexpensive. I have used it with my podcasting gear and it works well.
Minimum requirements for podcasting with a PC:
- Running Windows XP
- 512 MB of RAM
- At least 2-3 GB of Hard Drive Space
- In/Out or Mic/Headphone Jacks
Podcasting on a Mac
Although this tutorial was made on a PC and focuses on using a PC, I want to talk for a bit about what kind of Mac computer you need for podcasting. I personally am not a Mac user. From what I know, I would venture to say that if you are running OS 9 or X, then your Mac should be able to handle the task of audio recording.
As with the PC, one of the best things you can do is upgrade to at least 512 MB of RAM.
If you have a Mac Mini, you will need to add mic and headphones jacks since it doesn't’t come with any installed. The easiest way to do that is with the Griffin iMic. This is a USB device that adds an in & out jack to your computer for very cheap. I have used it with my podcasting gear and it has worked well.
You'll need at least 2-3 gigabytes of free space to record your audio to. If you plan to archive the audio without compressing it to MP3, then you will want to have several gigabytes available.
Minimum requirements for podcasting with a Mac::
- Running OS 9 or X
- 512 MB RAM
- At Least 2-3 Gigabytes of Hard Drive Space
- In/Out or Mic/Headphone Jacks
Broadband Internet Connection
This is not really podcasting gear, but obviously it's something you need. To upload your podcast to the internet and update your site you will need an internet connection.
The only reason I mention it here is to point out that you must have a broadband connection. This means a DSL, Cable or T1 internet connection.
Your MP3 files will be big enough that uploading them with a dial-up connection would be like pulling teeth. You might try it once and then that'll be the end of it, trust me.
Actually, I don’t know if you will even try it once if it is like pulling teeth. I don’t know many people who have actually tried to pull teeth.
There are a lot of nice microphones available for recording your podcast. This might be the first piece of podcasting gear you want to upgrade when you decide to invest more money in your podcasting setup.
For now, just use whatever mic you have that will plug into your computer’s mic jack. Many computers come with a mic of some sort.
If you don’t already have a mic, then I suggest the Labtec 524 as a starter. This mic goes for less than $10. It only picks up sound right in front of the mic and has noise cancellation to filter out background noise. It plugs right into your computer’s mic jack.
There are several other inexpensive microphones available at any store that sells computer hardware or your local Radio Shack.
Any headphones that will plug into your computer will work fine with basic podcasting gear. If you don’t have any, you can get some for less than $10 at any store that sells electronics.
Headsets are convenient for podcasting since the mic and headphones are combined. If you prefer to get a headset for your podcasting setup, then I suggest the Altec Lansing AHS 302i
The cable from the headset has two plugs, one for the mic and one for the headphones. This works best if the jacks are right next to each other.
If you have a headset or plan to buy one, then you won't need a separate mic and headphones.
MP3 Player (optional)
This is not a “must have” piece of podcasting gear, but it would be handy for many reasons.
First of all, when you post your podcast, you can download it through the feed and to your MP3 player just like your listeners. This is a test run to experience your podcast as your listeners do.
This means downloading, syncing and listening to it on your MP3 player through little ear bud headphones like your audience will. You should also see how the information from the MP3 file is displayed on the MP3 palyer to be sure it looks like you want it to.
A test run is a good idea to make sure there are no glitches with your podcast or your feed.
It's also good to listen to other podcasts. You are more likely to do this when you have an MP3 player to take the podcasts with you. This will help you get ideas for your own show and stay current on what's happening in podcasting,
If you have an iPod or other MP3 player, then make use of it for your podcasting. If you don’t have one yet, don’t worry about getting one until your podcast is under way and you have the desire and means to buy one.
Pop Filter (optional)
I've listed this as optional, but it can really make a difference in your sound quality. A pop filter is a screen that blocks or filters the popping sounds that are made when you say letters like 'p' when you speak into a mic.
This is a common complaint about independent podcasters. They don't use a pop filter and the sounds that result can be annoying to listeners.
I'm not talking about the little clown-nose looking foam cover that you sometimes see over mics. That won't do the trick. This is just for wind noise.
It's easy to make one from stuff you already have or cheap enough to buy one. A pop filter is basically screen material stretched over a hoop that is held in front of the mic as you speak into it.
You can make a homemade pop filter by stretching nylons over a wire anger or an embroidery hoop (for the guys out there, it's time to raid your wife's/girlfriend's drawers...but ask them first!).
Then you just need to rig it in front of your mic or hold it while you speak into your mic.
Here are a couple links to instructions on making your own homemade pop filter:
Here's a list of the basic podcasting gear you need to get started:
- A PC Running Windows XP or a Mac Running OS 9 or X
- 512 MB of RAM
- 2-3 GB of Free Hard Drive Space
- Mic Input and Headphone Output on Your Computer
- Headphones or Headset
- Optional: MP3 Player
- Optional: Pop Filter
The above podcasting gear consists of things that you probably already own or that you can buy for very little. Soon I'll be adding articles and tutorials about more advanced podcasting gear.