I'm pretty happy with my current home audio production and podcasting setup. I sometimes get questions about what tools, software and equipment I use, so I'm sharing more about that here in case it's helpful to others. (This post has affiliate links, so if you end up buying something by clicking on them, I may get a small percentage of the sale.)
It's worth noting that most of the audio production I do involves recording interviews and conversations with other people who are not physically present. I also occasionally do some in-person recording, field recording and voiceovers for audio and video segments.
My day-to-day microphone is an Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone. While I used to prefer some fancier XLR condenser microphones (and still use them for in-person interviews and more intricate setups), I was annoyed with the amount of mixer and cable setup I would end up doing just to record something simple, and the resulting amount of equipment that I had to have sitting on my desk if I wanted it to be at all convenient. I tried some of the supposedly higher end USB microphones like the Blue Yeti Pro, but I just couldn't justify the additional cost and other weird limitations that came along with using them. The AT2020USB+ gives me really high quality, rich sound and it's always ready to go at a moment's notice.
I mount the microphone in a relatively cheap anti-vibration shock mount with pop filter, and then mount that on a scissor arm stand that clamps securely to my desk. (I don't know where I got the arm or what model, but here's a similar one that gets good reviews on Amazon.)
For headphones I use the excellent Behringer HPS3000 Studio over-ear headphones. With them I can hear how my audio will sound on higher-end speaker systems, and adjust my audio accordingly. After getting myself a pair and using them for a while, I liked them enough to buy a few more for my guests when I do in-person interviews.
Here's my desk where I usually record:
For recording situations where it's more than just me, both at home and in the field, I have been using the amazing Zoom H6 Portable Recorder as both a field mixer and a direct recording microphone. It is such a versatile little device that can handle person-on-the-street interviews, crowded events, ambient sound recording, studio and live broadcast mixing, recording to my computer or mobile phone, monitoring and more. It took a bit to get used to all of its settings and configuration possibilities, but now that I have I don't think I could go back to some of the heavier and more complicated desktop mixers I've used in the past.
When I'm recording a conversation with two or more of us in person, I connect the headphone/monitor output to a Behringer HA400 Microamp that gives up to 4 channels of individually adjustable headphone usage, and then plug my headphones and all of my guests` headphones into that.
Beyond those core pieces of equipment, I keep a store of various plugs, converters, adapters and cables that let me set up for most any kind of recording situation I find myself in. When I'm mobile I also bring along things like power extension cords, electrical tape and duct tape.
When I'm scheduling podcast interviews and conversations, I like to use Harmonizely. It's a scheduling tool that is connected to my personal calendar, so I can let a guest quickly pick a time and day that works for them without a lot of back and forth emailing. Once the interview is scheduled I point guests to a page on my website that gives them some tips and information about getting ready for our conversation, and making sure they have the right tools and software installed. This all helps save time and reduce the potential for confusion.
I use Skype with Call Recorder for Skype to record conversations. It does a great job of letting me adjust the few things I might want to before and during interviews, and then quickly export the individual voice tracks to files for later mixing. It's also a tool that I find many other people have installed at one point or another on their phone or computer. (I have also at times used Zoom for the same purposes and it does a fine job, but I still prefer Skype for now.)
Once I've finished recording, I usually run the exported interview audio through The Levelator which, even though it's no longer in active development, does a great job of fixing and adjusting the audio so it sounds great before I even touch it in my editing process.
Then, I bring the individual tracks into Apple's Garageband for editing. I've definitely spent time playing with some of the more advanced audio/podcast mixing tools out there, but for my needs Garageband is more than adequate and allows me to quickly and powerfully bring together the voice, music, effects and other adjustments I want in one place.
I export an initial rough version of my interview recordings from Garageband and then immediately send that file to Rev.com for transcription. I value having accurate transcripts for accessibility reasons and historic preservation purposes, so I'm happy to pay for their fast, excellent transcribing done by real humans. (If I'm just working with a recording on a personal project that won't be published, I sometimes use their lower-cost automated transcription tools too.) They also have a nice mobile app.
Once I've done a more thorough edit of the audio in Garageband, I export that to an MP3 file that's then ready for publishing. To publish and organize my audio content online, I of course use the wonderful WordPress publishing platform, either just embedding the audio file in a post directly or with the free PowerPress podcasting plugin. I typically host my WordPress sites through DigitalOcean but for most folks I would recommend WordPress.com or WP Engine.
There are a million "how to podcast" guides, website and videos out there so I'm not going to repeat all of that...mostly. There are a couple of key practices that have helped me in the pursuit of quality and consistency in my audio production work:
- Test and practice. The first time you're working with a new combination of hardware and software tools, do a test run through and make sure everything works as expected before you "do it live." Find a friend who will let you call them for a practice interview. Test all your audio levels. See how it sounds in editing. And so on. Definitely do this any time you change something about your setup, or even just if it's been a while since you recorded something. It can feel tedious, but it's worth it.
- Reduce ambient noise, encourage quality microphone use. Help your guests, interviews and podcast episodes sound good by taking the time to reduce any ambient sounds that might distract listeners, both on your end and theirs. You don't have to have a professional-quality recording studio, but you can make sure fans, HVAC and appliances are turned off and that people around you know not to disturb you. Likewise, help your guests have something better than the "speakerphone" effect that comes by using their built-in microphone on their computer...almost any kind of microphone use will produce something better. It doesn't matter how great your content is; if people are noticing poor audio quality, they probably won't stick around for very long.
- Develop thoughtful questions for guests. This has nothing to do with hardware or software. Taking the time to research your guests and put together some thoughtful questions that get at the heart of their work, interests and passions can make all the difference between recording an interview that people will care to listen to and one that people will pass over. At a basic level, it's a sign of respect for your guests and the time they are investing to talk with you. But it can also lead to much more rich and interesting interactions than if you stick to surface level prompts.
That's how I do audio production and podcasting. I hope you find this helpful. If you have questions, or if you work with audio production yourself and have suggestions, please leave a comment!