Recently, I saw a podcasting Facebook group debate the main reasons aspiring hosts never take the leap. One of the main fears? Feeling uneducated about podcast equipment and which podcast setup is best.
Starting a new project with little knowledge about the necessary tools and software is daunting. There’s new jargon, high prices, and a nagging feeling that there might be something better out there if you just keep researching.
Well, we’re here to save you hours of guesswork. This is a no B.S. guide to the best podcasting equipment for any budget. It’s broken out into starter kits with the nine essential tools every beginner needs. Then we we put together equipment packages that range from $20-$500 from our top recommendations.
While you can technically get started by recording an episode with your iPhone, we don’t recommend it. Instead, publish more professional sounding episodes with a few more tools. So let’s jump into the best podcast equipment for any budget.
A Complete List Of Podcast Equipment For Beginners
Calling all beginners, start here. Below, find the nine essential things you need to create the perfect podcast setup. The best part? You likely already have a few things on the list.
Editor’s Note: This article does NOT include affiliate links. Castos doesn’t earn a commission if you purchase any of these equipment recommendations. The products included are based on our own podcasting experience and research.
- A computer
- An XLR or USB microphone
- Pop filter or windscreen
- Microphone stand
- Acoustic treatments
- Recording and editing software
- Podcast hosting provider
A computer is essential to podcasting because you’ll want to use a digital audio workstation (DAW) to produce your show. That means using a recording and editing software to make the final episode sound cleaner and more professional.
Computer wise, Mac or PC work just fine. Same for desktop or a laptop. If you prefer one to the other, we suggest using the equipment you already know how to use. One factor to be aware of is DAW software like Logic Pro and GarageBand only work on Apple products. But there are many options covered below that work on both operating systems.
If you want to purchase a new machine for your podcast setup, consider its memory space, processor, and type of USB ports. For beginner podcasters, computers with 8GB of Random Access Memory (RAM),some built in Solid State Device (SSD) storage, and a triple-core processor will do the trick.
Here are our top recommendations for the best computers for podcasting:
Budget friendly laptop for beginners. 8GB RAM, 12-hour battery life, 256GB of SSD storage, a speedy quad-core processor, and a variety of USB ports (Type-C, 3.0, and 2.0) and HDMI port.
Affordable desktop computer for beginners. 16GB RAM, 256GB of SSD storage, a 6-core processor, and a variety of ports from multiple USB ports, HDMI, and an SD card reader.
Most expensive laptop for beginners and advanced podcasters. 16GB RAM, 10-hour battery life, 512GB of SSD storage, a 6-core processor, and 3 ultrafast USB Type-C ports.
An XLR or USB microphone
A podcasting microphone is probably the most critical piece of equipment. It affects your sound quality and can save you time in post-production. Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of discussion around which mic is the best.
There are differences around how the equipment connects to your computer, XLR or USB. And the difference between how sensitive and crisp sounding it is, dynamic versus condenser. Here’s how they stack up:
- XLR podcasting microphones: has a 3 prong connection and is connected to a mixer and the computer. Typically used in professional setups.
- USB podcasting microphones: connects directly to the computer via a USB port. Typically used by beginners who prefer an easier setup and less equipment.
- Dynamic podcasting microphones: less sensitive to ambient noise but can have less a crisp and layered sound. Typically used by beginner podcasters who record in DIY studio spaces.
- Condenser podcasting microphones: more sensitive to high frequencies and environmental noise. Typically used in recording studios with robust acoustic treatments.
For a more in-depth look at your options, check out our longer list of XLR or USB podcast microphones to help make your decision.
Based on these combinations, these are our three top podcast microphone recommendations:
Easy to set up and affordable for beginners, it’s the microphone choice for folks like Tim Ferriss. It’s a dynamic mic for more forgiveness in imperfect recording conditions and has a solid depth of voice at this price. Can be connected with XLR cables or USB depending on your podcast setup.
Great starter XLR, condenser microphone that still works well in home recording studios. It comes with a custom shock mount, mic stand adapter, and carrying case.
Popular among professionals but expensive. An XLR, dynamic mic with a built-in pop filter. It also has multiple settings to better capture the qualities of male versus female voices. Its components shield against external hums and it has an internal suspension system to eliminate light vibrations.
Mixers are used to improve audio quality and offer multi-channel recordings for those with co-hosts or guests. It’s also a required piece for anyone using an XLR microphone. Adding a mixer to your podcast setup creates a new opportunity to record live episodes with AUX features. These recording sessions act similarly to Joe Rogan’s setup where he records everything in one go and adds music and sound effects during an interview. There’s minimal to no post-production for the final cut.
There are a lot of truly advanced mixers on the market but there are two key features to look out for. They include the number of channels and an AUX out feature.
Our three top podcast mixers have varying combinations of these options:
The MG10 mixer has a 10-channel console that allows 4 microphone inputs. It includes 1 AUX send to incorporate additional sound effects or music while recording. Or try the MG06 option if you only need two mic inputs and don’t need the AUX live podcasting features.
This mixer has 8 channels that allows 4 XLR mics, one USB-C port, and dual headphone outputs with independent volume controls. You can monitor all input levels in real time with the Direct Monitor circuit to reduce clipping. Best of all, it’s equipped with Focusrite’s switchable Air mode that gives every voice a brighter sound.
Choose from 4-30 channels, Mackie produces a range of high-end mixers. For most podcasters, the FX4 or FX8 should do the trick. They allow for 4 or 8 channels, 2 or 4 microphone inputs, and two AUX sends. Both include Ready FX that adds 16 ready-made sound effects like reverbs, delays, and choruses. The FX 8 has additional features like a USB interface and 3-band EQ on all channels making it better suited for live recordings.
Pop filter or windscreen
Pop filters or windscreens both reduce the plosive sounds we make when saying words with hard P or T sounds like “please”. A pop filter is typically a foam or mesh screen fixed in front of the microphone while a windscreen fits over the top of the mic.
If your podcast microphone doesn’t come with either built-in, this piece of equipment doesn’t break the bank and results in a much smoother sound. There aren’t too many differences between the top contenders so pick based on your microphone preference.
Here are our top three pop filter recommendations for your podcast setup:
Easy to set up and suitable for a variety of microphones. A combination of metal and foam layers to help get your best vocal recording.
Designed to fit majority of standard sized mics and comes in three colors. Pop it on the top of your microphone and go.
This mesh pop filter quickly clamps around any round mic stand and can bend to all 360 degree angles.
When it comes to headphones, almost anything will do in the beginning. While we think they’re a non-negotiable part of a podcast setup, you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars right away. The standard Apple headphones or anything that you use to listen to music, are fine to start. One important note is everyone who is recording should wear their own set.
If you decide to buy something, pick up over-the-ear headphones. They offer better sound quality to more accurately hear what your audio sounds like.
Here are our favorite options to add to your podcast starter kit:
The closed ear design is comfortable for long wear and the set has a nine foot cord so you have plenty of room to build your optimal podcast setup. They don’t artificially boost your frequencies so what you’re hearing is exactly how you sound.
The Sennheiser headphones also offer a closed ear design with padded ear cups. A bonus with this set is the ear pads, headband padding, and audio cord are all easily replaceable for a long life. This set produces a warm, natural sound reproduction and is a perfect option for beginner podcasters.
A mic stand or boom mount is a great solution for getting the mic up off the desk, and closer to mouth level. This is an important consideration because the vertical alignment (above or below) the mouth impacts the sound of your voice.
Using a stand also reduces the chances of knocking into the mic or having it rub against something while recording. Similar to the pop filters, most options are comparable and will get the job done.
Here are a few of our favorite microphone stands to improve your podcast setup:
This super adjustable boom mount is made of steel and can be attached to any table.
With a weighted base for stability, this stand has a max height of 23 inches. It has two adjustable points and is compact enough to fit into most podcast setups.
Recording in a space purposefully set up to capture crisper audio is a life saver during post-production. That means creating a DIY studio that eliminates the “ sound of the room” and reduces reverberations.
A few types of acoustic treatments are likely already around your house. Heavy comforters, full bookcases, rugs, or a closet are all adequate ways to remove ambient noise.
For beginners, we suggest starting with a DIY option. Find a closet with a few clothes hanging up then shut the door and record. Or go to a quiet room, toss a heavy blanket over yourself, then get going.
If you have a spare space to build a dedicated studio then acoustic panels are a worthy investment. Use Auralex’s Room Layout Express tool to figure out where to place the pieces.
Once you decide on the right room for your podcast setup, try these treatment options to get the most out of your equipment:
In a variety of shapes and sizes, The Foam Factory has affordable options to treat an entire room.
Perfect for rooms already full of sound absorbing furniture (think carpet, bookcases, or a couch) or podcasters on-the-go. The piece attaches directly to the microphone stand for ultra-easy installation.
Auralex is the Rolls Royce of acoustic treatments so their equipment is on the pricier side. These panels are portable and fit neatly behind multiple microphones.
Recording and editing software
The recording space is set up and the podcasting equipment purchased, now it’s time to hit record. But first you’ll need a digital audio workspace (DAW) to capture the audio and edit it to perfection. Whether you’re using a Mac or PC, there are multiple options for recording and editing software to choose from.
Our top picks are all beginner-friendly, can record and edit audio files, and won’t break the bank. Which one you go with depends on how many bells and whistles you want, plus which operating system you use.
Here are our top six podcast recording and editing software recommendations to add to your podcasting kit:
An industry favorite for good reason. It’s free, easy to use, and has all of the essential features you need to capture crisp audio and clean it up in post-production. We recommend Audacity to all beginners since there aren’t any startup costs and there are hours of video tutorials to help you get started.
For Mac computers only, GarageBand is another beginner level software that’s free to download. The only major downside is its inability to record multiple guests on separate tracks. This isn’t an issue if you host a solo podcast but we caution against using GarageBand to record multiple people at the same time.
This software is designed specifically for spoken audio and is available to PC and Mac users. Its features let you record, add sound effects and music, and edit audio files with multiple mastering options. A basic subscription starts at $95 and the Pro software is $375.
This is an affordable DAW that’s as easy to use as Audacity but has more advanced features. Licenses start at $60 and it’s compatible with Mac and PC computers. Import audio files or record directly with the software then use the built-in editing tools to create a polished episode.
This is an advanced and expensive option that’s best suited for podcasters who have experience with DAWs. It has podcasting specific features aimed to improve spoken word audio. But at a $20.99/month subscription, it’s a costlier investment especially if you’re not using the software to its full advantage.
This software only records audio but is the best tool on the market for remote interviews or co-hosts. Record each person on a separate track and capture clear audio regardless of internet speeds. Pair SquadCast with Audacity for a low-cost DAW combination.
Podcast hosting provider
It’s a common misconception that podcasters upload their shows directly to listening apps like Apple Podcasts or Spotify. In reality, podcast content is distributed via RSS feeds. A podcast hosting provider helps create your feed and automatically publishes new episodes to every listening platform as you upload content.
When researching podcast hosts, it’s important to consider the tool’s storage and bandwidth capabilities, analytics features, content promotion integrations, and website creation options.
While we’re biased on the best podcast hosting provider, here are a few of our other favorites:
We help podcasters not only host their podcast but also grow it. Every plan includes unlimited storage and bandwidth limits, advanced analytics reports, and a customizable web page to serve as the home base of your podcast. Plus there are pay-as-you-go transcription services right from your dashboard and the option to create private, password protected podcasts. Advanced plans offer additional integrations with Headliner and YouTube to amplify your podcast promotions. Castos also has a free WordPress podcasting plugin so you can manage all of your content directly from WordPress.
Another affordable podcast host option but each plan includes monthly download limits. Potentially not a problem to start but if the goal is creating a popular podcast with thousands of downloads, this will result in higher costs. The tool does offer analytics and a built-in podcast website and the option for private podcast feeds for advanced plans.
One of the first podcast hosting platforms in the industry, Libsyn offers podcasters a way to get started for $5/month. However, each plan includes a storage limit and only the more expensive plans offer advanced analytics. Libsyn users do have access to customizable podcast web pages and are listed in their proprietary directory.
3 Podcast Equipment Packages For Multiple Budgets
Each podcaster starts a show with a varying degree of money set aside to invest in new equipment and software. Nerves can set in looking at the amount of tools needed for the best podcast setup but you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg.
Based on our recommendations above, we put together podcast starter kits based on 3 different budgets. Each piece has a brief explanation around why it’s necessary for your setup and assumes you already have a computer in your arsenal.
From spending $20 to $500, here are our suggestions on the best podcast equipment packages.
Podcast starter kit for $20
For a $20 podcast setup, we’re suggesting the most DIY versions of our recommendations and saving your budget for a podcast hosting provider. You may not sound exactly like This American Life but you’ll get started quickly at a low investment.
- Headphones with built-in microphone: at a $20 investment, there isn’t a podcasting microphone out there to fit the bill. Instead, use your standard earbuds that have a microphone built in. Try the Apple headphones that come with every iPhone, they’ll do the trick at this level.
- A closet: for the best DIY acoustic treatment, grab your laptop and head to a closet, hang a few clothes up, and shut the door. This is a podcast setup used by the pros in a pinch and couldn’t be more budget friendly.
- Audacity: the best free choice to record and edit a podcast is Audacity. Invest some time watching their many tutorials to feel confident going into your first recording.
- Podcast hosting provider: Castos and Transistor’s Starter plans begin at $19/month. Both offer the essential features every podcaster needs to produce a successful show. The one perk of Castos is the unlimited upload and bandwidth feature which gives you more freedom to experiment without worrying about storage space. The least expensive option from our list is Libsyn’s Classic 50 plan at $5/month. You’ll only have 50MB of storage or the equivalent of two 1-hour long episodes per month.
Podcast starter kit for $250
Spending $250 on software and podcast equipment will help you achieve an advanced setup and polished sound. At this budget, there’s a combination of DIY and new equipment for the optimal setup.
- Audio Technica ART2100: a great dynamic mic for around $100 and no mixer needed when you use the USB hookup.
- On-Stage Windscreen: at under $5, this windscreen will help reduce plosive sounds for less cleanup in post-production.
- Sony MDR 7506 headphones: at this level of investment, we recommend quality over-the-ear headphones for a better recording experience. For around $100, the set is a piece of equipment you’ll hold on to for a while.
- A closet: with a podcasting microphone, windscreen, and set of headphones, a full closet is the last piece to capturing crisp sound.
- Audacity: to focus your money on equipment, Audacity is the best free choice to record and edit a podcast on a budget.
- Podcast hosting provider: with $50 left to spare, consider upgrading to Castos or Transistor’s Growth plans. With both, you’ll unlock private podcasting features. Using Castos, you’ll also have access our Headliner integration for custom audiograms to promote your podcast with style.
Podcast starter kit for $500
Committing $500 to create the ultimate podcast setup is the sweet spot. You’ll start with quality equipment and work with tools with a few more bells and whistles. We’ve found podcasters with some past experience in the industry get the most out of this setup.
- MXL 990 XLR Condenser: It comes with a shock mount and mic stand adaptor so you can spend a little more on the mic.
- Yamaha MG10 or MG06: with an XLR mic, you’ll need a mixer. Yamaha’s MG series offer a great sound at an affordable price.
- PEMOTech Pop Filter: with a condenser mic, you’ll also want a pop filter. PEMOTech’s option fits with almost every standard mic.
- Sennheiser HD280 Pro headphones: this set is perfect for a lifetime investment with the ability to affordably replace the pads and cords later on.
- sE Electronics Portable Vocal Booth: to achieve high quality sounding audio, give this vocal booth a try in room organized for better acoustics (added rugs, couches, or bookcases).
- Hindenburg Journalist: with more podcasting experience comes more advanced DAWs. Hindenburg was built for spoken audio and will help you get the most out of your mic and mixer.
- Podcast hosting provider: to make your investment worth it, use a podcast hosting provider with additional promotion and storage features. On Castos’ Pro plan, you’ll unlock our most advanced analytics and have the ability to host video files. Promote episodes with custom audiograms and republish them to YouTube help new people discover your show.
Podcast Equipment Summary
Purchasing podcast equipment for the perfect setup is the first big hurdle aspiring podcasters face. Some people may opt to spend more on a microphone while others want a premium DAW in post-production.
Luckily there’s no right answer. Your podcast starter kit should be custom to your preferences and what you’re looking to gain from podcasting.
No matter your budget, from $20-500, there’s the right podcast equipment out there for you. Now use this list to start placing a few orders.