Making a Podcast on the Cheap: Part 3

This is the most important chapter in the series. As I indicated yesterday, it’s the audio stupid. You can have the best equipment, amazing website, and the most recommended hosting. However, if the audio sounds like a hot mess, you are done. Audio is the most important to podcasts and YouTube videos. You can’t imagine how many shows I stopped listening to because their audio was hot shit. This is something everyone should know. But, making a podcast on the cheap shouldn’t break the bank.

Some people will say, this is the best I can get with my laptop mic and our Skype/Zoom connection. You should’ve done more work. Obviously, we’re in the tail end of a pandemic, but if you planned for remote recording before – this wouldn’t have been an issue.

There was a Star Trek podcast that people were recommending. Calling it funny and smart. Which it really wasn’t but that’s beside the point. I couldn’t get into the show because they were recording off laptop mics. There was lag in their conversation, so it was hard to listen. You should never use the mic that comes with your laptop. That’s garbage.

Microphones are important.

You need to use real microphones. You’ll hear people discuss the differences between dynamic and condenser mics. Dynamic mics are considered better, because they filter out background noise. However, condenser mics will work fine, just turn the gain down. Plus, it will save you a shit ton of cash.

The microphone that I use is a condenser mic by Neewer. My mic is a little older, but it works the same. Those mics do a great job at capturing noise, but if you can control your gain – you won’t need to do much noise reduction on the audio in post.

The Neewer NW-700 set is a great deal. For $32.00, you get the mic, wind screen, pop filter, boom arm, and a XLR to 3.5 mic jack. Using that set up myself, it has lasted me a few years. A great value for making a podcast on the cheap. You can grab two sets of these for the price of the one that I most people would tell you to get.

Watch any YouTube recommendation video and they will say get the Rode PodMic dynamic mic. Don’t get me wrong, I seems amazing. Plus, living in a not-so quiet area, this mic would be able to reduce the amount of noise that would creep into the audio. However, for $99 just for the mic is a bit steep if you are doing this on the cheap. Not to mention, that you would still have to shell out $40 for the boom stand.

Podcast on the Cheap

Remember, cheaper doesn’t always mean inferior. Although, if you’re going to shell out money for anything, it should be the recording equipment.

Can I record the audio onto Audacity?

I mean, you could. Every YouTube video will tell you to. However, if you want more control over your audio and participant’s audio, you should get a mixer. A mixer is a good idea for recording together, and works when you’re recording remotely. There is only so much your audio software can do. Why not do most of it practically and make post-production less of a pain in the ass?

I use the Behringer Xenyz 802 mixer. It gives you the best stuff for podcasts. Yes, if you do music it is perfect for that. Especially since it is made for that. I picked up mine eight years ago and it is a powerhouse. For $90, you can plug in roughly 6 microphones. It may be pricey for making a podcast on the cheap, but you have to invest somewhere.

Podcast on the Cheap

If you’re recording remotely. It helps adjust the quality of the other host through the mixer. This would reduce the aggravation of removing background hiss, which would require turning the gain down. Boosting mids and lows to give it a bit of bass. Plus, you can connect your laptop/desktop headphones to the mixer’s “in” port, then take the “out” and plug it into the mic jack. All you have to do is plug headphones into the mixer “phone” jack and you’re in.

A mixer is really good if you want to connect a soundboard or an external device. You can play audio through it, say a video you’re discussing or your intro.  

One thing I forgot to mention when using a condenser mic is power. You would need to use a phantom power source to achieve the mic’s full potential. However, this mixer board has one built-in, so that’s one less thing you need.

Recording software vs. hardware.

As for recording on a computer program like Audacity, I wouldn’t. There are two problems using software. One: software crashes. That has happened to us before. Before Skype offered call recording, using third-party was unreliable. Listen to our back catalog, you will hear us talk about those issues. Hardware is a bit more reliable.

Two: you have much less control over the audio quality. Remember, adjust levels through the mixer, but audio quality restrictions would impair the quality of your recording. Then it makes all that equipment you bought useless.

I recommend the Zoom H2N portable recorder. You can use it for a lot of things. An area mic, which we used for a roundtable discussions. An extra boom mic when filming a short. More importantly, connect to your mixer and it will record you entire conversation. You can grab one for $170, but it will be the best purchase ever. Been using ours for a decade and it’s still going.

Podcast on the Cheap

It requires an SD card, which will open up how long you can use the one card. Recording on the highest MP3 setting on an 8 GB SD card, you can get somewhere around 55 hours of recording time. So, if you record one one-hour show a week, you won’t have to format it again for over a year. That’s nice.

The Takeaway on Making a Podcast on the Cheap?

Don’t use webcam or laptop mics for your podcasts. There is a lot of echo and it sounds less profession. I mean, airpods could work but it still shouldn’t be used consistently. Use gaming headphones with a wired connection. One, they are just better. Two, they cancel noise better so you don’t get audio seeping into the mic while recording.

Use a real mic with great headphones. If you don’t believe me, it’s not hard to find I’m right. Watch the news or entertainment show that have Zoom calls. Who sounds better? The guy using airpods or the guy using his laptop? If you want people to take you seriously, and seem professional, use real equipment. Tomorrow will focus on the post-production. What should you use to edit? That is part four of making a podcast on the cheap.